Book Review: Everything is F*cked: A book about hope

Everything is f*cked. Really? That’s some bold language to use to describe the world. Sure, you might even agree that this sentiment sums up the the current state of affairs. However, this isn’t a book about the current state of affairs, it’s a book about YOU. No, I’m not saying that you’re not “F*cked”. No, it’s about mindsets, about contextualizing the VUCA world we live in, and its about the role that algorithms play and will play in our lives. It’s a book that acts more like a provocation.

Here is what GoodReads says about the book. I’ve tried to summarize this myself, but kept coming back to this – I think it most accurate:

We live in an interesting time. Materially, everything is the best it’s ever been—we are freer, healthier and wealthier than any people in human history. Yet, somehow everything seems to be irreparably and horribly f*cked—the planet is warming, governments are failing, economies are collapsing, and everyone is perpetually offended on Twitter. At this moment in history, when we have access to technology, education and communication our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, so many of us come back to an overriding feeling of hopelessness.

This book is a revelation in getting unstuck. It’s not that “Everything is F*cked”, it’s about what we do once we embrace knowing this.

You’d be interested in reading this book if:
* You love psychology, and appreciate a psychology treatment of our recent and not-so-recent past
* You want to be able to embrace and, dare I say ‘thrive’, in this current world
* You are interested in algorithms

Mark Manson is a writer, entrepreneur and describes himself on his site as: “I write about big ideas and give life advice that doesn’t suck. Some people say I’m an idiot. Other people say I saved their life. Read and decide for yourself.

So, if you do read this book, you’ve been warned 🙂

What I took from this book, and if you’ve read my review of Factfulness, you’ll already know, that the world is not as f*cked as it seems, but it FEELS that way. And Mark Manson argues that ‘the world runs on feelings’, and he has an on-going analogy that humans are guided by the “thinking brain” versus “the feeling brain”. He sites the marketing guru Edward Bernays for being the first to really tap into the idea that facts will always lose to feelings – does that sound familiar? Just accessing peoples feeling brain will create loyalty to anything that doesn’t align with those feelings. (Side Note: Freud was Bernays’ uncle!)

For educators, we live this everyday. We see how the thinking and feeling brains are in a constant battle. But what Mark does in this book, is that he explains how best to temper the feeling brain, and that, when you do so, humans enter in to a richer experience. Having unlimited choice ‘is a prison’, and we experience paralysis, and usually will take the one that supplies the most pleasure. This leads to a feeling of uselessness, void of value, values and meaning. However, he writes, being able to purposefully limit one’s choices, seek a less “choice-rich” life, to make commitments to ideas and people, to say ‘no’ to things, to prioritize meaningful activities over short-term ‘happiness’, this is what leads to living a valuable life, one full of value and meaning.

To do this, he argues, we need to create some steps, some habits that allow us resist the feeling brain. We need a process – unique to us – that helps us take steps to reach this directive. In other words, we need an algorithm: “a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end “.

Schools are a way to create algorithms – no, not robot-is-the-future students – but rather students who have a strong moral compass, who understand and practice ethical thinking, and who have a value-set that helps them navigate the VUCA world.

We are the ultimate algorithm – so far. At the end of the book Mark addresses the tenuous future when we will create AI machines that become better at creating AI algorithms than a human. (The Singularity comes to mind here) To underscore this point, Mark points to an interview with Elon Musk where he says, “I just hope that the machines are kind to us.” For more, check out THIS LINK

In the end, this book gives educators an incredible toolkit of ways to council ourselves, our colleagues and our students in how to lean into the future in ways that are productive and meaningful. Ultimately, this means that we need to understand and appreciate that deep sorrow, real pain (physical and spiritual), emotional upheaval, is not something to be algorithm’ed away, not something to be shunned or solved or medicated. Rather, it is this pain and sorrow that deepens the meaning of our existence and our appreciation for being human. So once you realize that the world is full of pain (i.e. that everything is f*cked), then you can get down to living.

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