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Jul 15

Don’t Try

Bukwoski-Dont-TryI wish I could take credit for the two-word title that headlines this article, but it was used historically by an unlikely hero. Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), the “accidental” American author and poet had it written on his tombstone in Los Angeles. He wanted to reiterate something we need desperately to hear again in the age of sugar-sweet positivism. Sometimes success comes even to those who don’t try very hard. In fact – it comes to people who just don’t give a %#)&@.

Charles Bukowski’s advice? Don’t try.

Charles Bukowski’s advice? Don’t try.

This is the crux of another writer’s philosophical invective. Mark Manson wrote The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. It’s full of Bukowksi-inspired advice. Though I don’t see anything wrong with dropping an F-bomb here and there, I’ll replace his liberal use of f—k with duck so that I don’t offend anyone who might otherwise benefit from reading about how not to give one.

Manson took Bukowski’s advice to heart, and noticed that we give way too many ducks about things that shouldn’t matter to us. He says we’re a culture of trying too hard at too many things.

And I couldn’t agree more.

While we’re “staying positive,” and working toward world peace, raising our children, maintaining friendships, keeping ourselves selfie-ready at a moment’s notice – just in case, God Forbid – we are caught on our “bad” side for a social media posting, hitting the gym, eating only non-gluten, GMO-free, sugar-free, MSG-free, vegan, wild-catch tofu, meditating, fighting the good fight, and showing up to work every day so that we don’t end up living out of a card board box slurping the remnants of a super-sized soda someone leaves by a trash dumpster, we’re trying so ducking hard!

We stare in the mirror to say our “you’re so beautiful, you’re so handsome” affirmations. We work on our relationships, take workshops, go to therapy, keep working on our internal dialogue, etc. etc. etc. Everything we do now is one big TRY.

As Bukowski will tell you, trying really hard doesn’t bring success, and success doesn’t always bring happiness. He was an alcoholic recluse before he made it as a famous writer, and he continued to be after he made it. At book signings, he would berate his fans. Before he had any fans, he worked in a post office, hating his life, and turning to the bottle while he occasionally wrote a line of poetry or a short story, getting refused by publisher after publisher. You can’t even say he made it because he didn’t give up. He gave up (you could say, stopped giving a duck) long before a random publisher took a strange fancy to him years after he had submitted any work, and that was the one big break that gave him a writing career.

Manson points out in a discussion of Bukowski, that his greatest strength was that he didn’t try to hide his faults. In fact, he didn’t try at much of anything.

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