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The Guru Burns Out

Mark Manson sold 12 million copies of his self-help hit. Then he started taking his own advice.

Photo: Walker Bunting
Photo: Walker Bunting
Photo: Walker Bunting

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The emperor of no fucks wore a maroon T-shirt over his mesomorphic frame. He had a light beard and a short ponytail, and he was wearing can headphones and clutching a microphone as he sat in front of a glass wall looking out on a line of wind-rustled trees in his sunny backyard. It was 11 in the morning here in Los Angeles on a Sunday in late May, but Mark Manson’s students had logged on from time zones around the world (Berlin, Capetown, the United Arab Emirates, Winnipeg, India) for the latest webinar from his Subtle Art School (“More life lived, fewer fucks given”), itself a brand extension of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, one of the top-ten-selling books of the past decade.

The focus of today’s lesson was “Changing Beliefs,” and for two hours, Manson fielded questions and responded with the research-based realism that had made him a kind of Tony Robbins for millennials. When asked, “What was the belief you struggled the most to change?” Manson was self-deprecating, talking about how he’d had “a lot of fucked-up beliefs around commitment and marriage” and how “it took most of my 20s to unwind that.” At times, he was a confident guru, speaking in aphorisms such as “Instinct is unconscious emotion.” As he chewed over his answers, his brow crunched and his eyes tilted toward the ceiling in thought. After a woman named Roxana talked of her guilt about her family, which didn’t accept some of the ways she had changed, Manson wasn’t unsympathetic, but neither was he sentimental or pandering. “The bad news is this is always gonna hurt. That’s hard; it’s really, really hard,” he said. When a woman spoke of her grief over a stillborn child, Manson cautioned her against “applying a Band-Aid to a shotgun wound,” adding that “my content is optimized” for “high-quality problems” rather than the “life-defining pain” of this woman’s trauma. He cited research by the likes of psychologist John Gottman. As Manson talked, comments scrolled through the chat window: “I just had an ‘aha’ moment. Thank you,” “A franchise of Subtle Art Club Houses? Frequented by a tribe of people with healthy boundaries.”

Manson seemed to be following the familiar self-help-titan path. Besides the school, which launched in January, he had published Everything Is Fucked, a best-selling follow-up to his megaselling first book. (Along the way, he found time to co-author Will Smith’s memoir, Will.) He had recently released a The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck journal and a The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck NFT collection. A The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck documentary was in the works. But when your creed is not giving a fuck, practicing what you preach means learning not to give a fuck about the multi-million-dollar empire you’ve built — the one that brought you a real-estate-porn Tribeca loft and the adulation of celebrities. As Manson told his webinar students, “I’m in a situation in my career at the moment where I’m in one of these paradox-of-choice situations,” and the only way to make a decision was to choose the thing with the best, or least bad, trade-offs. “Coming at things from the least-bad point of view allows you to develop conviction in them.”

Photo: Walker Bunting

A few weeks earlier, I had met up with Manson in Austin, where he had flown to help his mother, Chris, move into a house he bought her in a 55-plus retirement community. Manson was wearing athleisure that exposed a psychedelic tattoo with the words EX NIHILO wrapped around an upper arm. We helped Chris assemble some bookshelves and hang pictures, and later, along with Manson’s wife, Fernanda Neute, we visited his old turf north of the city. Growing up here, Manson said, he’d felt out of place. Austin was much smaller then — pre–tech boom, pre–famous transplants like Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, and Elon Musk — and he’d lived in a Bible Belt “Podunk exurb” with cows and creeks, “bubbas and barbecues.” He’d chafed at the middle-class conservatism, skipping out on Sunday school and developing an aversion to authority figures. “I got a lot of Jesus as a kid,” he said.

What had been a rural area was now paved over with strip malls and sprawl; everywhere, it seemed, new housing developments were under construction. We passed Canyon Vista Middle School, where Manson had been arrested in eighth grade for marijuana possession and expelled. He was briefly homeschooled, then attended a private high school in South Austin. Manson had fond memories of the house where he lived until he was 9, a ranch on a leafy cul-de-sac in the Oak Hill neighborhood. He was less nostalgic about the larger home the family moved to in 1994 when his father’s business, in urethane-product manufacturing, began to thrive. It was a white-brick Colonial with a pool in a verdant suburb called Great Hill; a basketball hoop Manson’s dad had installed still hung over the garage when we drove past. “It’s big and beautiful,” Manson said, “but it’s also when my parents’ marriage started falling apart. I started rebelling. This house — I don’t have great memories. Nobody was happy. And it’s funny because when we moved into our place in New York, I was very anxious about it because I remember telling my wife, like, ‘We grew up in a gigantic house, and it became a way to avoid each other.’ ”

Manson had taken some time to find his footing. After high school, with mediocre grades and vague notions of becoming a rock star, he went to a small music college in Denton, Texas, before realizing he didn’t have the talent to make it and transferring to Boston University, where he studied international business. Traumatized by a friend’s drowning and by a high-school sweetheart’s dumping him, and lacking confidence with women, he spent much of his early 20s going out at night as part of the ascendant “pickup artist” scene popularized by Neil Strauss’s book The Game. Among PUAs, men who traded tips for bedding women, it was common to use a pseudonym, but while most PUAs chose self-glamorizing handles like Style and Mystery, Manson went by Entropy.

Manson came to PUA with better social skills than many of the men drawn to it. Much of the scene focused on elaborate tactics with abstruse names (“negging,” “peacocking,” “escalating kino”), but Manson gravitated toward a more common-sense approach. As Entropy, he began blogging about his experiences and giving advice, counseling men on how to dress better, among other things, and gaining a following through his writing. “He was one of the more talented people at this, I guess you’d say,” recalls Mr. Awesome, a fellow Boston PUA on whose futon Manson slept for a period while working as a bike messenger. “At some point, I was like, ‘Why don’t you have people pay you to do this?’ ” Manson started a business called Practical Pickup, coaching clients, selling video courses, and organizing boot camps. Even as one of the more successful PUAs, Manson wasn’t getting rich; over the course of a few years, he coached somewhere between 30 and 40 men in total and made between $500 and $1,000 a month. During slow periods, he scraped by on the trickle of affiliate-ad revenue from his website (as well as one he designed to market a teeth-whitening service). At times, an ex-girlfriend helped him out with money, and at other times, he moved back home with his mom.

While healing from some of his old wounds, Manson became disillusioned with the PUA scene, and as he would later do with Subtle Art and self-help, he increasingly cast his advice as a rebuttal to the field’s conventional wisdom. “What Mark helped people see was it was never about the women,” Mr. Awesome, now a West Coast academic, recalls. “It was about you. When you got your shit together, pickup got easier.” Instead of dumb tricks, Manson talked about things like “non-neediness,” “power in vulnerabilities,” and “being something versus saying something.” He found himself reading academic papers on the psychological underpinnings of male behavior and came to understand that many of the men in the PUA scene, like himself, had troubled or nonexistent relationships with their fathers and that PUA provided these men with a substitute. “I basically kind of built my name by explaining why all this stuff that Neil Strauss wrote was toxic and really damaging, and not just to women — to men,” he told me. “Like, okay, yes, this does hurt women, but you’re also objectifying yourself and degrading yourself.” In his view, the reason pickup became a thing was that it wasn’t acceptable for men to read self-help books.

In the late aughts, after Manson launched some online courses and published an e-book and his monthly income nearly doubled, he moved abroad, taking advantage of the geographic arbitrage to make money online while living cheaply in foreign countries, something central to the then-nascent The 4-Hour Workweek–inspired digital-nomad movement. He did stints in Russia, Vietnam, and Thailand, but spent four of seven itinerant years in Argentina, Colombia, and Brazil. “I just like Latin America,” Manson says. “Latin culture is very effusive, very emotional, very passionate. And I come from a background that was very inhibited socially and emotionally, so it was kind of the antidote to a lot of my personal insecurities and struggles.” It was in a nightclub in São Paolo that he met Neute.

In 2011, Manson self-published a book, Models: Attract Women Through Honesty, which distilled his more psychological, emotion-based take on pickup artistry, but he was already preparing to expand his approach to a larger realm. On his blog, rebranded as PostMasculine, his broad project was to understand and write about men and their struggles with self-esteem, but his new subjects ranged from “6 Toxic Relationship Habits That Most People Think Are Normal” (No. 4: “Blaming Your Partner for Your Own Emotions”) to “The Bad Acid Trip” (about an experience with LSD when he was 18) to “You’re OK” (about self-acceptance) to “A Dust Over India” (about developing-world poverty).

As his traffic grew to up to 5,000 people a month, Manson noticed that a lot of his readers were women. And he was increasingly convinced that many of the issues he was focused on applied regardless of gender. And so, in 2013, he rebranded once again, this time to MarkManson.net (“Author. Thinker. Life Enthusiast.”). Going forward, he would write for everyone. His blog traffic began to soar, rising to 400,000 monthly readers.

He was fashioning a niche for himself as the tough-love counterpart to a wave of sunnier self-help blogs then in vogue. One popular site, Tiny Buddha, Manson held in particular contempt. “It posts, like, a bajillion articles every day, and every single article was just the same flavorless, shallow, powder-puff, feel-good piece,” Manson says. “I used to be very bitter about that. I was like, ‘You know what people really need is somebody to tell ’em, like, ‘Hey, your life is bullshit and fucked up because of you. And guess what? You’re always gonna have problems.’ This is what people actually need to hear.”

Manson stood ready to oblige and, while trying to base his prescriptions on scientific research, channeled his aggression into self-consciously contrarian posts like “Stop Trying to Be Happy” and “Being Special Isn’t So Special.” “It was completely different than anything else out there,” recalls Drew Birnie, then a neuroscience Ph.D. candidate who had been a Manson reader since PostMasculine. “He wasn’t going to make you feel good so you’d buy something from him. It was ‘I’m going to tell you the truth. It will hurt. Improving yourself will take a long time. Some of it will suck.’ ” Manson’s site traffic grew to more than a million monthly readers, and by 2014, he was doing well enough that he blogged about looking to hire some help. Before long, Birnie had dropped out of grad school, where he was focusing on the social behavior of marmosets, to read and digest academic papers for Manson.

On January 8, 2015, under a banner photo of a kitten nonchalantly padding away from a fiery explosion, Manson published a blog post that would seed a once-in-a-decade publishing phenomenon. He titled it “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck,” and 110 of its 2,354 words were fuck or derivations thereof: fuck-worthy, motherfucking, unfuckable. It was a chippy, giddily profane riff on platitudes like “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” “Don’t worry what other people think,” and “To thine own self be true,” and it went viral.

One of Manson’s new readers was an assistant to New York literary agent Mollie Glick, and soon Manson was meeting with Glick to discuss a book he was writing, a mix of Zen, stoicism, evidence-based psychology, and fucks. The working title was Negative Self-Help, but by the time Glick started shopping the proposal, it bore the name of the blog post that best epitomized its content: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

Manson flew to New York and met with eight publishers. One of the last editors he saw was Luke Dempsey at HarperOne. “He walked in with the proposal,” Manson recalls, “threw it on the table, and said, ‘Look, I’m a cancer survivor. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. And I don’t care what it takes — I’m gonna publish your book.’ ”

As it wended toward publication, HarperOne’s marketing people began to question the wisdom of printing a four-letter word on a book cover. They agreed it was catchy, but they feared major media and distributors would blanch. After much debate, fuck stayed, but the no-fuck forces, Glick says, “were right and wrong.” Several big-box stores wouldn’t carry the book, and network morning shows ignored it. “We did have trouble getting mainstream press,” Glick recalls. “Partly it was old media not liking new media, and part of it was the salty language.”

The anti-fuck-ers were clearly wrong, though, when it came to sales. Manson’s book came out in September 2016. It first appeared on the Times best-seller list at No. 6 in the category of Advice, How-To, and Miscellaneous in early October. And over the next months, it steadily climbed the rankings. On July 16 of the following year, after 29 weeks on the list, it reached No. 1, displacing Admiral William McRaven’s Make Your Bed. At that point, HarperOne created a version of the cover with FUCK represented as “#@%!” (on the original version, only the U was replaced by a symbol), and Walmart began stocking it. It popped up in celebrities’ feeds: Simone Biles, Chris Hemsworth, Chelsea Handler, and Paris Hilton mentioned it, and there it was on the floor between the Edge’s feet in a magazine photo. (For famous people alternately cosseted by courtiers and trolled by the masses, Manson’s helpful telling-it-like-it-is realism had an obvious appeal; it was the “good kick in the arse that I needed!,” as Hemsworth posted on Instagram.) Subtle Art has now been on the Times list for more than 250 weeks, selling more than 12 million copies in 65 languages (including Uzbek and Greenlandic).

Over lunch at a Tex-Mex place in Austin this past May, Manson did seem as if he gave a fuck that he had been largely overlooked by the Establishment despite his book’s runaway sales. The New York Times hadn’t reviewed it, he’d never been asked to give a TED Talk, and none of the schools he’d attended had asked him to come back to speak. At least in part, this clearly had to do with the title. I asked his mother, who described herself as a “fangirl,” what she’d thought when she first heard it. Not much, she said. After her divorce from Manson’s father, her son had lived with her during high school, “and that was a pretty common word,” she said. “I’ve come across a few ladies that kind of cringe, but 72-year-old women say fuck too. Although I have to admit, I say it more now.”

Chris Hemsworth shares Manson’s first book with his Instagram followers in 2017.

Last fall, I visited Manson at his home in Tribeca. The elevator opened directly into the 5,475-square-foot apartment, a floor-through penthouse loft in a doorman building. It was location-scout bait with contemporary art and big windows that let in lots of light. But he wore his success uneasily.

“It’s weird,” he said. “When Subtle Art took off, you basically just get all this money like dumped on top of you. And we’re both pretty simple. Like, I don’t wear fancy clothes. I don’t own cars. I don’t have watches or anything, you know? I pretty much wear stuff like this every day.” He had on gym clothes. “But we love living in New York, so we’re like, Oh shit, now we can get that penthouse that everyone dreams about with all the space, and, You know, we can have the beautiful New York life that you fantasize about, or whatever.”

The apartment, as it turned out, became a wealth trap. Once they had such a grand home, they couldn’t exactly fill it with Ikea, so soon they were looking at high-end furniture from Italy that would take six months to arrive. The building was new, with all the attendant maintenance problems that can entail. When the pandemic arrived, supply-chain speed and contractor availability drastically declined. Manson and Neute spent their first summer in the apartment with no air-conditioning. “We were just very naïve about the process,” Manson says. By the time the apartment was two-thirds furnished, they decided not to stay. A few weeks before my visit, they had sold it, after less than a day on the market, for $13.5 million.

Manson gave me a tour of the home he would soon vacate. The kitchen was luxurious to the point of perplexing (Manson couldn’t explain why there were two microwaves). Neute, a wellness influencer with a following among Brazilian women, likes to cook, but their plans to host dinner parties were never realized. The wine fridge “looks cool,” Manson acknowledged, “but I don’t think we’ve ever had more than ten bottles of wine in there. And we don’t really drink much.” He did appreciate a few of the more conspicuous amenities — his-and-hers bathrooms, a sauna, a Hästens Vividus bed that gets an annual “massage” from a technician sent by the Swedish manufacturer — but his favorite room was a smaller, darker, homier space, a den where he liked to play video games.

Down a long hallway, Manson’s home office contained a camera on a tripod along with big lights for the videos he shoots for his followers. A world map was stuck with hundreds of pushpins from his vagabond days. Built-in bookshelves were filled with foreign-language editions of his books as well as thick volumes of history and philosophy. Before the pandemic, Manson and a handful of friends had started a book club devoted to the kind of doorstop tomes that require social pressure to finish, including moral philosopher Derek Parfit’s Reasons and Persons and David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years. (The group did abandon Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, Manson’s friend and fellow online entrepreneur Peter Shallard told me, after reading the words “being is always the being of a being” early in the book. “All of us, privately and collectively, hit that sentence and were like, Get the fuck out of here.”)

On one of the shelves was a framed image of dominoes assembled to spell FUCK, and near the edge of the desk was a life-size ceramic hand with movable fingers; when Manson’s wife first gave it to him, only the middle finger was up. Now, two fingers were raised. It was a small acknowledgment of his success, but its message had been muted.

It was hard to ignore the symbolism. I’d first met Manson a few weeks earlier for lunch, and as we were leaving the restaurant, I mentioned that he hadn’t said “fuck” once. (In fact, as I realized when I listened to the tape of our meeting later, he had said it a couple of times.) His original blog post, then his book, had gloried in the word’s Germanic oomph. One chapter ended with “Namaste, fuckface.” His newsletter was called Mindfuck Monthly. It was a word that had brought him fame and fortune. It was, for better or worse, essential to his brand.

Subtle Art’s explosive success had positioned Manson to turn it into an empire, and, experiencing “a bit of impostor syndrome,” he had at first felt an imperative to make the most of a precious opportunity. Two years ago, he said, he’d been wracked with questions: What would his next book be? Would it do as well as his first? Would he lose his audience? He was 32 when Subtle Art came out; had he already peaked? “I would say kind of the curse of Subtle Art was I held that anxiety for probably three or four years,” Manson told me. During that period, he religiously tracked his site’s traffic. “Any time it ticked down, there’d be kind of this panic of, Oh my God, they’re leaving, they’re not gonna come back.” And inevitably, he felt he ought to do more of the thing that had worked so well the first time.

HarperOne’s executives were of a similar mind and “put a lot of pressure on me,” he said, pushing an ambitious timeline to produce the first of two follow-up books Manson owed them. I asked whether it was a given that book No. 2 would include fuck in the title. “My stance was, ‘I’m not against it, but I’m not going to make up ‘fuck’ titles,’ ” he said. After he turned in a draft with the title Why Don’t You Do It?, it was altered in the marked-up manuscript that came back to him as Why the Fuck Don’t You Do It? Eventually, as the book became more philosophical in focus, Manson came up with his own fuck-inclusive title: Everything Is Fucked (though as indicated by the on-brand counterintuitive subtitle, A Book About Hope, the content was about being realistically optimistic).

The tensions with his publisher were exacerbated by an unexpected opportunity. Will Smith was looking for a writer to help with his memoir, had read Subtle Art, and chose Manson, a fellow CAA client. HarperOne “flipped out about that,” Manson said, “because they were concerned I was going to abandon their book and go do Will’s. They were like, ‘If you fuck us, we’re taking our money back.’ They were not nice about it. There was a lot of stupid drama. I don’t want to say I caved, but I kind of went with that pressure, allowed it to exist.” He ended up working on Smith’s memoir and Everything Is Fucked at the same time.

The very impulse that had led to his success — not giving a fuck, doing what he wanted to do — was resistant to mindlessly cashing in, and over the years, according to Glick, Manson turned down lots of offers to do Subtle Art–branded “paper goods” (stationery and calendars). One project he did agree to was a documentary based on his book by some producers in New Zealand. When COVID arrived, the documentary stalled, with the producers working in New Zealand and Manson stuck Zooming with them from New York. Meanwhile, he and Neute were going stir-crazy in their boondoggle loft. “Removing things from your life always shows you how much you actually value them,” Manson says. “So we’re holed up in our apartment, and we’re like, ‘Wow, we don’t miss the restaurants. We don’t miss the happy hours. We don’t miss the shows. Half our friends are gone. What the hell are we doing here?’ ” He proposed a solution to both problems: They’d go where the producers were.

In early 2021, Manson and Neute flew to Auckland. Shallard, who lives in New York but is a New Zealand native, was waiting out the pandemic there, and he recalls his friend still being in the grip of success anxiety: “We’d just come out of the winter COVID spike, and there was this sense of ‘life is fleeting.’ We’d go to the beach every day at 3 p.m. We’d call Mark and Fay and say, ‘Want to join us?’ And we barely saw them. They’d go to this co-working space in downtown Auckland and were grinding it out.”

But the apartment disillusionment reflected a deeper change in Manson, which COVID hastened. He started studying past pandemics so he could see the current one in perspective. “Without that context, everything on Twitter feels like it’s world-ending,” he says. He branched out into American history, reading Ron Chernow’s biographies of Grant, Washington, and Hamilton, and he realized that his newfound interests were increasingly divergent from the self-help material he’d built a business around. “This is kind of the conundrum I’m in right now, you know?” he said.

Throughout his career, he had wanted to write about what he wanted to write about. When he’d lost interest in something — first Practical Pickup, then PostMasculine — he’d moved on. “I feel like that’s happening to me now with personal development,” he told me. He was reluctant to simply walk away from a multimillion-dollar brand, one with five employees who depend on him and hundreds of thousands of readers, but he also wanted to be free to evolve. “I feel like there are a lot of authors in the self-help genre who get their hit book and then they kind of just make a career by repeating that book over and over for like 30 years,” he said. The easiest thing he could do would be to crank out brand extensions like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck for Pregnant Moms, he added, and have “armies of coaches” who pay him to certify them. “But yeah, I have zero interest, I have negative interest in doing that. To me, that would be boring.”

When he got back from New Zealand, he said, “I just hit the most intense burnout I think I’ve ever had. Like, it was literally to the point where I would wake up in the morning and my immediate urge was to fire everybody. I was like, If I’m having this thought, it’s a bad sign. Why do I feel this way? If this is the thought I’m waking up with in the morning, I should investigate this. And I just kind of discovered it’s no way to live, you know? And I suddenly started being okay with losing it. And as soon I was okay with losing it, I felt great. I’d say the last six months, I’ve probably worked the least of my adult life.” Instead, he played a lot of Elden Ring and became a crypto degen. “The difference between myself now and, say, seven, eight years ago is I don’t feel like I’m seeking anymore,” Manson told me. “Especially the last year or two, it feels like that craving for a philosophical foundation to base my worldview on is kind of gone.”

“I’m supposed to be working on a book for Harper,” he added, “but I haven’t started. And I’ve told my agent that I don’t know when I’m gonna start.”

Manson and Will Smith at the Taj Mahal in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Mark Manson

In December, Manson and Neute moved into a 2,800-square-foot house in Santa Monica. “We’re the only people who moved out of New York to downsize,” Neute jokes. When I spoke to Manson after his move, his enthusiasm crackled over the phone: “I’m walking around in shorts right now, talking to you.” His new house has a yard and garage. He’d bought a Tesla. He was building a home gym himself, and he was bingeing The Sopranos with Neute.

Since moving to L.A., he hadn’t seen Will Smith, but, like everyone else, he watched the Oscars and saw the Slap. It was “a big mistake in a moment of weakness from an otherwise really good guy,” Manson said, adding that he was “probably less surprised than most.” He’d had lots of conversations with Smith that were incorporated into their book about “his insecurities about the women in his life, and how he feels he needs to protect them, and feels he failed them,” and about Smith growing up in the boxing culture of West Philadelphia. Post-Slap, Manson texted Smith, “Hey, look, 20 years from now people are going to remember the movie and your brilliant performance.” The incident caused sales of Smith’s memoir to rise.

Along with the documentary, the Subtle Art journal, and the newly launched Subtle Art School, Manson was planning one other Subtle Art project, a
collection of 1,000 quotes from the book to be sold as NFTs, which excited him as an experiment. “I told my agent, ‘In ten years, it’s either going to be one of the smartest things I ever did, or it will be a joke and an embarrassment.’ I don’t think there’s really an in-between there. Is it the edge of something new, or is it just a cliff and we’re going to fall off?” He laughed. (Months later, after a lackluster NFT launch, he said he considered it “a failed experiment.”) Collectively, as he saw it, these projects were the last real efforts he would make with the Subtle Art brand; they would “get it out of my system,” he said. His plan was to spin off the brand as its own thing, run by his team, and at some point fulfill his obligation to Harper. After that, he would be done. “I’ve said this many times: The whole point of self-help is to leave self-help. If self-help works, you don’t need it anymore.”

At the end of last year, he said, he wrote to his followers about “where my headspace was at. I expected a lot of people to be pissed and upset, and a few people were, but the vast majority of responses were very supportive: ‘You’ve got to do what’s right for you,’ ‘You don’t owe us anything.’ It made me feel really good about my audience.”

2022 is Manson’s sandbox year, he said, a time to play with new ideas and see what sticks. The NFT experience, as well as a “come-to-Jesus” moment when a couple of DeFi investments plummeted in value, and a growing distaste for “the scammy nature of the space,” had soured him on  the idea of going more deeply into crypto, but he was thinking of trying his hand at fiction. He wanted to take surfing lessons. He’d written the start of a screenplay after a producer noted that the self-help industry hadn’t really been written about by a true insider. “He said, ‘Whoever does it needs to be willing to burn bridges.’ I’m there,” Manson recalled. He had been worried that he’d extinguished the part of himself that liked to write, so he was relieved to find himself missing it again. But he started to have second thoughts about the screenplay after meeting his old PUA rival Neil Strauss at a party in Santa Monica. Strauss hugged him. “It was interesting meeting somebody who wrote a book that altered the course of my life so significantly,” Manson says. He and Strauss mostly talked about NFTs, but one of the things Strauss told him was “Never write screenplays. You’ll spend all this time on it. Everyone’s going to tell you it’s great. Everyone’s going to tell you they love it. And it’s just going to sit for years and years and years. Nine times out of ten, nothing’s going to happen.”

Mark Manson, the Self-Help Guru Who Burned Out