A New York Times bestselling journalist sets out to explore our addiction to the quantification of everything and ends up confronting his own addiction to certainty. In the quiet of quarantine, he decides to choose ease, rather than control—pursuing habits and hobbies that bring joy and “tickles” to each and every moment—and finds peace of mind, renewed creativity, and deepened relationships are the reward.
In 2020, nothing went according to plan. Duff McDonald had intended to write a book about society’s obsession with measurements, data, and predictions, showing how it blunts individual happiness and decision-making while fueling corporate capitalism. But in the quiet of quarantine, McDonald found himself reexamining the assumptions beneath his own life choices. He also reconsidered his book, deciding instead to reframe his approach as an exploration of his own battle with what he calls the “precision paradox”—the existential struggle between our desire for ease and our need to exert control.
Drawing inspiration from an impressive range of sources—from Borges to the Buddha to Bob (Dylan) to Harry Potter—McDonald documents how he let go of his attachment to precision in favor of delving deeper into what it means to be present—in his work, his relationships, and what he calls the “science of experience.” He asks, “What should I have been doing? I should have been focusing on things that I love, not the things that anger or annoy me. I should have been focusing on things that tickle me.”
Part self-help, part memoir, Tickled is a story of how to bring joy and love into your life right now. McDonald acknowledges that “tickle” is a funny, awkward word. In one context, it’s as innocent as can be. But it also runs deeper. When something tickles you, you are in the moment, experiencing reality itself—at the vortex of truth, consciousness, and bliss. “When something tickles, that’s your soul speaking to you in the language of love, thanking you for experience,” he says. As he lays out his own personal transformation, McDonald invites readers to begin their own journeys to find out what “tickles” them, too.
This exploration of joy and presence—experiences that tickle—lies at the heart of McDonald’s unusual, moving, and profound book.