Wanting Book Summary - Wanting Book explained in key points
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Wanting summary

Luke Burgis

The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life

4.5 (134 ratings)
32 mins

Brief summary

'Wanting' by Luke Burgis explores the nature of desire and how it can motivate us towards positive or negative outcomes. The book provides insights into how to harness the power of wanting for self-improvement and spiritual growth.

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    Mimesis dictates everything we desire.

    In 2008, the author Luke Burgis and his company, Fit Fuel, were on the verge of a breakthrough. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, had committed to acquiring the company, and the deal would rescue Fit Fuel from mounting debt at a deeply uncertain economic moment.

    These circumstances made the author desperate for the agreement to go through. Because of that desperation, he began doing and saying anything he possibly could to get Hsieh on his side. He hid his true opinions about Zappos’ quirky culture, attended happy hours every night, and even tossed out his jeans in favor of ones that looked more like Hsieh’s. Meanwhile, his original desire to start and build his company seemed to have faded away. 

    What was going on? In short: the author was tangled in a thick web of mimetic desire. 

    The key message here is: Mimesis dictates everything we desire.

    René Girard invented the term mimetic, drawing from the Greek word mimesthai, which means to imitate. So, as you might expect, mimetic desire is the hidden force that causes us to imitate others secretly in all areas of life, including love, friendship, and business. 

    We always think that our desires are spontaneous, that we just want something, but that’s a delusion. In reality, our desires are always mediated by models –⁠ people or things that cause us to want something. 

    What’s the problem with that? Well, for one thing, mimetic desire compels sameness. It’s the reason why college freshmen enter university with diverse career choices yet wind up converging around the same few majors by the end of senior year. 

    In driving us to be the same, mimesis also causes intense rivalry. The more similar we become, the more different we strive to be –⁠ and this can be dangerous. Just look at the biblical story of Cain and Abel, in which both brothers wished to win favor with God. The brothers’ shared desire brought them into conflict, ending with Cain killing Abel.

    In the author’s case, Tony Hsieh became a powerful model. In striving to achieve the things that Hsieh seemed to model, the author forgot what drove him to start his own business in the first place. He knew his desires were being driven by external forces, but he didn’t yet understand how. Understanding mimesis is the first step in gaining power over it, and it’s the topic we’ll look at next.

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    What is Wanting about?

    Wanting (2021) provides a riveting, philosophical answer to the question Why do we want the things we want? Drawing on theories originally developed by the celebrated polymath René Girard, it reveals an uncomfortable truth: that our desires are all ultimately a product of other people’s desires. The point isn’t to eliminate them,⁠ but rather to choose, carefully and consciously, which ones we should actually strive for. 

    Wanting Review

    Wanting (2021) explores the complexities of desire, delving into the various factors that drive human motivation. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Through intriguing case studies and psychological insights, it offers a fresh perspective on the forces that shape our desires and decision-making.
    • By examining the tension between ambition and fulfillment, the book provides a thought-provoking exploration of the paradoxes inherent in our pursuit of what we want.
    • With its well-researched analysis and thought-provoking contemplations, it offers a compelling and intellectual journey into the human psyche, ensuring that it is never boring.

    Who should read Wanting?

    • Lovers of philosophy, psychology, and literature
    • Dedicated self-improvers
    • Young entrepreneurs and business leaders

    About the Author

    Luke Burgis is an entrepreneur who founded and ran four start-up companies before deciding to course-correct and travel to Italy to study philosophy, theology, and literature. He is now the Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of Programs at the Catholic University of America. 

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    Wanting FAQs 

    What is the main message of Wanting?

    The main message of Wanting is that understanding our desires and motivations is key to living a fulfilled life.

    How long does it take to read Wanting?

    The reading time for Wanting varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in 15 minutes.

    Is Wanting a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Wanting is worth reading as it helps uncover the hidden motivations behind our desires and provides insights for personal growth.

    Who is the author of Wanting?

    Luke Burgis is the author of Wanting.

    What to read after Wanting?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Wanting, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Art of Influence by Chris Widener
    • Time Smart by Ashley Whillans
    • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • Outlive by Peter Attia
    • Determined by Robert M. Sapolsky
    • Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
    • Licence to be Bad by Jonathan Aldred
    • Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
    • Ultralearning by Scott H. Young