Book Summary — The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fuck (2)

Chapter 2: Happiness is a Problem

Have you read the first chapter? If you haven’t, then you can go to
Chapter 1: Don’t Try.


That life itself is a form of suffering

Everything that you have, everything that you pursue, is a form of suffering. Let’s say you have a girlfriend/boyfriend. Sometimes, you suffer because of them. You don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend, you also suffer because of them. Rich people suffer because of their riches (kinda strange isn’t it? But believe me and Mark, they do suffer), while the poor suffer because of their poverty.

And then you start to wonder why is happiness is a problem, or you don’t. But I’m gonna tell you anyway. We have a wrong premise to be happy. Our premise is basically like this

If I achieve X, then I can be happy. If I look like Y, then I can be happy. If I can be with a person like Z, then I can be happy.

The problem is the premise. Happiness isn’t an equation. Mark said that sadness, dissatisfaction, unease etc. are part of inherent human nature and they are the necessary component to create consistent happiness.


The Misadventures of Disappointment Panda

Mark has a panda. This panda isn’t just a normal panda. This panda is a superhero, with a special superpower, to tell people the harsh truth about their lives. If you meet this panda, he will tell you how ugly you are, that you are such a failure. Of course that wouldn’t pleasant to hear. But sometimes, what we need is for someone to tell us the truth. The harsh truth is going to make your life better, although maybe it makes you feel like a shit. Just think of it like bitter vegetables on your plate. They are without a doubt healthy, you just have to accept that it takes a little bit of effort to eat them.

Pain, in all of its form, is our body’s most effective means of spurring action. It helps show us what’s good for us versus what’s bad for us.

There are basically 2 kinds of pain. Physical pain and psychological pain. Both are important. Both are an indication that something is going wrong, something is going out of the equilibrium. And basically they become experience for us. They teach us not to make the same mistake over and over again. But, not all kind of pains are equal. Of course, some kind of pain are more painful than the other. What we need is a healthy dose of pain from a series of problems.

Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of the next one. Don’t hope for a life without problems. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.


Happiness Comes from Solving Problems

Problems never stop, they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.

You want to cook something. You have to buy ingredients from market, that’s a problem. After you buy them, you have to cook them, which is also, a problem. Another problem is when you don’t know the recipe so you have to look for it first. After that, you have to eat what you cook, this is a good problem, agree? :)
For the last part, you have to clean the dishes. There are so many problems

Happiness comes from solving problems. Emphasis on the solving word. Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.

So, for you to be happy, just solve some problems. It’s that simple. Sadly, most people don’t feel that way. Most of them usually face these 2 problems.

Two problems people usually face to not facing problems

Emotions are overrated

Emotions are part of the equation of our lives, but not the entire equation. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Just because somethings feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad.

Try to question your emotions sometimes. When you are having negative emotion, accept them, don’t fall into the feedback loop from hell. Remember that pain serves a purpose.

Another funny thing about emotion is that we are constantly in need and crave for more positive emotions. Same amount of positive emotions won’t have the same effect like the first time. While for the negative, we are constantly trying to avoid them. But, the same amount of negative emotions always pile on top of the other and they are getting bigger and bigger.

There’s an illustration from Lemony Snicket, the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. 13 volumes of 3 unluckiest children trying to survive in the cruel word facing problems one after another. Before I’m getting out of topic, here’s the illustration (it may not be accurate because I read them like, 8–10 years ago?).

Imagine yourself, going to a nice cafe, you are ordering a strawberry milkshake. When your order comes in, you try them and it blows your mind. It feels amazingly good. The next day you come again to the same cafe with the same order. It still felt great, but not like the first time. On the 3rd day, you come back again, and you start to wonder why it’s not as good as the first time.

On the 4th day, you come again, and you find a thumb tack in your drink. You start to feel weird and rather disappointed. Back again on the 5th day, you find another thumb tack in your drink. Now you feel greater disappointment, and you start to be angry. You begin to think whether or not you should come back here again. Yup, the story went like that, more or less.

We like the idea that there’s some form of ultimate happiness that can be attained. We like the idea that we can alleviate all of our suffering permanently. We like the idea that we can feel fulfilled and satisfied with our lives forever. But we cannot.


Choose Your Struggle

Everybody wants the god things in life, the good emotions all the time. What everybody never considers is what pain are they okay with, what are they willing to struggle for. We just want the rewards, the results. Most of us don’t want to struggle and to give it some work. We are not willing to go through the process.

For example, you want to be healthy and have a nice abs. Are you willing to go early in the morning? Eat healthy things, like vegetable? Go to the gym? Driving long hours to the gym? Working your ass off? Sweat like crazy? Are you willing to do all of that?

Happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems. The path to happiness is a path full of shit-heaps and shame.


So that’s it. End of chapter 2 :)

William Stefan Hartono

Written by

Just a normal guy with abnormal bad luck || A UX enthusiast :)

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