The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is perhaps one of the most popular personal development books of the last few years. But does it really live up to all the hype?
That’s what this post is about.
Rather than your typical book review for Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I’m going to share 7 of the lessons that I learned from the book.
It’s a small part of the wisdom that you can get from reading the book yourself, so if this interests you, I’d highly recommend picking up the book yourself!
It’s definitely worth reading.
Table of Contents
Lesson 1: Nobody Likes an Apathetic Bastard, Not Even You!
Let’s start with the most important thing:
As the title of the book suggests, not giving a fuck is an art and a subtle one at that. Not giving a fuck about anything is not cool, it’s not the romanticized view of the movie hero who’s a calm badass…
It’s that feeling like nothing in your life matters, where you feel lifeless and are unable to feel anything at all. It’s basically being dead inside and having a severe depression!
That’s definitely NOT what Mark had in mind with this book!
Nobody likes someone who’s apathetic about everything, including you yourself. If you allow yourself to sink that low in an attempt to “be cool” or whatever, you let yourself sink into deep, dark despair!
If you learn any lesson from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, this is it!
That’s why this is lesson #1 from the book.
Which leads us to the second lesson in the book.
Lesson 2: You Only Have a Limited Amount of Fucks to Give, Choose Wisely!
Do you sometimes feel like there’s just too much on your plate?
From the messages you get on your phone, to worrying about what person X thinks about you, to thinking about issues at work or school, to keeping up appearances on social media, to going out to show you’re a cool person and a gazillion more things!
It’s the modern day version of a medieval torture technique:
In the middle ages, they had this torture technique where someone would be chained up and their limbs would be pulled into 4 different directions, leading to excruciating pain!
Our society does the same, except mentally.
Everyone and everything, from people you know, to the media to politics, to social media, and everything in between are competing for your attention! They’re pulling your mind in not 4, but 400 different directions!
So, it’s time to stop!
At the core, the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is about finding out your values and living by those! In other words, it’s about choosing what to give a fuck about, and what to let go of.
In school, learning and a hunger for knowledge isn’t the “cool” thing to do. Many people choose to go to parties in their teens and twenties as something they care about instead. Myself and Mark Manson included.
When you get older you may find that partying isn’t that important in life after all. You may find (like I have) that learning and self-improvement is way more important!
It’s why you’re here, right?
So the first step is to figure out what you stand for. What the things that are important to YOU are. What key principles and values are in line with the person you are and want to be.
Live by those and let go of (stop giving a fuck in the author’s words) the rest.
Lesson 3: Problems Are Inevitable! But… You Can Choose Your Future Problems
So now that you got your values in place, you’re set, right? You’ll have a happy blissful life where only good things will ever happen to you. You’ll lead the perfect life from now on….
And other fairy tales you can tell yourself!
Yeah… that’s not how life works!
The truth is that no matter what you do, you will have problems and hardships along the way. Struggle and hardship is a part of life, so there’s no point in trying to avoid all of it.
That’s one of the things I love about this book!
Whereas most of the personal development and self help books ignore that fact, Mark Manson embraces it as one of the key truths. And then offers some practical advice to deal with it.
It comes down to this:
Firstly, you can choose which problems to focus your attention on.
Secondly, after you solve your current problems, new problems will arise, period. However, depending on how you handled previous problems, the new ones could be either better or worse problems.
How to Create Better Problems in Your Life!
I’ll show you by example:
Let’s say your relationship just ended.
You could focus on solving the problem of constantly thinking about him/her by drowning yourself in alcohol in order to forget. Just to feel better in the moment and not have to think about it.
You could look at why things didn’t work out, find perhaps a problem with your own attitude and work on that. Alternatively, you could focus on the “problem” of being single (nothing wrong with that, self love is bliss!) by getting yourself out there and back into the dating scene.
Now, let’s fast forward a bit:
If you focused on the first problem, you’ll now have new problems with possible alcohol addiction, health issues as well as potential issues with relationships, your job and more.
You created worse problems for yourself.
If you focused on the third problem, you might now be stressed out! You’ve got a date in 2 hours and “OMG, I’m so nervous! What do I wear? Will it go well? Will I be ready in time? AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”
Again, you’re facing problems!
However, if you fix these problems, you might end up in a beautiful new relationship (which again will bring new problems too). Instead of being a sad alcoholic wallowing in self-pity all day long.
So, which problems would you rather have?
The One Question to Ask Yourself
Your time is limited.
You cannot solve all of the problems in your life. Instead I’d recommend asking yourself 1 simple question while keeping your values, your things to give a fuck about in mind:
“Will solving this problem, create better or worse problems for me?”
And guess what?
If you think about it rationally and conclude that this problem would lead to worse problems down the line, then again it’s time to not give a fuck about it and move on to solve better problems!
Lesson 4: Choose Your Company by Your Values
Let’s talk about the perfect person, yours truly of course!
Nah, screw that!
Neither me, nor you, nor anyone else is perfect, period. We all have flaws in the things we do, in our character traits, in our habits and our behavior. This is not a perfect fairy tail world.
We all have good things and bad things.
There’s a famous Jim Rohn quote that says: “You become the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.” Which leads us to the choice of who we want to spend out time with.
In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark talks about choosing your friends and company by your (and their) values.
Here’s what he means:
We all have flaws, but there’s a difference between someone being dishonest often or someone who is a perfectionist or is incredibly timid.
Which qualities do you care about?
For example, I would not want hang out or be friends with someone who’s dishonest. I don’t mind someone who’s a perfectionist or timed. In fact I’m rather timid myself at first around people I don’t know.
It comes down to this:
What qualities do you value in people?
- Strive for Improvement
- Being smart
- A sense of humor
Look for the things that are important to you and try to pick your company according to the things that are important to you.
Lesson 5: When You Feel Stuck Get Started Anyway
Let’s talk about everyone’s least favorite subject:
In his book, Mark talks about a lesson he learned from an old math teacher.
If you’re anything like me, you’d look at a math problem and freeze up. It looks intimidating, it looks daunting and you feel like you’re stuck with no clue how to solve the problem.
The tip is simply this:
When feeling stuck, start somewhere.!
In this case you would start by just copying the problem, and once you do that, you can maybe rewrite it in a way that makes more sense. Then, as if struck by lightning, you get an idea for the first step to take.
And then another step, and another.
We can often keep ourselves stuck by thinking of how huge our goals and dreams are, and feeling overwhelmed. But when you take those first steps, the rest of the path ahead of you becomes clearer.
Get started with the things you can do, figure out more stuff later.
You don’t need to know the entire journey and path ahead of you. You just need to know where you’re heading and the first couple of steps that you can take that will get you closer.
Lesson 6: Your Situation Doesn’t Matter Nearly as Much as Your Perspective
I don’t want to spoil too many of the stories, but this is one I think will help you.
Again, buy and read the book yourself!
Especially since the lessons I’ve shared so far in this book review are resonating with you (or you wouldn’t still be reading), you know there’s way more goodness in store for you!
A few bucks for knowledge and clarity seems like a good deal to me!
Have you ever heard of Dave Mustaine?
He’s the guitarist of Megadeth, which he started after being kicked out of Metallica. That was a hard blow for him, but one that he used as fuel for his own success.
He wanted to become bigger than Metallica.
Megadeth went on to sell more than 38 million records worldwide. They have done multiple world tours, gotten platinum albums, and sold out entire stadiums.
In interviews he still admitted he felt like a failure at times!
Just imagine selling millions of albums, being world famous, having made millions and still feeling like a failure. That’s why your perspective matters way more than your situation!
Dave thought of himself, not as the guitarist of Megadeth, but as the guy who got kicked out of Metallica. He defined success as being bigger than Metallica, which he did not achieve.
What do you think of his perspective?
Lesson 7: Pretend You’re an Outsider Looking at Your Life, What Would You Say?
The last question is exactly the final lesson from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck that I want to share with you.
Because, it just feels ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Reading about someone who, to an outsider, might have everything that his heart could possibly desired, and still feel like a failure. It just sounds so unreal hearing about that.
And that’s one of our main issues!
Oftentimes we are so caught up in our lives, both the good parts as well as the problems. And because we are IN those problems, we are unable to step back, look at them and see the bigger picture.
The key is this:
Ask yourself this one thing:
“If I was an outsider, looking at myself, my situation and my attitude about the problem, what advice would I give to myself?”
This is an amazing question!
Not only do you get out of feeling sorry for your ass by asking this, but you also distance yourself from the issue so that you can see the bigger picture and get more clear of things.
Not Giving a Fuck Truly Is an Art!
And so is Mark Manson’s book on the topic!
While the approach to the topic is radically different than how most personal development books do it, that’s what makes the book stand out so much!
As a conclusion to this book review of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”:
You’ve already read a few of the lessons from the book as a preview, but you’ll get infinitely more value out of reading the stories and the lessons for youself.
So just do yourself that 1 favor!