Louis CK's 'GQ' Profile Actually Offers Fantastic Lessons On Achieving "Happiness"
While we were all feeling downtrodden over the grim trailer for Louie Season 4, Louis CK was offering some valid advice on how to live a happy life. The comedian's Emmy-winning dramedy series regularly broaches the topic of working with what you've got and making the best of it, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that CK follows that mantra himself. In the cover story for GQ's May 2014 issue, CK explains his "70 Percent Rule" to achieving satisfaction in life. And indecisive and perpetually unhappy perfectionists should rejoice because life just got so much easier.
Some of Louis CK's best routines are based on his belief that the world is amazing, and that we really have no reason to be unhappy. He says we're all too busy worrying about what's not perfect to appreciate what's actually pretty great, and he's probably right. As a crippling indecisive perfectionist, I'm beyond guilty of that transgression. And apparently, Louis CK was once, too. The comedian told GQ:
These situations where I can't make a choice because I'm too busy trying to envision the perfect one—that false perfectionism traps you in this painful ambivalence: If I do this, then that other thing I could have done becomes attractive. But if I go and choose the other one, the same thing happens again. It's part of our consumer culture. People do this trying to get a DVD player or a service provider, but it also bleeds into big decisions. So my rule is that if you have someone or something that gets 70 percent approval, you just do it. 'Cause here's what happens. The fact that other options go away immediately brings your choice to 80. Because the pain of deciding is over.
So, according to CK, the perfect choice more or less never exists because you're always going to find the flaw (especially if you're a perfectionist). The constant struggle with "the grass is always greener" ends up blocking you from progress because you have the choices you have and that's all you're going to get. Endlessly debating over them won't make them any better or worse. The Louie star is basically advising you to decide on the choice that's the lesser of two evils (or rather, the more approved) and commit to it fully, allowing the remaining choices to disappear. So, Life Lesson #1: You get what you get and that's it — perfection be damned.
The actor continued:
And, when you get to 80 percent, you work. You apply your knowledge, and that gets you to 85 percent! And the thing itself, especially if it's a human being, will always reveal itself—100 percent of the time!—to be more than you thought. And that will get you to 90 percent. After that, you're stuck at 90, but who the fuck do you think you are, a god? You got to 90 percent? It's incredible!
So, once you realize that your choice is your choice and you can't change it and you can't go back and choose again leads us to Life Lesson #2: Work with what you've got. Because eventually you'll be rewarded and surprised — it sounds kind of idealistic, but he's also only giving you a guaranteed 5 percent increase here. (He's not promising you the moon and the stars just for giving a little effort in life.) As for the second 5 percent — Life Lesson #3: Assume you'll be pleasantly surprised. I mean, with the 100 percent chance CK's giving you, we're inclined to trust him.
The biggest over-arching lesson in CK's rule is that perfection doesn't exist and you'll never be "happy" if you're constantly imagining the perfect scenario. It seems like a rigid assessment and potentially unfair to doom perfectionists to endless misery, but we have to give Louis CK credit. He's not wrong.
Image: Peggy Sirota/GQ