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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

Book Notes

When at Webstock (holy f---, once again, an amazing conference) this year, Liz Danzico gave a great talk about giving up, quitting, and how, "... sometimes, the middle is the end" in projects. The talk was engaging and struck close to my heart in many ways. One of the many books she referenced and drew from was The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (affiliate link). With a title like that, heck yes, I bought a copy before the conference was over.

The book has 9 sections, ranging from the cult of positive thinking to stoicism to embracing insecurity to the folly of focusing on goals to accepting death as a way of life to negative capability. Each section / chapter has a central theme, some story or author adventure, and a suggestion on how this different way of not-embracing positive thinking has helped others and can help the reader in leading a better life (for their definition of better).

Having read a number of studies about how positive thinking doesn't really work in many cases, as it's essentially sticking your head in the sand about reality, and that visualizing achieving your goals causes your brain to reward you for already having achieved them reducing your desire to continue to pursue them, I was eager to read this book.

It did not disappoint.

There's immediate advice that I took to heart, much of it about stoicism and meditating, along with embracing insecurity and letting go of the belief we can control things. I've been seeing the world as it is, and less through my emotions, opinions and history. I've taken the few minutes, not always as long as I'd like, to listen to my breathing and calm myself. I've been trying to go outside of my comfort zone every day for the last couple months ("An adventure!"), and have experiences I would normally never consider. And, I've been accepting that things happen, whether from the actions of other people, entropy or whatever.

I highly recommend this book. I bought the audio version to listen to when I'm doing non-concentrating activities around the house (dishes, cooking, riding the bus). It's one of very few audiobooks I listen to 1x speed, instead of my usual 1.5x speed, it's that well read and written.

Along with The Happiness Hypothesis (also an affiliate link), this book goes into the "will read again, likely once a year" category, for finding balance.

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