The Upside Of Your Dark Side Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Upside Of Your Dark Side takes a look at our darkest emotions, like anxiety or anger, and shows you there are real benefits that follow them and their underlying character traits, such as narcissism or psychopathy.

Read in: 3 minutes

Favorite quote from the author:


Noah Kagan recommended this book in his Creative Live class, so I instantly put it in my Blinkist library – and forgot about it. Reading about resistance yesterday, I thought I’d dive into bad feelings some more with this.

I learned these 3 things:

  1. Happiness can interfere with your performance.
  2. Guilt is good, shame is shit.
  3. Mindfulness takes a toll on you.

Here we go!

Lesson 1: Happiness can hurt your performance.

Yes, a work environment that boosts happiness, like at Google, is believed to make people better workers. However, there is a downside to it.

Happy people care less about details, which makes them less persuasive and prone to errors.

The summary quotes a study where happy and “unhappy” people had to write down arguments for or against certain political and philosophical issues. The reasoning of “unhappy” people was evaluated as 25% more convincing.

Similarly, happy people are more likely to recall false facts, or things they never even learned, because they’re focused on the big picture, for which details are less important.

Therefore, a happy person might be a better manager, who is responsible for the company strategy, but a less upbeat person will be a great head of quality management, where details are everything.

Lesson 2: Guilt is good, shame is shit.

One of the emotions this book takes a look at is guilt. There are 2 upsides to guilt:

  1. It’s a terrible feeling, so we avoid it at all costs, which leads us to commit less crimes.
  2. If we feel it, we do everything it takes to fix what we did wrong.

Research has shown that the more likely you are to feel guilt, the less likely you are to perform bad actions, like driving around drunk or stealing something.

Similarly, prisoners who felt a lot of guilt were less likely to re-offend once released.

Shame on the other hand is useless.


Opposed to guilt, shame doesn’t make you want to take responsibility. Shame makes you want to cover up your mistake.

So pay attention the next time you feel bad about doing something. If you want to throw the glass you broke right into the trash can and hope no one notices it, that’s shame. Try to take responsibility instead.

Lesson 3: Being mindful comes at a price.

Your ability to be mindful is limited. There is only so much data that your brain can process consciously. However, its capability to process information unconsciously is huge.

Think about how complex the task you’re doing right now is. You’re using your hands, senses, thousands of little actions come together, just so you can read this summary.

Imagine you had to consciously process and instruct all of these – mind-blowing, right?

Ergo, being mindful slows you down a lot. You have to take little baby steps to accomplish tasks, because you’re so busy with processing all the meta-information.

While being mindful is great for some tasks, meditation isn’t a cure-all.

There are 2 major advantages of practicing “mindlessness”.

  1. You make better decisions, because you trust your gut.
  2. You give your creativity room to unfold.

One study showed that psychologists, who were given files to assess, made 5 times as accurate evaluations when distracted with a crossword puzzle, instead of being given time to think about their diagnosis. Their unconscious mind processed the information and left them with the right gut feeling.

It has probably happened to you that you were stuck on a problem all afternoon, only to be struck with the solution during your shower the next morning.

This is also mindlessness at work. Your subconscious combines information in ways your conscious mind can’t, allowing you to have ideas you could never come up with if you tried.

So don’t try to overanalyze everything and constantly be aware of things, but sometimes let things run their course. As Yoda says: There is no try, just do.

My personal take-aways

This summary is packed to the ceiling with insights. I’m a big fan of positive psychology, and this helped me balance my view.

I’d still rather be happy and focus on a very non-salesy approach to life and business, instead of being unhappy and super convincing, but this summary taught me that we don’t always need to chase happiness in every moment.

I’m often guilting myself into good habits (for example I felt pretty bad for getting up late yesterday), and now I know this is a legit strategy, which gives me confirmation.

Not being a huge fan of meditation (yet), I also liked the little counter-argument against it.

Many more insights in this summary on Blinkist, go for it!

What else can you learn from the blinks?

  • How the pursuit of happiness keeps you from actually reaching it
  • When anxiety comes in handy
  • Why you should have your lawyer be angry
  • What made Napoleon a good leader
  • Which presidents show psychopathic traits, and why that’s nothing to worry about

Who would I recommend the Upside Of Your Dark Side summary to?

The 37 year old, successful startup CEO, who wonders if she’s living life too fast, the 52 year old lawyer with a reputation for angry outbursts, and anyone who meditates on a regular basis.

Learn more about the author

Read the full book summary on Blinkist

Get the book on Amazon

2 thoughts to “The Upside Of Your Dark Side Summary”

  1. While meditation is typically associated with being mindful, I would disagree with this connection, and maybe the definition of mindfulness that you are using. Meditation can actually speed your mind connections and improve your access to the subconscious.
    It’s kind of like yoga for your mind: if you do yoga on a regular basis; yes you are moving slower while you do the yoga, but you build strength, balance, brain connections, and flexibility. So… when you trip on that unseen curb, you have smoothed the way for your unconscious reactions to happen more quickly, and instead of falling, you recover, maybe without throwing out your back. Meditation strengthens your mind and makes your connections fire more quickly.
    I get it though, I like meditation, and still have to talk myself into doing it regularly. If you’re not a fan – have you tried “Headspace”? This app makes meditation simple.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Carson! I agree, I might have generalized a bit there with the definition. I’m not against meditation at all, I just haven’t found a way to make it fun for me yet. I like the yoga analogy and am glad you brought up that meditation can improve your subconscious thinking as well, I hadn’t considered that at all!

      I’ve heard of Headspace a couple times now, I think I really should get that to start, maybe guided meditations are more my thing!

      I do want to do a Vipassana retreat eventually, I see how powerful that is, but that’s a long way down the road for me 😀

      Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it!

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