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The Only Measure of Success

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There’s plenty written about people pushing through failure, pulling themselves out of the depths of despair, rising above against all odds. There are countless inspiring stories of the struggling artist, living in debt and obscurity for years—a lifetime even—eventually garnering the recognition and commercial success they long believed they deserved.

There’s less written about dealing with the pressures of immediate success. We rarely hear about how the artist—the musician whose debut album goes platinum or the author whose debut book is an instant bestseller—deals with the pressures, internal and external, of avoiding the dreaded “One Hit Wonder” label.

Mark Manson’s debut book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck was an international sensation which sold more than 8 million copies. His second book Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope releases today. In our interview with Mark for, we asked how he approached following up the massive success of Subtle Art:

I had to own up to the fact that…at the ripe old age of 32, it’s extremely likely that, commercially speaking, my career had peaked…That is hard to swallow.

So, when I sat down to write this book, it was really rough…This is going to sound cliche, but ultimately what “saved” me and kept me sane was remembering why I write: I write to sort out the ideas and issues that trouble me and try to do it in a way that can teach and help others…So, that was the starting point. Learning to regain some hope for myself—and for me, that was zeroing in on one goal: just write a better book.

And I believe I did. Since making that commitment, it’s been liberating. I don’t feel anxious about this book release. It might bomb. It might sell really well. Fans might love it. They might hate it. But I truly believe it is a better book: it’s smarter, deeper, more mature, better-written than Subtle Art was. So, regardless of the worldly result, I will always be proud of it. And ultimately, that’s what matters.

The Stoics talk about detaching from results and outcomes. “Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole,” Marcus Aurelius said. “Stick with the situation at hand.” The less attached we are to outcomes the better. When fulfilling our own standards—when doing the right thing—is what fills us with pride and self-­respect, when the effort is enough, we are liberated.

Let that be your mindset today. Focus only on what’s immediately in front of you. No strain, no struggle, no worry. Just one simple movement after another with just one goal: your best effort.

Mark’s new book is out now! If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope—a perfect book to read to combat the hopelessness and frustration that can often feel hard to avoid in today’s world.

P.S. This was originally sent on May 14th, 2019. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism. 

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