A guide for college students, or really, anyone in your 20’s to live a fruitful life
I now am stuck in my hotel room enjoying my 14-day quarantine. As I look back to the past 20 years that I’ve lived (a long way to go!), I’ve realized that I’ve lost my sense of identity, an agency of who I am, and my locus of control.
I’ve been enslaved by the attention economy.
I seek approval from others on Facebook and Instagram.
I care about who I am because I care about what others think of me.
And there is a huge stigma against failures in universities. It’s shameful to talk about failures. It’s glorious if you have a one-hit success.
Is that realistic?
I came across the book Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck when I was studying abroad away from home first time in my life a few years ago.
Looking back, I’ve underestimated how much this book has influenced my values in life. After I finished reading it, I even made a Ten Commandments from the book, printed it and sticked it to the wall in my room.
This book is going to be especially important in times like this (COVID) when our usual daily lives are disrupted and we spend more time online.
The book was controversial when it was first published. But the author, Mark Mason, probably didn’t give a fuck either. The book was #1 New York Times Bestseller with over 6 million copies sold. That’s pretty impressive for a book that teaches its readers not to give a fuck. Clearly, we do give a fuck about this book.
And I’ve compiled 10 rules for you to follow in order to live a life with zero fucks.
Before we start with the 10 rules, let’s clear the doubts you might have about “not giving a fuck”.
I don’t give a fuck. Does that make me psychopathic?
I don’t give a fuck. What does it really mean?
What you think “not giving a fuck” means
You probably think it means being indifferent to everything and not giving a shit at all. You don’t care about anything at all.
But this only implies that you are rude to others, unpleasant to live with, insensitive to your surrounds, among many other traits in life that simply toxic.
This is an example of lack of empathy and clearly this is psychopathic.
What “not giving a fuck” really means
It just means you’re comfortable with being different.
You are comfortable with getting fewer likes on Instagram and fewer matches on Tinder.
You don’t give a fuck to things that don’t matter to you in life. And you give a fuck to things that matter to you.
Call it selective indifference.
So this book really is a click-bait. You still give fucks but you selectively give fucks.
Life fucking sucks
Let it be.
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life — Albert Camus
Now let’s get on to the 10 rules. 👇🏽
1. Choose the fucks you give. Think wisely and hold dearly
Everything in the world can be grouped into either one of the two: important or not important.
How do you know what’s important? Give meanings to your life. Choose careful what you want to give a fuck to.
If success is important to you, give a fuck about success.
If fame is important to you, give a fuck about fame.
If family is important you, give a fuck about family.
Live a life with fewer burden. If you don’t give a fuck, just don’t care.
2. Learn how to say no
You have selectively chosen what to give a fuck about and what not. So you can’t do everything for everyone.
Learn how to say no to things and to people.
You can only say a few “yes”es in life.
3. You are NOT special. You are ordinary. Work to be extraordinary
Most of us are average. In fact, by definition, most of us are average.
What’s wrong with admitting mediocrity?
This is what you are thinking: if I’m mediocre, then my life is not great.
But by definition, most of us are average. Does it mean that most of human population is worthless?
You are not entitled to be extra-ordinary. And you work so that you earn the worth to be extraordinary.
You become great not because you feel exceptional.
You become great precisely because you are mediocre.
You become great because you are obsessed with excellence.
Still, no matter how hard you work, most likely you will remain ordinary.
Stomach this fact. Now you are free to accomplish your goals free from expectations or judgments.
4. Accept disappointments and overcome meaningful obstacles
Life is painful. Life is disappointing. Life is problematic.
Do you still remember this: life fucking sucks?
Life is a series of problems. And these problems in turn get upgraded into a series of disappointments.
There are many problems. But there are also so many solutions.
What should you do? Derive happiness from solving your problems. Your happiness is defined by how you overcome your obstacles.
The highlights of your life are defined by the troughs not the peaks.
5. Good values are realistic, socially constructive, controllable
There are three layers of self-awareness.
- What am I feeling now?
- Why do I feel this?
- Why do I value this as a success/failure? How am I judging myself and others?
Your values is the third-layer of self-awareness. Your values determine how you judge yourself and others.
Here’s a painful problem.
Here’s an interesting problem.
What’s the difference? The difference is how you perceive the problems. And you are responsible for your framing of problems.
Life sucks. But the way you live your life is not. You get to control the meaning of problems.
So what values should we have? Well, let’s avoid the shitty values first.
- Pleasure is the product of getting your values right. Abandon hedonism.
- If you live a life for pleasure, you will live a very miserable life.
2. Material success
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: once basic needs’ fulfilled, happiness does not come from material success.
3. Always being right = self-righteousness
- You cannot be always right.
- If you strive to be right 100%, there will be times when you are wrong and you won’t learn from your mistakes
4. Staying positive
- Positivity is bull-shit 💩
- Life sucks and fucking admit it.
- Staying positive regardless is to avoid admitting the truth.
Express your negative emotions in a healthy way. Let it all out.
Instead, good values are…..
- Take life as it is
- No sugarcoating
2. Socially constructive
- Value collaboration
- Good values are not socially destructive or confrontational
- You have agency over your values
- You are the one in control of your values. Your values do not control you
Before 20, most of your value-system is defined. Your values come from your parents, your peers and the environment you are in.
And that is dangerous. You become a pawn to exogenous factors.
Control what you give fucks to. Make your own values. And stick to them.
6. You are ALWAYS WRONG. Reevaluate yourself
You are always wrong in whatever you do. Be open to being wrong. Accept this so that you grow with the mistakes you make.
In philosophy-speak, be humble to admit that you have epistemic shortcomings.
The more certain you are, the more insecure and uncertain you become in face of mistakes.
What if I’m wrong?
If I’m wrong, what does it mean?
Certainty is the enemy of growth
7. When you are not inspired, get to work. Inspiration comes naturally
Clean your room. Do your chores. Complete the easy tasks.
For students, give no fucks to deadlines. You set your own deadlines!
Do not get stressed over project deadlines. Set milestones and your own deadlines.
Do not get stressed over rushing into investment banking/management consulting. Set the goals that you really want to achieve. And work towards them.
Do something. Find inspiration. Be motivated. And take actions.
8. You can be successful only when you are willing to fail and have failed already
Success is only relative to failures. Improvements come from thousands of tiny failures.
If you are afraid of failures, you have shitty values. Good values are process-oriented. Good values accept failures.
In universities, there is a stigma against failing. Our understanding of success has been shaped by what seems like meritocratic institutions.
A common mindset in the university-corporate industrial complex:
“Oh you want to work at a startup? You must have failed to get into investment banking.”
Ignore these stigmas against failures. Either they have never failed before, which they will never succeed, or they have indeed faced failures themselves and are just hypocrites.
A rule of thumb I personally follow is move fast and break things.
Or if in computer science algorithms: explore/exploit. I’d like to spend more time exploring rather than exploiting my options early on.
Your success is measured by how many times you failed. How can you say you are successful if you have never failed?
9. Blame someone else for your pain, but only YOU are RESPONSIBLE to change how you react
Go ahead and blame others for your suffering. You will only suffer more.
Take back control. Only you are responsible for how you feel.
Pain is inevitable. Learn how to sustain the pain.
I have always looked up to endurance athletes. I used to be a competitive swimmer and an open-water swimmer. Unfortunately, I haven’t committed enough to continue my pursuit of competitive sports. But what I really admire about endurance athletes is their steel-like mindset.
They learn to sustain the pain. Their mind is in control of their bodies.
They pursue ultra-performance thanks to what the public perceives as miracles but what really is tight self-discipline.
10. You WILL DIE. Live how you want
Without death, all choices you make become inconsequential.
Death makes your life meaningful.
You only live once.
I hope that this is useful for you. I’m writing another piece on productivity in times of COVID-19 especially for college students. If you give a fuck about this piece, please give me 👏🏻 and follow me!