The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: Summary & Notes

Front cover of The Sublte Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson.

In short

A self-help book for people who are generally not into self-help and who dislike the positivity that defines much of the genre. Written in the same style as Manson’s blog – rude, with a good amount of profanity – so if you enjoy that, then for sure you will like the book as well.

Most of the ideas in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck are not new though, so if you’ve read other popular titles in the same genre, or studied a bit of psychology or philosophy then you will find many things here that are familiar to you.

For more details and reviews go to Amazon.

Book Summary & Notes

All text between quotation marks is taken directly from the book.


“But when you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice – all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time – is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and them emphasizes them for you. You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’t have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you’re beautiful because you feel as though you’re not beautiful already. You follow dating and relationship advice because you feel that you’re unlovable already. You try goofy visualizations exercises about being more successful because you feel as though you aren’t successful enough already.”

“Ironically, this fixation on the positive – on what’s better, what’s superior – only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she’s happy. She just is.”

The Feedback Loop From Hell

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” This is what Alan Watts called the backwards law – the more your pursue things, the less satisfied you become with it.

“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” – Albert Camus

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Three subtleties of not giving a fuck:

  1. Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent, it means being comfortable with being different.
  2. To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  3. Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.

Happiness Is A Problem

“There is a premise that underlies a lot of our assumptions and beliefs. The premise is that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved […]. The premise, though, is the problem. Happiness is not a solvable equation. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature and […] necessary components to creating consistent happiness.”

“Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.”

“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something you magically discover [..]. It doesn’t magically appear when you finally make enough money to add on that extra room to the house. You don’t find it waiting for you in a place, an idea, a job – or even a book, for that matter.”

Choose Your Struggle

“Everything comes with an inherent sacrifice – whatever makes us feel good will also inevitably make us feel bad. What we gain is also what we lose. What creates our positive experiences will define our negative experiences.”

“If I ask you, “What do you want out of life?” and you say something like, “I want to be happy and have a great family and a job I like,” your response is so common and expected that it doesn’t really mean anything. […]
A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are willing to struggle for?” Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”

You Are Not Special

“Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.
The flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough. So more and more we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction. We cope the only way we know how: either through self-aggrandizing or through other-aggrandizing.”

“The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies – that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.
But once ingested, your body will wake up feeling more potent and more alive. After all, that constant pressure to be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of always feeling inadequate and constantly needing to prove yourself will dissipate. And the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.”

Values

“Good, healthy values are achieved internally. Something like creativity or humility can be experienced right now. You simply have to orient your mind in a certain way to experience it. These values are immediate and controllable and engage you with the world as it is rather than how you wish it were.
Bad values are generally reliant on external events […]. Bad values, while sometimes fun or pleasurable, lie outside of your control and often require socially destructive or superstitious means to achieve.”

“This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.”

The five counterintuitive values:

  1. Taking responsibility for everything that happens.
  2. Acknowledging uncertainty and your own ignorance, and cultivating doubts.
  3. Experiencing failure so that you can know your own flaws and improve them.
  4. Accepting rejection – both accepting no and saying no.
  5. Contemplating your own mortality.

Always Choosing

“There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond to it.”

You’re Wrong About Everything

“Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong. And when we learn something additional, we go from slightly less wrong to slightly less wrong than that, and then to to even less wrong than that, and so on. We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually ever reaching truth or perfection.
We shouldn’t seek to find the ultimate “right” answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways that we’re wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.”

“Certainty is the enemy of growth. Nothing is for certain until it has already happened – and even then, it’s still debatable. That’s why accepting the inevitable imperfections of our values is necessary for any growth to take place.
Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are.
Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.”

Do Something Principle

“If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.”

The Importance Of Saying No

“The truth is, there are healthy forms of love and unhealthy forms of love. Unhealthy love is based on two people trying to escape their problems through their emotions for each other – in other words, they’re using each other as an escape. Healthy love is based on two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support.”

Strong boundaries vs. Weak boundaries in relationships: if you have strong boundaries then people are not afraid of arguments (while people with weak boundaries experience an emotional roller coaster where they change their own behavior), strong boundaries means knowing that people cannot accommodate each other 100%, that healthy relationships are about support so that the other person can grow individually and solve problems themselves.

“When our highest priority is to always make ourselves feel good, or to always make our partner feel good, then nobody ends up feeling good. And our relationship falls apart without our even knowing it.”

“Trust is like a china plate. If you break it once, with some care and attention you can put it back together again. But if you break it again, it splits into even more pieces and it takes far longer to piece together again. If you break it more and more times, eventually it shatters to the point where it’s impossible to restore. There are too many broken pieces, and too much dust.”

“What I’ve discovered is something entirely counterintuitive: that there is a freedom and liberation in commitment. I’ve found increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what I’ve chosen to let truly matter to me.”

Death and Mortality

“Without acknowledging the ever-present gaze of death, the superficial will appear important, and the important will appear superficial. Death is the only thing we can know with any certainty. And as such, it must be the compass by which we orient all of our other values and decisions. It is the correct answer to all of the questions we should ask but never do. The only way to be comfortable with death is to understand and see yourself as something bigger than yourself, that are simple and immediate and controllable and tolerant of the chaotic world around you. This is the root of all happiness.”

“The pampering of the modern mind has resulted in a population that feels deserving of something without earning that something, a population that feels they have a right to something without sacrificing for it. People declare themselves experts, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, mavericks, and coaches without any real-life experience. And they do this not because they actually think they are greater than everybody else; they do it because they feel that they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts only the extraordinary.”

“This acceptance of my death, this understanding of my own fragility, has made everything easier – untangling my addictions, identifying and confronting my own entitlement, accepting responsibility for my own problems – suffering through my fears and uncertainties, accepting my failures and embracing rejections – it has all been made lighter by the thought of my own death. The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.”


Interested in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck? Get the book on Amazon.

Or, browse all book notes here.

Tweet
Share
Share
Email
More