“Life sucks”, says anti-self-help guru, author and blogger Mark Manson, “what can I say - it’s a tough world out there.” This might not seem like sage advice that would propel anyone to international stardom and book sales of over nine million, but many in the auditorium of the Sharjah International Book Fair 2019 on Saturday morning told Manson reading his books had changed their lives.
His book The Subtle Art propelled him to international fame when it was published in 2016. It made the NYTimes Bestseller list and sold two million copies in its first year alone. So, what makes him stand out from the crowd, in an extremely crowded “self-help” space?
“I’m realistic,” he said, “I know conventional advice is to follow your dream, and work hard, focus on positive affirmations and you’ll be successful and happy. But a lot of people have got into trouble that way. Unless you have the right idea about what success is for you, you can achieve all these goals and still be miserable.”
Like Stephen Covey, (the famous educator, author and businessman) said, you can start climbing the ladder of success but find halfway up that your ladder is leaning up against the wrong building, he explained.
“So the idea is you need to have a properly defined idea of what success is to you. I wanted to write a book that wasn’t telling people how to be happy, how to be successful. Because people were reading all these books and yet we have an existential crisis with the worst mental health in world that we’ve ever had. So really, The Subtle Art… is all about coming to terms with all of the inevitable unimportant imperfections in life and then choosing to not give a care about them. It’s about caring about the few things that truly matter.”
Speaking during his session, The Subtle Art of Redefining Success, he said it’s not about getting rid of problems, it’s about finding better problems. It’s not about avoiding failure, it’s about getting better at failure. It’s not about knowing everything but becoming more comfortable in not knowing anything.
He advised his audience to read a lot and said his success can be attributed to that, “I wasn’t a good student, I got terrible grades, I didn’t do the work, but I’ve a great capacity to read a lot so I learnt a lot.”
Addressing a largely young student audience, he told them to read plenty and study hard because even though it seems meaningless to know about chemistry formulas or mean temperatures, the point is you are learning how to learn, learning how to work and think, learning how to use tools to help you to learn. That, he says is the point of school.