The Subtle Art of Not Giving F**k

The Subtle Art of Not Giving F**k
Photo by Indrajeet Choudhary / Unsplash

Author: Mark Manson

Genre: Self-Help

If someone asks me the core idea of this book, it should be the following:  

The idea of not giving a fuck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not.

Mark Manson’s "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" is an interesting approach to self-help literature. A lot of people may pick this book probably because of its provocative title, but the good thing is that the book offers some valuable lessons. If you are looking for a self-help book that’s not boring, it could be a good pick for you. I will summarize some of my key takeaways from this book:

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.

We live in an era of abundance, with access to more resources than humans have ever had in the past. Social media has extended our reach to even friends from your kindergarten days. When people on your Facebook or Instagram are going on vacations all over the world, it’s natural for you to want to do the same. When friends your age are getting new cars or homes, it’s impossible not to desire the same things. We naturally yearn for positive experiences like happiness, success, pleasure, and love. Think about it- what do you desire? Something that you don’t have! When we become too focused on what we lack in our lives, we are unable to appreciate what we already have, leading to dissatisfaction that can turn into a negative experience.

In contrast, if we can embrace negative experiences such as pain, sadness, disappointment, and failure as part of life, we can emerge on the other side with relief and liberation. For example- when you accept your failure in something and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned from trying, it can enrich your experience. Perhaps the next time, if you apply what you have learned, you might succeed, leading to a positive experience.

No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you. And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.

Pain, suffering, and adversity are the inevitable aspects of human lives. As sad as it sounds, every human being experiences suffering. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, have a family or lack one, whether you are employed or unemployed- we all suffer. The author presents the idea that our sufferings or problems never truly disappear, instead, they can evolve or improve. For example, if you are unemployed, you might believe that getting a job will solve all your problems. But if you think about it, being employed won’t eliminate all your problems, it will introduce new ones. While you will be able to pay your bills, share responsibilities at home, buy presents for your loved ones, etc. new problems will arise. You might need to wake up earlier than usual, perform tasks at work that you are not particularly fond of, interact with people you’d rather avoid, have limited time off, and so on. These problems may not be as bad as being unemployed, but the key takeaway is that problems never end. They might probably get transformed or upgraded, but there is no “The End” to our problems.

So, instead of longing for a life without problems, you need to choose which problems you are willing to deal with. As you identify the problems you are comfortable having and resolving, happiness will naturally ensue. This concept of the upgraded problem has helped me remain centered a lot this year, especially amidst confusion in my life. What problems am I really willing to deal with as I contemplate the choices before me?

The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.

I highlighted the above sentence while reading this book because it resonated with me deeply. Honestly, I had been fixated on this idea of an exciting and constantly fun-filled life in the past, which inevitably led to dissatisfaction and disappointment. Only after I established habits, routines, and structure in my life, and started appreciating them, I was able to free myself from the notion of needing a “happening” life at all times.

As the author mentioned, most of our lives will be filled with mundane and unremarkable moments, and I repeat that it’s perfectly fine. You can find joy in those mundane aspects as well. For example- my husband and I take the same morning walk route every single day. Even though the route is the same, I enjoy this time with him because that’s our quality time together. I love going on vacations, but if I fixate solely on the idea of having fun and quality time during those vacations, I would probably be miserable for the majority of my life. After all, how many vacations can we go on throughout our entire lives?

It’s alright for our lives to lack constant excitement!

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.

I felt like the whole subtle art of not giving fuck comes down to recognizing your values in life. These values then can serve as a compass, guiding you in the right direction. Amidst the overwhelming abundance of resources, opportunities, social media, and other’s opinions, if we are not able to determine our top priorities and where our focus should lie, we can get into a spiral of darkness.

For example- consider that you’ve evaluated your values and recognized that health is your top priority. Now that you have pinpointed that your health is important to you, you will be able to make life choices that align with your value of well-being. You will still encounter problems. You might need to sacrifice sleep in the morning to make time for exercise, purchase a gym membership, give up on your favorite carbs, and so on. However, these are good problems to have because if you consistently exercise you will be rewarded with good mental and physical health. It’s easy to be swayed by several other things in life and forget what’s important for our well-being. So, prioritizing better values and selecting more important matters to invest time and energy in will reward us with greater happiness than the alternative.

While this book offers several nuggets of wisdom, I chose the above few things to highlight in this book summary. I will let you all find out more about this book on your own.

Also, this was my second time reading this book. The first time I read it was probably around the time when it came out. I didn’t have a clue about what I read when I decided to re-read it. This version of me, six years later, was better able to comprehend the lessons this book has to offer. I’m glad I decided to pick up this book again. If you decide to read it, I hope you find some valuable lessons as well.

Happy Reading 😊