The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: Summary & Review

The subtle art of not giving a fuck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (2016) teaches readers how to live a happier, anxious-free life through practical philosophy centered around the rejection of any self-help effort.

the subtle art of not giving a fuck quote

Bullet Summary

  • 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


About The Author: Mark Manson started his career as a dating coach and pick-up artist to later broaden his scope into general self-development.
His first book was Model, followed by “The Art of Not Giving A Fuck” with which he broke into the mainstream and then followed by Everything is Fucked“.

Chapter 1: Don’t Try

Mark Manson says that our culture of always getting more and more focused 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.

Avoid Social Media

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 are.
And when we can’t compare we wonder what the hell is wrong with us.

Accept Negative Experience

The author then suggests that the desire for a more positive experience is in itself a negative experience.

And the acceptance of a 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 them 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.

Not giving a fuck is not being indifferent. It’s being indifferent to being different

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.

The question is: what pain do you want in your life?

Chapter 3: You Are Not Special

We’re inundated by a deluge of self-help messages screaming:

Each and everyone can be extraordinary!
And that we all deserve greatness!

Even Oprah says it, quips Manson so it must be true!

This all leads to an entitlement mentality (read how to overcome entitlement mentality).

Bunce, once you accept that, you can be “normal”, and that you don’t have to be “special”, it’s liberating.

You can be normal and happy, and you can be normal and great in your “normalness”.

And you will be able to enjoy the boring beautiful side of life: friendships, reading a good book, laughing, creating something.

It’s liberating to accept you’re not really special

Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering

The question is not how to stop suffering but for what purpose you are suffering.

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 to 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.

Self Improvement is prioritizing things to give a fuck about

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.

My Note:
Albeit Manson criticizes self-help, this is a true and valid common mantra in self-help embraced by authors such as Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy and harking back to stoic philosophy, also see “The Obstacle is The Way” and “Meditations”.

Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything

Mark Manson says that it’s easier to settle on certainties, even when they’re negative.

And he suggests instead of resisting the temptation of being sure and accepting “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 being wrong create a better or worse problem?

Mark Manson ends by 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.

If it feels like it’s you VS the world, chances are it’s just you VS yourself

Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward

Mark Manson says that failures come from having picked the wrong values. And life is about not knowing but doing it anyway.

Action doesn’t just happen because of motivation, it causes motivation

Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No

Freedom by itself means nothing.

You are always free, and roaming the world without a boss reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” just to prove it won’t give you any sense of meaning.

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 uses himself as an example: focusing on just writing gave his website more success than he could have ever imagined, and committing to one woman gave him more happiness and joy than all the one-night stands he’s ever had.

My Note:
this part basically summarizes what Grit by Angela Duckworth is all about.

It’s commitment that gives you freedom and liberation

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 of his, a guy he looked up to, who died at a party when jumping into a lake from a cliff.

My Note:
I have read a similar story from different authors now to the point that I must wonder how true it actually is.
It sure sells well and captures people’s attention, which makes it all the more dubious.
Of course, I have no way of knowing that.
But we can still learn from it. Also, check how mortality can help you live better.

If there’s no reason to do anything – there’s no reason NOT to do anything

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Video

Here is a good summary I have found on YouTube:

How Not To Give A F*ck

And here are the deepest, practical aspects of not giving a fuck and enjoying life better:

  • 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.

  • Leverage 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 Self-Help Ideas

Some of the contrarian-sounding ideas are actually established concepts that 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).

  • Tries too hard to be contrarian

Trying too hard to be contrarian or counter-intuitive is bad for accuracy, and it’s a pitfall of naive self-help.

Naive Self-Help: 10 Most Dangerous BS to Avoid

  • Special & Wrong About Everything?

I’m not really convinced about the usefulness of some concepts.

As a website focused on social interaction and people skills, I’d have to say that second-guessing yourself on how wrong you are, for example, will make you very much uncharismatic.

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), just to motivate yourself, then that can be a great motivator.

Also, read the law of optimum balance“.

The Law of Optimum Balance

  • Bro-“hip” language

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. And, in some intellectual circles, I have heard some scathing reviews for “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F”.
But I disagree: this book is the opposite of many other books. It is seemingly shallow, but in truth quite deep. Plus, contains solid and practical wisdom.

  • Good wisdom

Beyond the cussing, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is a book packed with practical philosophy and life-changing wisdom.

The subtle art of not giving a fuck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F -Review

I had some negative expectations, to be honest.

And I had to force myself to rid of all my preconceptions before starting “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 asshole.

Well, I was wrong.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” is a good entry-level philosophical self-help treaty seemingly against self-help, but ultimately helping people to, well… Self-help :).

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 or stop wishing for the achievement
  • If there’s no reason to do anything, there’s no reason NOT to do anything

Note & Warning on Friend Who Died

I have absolutely no call in doubt 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.

Check out the best books to read, see all my reviews at once or Get the book on Amazon.

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