TL:DR: Giving so many f*cks about so many things–especially about things that don’t matter–will drive us crazy and make us unhappy. This book is not only incredibly dense with wisdom but also incredibly well written and edited. It really feels like every word was chosen and place carefully, so as to make the precise point intended. I highly recommend the book, and think you will find value paying attention to each and every word.
We live in a world that is constantly berating us to do more, eat more, make more, sleep more, exercise more, buy more, own more, etc. Here in the United States, the world seems to want us to give too many fucks about too many things. As Mr. Manson suggests, this is probably because the U.S. is a capitalist society and this is good for business.
Don’t let the title fool you. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson is a book full of deep insights and smart wisdom that can help you live a better life. Mark does an amazing job of examining behavior that hurts us, so that we can stop repeating our mistakes. There are so many lessons but some of my favorite are:
Life is about choosing which pain you want to endure. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that life is about choosing which pain you want to endure. There is no one choice that is pain free. There are always pros and cons to each choice. You just have to pick the choice for which the cons are something you are willing or enjoy enduring.
Our plentiful society is anxiety inducing. Much of the angst we feel is a result of the vast range and number of opportunities we have in our society. The more we have opportunities we have, the more things we have to measure up to and feel worse about ourselves.
We have really become the victims of our own success. Stress related health issues, anxiety disorders and cases of depression have skyrocketed over the past 30 years. Despite the fact that everyone has a flatscreen tv and can have our groceries delivered.
We have so much f*cking stuff and so many opportunities, we don’t know what to give f*ck about anymore.
Our ability to think about our own thoughts makes things worse. Humans are the unique animal that can think about its own thoughts. Other animals just feel and react to that feeling. As humans, however, we worry about worrying, get more anxious about feeling anxious, get angry about getting angry, get more sad about feeling sad, etc. This ability to think about thoughts and feelings means that we compounding our negative feelings. This is why it is so important to not give a f*ck, because doing so means that you stop that recursive loop and stop hating yourself for your feelings. By not giving a f*ck we simply don’t care that we are sad, angry, anxious, etc. and we move on. “We should accept that the world is f*cked and move on, because it has always been that way and it always will be.” says Manson.
Wanting a positive experience is itself a negative experience, while accepting one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
When we give too many f*cks, we set ourselves up for perpetual and unnecessary disappointment.
When you give a f*ck about everyone and everything, you will feel that you are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times. that everything is supposed to be just the way you f*cking want it to be! This is a sickness, and it will eat you alive. You will feel that you have the right for have everything feel the way you want it to be! You will see every adversity as an injustice… Every challenge as a failure…
Every inconvenience as personal slight…
Every disagreement as a betrayal.
There is a subtle art to not giving a f*ck; and it doesn’t mean being indifferent. “There’s a name for someone who finds no emotion or meaning in anything…a psychopath.” Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent. It means being comfortable with being different. Since being indifferent requires figuring about what matters to you, being indifferent requires figuring out who you are and want to be. And since understanding oneself to this degree and what our guiding principles will be is difficult, Mr. Manson properly notes that:
Learning how to focus on what matters…what matters to you, is extremely hard to do; but it is the most worthwhile thing we can work on in our life.
People who act indifferent are probably the saddest form of a human being possible.
People who act indifferent are actually lying about their difference. They actually give too many f*cks about too many things and are too afraid to speak up and act on their own views. The bellow quote from the book’s preface best sums up the driving motivation of the book:
“There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and internet trolls. In fact, indifferent people often attempt to be indifferent because–in realit–they give way too many f*cks. They give a f*ck about what everyone thinks of their hair, so they never bother washing or combing it. They give a f*ck about what everyone thinks about their ideas, so they hide behind sarcasm and self-righteous snark. They’re afraid to let anyone get close to them so they imagine themselves as some special unique snowflake who has problems that nobody else would ever understand.
Indifferent people are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their choices. That’s why they don’t make any meaningful choices. They hide behind a gray, emotionless pit of their own making. Self-absorbed and self-pittying. Perpetually distracting themselves from this unfortunate thing demanding their time and energy called life.
Because here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a f*ck. You must give a f*ck about something. It’s part of our biology to always care about something and therefore to always give a f*ck. The question then is: What do we give a f*ck about? What are we choosing to give a f*ck about? and How can we choose not to give a f*ck about what ultimately does not matter?