The courage to be disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga might be the most influential book that I’ve ever had in my life.
In fact, it’s such an important book to me that the title is even one of my core values and you’ve probably even heard me say it when I say, “Have courage commit and take action.”, at the end of my videos.
Have courage refers to having the courage to be disliked.
In a modern Western marketplace, your business lives or dies by how other people feel about you and your business. Social media, blogs, reaction content reviews, critiques, social justice warriors.
All of those have made it painfully clear that judging people is not only popular but it’s considered more fact than opinion.
In a world where every action you take can be immortalized reviewed, replayed restructured, re-edited, shared, and go viral, it can feel like the need to bow to social pressure and please other people is stronger than ever.
The courage to be disliked is an antidote to satisfying other people’s expectations.
Growing up, I was far less stoic. In fact, at school, I was voted drama queen for my year.
Two particular incidents that come to mind are eating a raw pepper or chili in front of everyone to try and get a reaction and telling a teacher to fuck off.
My problem is that I was constantly looking for approval from other people. Like most teenagers, I was racked with insecurities and the need to be accepted which ultimately led to some pretty stupid attention-seeking behavior.
Years later, having calmed down with age and having run a business for over a decade (Jesus, that’s a third of my life), I’ve come to accept that seeking approval and recognition from others is not only detrimental to your mental health, it makes you unhappy and even selfish.
The courage to be disliked has a lot of core principles. But the three that I want to discuss today are freedom is being disliked, separation of tasks, and your problems are not caused by past trauma.
1. Freedom is being disliked.
I’ll make this one quick. It’s probably the least controversial of all of the points.
If you find yourself being disliked by people, that almost certainly means that you’re living true to your values. It also probably means that you’re free and while that might sound contradictory, most people, when they talk about freedom, what they mean is freedom of choice.
In the book, the courage to be disliked, the authors refer to freedom as being disliked. The argument is that if you’re being disliked, it means you’re not living to satisfy other people’s expectations.
When you try to please everyone and live up to their expectations and refuse to offend anyone, you’re not free. You’re trapped by the need to acquiesce to other people’s requests and bow to their whims and ultimately to their emotional states and their emotional reactions.
Have you ever had anyone tell you to calm down? It’s infuriating, right?
Imagine if you had someone telling you, “I’m not going to be honest with you because I think you’ll have an emotional reaction and I’d rather control your emotions by censoring or telling you something different and not be honest with you.”
That would be extremely condescending, right? So, why do we do that to other people?
By refusing to be honest with yourself and other people, you’re trying to control their emotions and their reactions towards you, which is kind of a controlling attitude and very selfish.
That is the opposite of freedom.
2. Separation of Tasks
The second point is the separation of tasks.
On the note of taking control of other people’s emotions, the courage to be disliked, which is based on Adlerian psychology, Alfred Adler. It talks about the concept of separating tasks.
Your emotions, your thoughts, your feelings, and your actions, those are your tasks, and other people’s feelings, emotions, and actions are their tasks.
You wouldn’t like it if I tried to control your emotions, so why do we insist on trying to control other people’s emotions?
Years ago, I remember my dad telling me, “Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business.” While I didn’t fully understand it, it made sense at the time. Since reading this book and studying more Adlerian psychology, it makes a lot more sense.
How other people behave and act is none of my business and the desire to change other people’s behaviors is often manifested by people who can’t regulate or control their own emotions.
If you’ve ever had a kid or a teenager throw a temper tantrum and try to get you to desperately do something and they keep escalating and escalating their emotions, you know that they’re trying to change your behavior by trying to get you to do something.
We have begun rewarding that in my opinion, through things like protest culture and victim culture, and social justice warriors, whereby the louder and angrier someone speaks, the more we change our own behaviors.
Let’s look at another practical example. If you’ve got a kid struggling in class, they’re not doing their homework, they’re unable to learn. A lot of parents will jump into that and helicopter parent that kid, and basically, take over even doing their homework for them.
But who benefits from that? Ultimately, the kid never learns long-term to deal with reality and overcome struggles.
When someone asks for help, that’s a totally different conversation.
That’s constructive. If the kid comes to the parents and says, “I need help with this.” That’s a completely different conversation.
Imagine having someone come over to your table and carve all your food for you as an adult, how infuriating and condescending that would be? Yet if you ask for help, that’s a completely different situation.
If the outcome of a task benefits someone, it’s probably their life task and therefore it’s up to them to manage it and do with it, how they see fit.
3. Your problems are not caused by past trauma
Now, finally, let’s talk about the most controversial one of these points, which is, “Your problems are not caused by past trauma.”
This is the most controversial view for a few reasons.
First of all, it denies the existence of trauma. It also goes against popular, psychological and psychoanalytical reasoning, particularly that of Freud. It discourages being a victim, which is very difficult for people to accept.
However, it is also the most freeing because first of all, it allows you to take total control of your life.
It also means that you no longer need to define yourself by past events and it frees you from your past.
If I said to you that there was a way for you to live your life however you want, no matter what had happened in your past, most people would think that’s a good idea.
In truth, your past has no hold over you. Of course, it shapes parts of your personality and it has an impact, but it doesn’t by definition mean that whatever has happened in your past means that that’s how you have to act today.
For example, if you get angry really easily, it’s not the event or something in your past, either immediately or long term that caused you to be angry.
You get angry because you want to get angry and you justify it afterward.
Let’s say you’re in a coffee shop and someone spill some coffee on you and you get angry. You just explode.
Your goal was always to get angry. Either to exert control over someone else or so the other people kind of handle you with care, and mollycoddle you a little bit.
Something that people don’t realize is by expressing anger, you’re positioning yourself as the victim, as someone who needs to be protected.
A victim isn’t someone who’s had something done to them. It’s someone who needs to have other people handle them with care and treat them differently and give them special treatment. It also means that they insist other people change their behavior.
Now, this is a very bitter pill to swallow. The three things that people love to bring up are assault, rape, and torture.
Now, I’m not saying that stuff that’s happened in your past isn’t bad. That’s not what I’m saying at all.
What I’m saying is the terrible things that have happened in your past, they aren’t the reasons that you behave the way you do now. Like I said, this is a very bitter pill for people to swallow.
We are goal orientated, which is to say, I believe in teleology, particularly for behavior. Etiology is the study of cause and effect.
If you come in with a broken leg to a hospital that makes sense to look back and say, what was the accident that caused the broken leg?
But if you went into a doctor and said, I’ve got a broken leg and they went, “Okay, tell us what happened.”
He said, “Well, I was skiing…”
Then, they said, “Okay, I can see that you were skiing. You’ve twisted your ankle and now your leg is broken. So, okay. Cool. Problem solved.”
You’d be like, “Whoa, not problem solved. You’ve just told me how it happened. You haven’t told me how we’re going to fix it.”
A lot of people put behavior and etiology in the same place. They say, “Well, this terrible thing happened in my past or this terrible thing happened now, I’m going to react however I’m going to react. That justifies it because of what happened in the past.”
We know this isn’t true, right? We know that people who have had different, awful things happen to them in the past, don’t always go down the same pathway. We know that people years later become different personalities, even if they go through the exact same terrible event.
Trauma is the idea that your past is so awful, that it changes your behavior. I refute that.
I don’t believe that’s true. I believe that you have a choice in how you behave and how you interpret the activity or the event that happened.
Victims are people who blame the world for their problems, and they insist that other people change their behavior in order so that they don’t have to regulate their emotions.
Survivors and caregivers are the ones who say, “Yeah, this is a shit event, but I sure as hell, I’m not going to let this dictate how I live the rest of my life and how I treat other people.”
On the surface, it seems very obvious, but in fact, you have to take a hundred percent responsibility for all of your actions and not blame them on something in your past.