On a recent trip to San Francisco, I stopped by the publisher Chronicle Books to visit a friend. I was early, so I popped into their street-level bookstore to browse. Chronicle is known for its high production standards, so I always look forward to seeing their new titles. This time, one in particular caught my eye—“The Underachiever’s Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great,” by Ray Bennett, M.D.
Like most people I know these days, I work too much. So I welcomed Dr. Bennett’s call to underachievement and paid ten dollars to find out more. The book is a brief eighty-one pages, after which several pages follow under the heading “Some Blank Pages” (ten, to be exact, and they really are blank). The good doctor takes his underachieving seriously. But, he points out, underachieving is no cakewalk:
The pleasures of underachievement are many, but they are all too often lost in the pressure for success…. The achievement lobby is powerful, and underachievement is, surprisingly, not as easy as it should be. Our world is so full of unrelenting messages about being the best you can be that it may not have even occurred to you to try anything less. We’ve been brainwashed over many years to believe that striving for success is essential to our wellbeing…. It’s an endless exhausting litany, thanks to advertising stars and corporate executives busy cashing in our inadequacies for their overpriced sneakers and shiny BMWs.
I read Dr. Bennet’s ten tips to a happier, less productive life, and took to heart his advice to “discover the laziness that has so far eluded you.” I did the latter, in fact, for about five minutes before I realized I was late and left in a hurry.
What to do? Well, it’s pretty simple: Do nothing. That’s the “essential technique” taught in Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s guided meditation. He advises us:
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