The Human Condition

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Toxic success

How to stop striving and start thriving
Paul Pearsall 

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This is basically a self-help book, one written for people who have been in the rat race and are starting to realize it isn't making them happy and are looking around for answers. Even if you don't fit this category, his social criticism and his answers are good. He talks about how today the average garage is the size of the average house in the 50's, and how today we have these developments of McMansions that are usually empty because both parents are out earning money to pay for their status symbols and they have outsourced their parenting to schools and peers so that they can be free to pursue their whatever.

He has a practice of counseling the toxically successful, and generally the high order bits seem to be a discovery of family values and of noticing the simple sensory pleasures of existence. He also almost died of cancer and draws on the experiences of cancer survivors to reinforce the importance of making an effort to really experience things and not just going though life on autopilot.

An interesting thing he adds to the mix is that on visiting Hawaii, he was drawn to traditional Hawaiian values and decided to move there. This gives him a different perspective. He talks about the importance of spending a lot of time “talking story” with people. He talks about how a sense of meaning comes from being in a community of shared values.

He has a wonderful rant on how being happy is not the ultimate goal of life, and that what he and traditional Hawaiian culture place above this is the importance of “doing the right thing” according to your shared community values. This will often not make you happy, especially in the short term, but there is a gratification in doing the right thing, which I guess is naturally called righteousness. Also, the life-meaning that comes from being in a real community is conducive to happiness, or perhaps more accurately, life-satisfaction.