a complaint free world

Book Summary: A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen

The Book in Three Sentences

In this summary of A Complaint Free World, you’ll learn to be more positive and live the life you’ve always wanted. To get there, you first have to be aware of the toxic habit of complaining. The book revolves around the idea that by not complaining anymore, you can transform your life, your career, your relationships, and the world.

A Complaint Free World Summary


The Complaint Free concept has the potential to change your life. The idea is to wear a purple silicone bracelet that you switch from wrist to wrist each time you complain. The goal is to spend twenty-one days without complaining. By bringing awareness to this bad habit, you’d change your words, thoughts, and behavior.

Generally speaking, most people want prosperity yet they spend most of their time complaining. If your default state is one where you complain all the time, you’ll repel prosperity rather than attract it. To prosper, you should be grateful for what you have. We’re surrounded by negativity, but we’re so used to it that we don’t even notice it. The problem with negativity is that the more you engage with it, the longer it stays with you.

This is how the Complain Free program works:

  1. Wear a bracelet on either wrist. This is day one on your journey and the goal is to go twenty-one consecutive days without complaining.
  2. When you complain, criticize, gossip, or use sarcasm, you move the bracelet from one wrist to the other and you start over. 
  3. Don’t give up. Achieving twenty-one consecutive days without complaining might take four to eight months.

The worst mistake you can make is to wait for your life to get better to start. The best way to improve your life is by not complaining. In fact, you don’t even need the official bracelet. You can use a coin in your pocket or a rubber band on your wrist.

Here are some more tips:

  1. Only move the bracelet when you complain aloud, not when you think negative thoughts
  2. Remember what day you are on
  3. Only focus on your behavior and not other people’s
  4. Don’t trick the system by wearing two bracelets or by having “free days”

The bracelet is just a practical way to show how often you complain, so there’s nothing special about it. The goal is to notice how complaining destroys our lives.

Part 1: Unconscious Incompetence

Chapter 1: I Complain Therefore I Am

Complaints and negativity are so common that we don’t even notice them. Once you stop complaining, your thoughts will follow and they’ll become more positive. Your mind creates negative thoughts, but your mouth expresses them. By not saying them in the first place, you’re forcing your brain to create fewer negative thoughts.

Statements are neutral, but complaints are negative in nature. By complaining less, you’ll be perceived as happy. This attracts positive people and joyful experiences.

To get good at anything, you go through four stages:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

Unconscious Incompetence shows your full potential. You’re unaware of something and you must be willing to explore uncharted territories to reap the rewards.

You’re allowed to complain sometimes, but few events in life are worth complaining about. Nowadays, we live in the safest, healthiest, and most prosperous time in history yet we always find something to complain about. The only time you’re allowed to complain is when you feel grief, pain, and discontent, but traumatic events like these are rare. Complaining shouldn’t be a default mode or a habit, but we do it more often than we think. The key to a complain-free life is not giving up. You’ll fail over and over again before you succeed.

Chapter 2: Complaining and Health

We complain because we think it has some benefits. Complaints are a form of excuse to convince ourselves of something. When we complain, we look for sympathy, attention, support, or validation. One of the most common forms of complaints is related to the state of our health. This is often easier than starting a healthier lifestyle. That said, there are people who are in poor health, but focusing on those issues makes the problem worse.

Embody the type of person you want to become. The mind is a powerful thing and you can convince yourself of anything. Complaining is a way of articulating the negative thoughts in your head, if you’re not careful, you’ll start feeling the same symptoms you’re describing.

Part 2: Conscious Incompetence

Chapter 3: Complaining and Relationships

The Conscious Incompetence stage is about becoming aware of the frequency with which you complain. A lot of people give up at this stage because they notice they complain a lot and they find the act of restraining themselves difficult. That discomfort though is a natural sign of progress. It’ll get to the point where you are aware of your complaints and even when you want to stop doing it, you can’t. With patience though, you will be able to change.

One of the worst side effects of complaining is that it damages your relationships. One of the main differences between happy relationships and unhappy ones is that in the latter, a partner always complains and the more they complain, the unhappier they’ll be. The best thing we can do to improve any relationship is to complain less. So if you want to surround yourself with positive energy, you have to be willing to put that out there first. You can’t complain your way into positivity. The only way to get there is to make a conscious change and when it comes to relationships, the best way to get there is by developing healthy communication skills.

The purpose of being in a relationship is fun and growth. The fun part comes from being with the other person. Growth comes from fixing emotional issues. Don’t blame or complain, just talk about problems with the other person and sort them out.

Never involve another person in your relationship issues, especially if you do it to complain about your loved ones. Always remember that while it’s easier to complain about other people’s traits, there are parts of your personality that are upsetting to others too. Accept your quirks and be willing to do the same for others as well. Entrainment is a phenomenon that happens when two or more people “sync up”. When you complain, others will do it as well. Likewise, when you stop complaining, those around you will follow suit.

To improve your relationships, improve yourself first. If you want those around you to complain less, lead by example. Don’t fight complainers, tolerate and accept them.

Chapter 4: Why We Complain

According to Robin Kowalski, there are five reasons why people complain:

  • Getting attention: We’re wired to look for other people’s validation. Their attention gives us security and a sense of belonging. When someone complains, be positive and they’ll either stop or avoid you.
  • Removing responsibility: You remove responsibility when you bring up your inability to achieve something by presenting an outcome as hopeless. By complaining, the person is looking for agreement from others to validate his or her position as a victim. Justifying your lack of effort by blaming external things is unhealthy though. Whatever you do, don’t convince yourself you’re powerless.
  • Inspiring envy: This refers to bragging and it often involves criticizing others and saying how better you are in comparison. This can also take the form of gossip. Gossiping is talking negatively about someone who’s not present. So if you want to talk about someone else, only say the same things you’d express if that person was in front of you.
  • Power: Some people constantly look for power. They have an internal problem and as a way to solve it, they want to control others. Looking for power is a way to recruit people to fight on your side. When someone wants you to pick sides, refuse to do so. Don’t sell your loyalty to other people’s causes.
  • Excusing poor performance: This is a way to justify failure. You make a mistake that leads to an undesirable outcome and instead of accepting the fact that your performance was bad, you blame the circumstances. We are all masters of our own fate, we just have to stop blaming others for our poor performance. To solve this, try to come up with a solution for the next time that happens.

Chapter 5: Waking Up

By welcoming awareness, you’ll soon realize how often you complain. This feeling will make you uncomfortable but don’t give up. Living a complaint-free life is a skill you learn and it only requires time and effort. The only difference between a complaint and a statement is the energy behind what you say. In life, there’s no situation that can be made better by complaining.

Part 3: Conscious Competence

Chapter 6: Silence and the Language of Complaining

The Conscious Competence stage begins the moment you’re aware of every word you say. You’ll switch your bracelet infrequently because you’re careful about your words. We complain out of habit and to avoid it, we can take a moment and think about what you’ll say next. When in doubt, don’t say anything and just breathe.

If you see a day as an excuse to look for a chance to prove you’re fortunate, you’ll find it. When you accept something as true, it becomes that. Reframe situations so that you can find opportunities in every setback. Otherwise, the beliefs you hold will become a reality.

Chapter 7: Criticism and Sarcasm

Criticism and sarcasm are forms of complaining too. Criticism is pointing out other people’s unattractive features in a negative way. Therefore, there is no such thing as constructive criticism. The opposite of criticism is appreciation. Appreciation is inspiring and when you give it, the person who receives it is more likely to excel. When someone makes a mistake and you criticize them, they don’t want to keep trying. This creates a vicious circle of negativity.

A leader who criticizes doesn’t have the resources to lead. Instead of criticizing, inspire. Bring out the best in people and they’ll respond in great ways. Sarcasm, on the other hand, is a more passive-aggressive form of complaining. This is when you say something negative but with humor. These ironic remarks often hurt the people we target.

Chapter 8: Honk If You’re Happy

Happiness comes from within, not from external things. Treasure small moments and don’t take them for granted. Whatever it is you’re experiencing in life, that moment will never repeat itself. Being aware of your happiness helps you savor those instants. We’re all going to die one day. Dying isn’t a tragedy; never having lived is. Enjoy the present moment and don’t put off happiness until tomorrow. Happiness is a choice, so embrace it while you can.

Part 4: Unconscious Competence

Chapter 9: Mastery

The Complaint Free program takes months, but if you stick with it, you’ll change. You’ll notice this when you stop being negative. Becoming Unconsciously Competent involves losing the ability to complain. As a result, you’ll be happier, you’ll attract people, you’ll feel a constant sense of gratitude, and you’ll have a positive impact on your family. Despite what some people believe, expressing anger generates more resentment. Luckily, when you stop complaining, you’ll be less angry.

Chapter 10: Twenty-One-Day Champions

In this chapter, the author shares the experience of those who completed the twenty-one-day challenge. Most of them restarted several times and it took them weeks to get through the first day, but the experience was eye-opening and transformative.

Conclusion: Uva Uvam Videndo Varia Fit

The Complain Free program can change your life. Complaining is a habit, and as such, it’ll be some time before you can replace it with gratitude. Positivity and generosity will bring you rewards. Negativity, on the other hand, will bring you nothing.

To a certain extent, the life you’ve been given is neutral. You can turn it into something positive or something negative. To improve the world, you first have to improve yourself. When you begin to change, your positive attitude will encourage others to change as well.

Further Reading

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