“You’re Not That Great” Lives Up to the Name

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*long sigh*

Okay. Here goes.

I wanted to like this book. I liked the idea and still think the concept has value. However, this concept was handed to a writer who seems to only exist in clichés. In fact, it was very clear to me that the author of this bloated screed was a reality television producer, and while I would argue he is an expert in mediocrity, he cannot write about it with any nuance, integrity, or creativity. I suppose the fact that Elan Gale, an executive producer for the Bachelor and other shows, isn’t technically a writer so much as a PERSONALITY, and that his brand is peppy cynicism, didn’t help me find him more refreshing. I mostly experienced exhaustion.

In short, this book is repetitive and redundant. I could not help but imagine this book as the author monologuing the contents to me and every other person at a college party after we’d all read Nietzsche for the first time. It’s pragmatism for narcissists, obsessed with their own lack of obsession with themselves and constantly talking about how much they don’t care about things. But it’s okay! Because we’re all assholes! We can’t be monsters because we’re not cool! Elan also drinks a lot. He thinks this is very impressive and that is replaces having actual personality traits.

Here is how this book was pitched to me. “Anti-positive thinking and a condemnation of the self-help industry.” Love it. I have spent my entire professional career surrounded by Boomers constantly trying to believe their way out of things. Life coaches, the power of positive things, Tony Robbins, career advisers are all the new Snakeoil Salesmen peddling us the faith to double our money and power with self-worship. It’s tiring. As a small business owner, it’s really tiring. Hence why this book jumped out and bit me. Yes, I want to embrace that I am not that great and that is okay.

What this book delivered to me was a 200-page dressing down for doing self-centered things like:

  • Being a baby and filling diapers because that was literal capacity as a human at that point
  • Believing in myself at all ever
  • Producing low quality anything, even as a small child
  • Feeling sad
  • Using social media
  • Expecting people to be decent to you ever at all for any reason

Honestly? I think this guy was just yelling at himself. A lot of his condemnations fell very specific and I encourage Elan Gale to forgive himself for drawing terrible pictures in his youth. It’s okay, dude, you’re allowed to be a kid. Elan’s concept of other human beings seems to be about teaspoon deep as he literally references the following romcom tropes like they are gospel:

  • Chardonnay in the bathtub (it’s all about Rose now dude, talk to a youth)
  • Eating cake while crying
  • Ordering takeout for 6 people and pretending you’re not going to eat it yourself by calling out to imaginary people

I can hear the FRIENDS theme play as these platitudes soldier on. Like, he knows we aren’t all just eating cake in the bathtub, right? He knows frustration and angst can manifest in ways outside what’s featured in an Advil commercial? Elan seems to not be defining mediocrity, so much as demonstrating it. That’s actually my big issue, Elan Gale’s proof of mediocrity seems to be based on the idea that we aren’t born 35 years old with incredible upwards mobility. Because you wrecked your mother’s body and are a result of your terrible father being a terrible lover and then struggle to find your place in the world, you are selfish and self-centered. And I might be selfish and self-centered but I need harder evidence, Elan. I need more than chocolate cake and chardonnay.

“What got your motivated as a kid? The nice kid that invited you to his birthday party? Or the asshole bully who burned your books and you ran home crying and you daydreamed about buying a bulldozer, driving it to his family’s house, tearing down the front wall while he was in the bathroom so that everyone would see him on the toilet?”

But it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your yeaaaaaaaar.

Seriously, this book felt like a justification of a mediocre shlubby guy being successful, which is not ever being challenged. Mediocre men are successful all the time and no one ever accuses them of not earning it, so why is this guy so fucking defensive? He at least admits success is often related to luck, but he also forgets about privilege often. Or just glances off the subject by mentioning it and then moving on. Granted, unpacking the sheer lack of awareness about access would take days and we all have shit to do and all that takeout to pretend to not eat so I’ll skip it. But I want you to know that I could do it, Elan. I could do it all day.

Despite the incendiary title and that overwhelming urge to buy this for a kid graduating high school so they “know what the real world is like,” resist. This is the sort of gassy fart of a book that will encourage that kid to become like Elan Gale. And he seems pretty fucking miserable.

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