“Everything starts with your truth. Nothing can be built without it,” writes John Kim.
In his new book I Used to Be a Miserable F*ck: An Everyman’s Guide to a Meaningful Life, Kim explores what it really means to be a man — to be vulnerable, aware, responsive, and responsible for their own happiness — and offers powerful, straight-forward, and unfiltered advice.
Practicing vulnerability, Kim tells us, is not something we do for others. He writes, “You are creating soil, rich soil, for you and your growth.”
Similarly, self-awareness is not about simply knowing how we are perceived, but rather, knowing how our thoughts, feelings, and actions affect others.
Kim writes, “I eventually realized, through many expired relationships, that maybe the problem, or part of the problem, was me. This opened up a whole new world, a hard world to face. It was a revelation. I was living in a bubble, oblivious to the damage I was doing. Not only to others but to myself.”
Becoming aware of our actions and how they affect others is the first step. From there, taking responsibility for our actions becomes a daily practice.
Responsibility also must come before freedom. Kim writes, “When it comes to being a man, freedom is not given. It is earned by being responsible. You choose to be responsible first.”
Adopting a mindset that life happens through us brings perspective — there is something larger than us at play to bring our unique gifts and talents into the world.
At any point we can choose to be a student of life, to keep learning, to employ humility. Kim writes, “You may be an expert in your field. But if you approach everything as if you are learning it for the first time, you will be more open, curious, and likable.”
A common thread in all great leaders is humility and three tips Kim gives for reducing the ego are: smashing the scoreboard, destroying the time machine and picking purpose over passion.
There is also a difference between being kind and being nice. Where nice seeks approval, acceptance and validation, it becomes the act of selling others on your qualities. Kindness, on the other hand, is not about approval — it comes from a place of truth.
Kim asks, “Are you giving to satisfy your flawed sense of self? Being nice. Or are you genuinely giving your gift without wanting anything in return. Being kind.”
Similarly, there are many things we can focus on that we don’t have. That new car, the expensive vacation, the perfect relationship, job or friends. Yet, Kim writes, “Most of life is in simple moments. It’s finding the happiness in those moments that is key.”
Those moments are the nectar of life and they are always in front of us.
One suggestion Kim gives is to practice mindfulness. He writes, “Mindfulness is about an outlook, an appreciation of the world and your place in it. It’s a practice that snaps you into the present and allows you to actually live instead of just exist.”
We should also take what we do seriously, but not take ourselves too seriously. Leading, excelling, giving and contributing are all ways our work can produce a better world around us. Conversely, when we take ourselves too seriously, instead of contributing, we seek attention, praise and recognition.
“If you focus on taking what you do seriously instead of taking yourself seriously, you are realigning the relationship you have with you,” writes Kim.
Much like the connection we cultivate with ourselves through taking responsibility, choosing responding over reacting and practicing kindness, the connection we create with our loved ones is an act of balance. Kim’s advice? Don’t place her on a pedestal, but also don’t stop courting her.
Yes, relationships are a compromise, but they are not a self-compromise. “Love is not a feeling. It is an action. Therefore, we must not look at love as something that is given but something that we earn, hone, practice, learn from, work at, and strengthen,” writes Kim.
When it comes to career, Kim’s advice is straight-forward. Start with taking responsibility, be aware of your energy, learn how to fail and at the end of the day, believe in yourself.
“There is nothing more convincing than a new experience. That’s where new beliefs live,” writes Kim.
Packed with daily tips, unfiltered do’s and don’ts, non-nonsense wisdom, and countless thought-provoking observations, I Used To Be A Miserable F*ck is a welcome contribution to the mental health field.
I Used to Be a Miserable F*ck: An Everyman’s Guide to a Meaningful Life
Harper One, 2019
Paperback, 224 pages