Here’s Why I’m Liking… The Courage to Be Disliked


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Here’s Why I’m Liking… The Courage to Be Disliked

I’m not sure why I had the book “The Courage to Be Disliked” on my Amazon wish list. Someone either told me it was a good read or I had read about it somewhere.

I use different wish lists on Amazon for myself so I don’t lose track of the books I’m interested in reading. Since I only get a chance to read a little each night, it takes me a while to get through each book. I’ve got probably two hundred books between the growing lists so some of the books have been on there for a long time.

Regardless of whatever caused me to put “The Courage to Be Disliked” on my list, I’m glad I did – it was something completely different than what I’m accustomed to reading. It helped put a different spin on life than I’m used to and I really appreciated that.

“The Courage to Be Disliked”

The full title of the book is “The Courage to Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change your Life and Achieve Real Happiness” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. It’s sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide so that’s a pretty good sign that there’s some value in it.

When I first started reading it, I honestly had no expectations whatsoever. I didn’t even know what it was going to be about. All I knew was that it had good reviews and the title was intriguing to me.

One of the things I like to do is to constantly rotate between fiction and non-fiction books. Non-fiction is generally going to present the greatest opportunity to learn and grow. Fiction, however, tends to be a lot more creative and can be better to stretch the imagination.

“The Courage to Be Disliked” though is sort of a mix of the two and I really wasn’t expecting that. That made it much different than most books I’m used to reading.

Even though it’s based on the schools of thought of Alfred Adler (a psychotherapist and psychiatrist), the book is told more like a story. A young man who’s not happy with his life goes to see a philosopher to discuss his thoughts and get his input. He’s convinced there’s no way he can find happiness.

He wants to debate the philosopher who he’s been told believes that the world is simple and that everyone can be happy. The philosopher agrees to the debate and the two start their long conversations. Throughout several visits, the philosopher and the young man talk about what one needs to do to find happiness.

Because it’s not just dumped out as straight information and instead told through dialogue, I found it to flow nicely and be a much more interesting read than it might have been otherwise. There are a lot of critiques in the reviews that the conversation isn’t well-written on the youth’s side of things and or that it seems forced.

I can see that to a point, but I still think it’s much better than it would have been if it was just spoon-fed information to the reader. And with over 1,700 reviews averaging the rating to 4.5 out of 5 stars, I think most readers were content with the conversation style as well.

Crossing the line or something to think about?

I can’t begin to tell you how crazy I went highlighting text throughout this book. Granted, I read it on my Kindle Paperwhite so it was digital highlighting, but the point is that there were a lot of interesting thoughts throughout.

Of all the lessons though, the one I thought that was the most important is that your past doesn’t determine your future. Although different folks can have bigger hurdles in their lives to get past, you shouldn’t just accept your “fate” in life. It’s up to you alone to step up and make the changes in your life to be what you want it to be.

Then there are parts of the book where many might consider the line of thinking to be controversial. I found these points fascinating nonetheless…

PHILOSOPHER: Your friend is insecure, so he can’t go out. Think about it the other way around. He doesn’t want to go out, so he’s creating a state of anxiety.

YOUTH: Huh?

PHILOSOPHER: Think about it this way. Your friend had the goal of not going out beforehand, and he’s been manufacturing a state of anxiety and fear as a means to achieve that goal. In Adlerian psychology, this is called “teleology.”

YOUTH: You’re joking! My friend has imagined his anxiety and fear? So would you go so far as saying that my friend is just pretending to be sick?

PHILOSOPHER: He is not pretending to be sick. The anxiety and fear your friend is feeling are real. On occasion, he might also suffer from migraines and violent stomach cramps. However, these too are symptoms that he has created in order to achieve the goal of not going out.

The conversation then goes more in-depth to explain why this is the case… very interesting.

Here are another couple…

PHILOSOPHER: […] Adler, in denial of the trauma argument, states the following: “No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences – the so-called trauma – but instead we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining.”

PHILOSOPHER: […] He is not saying that the experience of a horrible calamity or abuse during childhood or other such incidents have no influence on forming a personality; their influences are strong. But the important thing is that nothing is actually determined by those influences. We determine our own lives according to the meaning we give to those past experiences. Your life is not something that someone gives you, but something you choose yourself, and you are the one who decides how you live.

I’m not here to tell you whether the Adler points-of-view presented in “The Courage to Be Disliked” are right or wrong. That’s for each of us to decide on our own.

That said, you gotta admit – they aren’t pulling any punches here. This is an in-your-face kind of viewpoint that will either make you angry with disgust or make you raise an eyebrow and think, “hmm, that’s interesting.”

The courage to be disliked and finding happiness

The philosopher then begins to explain that people can change and should if they’re not happy. In other words, you need to learn to love yourself. Your the only one who can decide to be happy.

PHILOSOPHER: At some stage in your life, you chose “being unhappy.” It is not because you were born into unhappy circumstances or ended up in an unhappy situation. It’s that you judged “being unhappy” to be good for you.

And this is where it gets even more interesting. I noticed that a lot of the book seems to share a lot of thoughts that seem to align with the FIRE movement (financial independence / retire early). Just like many folks who get fed up with the rat race and finally decide to make a change, that’s what the philosopher pushes for here.

PHILOSOPHER: […] People can change at any time, regardless of the environments they are in. You are unable to change only because you are making the decision not to.

Only you can be the one to decide to do things differently… and most folks won’t. Most people just stick with the same old just because it’s what they know. The only person who can decide to change things in your life is you.

PHILOSOPHER: […] Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn’t that you lack competence. You just lack courage. One might say you are lacking in the courage to be happy.

PHILOSOPHER: […] “No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on.” That you, living in the here and now, are the one who determines your own life.

Many of us seem to be stuck in a pity party that we might not even realize we’re keeping ourselves locked in. Of course, there are hindrances that we all have but it’s up to ourselves to rise above them and move on to bigger and better things.

PHILOSOPHER: Of course, the words of the person who has been hurt – “You don’t understand how I feel” – are likely to contain a certain degree of truth. Completely understanding the feelings of the person who is suffering is something that no one is capable of. But as long as one continues to use one’s misfortune to one’s advantage in order to be “special,” one will always need that misfortune.

There were also other parallels to the FIRE movement I noticed along the way. A couple of examples are that the philosopher preaches how life is not a competition and also that you’re the only one worried about your appearance.

I remember that there were so many people who just couldn’t seem to accept me leaving the workforce at age 43 at the end of 2018 (there still are!). I heard everything from “you should keep earning even more money” to “these are the highest-paid working years of your life.”

It’s true that I could have kept working and earning more… if I wanted to. But life’s not a competition and we have “enough.” Now I can be with my family and pursue other hobbies. And if I earn some more money along the way, great! I’ll choose happiness over the rat-race any day.

Here’s Why I’m Liking… The Courage to Be Disliked - Lunch at the Fish House
Does this look like the face of someone who’d rather be sitting in an office all day?!

When the authors had the philosopher explaining that appearances are really just for you, it immediately had me making mental comparisons. Those in the FIRE community tend to realize that fancy clothes, expensive cars, giant houses, etc. are not what defines them. Happiness comes from finding what actually brings you joy and bringing that to the front and center. All the other stuff isn’t really for you as much as it is for others.


Look, there are so many other fascinating and compelling thoughts provided in this book. And I’m not kidding – “The Courage to Be Disliked” has 56 chapters with a ton of good material. Don’t be scared though – they’re shorter chapters (just the way I like ’em!). In fact, the book is under 300 pages.

I really could go on and on with examples… but I’m going to leave it for you to read and find out the rest. In these unsettling times, finding a gem like this to make you think can be really exciting.

You can check out the book “The Courage to Be Disliked” in paperback on Amazon here. Or, if you’re cheap like me, you can spend the money once on an awesome Kindle Paperwhite and then just borrow the book online from your local library for free. Almost all libraries now integrate with the Kindle and it’ll show up wirelessly on your Kindle ready to read – no muss, no fuss!

If you’d rather purchase the Kindle edition, here’s the link for that one as well. I’m not sure why the paperback has a completely separate Amazon page than the Kindle version for this book, but that’s Amazon’s problem, not mine! 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the other posts in the “Here’s Why I’m Liking…” series. It’s a little section I’m building with fun stuff that I’m appreciating and think can be worthwhile in your life as well.

Plan well, take action, and live your best life!

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

18 thoughts on “Here’s Why I’m Liking… The Courage to Be Disliked”

  1. Kimberly Blaszko

    Hi Jim, thank you for the book suggestion. My son could really use this. He is stuck in his own pity party. Hopefully I can get him to read it! Can you please tell me what online Spanish courses you are taking?

    1. Hi Kimberly – I hope you get this for him and it helps him out. I also think there are a lot of folks in a tough state of mind right now because of the toll the pandemic has taken on them. Taken the right way, this book could be the motivation for them as well.

      As far as the Spanish goes, I hit on that in a couple posts you might find useful:

      Do You Need to Speak Spanish Living in Panama?

      The Biggest Secret the Library Offers to Enrich Your Life

  2. Great post Jim. I can’t wait to read it. I’m currently on my fiction rotation with Stephen King. My last non-fiction read was from Marta Zaraska, Growing Young. which I would recommend.

  3. One of my favorite books as well! The philosophy of the book is what I’ve been encouraging my wife to adopt for a very long time. But I just didn’t know how to put it together. So I asked her to read it and write a review.

    One of the key take aways is “the separation of tasks.” I often felt guilty for not doing enough. Which is why I would wake up at 4 AM to write on Financial Samurai before the kids woke up in order to play as much with them as possible. But this made for 18 hour long days! Separation of tasks!

    Thanks for reminding me that we wrote a review on the book as well.

    Sam

    1. Yeah, the separation of tasks can be invaluable… even if it makes for the longer days! 🙂

      It’s really a fascinating read and can be very helpful for a lot of folks. I’ll be sure to check out your review on the book too, Sam!

  4. I haven’t read it but it seems to endorse being different or choosing alternate paths that are not the ‘norm’, (especially in the US) such as FIRE, not getting married or having children, no conspicuous consumption, renting a home instead of buying, etc. many of the trappings of so-called success. When I tell others that I’ve only owned 4 cars and have only lived in suburbs (nearing my 6th decade of life), they are astounded, incredulous, etc. Little habits & big decisions add up to form larger impacts in your life, some of which may or may not align with your goals. How many cars do you genuinely need over the course of your lifetime? Could those tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars be better spent on something else that better serves your happiness instead of commuting?

    1. The book doesn’t go into specifics like that per se, but the idea that you need to take control of your life is the big push. If you want to be happy, it’s not a matter of just accepting the path in life that “you’re given.” You plot the course and make it happen. But I can absolutely take a lot of that to mean that it’s important to stop falling for all the trappings in life that have become the norm for so many. Going down the path of life blindly can be what causes unhappiness in a lot of folks’ lives.

  5. An interesting review Jim, however I can’t get on-board with what the philosopher is saying. As someone who’s familiar with anxiety and mental illness, you can’t just “decide to be happy”. It’s not that simple.

    Our past actually does define us to some extent. Imagine the brain as like a castle. Each stone is like a neuron. You can’t just “decide” to rebuild the entire castle on a free Saturday. A few of those stones can be rearranged in a day, but the foundations of the castle are nearly impossible to change. It takes years of professional help, and drugs just to cope with some of these mental problems. Let alone feel normal.

    Many people also struggle with physical disabilities which contribute to their mental problems. Those disabilities don’t go away just because we “decide” they won’t effect us.

    I don’t mean to diss on your review however. I’m sure it’s a fine book, but the philosophy seems like it’s designed for people already in a “winning” position in life.

    1. All good, Mr. Tako – I always love to hear your thoughts! I’m not saying I agree or disagree with everything that is said in the book. And you’re absolutely right that a lot of disabilities can’t just go away because we want them to. I don’t know if I’d say the book is geared for those in a “winning” position in life though. To me, the audience seemed to be targeted to those that are just unhappy with themselves or where they’re at in life – those who need help finding themselves more than anything. Regardless, it’s still a very interesting read and worth checking out. I’d imagine that like most books that get lumped into self-help, it’ll be great for some and not great for others.

    2. It sounds like the libertarian – “it’s all up to you” philosophy. However, you don’t live in a bubble. The world around you can and will affect your happiness. You have to do your best, but also recognize the advantages and disadvantages too. I don’t know…
      I’ll put it on my list. I have a feeling I might not like it, though.

  6. Thanks for the review Jim, I never heard of this book but will definitely put it on my list. We frugal weirdos definitely have to have the courage to buck societal “norms” which does often mean being disliked. The book sounds right up my alley!

  7. I will add this to my To-Read list! I love me some short chapters. I’ve always preferred physical books but I wonder if I should consider switching to Kindle for non-fiction books that I might like to highlight. As it is I am a terrible note taker. Thanks for the rec!

    1. I’m with you on short chapters – I hate stopping in the middle of a chapter so it always makes it easier to start a new one when I know I can knock it out in whatever time I have to read.

      I absolutely love the Kindle Paperwhite. The highlighting and notes are really cool because they stay with your account and you can even view them online at any time at https://read.amazon.com/notebook.

      My other favorite thing you can’t get from physical books is the ease of looking up words. If there’s a word you don’t know while reading on the Kindle, you press and hold on it for a second and the dictionary pops up with the definition – boom, done! It even gives you the option to see a Wikipedia entry as well which is great for persons, places, or things you’re not familiar with while reading. You don’t know how convenient and fantastic it really is until you start using it.

  8. Great post and blog Jim! Am about 5 years older and about same NW but definitely behind you on the expat life.
    Do you have any posts you could point me too regarding whether it is an Ok time to be jumping into a short term expat experience given the current COVID situation? I’ve got about 6 months of extreme location independence work wise (for first time in my life) and would like to test out the expat lifestyle but am wondering whether it’s even possible or desired by locals to have an expat enter their world. Any links or thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Hi Steve – it’s a tough call on whether to jump into the expat lifestyle right now. There are definitely pros and cons to doing so now but the biggest concern is if you’re comfortable making the leap with all this going on, especially the travel part of things.

      Here in Boquete, just about everything has opened back up again, with some restrictions. It’s getting pretty close to being normal again except for the mandatory requirement on masks and the 11pm-5am daily curfew. It’s not hard to enter the country either as long as you can get a negative COVID test 48 hours prior to arrival.

      As far as the locals go, I would suspect that is going to vary based on location. Here in Panama, I believe most people are used to US citizens being around. We never feel that we’re not welcome here. I don’t know if you’re considering Panama or another country, but if it’s Panama, Jackie’s Panama Relocation Guide is a wealth of resources that could be extremely helpful. At the very least, her regular Q&A conference calls are free to join and very valuable (I still listen to the replays to gain little pieces of insight now and again).

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