is a wry, witty travelogue that turns decades of self-help advice on its head. In it, Guardian
journalist Oliver Burkeman chronicles a series of journeys by people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether philosophers, experimental psychologists, New Age dreamers or hard-headed business consultants, they have in common a hunch about human psychology. They believe that in our personal lives and in the world at large, our constant fixation on eliminating or avoiding the negative—uncertainty, unhappiness, failure—is what causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy.
He argues there is an alternative “negative path” to happiness and success that involves coming face to face with the things we spend our lives trying to avoid, to even embrace them. This is the “backwards law”: The more we’re willing to embrace what we think of as negative, the happier and more successful we’ll become. We may need to completely rethink our attitudes toward such things as failure, uncertainty, disorder, insecurity, and death.