This book could have become a shallow antidote to the internet term for FOMO or Fear of Missing Out. Yet the Joy of Missing Out is brimming with exciting, novel and interesting ideas.
It’s a slender book of around 90 pages that’s jam-packed full of interesting concepts and insights which draw together psychology, economics, community and social development, politics and history. Brinkmann deftly traverses how people have been tacitly coerced into believing in the ‘more, more, more’ ideology of neoliberalism.
On a societal level, we buy into the idea of needing more consumer goods, bigger companies, more tech, more money. And how this reflects in our own personal pursuit of more enjoyable experiences, more travel, more knowledge gaining, more personal development, more everything.
It’s patently obvious that every business wants exponential and never-ending growth. However, only in very rare cases is this ever possible in reality. For example Apple’s stock continues to grow exponentially and yet they have not produced any new technology or anything different from their past offerings for a very long time, some would argue that this means the business will inevitably crash.
Relentless and unchecked growth of the private sector (one of the core tenets of neoliberalism) eventually becomes unsustainable, in terms of resources to meet that need – human and natural resources, and also in terms of unpredictable ‘black swan’ type events – which as 2020 has shown us, can deliver a catastrophic blow to businesses without any warning.
Unrestricted and endless growth in biological systems is known as a cancer that eventually kills the organism. So too, endless growth in corporations and businesses unbalances and eventually kills the host (the earth) from which it gains sustenance.
The human appetite for more, more, more stems from neoliberalism and also its seemingly innocuous cousin – the personal development movement. What the two have in common isn;t obvious at first, but the latter is pushing people to become better, more energised, happier and better educated versions of themselves. Pushing people to become the leaders or to make remarkable stand-out contributions to the world in some way. Its main premise, which is a lie, is that every one of us has the ability to be remarkable leaders – which is a fantasy.
Brinkmann argues that not everyone can be a leader. The reality is that 9/10 of us will not reach that level of expertise in our fields, or become once in a generation leaders, or achieve incredible things in our lives. And that this is OK.
I find this profoundly comforting. This idea – based solidly in the evidence of reality all around us. That it’s OK for me to just walk around on the earth, to simply be instead of do and achieve constantly.
This book will help you come to terms with the fact of your existence, as you are right now. It is immensely freeing to just stop trying and striving to become ‘harder, faster, better, stronger’ in the words of the famous Daft Punk song. Instead to just be, to reflect, to curate and celebrate instead of create, to enjoy your life on terms that you dictate.
I have now come to terms with the fact that I may not write a bestselling novel, or start up an animal shelter or own houses all over the world, or speak five languages fluently, or get a PhD and that is really fine for me, actually.
The Joy of Missing Out helps you to come to terms with the mediocrity of life that is all around us, and be comfortable with this. How eating a hotdog while sitting at a bus stop can be just as profoundly satisfying as eating a meal in a Michelin starred restaurant. How mending your favourite jacket instead of buying a new one, working your relationship instead of throwing it away if you are dissatisfied can be ultimately more satisfying and joyful. This book taught me to embrace moderation, humbleness and the minutia of my life and yet still have room to contemplate the bigger, ineffable spiritual questions of my existence. Moderation is an ancient concept that has almost dissappeared completely from our world, and yet it seems we need these principles now more than ever!
This is my favourite book I have read so far this year and I can’t recommend it highly enough, it is stunning. 5*/5
I have about 10 amazing insights from this book which I will be outlining over the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
Read more. The Joy of Missing Out by Svend Brinkmann
Svend Brinkmann is a Danish Professor of Psychology in the Department of Communication and Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark. He serves as a co-director of the Center for Qualitative Studies.