The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson teaches us to live a better, anxious-free life.
- Bullet Summary
- Full Summary
- How You Can Apply It
- Being too harsh on improving yourself is saying you’re not good enough. Give less of a fuck instead.
- Choose what to give a fuck about. And then don’t give a fuck about all the rest.
- Choose what to give a fuck about. And then don’t give a fuck about the price to get there
Chapter 1: Don’t Try
Mark Manson says that our culture of always getting more and more focuses on what we lack.
He says that dating and self improvement advice are all ways of saying that you aren’t enough. And it’s all designed to make you feel bad and buy more stuff.
He says that a confident man instead doesn’t feel the need to prove anything. The key to a good life is not about giving a fuck more. It’s about giving a fuck less.
Mark Manson says that social media only accentuated the culture of never enough (read Daring Greatly for more on never enough culture). All we see is people trying to one each other up showing how great and better their lives is. And when we can’t compare we wonder what the hell is wrong with us.
Accepting Negative Experience
The author then suggests that the desire for more positive experience is in itself a negative experience. And the acceptance of negative experience is instead in itself a positive experience.
Trying to avoid pain is giving too many fucks about pain. When instead you become capable of giving less fucks about pain.. Then you become unstoppable.
Give Less a Fuck
Mark Manson says that we have a limited number of fucks to give in our lives. Deciding what NOT to give a fuck about then will free our time and mental resources for the things we really care about.
What Not Giving a Fuck Means
1. Not giving a fuck doesn’t mean being indifferent. It’s about choosing what to give a fuck about and then not giving a fuck about all the rest.
It also means you don’t give a fuck about the troubles standing between you and what you give a fuck about.
2. Give a fuck about something more important than adversity. If you don’t find something important to give a fuck about, your fucks will be given to meaningless and frivolous causes.
3. You’re always choosing what to give a fuck about. So pick something meaningful.
Chapter 2: Happiness Is a Problem
Mark Manson says that happiness is not a solvable equation or something that can be worked for.
He proposes instead a different question: what pain do you want in your life. Happiness takes struggle and even requires problems.
And here’s the beautiful catch: if you want the rewards but not the struggle, you don’t really want it.
Our struggles determine our successes and our problems determine our happiness as we struggle to fix them.
Because the joy is in the struggle itself.
Chapter 3: You Are Not Special
Mark Manon says there’s a deluge of messages today that each and everyone can be extraordinary, and that we all deserve greatness (even Oprah says it, he quips, so it must be true).
This is all leads to entitlement mentality (read how to overcome entitlement mentality).
Once you can accept you’re “normal”, it’s liberating.
And you will be able to enjoy the boring beautiful side of life: friendships, reading a good book, laughing, creating something.
Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering
Manson says that the question is not how to stop suffering but for what purpose you are suffering (same concept as in Man’s Search for Meaning).
Your values should be instead reality based, socially helpful and controllable. For example “being popular” is dependent on others and not fully up to you, and thus it’s not a good value.
Picking and deciding on good values also allow us to give fucks about things that matter for us and for others.
My note: true, albeit I think it’s more about identity than values. Check my guide on building an antifragile identity.
Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing
Mark Manson says that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we certainly can choose what it means to us and how we respond to it.
Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything
Mark Manson says that it’s easier settling on certainties, even when they’re negative.
And he suggests instead of resisting the temptation of being sure and to accept “never knowing who you are”. It will force you to keep an open mind and keeps you striving to discover and find out.
Some questions Mark Manson recommends you ask yourself are:
- What if I’m wrong
- What would it mean if I were wrong
- Would be wrong create a better or worst problem
Mark Manson ends saying that if you’re in a situation where you are screwed up or everyone else is screwed up… It’s far, far more likely that it’s you.
My note: I will link here to the all important concept of “love reality even when it hurts” in Ray Dalio’s Principles.
Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward
Mark Manson says that failures comes from having picked the wrong values. And life is about not knowing but doing it anyway.
Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No
Mark Manson says that freedom by itself means nothing. You are always free, and roaming the world without a boss just to prove it won’t give you anything.
The only way to achieve a sense of meaning in your life instead is to reject total and boundless freedom and choose instead to commit to something. Like a place, a relationship, or even a belief.
The author use himself as an example: focusing on just writing gave his website more success he could have ever imagined, and committing to one woman gave him more happiness and joy that all the one night stands he’s ever had.
My Note: this part basically summarize what Grit by Angela Duckworth is all about.
Chapter 9: …And Then You Die
I have to say, the beginning story of chapter 9 was touching. Mark tells the story of a good friend his, a guy he looked up to, who died at a party when jumping into a lake from a cliff.
I invite you to read the book for more
My Note: also check how mortality can help you live better.
How You Can Apply It
Choose What to Give a Fuck About
Pick your passion and then zero in and focus on it. Mark Manson says it in the “bro” style, but however you phrase it, deciding what matters in your life IS a great way of improving your life.
Use Mortality to Go For What You Want
I particularly loved the last chapter in that it reminds us of a very important thing: we will all die. That’s not sad. That’s just how it is. Reflect on that and then demand yourself: should you really waste your time doing things you don’t like or don’t care about?
To Beat Death..
.. Care about something bigger than yourself. Which will also allow you to not give a fuck about so many things you shouldn’t give a fuck today but you do.
Some Re-hashed Ideas
Some of the contrarian sounding ideas are actually established concepts which are explored deeper in other sources (but this is not to say they aren’t valuable or that Manson doesn’t give it a different spin).
Special & Wrong About Everything?
I’m not really convinced about the usefulness of some concepts. As a website focus on social interaction and people skills I’d have to say for example that second-guessing yourself on how wrong you are, for example, will make you very much un-charismatic.
And yes if your value is “being special” you’re on the wrong path. But if you tell yourself you’ll prove how special you can become (proving it to yourself), then that’s actually very good.
It feels sometimes as if the author is trying too hard to sneak in one more swear word and to make his sentences sound cool and fun. Maybe someone likes it, to me it was a bit “meh”.
Deeper than some might think
The title could be misleading to some. This book is deep and contains a lot of powerful advise.
Beyond the cussing, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is a book packed with practical philosophy and life changing wisdom.
I admit I had to call on my own mind not to pre-judge before I started reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” (it’s my rule for reading effectively to approach everything with an open mind). I thought it was going to be some bro-book on how to be an ahole.
Well, I was wrong. The subtle art of not giving a fuck presents some life changing ideas and philosophies in every day, maybe slightly crude language but nonetheless powerful and helpful.
The ideas I’ll take away from Mark Manson are:
- Pick what to give a fuck about. And don’t give a fuck about the failures and embarrassments it takes to get there.
- If you want the reward but not the struggle, you don’t really want it. Love the struggle
- If there’s no reason to do anything, there’s no reason NOT to do anything
Note on Friend Who Died
I have absolutely no call in doubting the veracity of the friend who died story. However, I have to note that I have read almost the same story in the book Published, by a rather skilled marketer.
And it left me wondering a bit if it was copied from here.