By Lubna Hamdan
The "positivity stuff" doesn't work anymore, according to the author of bestselling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F--- who spoke at the Sharjah International Book Fair
The Tony Robbins of the self-help world will become less relevant as the industry experiences a shift in demand for a more pessimistic take on human psychology, according to Mark Manson, the author of bestselling books The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F--- and Everything is F-----, a Book About Hope.
Speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair, Manson said less readers are buying into the conventional “positive” self-help approach used by self-proclaimed life coaches such as Tony Robbins, who came to Dubai for a talk in September.
“I don’t think the Tony Robbins version of self-help will go away, I just think it will become less prominent and less part of the culture. Some things have fundamentally shifted in popular culture. I think these newer [pessimistic] views are going to take more precedent.
“I don’t think all the positivity stuff works. If you look at the evidence, classic positivity self-help has been around – at least in the US - for 100 years. But if you look at depression, suicide, drug usage, they’re all steadily on the rise and have been for decades… I feel like there’s this surge of demand for this more pessimistic take on human psychology,” Manson said.
The author said the internet is the main reason people are turning away from positive self-help methods and towards pessimistic books like Manson’s.
He said: “The internet has made people very sceptical and untrusting of the world. The problem with having access to information about everything is you discover how everything is flawed. Everything you could possibly put your hope in has problems. Everything’s a little bit corrupted, flimsy, not going the way it should go - and that’s incredibly disappointing to people and I think that’s why there’s so much widespread pessimism in the world today.
“And I think when people are sceptical and untrusting, when you lead with pain, it’s immediately a breath of fresh air for people… If I go to people and say, ‘Hey I can teach you how to be a millionaire, just do these three easy steps,’ in the 21st century, people hear that and they immediately think you’re lying to them. But if you go to people and you go, ‘Hey, life sucks, I can help you deal with it,’ they’re like, ‘Hey I can trust this guy.’”
Manson said most self-help methods fail to address the pain and struggle associated with success or happiness.
“Because to get good at anything, we have to love the associated pain. This is what most self-help and success advice misses, is that everybody is focused on the goal, on the result – ‘Oh you want to make a million dollars, do x, y, z,’ - nobody stops and thinks about the sacrifices required to make a million dollars.
“Do you want the pain that’s associated with a high powered career where you have to give up free time and relationships to achieve certain goals?”
Manson, who began blogging after quitting music school, said publishers initially thought he wanted to write a Tony Robbins-style book with an indecent title.
“When I was pitching the idea for The Subtle Art… to publishers in New York, meeting with editors and all these different companies, it was funny because a lot of these editors didn’t get it at all. They thought I basically just wanted to write a Tony Robbins book with the ‘F word’ on the cover.
“They’re like, ‘Sounds great, let’s do it!’ I said, ‘No, no, no. There’s a philosophy behind this.’ And as we were meeting with these publishers, I started to get frustrated and I remember I went into Harper Collins and I met my editor Luke Dempsey for the first time, and he walked into the room and he put the proposal on the table and said, ‘I’m a cancer survivor, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m going to publish your book.’ And from that moment I was like, he gets it. I don’t care what the money is, what the numbers are, he gets it.”