It is not every day that you find a book with the F-word on its cover so boldly, but Mark Manson did not give a f*ck about what people thought of that. Manson wrote what he needed to write for his book to stand out. Fortunately, it did. Giving a f*ck about things is what is perceived as the right thing to do while giving no f*cks might be the key to success. This book will help you set the values you are willing to live for, and based on which, the few critical things you should give a f*ck about.
For those of you who are too busy or prefer a quick recap instead of reading a book; we have learned “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and summarized it for you in a 5-minute read.
Most self-help books encourage you to continually focus on the positive side of all situations and to always aspire for what’s better. Despite how right they might seem, this strategy highlights to you what you’re lacking, what you’re not, making you always wanting more. Also, during those trials, if it so happens that you procrastinate, for example, you start feeling bad about your procrastination; then, you start feeling bad about feeling bad. Mark Manson calls this “the Feedback Loop from Hell.”
If you are seeking success, you are technically implying that you are not successful, or that you are not successful enough; so you desperately search for ways to be more and more successful.
What you should do, instead, is accept the fact that you procrastinated, or that your work is not 100% perfect. Once you do that, you are then capable of improving yourself. Alan Watts describes The Backwards Law: “The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. So paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”
This book focuses on the fact that the secret to a good life is giving a f*ck about less – choosing what is important to you, then give a f*ck about that, and only that.
Happiness is a problem
“I will be happy once I get that job.”
“That trip to Europe is all I need to feel good and be happy.”
There is a false assumption that happiness is algorithmic – If you do X, then you will be happy. What we do not realize is that happiness is an activity that we perform, it is not something that happens just like that, and that sadness is a necessary and (believe it or not) healthy component to create consistent happiness. Most people, when faced with a problem, live in either
- Denial: they distract themselves from their problems; and although this leads to temporary satisfaction, it also causes emotional repression and insecurity;
- Victim’s mentality: they believe that they cannot do anything to their problems, so they blame it on others but live a life full of anger and despair.
We need to understand that our life is always going to be constituted of problems. Once we solve one, another will come up. We don’t have to avoid problems; instead, we can choose significant matters in our lives to give a f*ck about!
You are NOT special
There is a global movement that promotes self-esteem in a manner that makes people feel extraordinary. However, if everyone’s extraordinary, doesn’t that make everyone just… ordinary? This sense of entitlement makes people think that they always require everyone’s attention – either that they’re great and the rest of the world is not, so they deserve special treatment; or that they’re victims of the world’s injustice, so they still deserve special treatment.
In both cases, people do not accept the fact that in the more significant sense, the world does not revolve around them. So does that mean that you can’t be exceptional? Accepting your mediocrity then working on bettering yourself allows you to grow into becoming exceptional, but it is not a quality that you acquire in a fortnight or that you are entitled to becoming.
The value of suffering
Since we cannot control the rise of problems, what we can do is control is how we think about them and react to them. Our reaction is mainly dependent on the metrics and values that we choose for ourselves, and to make the right choice we have to be highly self-aware.
The concept is demonstrated with the self-awareness onion (the more layers you peel from yourself, the more likely you are to cry at inappropriate times).
To find out why something is bothering you, you have to keep digging. Keep asking why, and when you find out the answer to that, ask why again, and again.
– How do I feel?
– Because I did not get the raise I asked for at work.
– Why does this upset you?
– Because I wanted to feel my work was being appreciated.
You can keep digging by continually asking “why?”, and in this example, you will realize that you feel sad because you measure your self-worth by people’s appraisal. However, this is a shitty value.
How can you know shitty values from good ones?
You are always choosing
Story number 1:
Dave Mustaine was kicked out from a band early in his career; as a result, he got so devastated he turned to drink, but with time he managed to create a group of his own. His band, Megadeth, sold 25 million albums across the world; however, he still felt like a failure when he compared his success to the one of the band he got kicked out of: Metallica.
Story number 2:
Pete Best was also kicked out of a band, and he also got depressed for a while, but at some point, he chose to reevaluate his life and his success metrics. He now believes that having a loving family is more important than being a part of a band. Although it’s The Beatles, he says, “I’m happier than I would have been with the band.”
These two stories demonstrate how we are responsible for everything that happens to us. Even if it’s not our fault, it’s still our responsibility. It’s you who chooses how to view things, how to react, how to value them and the metrics by which you measure the success or failure of everything.
You Are Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)
Don’t take it personally. The entire world’s population once believed that the Earth was flat; so who knows, maybe even now we’re wrong about something we’re so confident it’s true.
That’s where the problem arises: certainty! We shouldn’t seek to be sure all the time; instead, we should continuously doubt everything around us because we never really go from wrong to the right – we go from wrong to less wrong, but never to absolute truth.
So what can you do? Ask yourself these questions in every situation or argument:
- What if I’m wrong? (Accept the fact that you actually could be.)
- What would it mean if I’m wrong? (It might say that you’re behaving incorrectly or inappropriately.)
- Would being wrong create a better or worse problem than my current problem, for myself and others? (Are you selfish or are you standing up for solid values?)
Failure Is The Way Forward
Remember how we said that you couldn’t be exceptional overnight? To be exceptional or to succeed at something, you have to be willing to fail at it – if you’re unwilling to fail, then you’re reluctant to succeed. That’s how the successful people we look up to did it; they didn’t wake up one day to find themselves exceptional, they had countless failed attempts before they finally reached success.
The key to stopping worrying about failing at something is to break down the large chunks of work into smaller, manageable tasks. These tasks won’t wait for you to be ingeniously inspired to perform them, you have to start working to generate inspiration. You might think that it’s “inspiration → motivation → action”; but action is not just an effect of motivation, it is also a cause of it.
Actions will result in a further reaction, so that process becomes a continuous loop. We can look at it that it’s actually “action → inspiration → motivation.”
The Importance of Saying No
Imagine you enter an ice-cream store, and you find 100 ice cream flavors to choose from; will you be able to easily select one flavor, without keeping an eye on the other 99 others that you could have chosen from? Now imagine you only have two flavors in the display; wouldn’t it be easier for you now to decide without being distracted?
This example shows how narrowing down your freedom, limiting your options and saying no to things that are not of significance to you gives you more freedom.
For you to give a f*ck about something that matters to you, you have to reject what’s not that something. So for example, if you prioritize your family and your career, you should be able to say no to anything that will divert your vision away from them. This rejection is not as simple to execute as to talk about. It requires you to have a valid metric system by which to measure the righteousness of the values you hold and live by.
In the book, Mark Manson recounts his astonishment upon traveling to Russia and seeing how brutally honest people there are, compared to the West. In the Middle East, we can say that we are somewhat similar to the West as well – we often say yes to people without actually meaning it. We agree to things that we don’t want, instead of bluntly rejecting it. We’re continually living up to fake standards that sway the honest values that we should be living by.
This behavior often leads us to get into unhealthy relationships where we use our partners as an escape from problems. The healthy love equation is responsibility + rejection = love. It’s two people acknowledging and addressing their issues on their own, with the support of the partner. You should never force your values on your partner, nor blame them for your problems. Solving each other’s issues should be something you choose to do, rather than it being your responsibility or obligation. Ask yourself this “If I refuse, will this change our relationship?” If the answer is yes, then this is a toxic situation.
Building trust is about being honest. You should be able to say no and hear (and deal with) no. If faith is broken, the one who broke it should start peeling his awareness onion and figure out why he/she did that and whether they still value the relationship. To build trust again, the other partner needs proof and to track the record.
…and then you die
“Death scares us. Because it scares us, we avoid thinking about it, talking about it, sometimes even acknowledging it, even when it’s happening to someone close to us. In a bizarre, backward way, death is the light by which the shadow of all life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.”
When people become aware that they’re going to die, they start experiencing “death terror”; and frantically, they try to save they’re a part of them that will live beyond their death and by which they will be remembered. These are called immortality projects. We have two selves – our physical self that needs to eat and sleep, and our conceptual self. If death comes for our physical selves, then we must create projects that aim to let the conceptual self-live forever. That is why people write books, start wars and hope to have streets named after them – so that they could be remembered.
Give your f*cks wisely. Know what’s significant to you, choose your values after some deep consideration and disregard anything else that comes in your way.