A Good Book Can Change Me

Every once in a while, a book can really have an effect on me. Mark Manson’s, “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck,” has completely changed the way I think about some things.

A few weeks ago Christina and I took her mom to the mall for some shopping. We parked in front of Books A Million and I jokingly told Christina to only let me buy one book. We browsed the store a bit and Manson’s book caught my attention. I couldn’t believe the guy had the stones to put the word “Fuck” in a title. Ten years ago I was lucky to get Paul Atner, a friend of my dad’s and professional writer, to read my horrible, choppy first novel. The first time we talked it went like this. “David, you use the word fuck in the second paragraph on the first page, and sixteen times in the first chapter.”

“Well…yeah, that’s how cops talk.”

“I get that, but you do understand that there will people that won’t read past the second paragraph, or first chapter because they don’t like that word.”

Huh, I had never thought about that…potential readers. It’s a lesson I still apply today in my writing, so I was pretty shocked when it was on the title line, and number seven on the New York Times Bestseller List. I picked it up and read the first few pages. It didn’t catch my attention, I figured I knew what the book was going to be about, and put it back on the shelf. I browsed some more, seriously considered buying the Literary Agent guide for 2017, then remembered the forty seven rejections, and actually left Books A Million empty handed. A rarity for me.

We went to Dillards where Christina shopped for shoes and I day-dreamed of being an assassin and was planning egress routes and waypoints after I successfully murdered the annoying lady walking around on her cell phone. Then we walked back through the book store and I picked up his book again, and this time I started in Chapter four. I ended up buying the book.

And it’s been an amazing read. I can measure how good a book is by how much I recommend it. The last few weeks I’ve thought: Man, Christina needs to read this. Oh my, I have to send this to mom. Wow, Brad would really benefit from Chapter 2. Damn, this addresses what we were arguing about at work the other day, I need to get this to Russel.

I’ve pretty much thought at one point that everyone I care about should read it. Well everyone but my dad, but he’s a bit different. I’m pretty sure if we told my dad that an asteroid was going to crash into the earth and it was infested with aliens who are coming to enslave the human race he’d say, “Man, that sucks. I better get a good night’s rest.” Then he’d walk off, you know, to get a good night’s rest.

A great example of how this book is changing me would be Chapter seven, Failure is the Way Forward. When Olivia Green was published I set a goal of selling a thousand books. I even wrote a blog about it. And that was wrong. What if I actually had sold a thousand? Would I have been happy with that? Was that even possible seeing that I had no representation, marketing, or money for marketing?

What if my goal had been to create a story that people enjoyed, maybe even get a bit lost in for a brief moment.

That’s what I needed to be thinking about when I was writing it, not selling a thousand books.

Anyway, that’s just one way his book has changed me. But, it was chapter three that really blew me away.

Chapter three: You Are Not Special. It’s broken down into three parts. Things Fall Apart, The Tyranny of Exceptionalism, and B-b-b-but If I’m Not Going To Be Special Or Extraordinary, What’s The Point. When I read chapter three, initially I disagreed with the author. I mean, of course I’m fucking special.

But it made me think. Then I started thinking about my family and why they are all special in their own ways. I realized pretty quickly that I was biased so I focused on friends. Then I thought about three friends that I choose to stay in touch with. Three friends that I’m confident I’ll never lose track of. Brad, John and Tommy.

Brad is the most driven guy I know. We roomed together our sophomore year in college, and Brad would literally be studying next to the four of us acting like animals trying to erect a Bud-Light pyramid. He earned a scholarship to Georgia Tech and graduated with honors. He’s a mechanical engineer and a few years ago he took over a plant that makes cable spools or something that wasn’t making money. He’s completely turned the plant around now has salaried guys underneath him. His mom had him when she was 16, and she and Brad’s father are still together. He’s an amazing father to two beautiful girls. You know what, that’s pretty special.

John and I were roommates throughout most of College. He has the same job that Chandler did on the TV show friends. Nobody knows or understands what he does. But he does pretty good. John and his wife, who were high school sweethearts and have a pretty amazing relationship despite going to different colleges, teach Financial Peace University. They’ve applied Dave Ramsey’s principals and have no debt. John is turning 43 next month and has no debt, at all. And they live north of Atlanta in a very nice house. He's one of the most grounded guys I know, and taught a great lesson on forgiveness that I still apply today. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty damn special.

I’ve known Tommy since the fourth grade and I can’t think of one year where he and I haven’t gone without actually seeing each other. He lives in Maryland, and I’ve been in Georgia since 1993. He’s a high school history teacher and was awarded the Teacher of the Year award this past year. He coaches a high school hockey team that’s he’s taken to the state finals and deep into the playoffs several years. He’s traveled the world, twice. He’s been to France, Greece, Croatia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cuba, and is in South Africa at the moment. When I told him I was getting married he didn’t hesitate and asked what day the wedding was. I tried to explain that it was going to be a courthouse wedding and he didn’t need to drive eight hours for a seven minute ceremony but he kept cutting me off yelling on the phone, “Just tell me the date you dick!” Pretty damn special if you ask me.

So I was walking around thinking about how special my friends are and how lucky I am. Then it hit me, everyone is special. Everyone in the world has friendships like I do, and when you get to know them on a personal level, make memories with them, are there for the good times and the bad times, that's what is special.  

Kim Kardashian (it makes me sick that my spell check knows how to spell her last name), professional athletes, actors, and politicians aren’t special despite what they all tell us. Where did we get that so wrong?

When did we define being exceptional as special?

I know a teacher, plant manager and software advisor that are all pretty damn special. Despite our current definition of what special actually is.

Maybe we need to change the way we view some of these famous people.

 

I’m getting married next Friday, so I won’t be able to post until mid-august. My writing has taken a back seat to my personal life lately with the wedding coming up, but I’ve been working hard and hope to get back to writing soon.