Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Mark Manson: I struggled after the success of 'The Subtle Art'

The author and 'anti-self-help guy' urged students at the Sharjah International Book Fair to 'pick good challenges'

US author Mark Manson was speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair
US author Mark Manson was speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair

Mark Manson, the author who describes himself as the “anti-self-help guy”, has admitted that he “struggled” after the success of his 2016 book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—k.

The book, which has sold nine million copies and been translated into 50 languages, offers a counterpoint to the banal positivity – “always follow your dreams” – peddled in many self-help books and instead encourages the reader to embrace life’s struggles. Chapter titles include “You are Not Special” and “Failure is a Way Forward”.

Manson discovered how prescient his own words were when success threatened to block his “way forward”, stifling his creativity. “I really struggled with [that] after [the publication of] The Subtle Art because the easiest thing I could have done is basically re-write that book all over again,” he said at the Sharjah International Book Fair. “It would have taken a couple of months, I would have made a bunch of money and it would have been the safe option.

“But it’s a bit of a trap, once you let yourself get comfortable saying the same thing over and over again. You start to get entitled; ‘Alright, this is how much money I should be making.’ So with my second book, I consciously challenged myself to not repeat myself, to really push into topics and ideas that were new and uncomfortable, that I wasn’t really sure about.

“I understood that a lot of people who loved the first book wouldn’t love the second book. Speaking of worthy struggles and challenges, I decided that this was worth it.”

Manson’s second book, Everything is F—ked: A Book About Hope, which argues that technology and the ease of modern life has made humans less happy, has so far sold about 500,000 copies.

Manson, who started writing a blog after quitting a job in banking, was speaking to students at the Sharjah International Book Fair. The 35-year-old called on them to “pick good challenges”, in order to be fulfilled. “Pick challenges that feel important or worthwhile to you,” he said. “That can be in school, doing a hobby, with your relationships, with your family, any number of things. Find something in your life that’s challenging, that causes you to struggle or make sacrifices but [that] feels worth the struggle and sacrifice. And ultimately learn how to make that decision for yourself.”

He added: “If you have a poor definition of success, it doesn’t matter how good your habits are, how early you wake up in the morning, how hard you work every day. If your definition [of success] is poor, then you’re going to end up in a bad place.

“Until you get a good definition of what success is, what happiness is, what the good life is, all the other stuff is irrelevant or even counterproductive.”

The Sharjah International Book Fair runs until Saturday, November 9. More information is available at sibf.com

Updated: November 2, 2019 12:59 PM

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