The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

With his first book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, OG blogger Mark Manson hit a previously unheard level of success in the blogosphere. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck has been a best-seller since it was released in 2016, and is considered a generation and industry-defining self-help book.

The book delivers good life advice cloaked in bad language. Manson’s philosophical outlook seems to be heavily inspired by Buddhism and Stoicism – especially in regards to the value and inevitably of suffering in life. Ultimately, this a book about how to find and stick to a core set of values and not care about all the other meaningless drivel that society makes us feel we should care about. Here lies its true genius: Manson has managed to make millions of people read a book about values – a topic conventionally dismissed as preachy or unsexy – by disguising it through his language.

The second half of the book title states that it is “A Counter-Intuitive approach to Living a Good Life.” This is true. the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck takes to task the mindless positivity of other self-help books and demolishes tired mantras like “you are special”, “you can be exceptional” and “you deserve to be happy and problem-free.” It gives it to you straight: suffering is inevitable; hardship is good, problems are unavoidable – and these are what make life meaningful.

Top 3 Things the Book Teaches You to Unknow

  • Responsibility vs Blame: In this particularly thought-provoking section, Manson explains how we incorrectly view taking responsibility for something as also taking the blame for it happening. While we may not be to blame for a lot of the problems in our lives (an abusive childhood, death of a loved one, a toxic work environment), it always is our responsibility to deal with our problems as best as we can.
  • Indifference vs Acceptance of difference: “Not giving a f**k does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.” The only we can be comfortable with feeling different is to know what matters even more to us than feeling included.
  • The problem with happiness: “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.  In short, stop trying so hard to be happy.” Amen. For more of an explanation, read this article on the paradox of happiness.

Who Should Read It

  • People who feel lost and are looking for some direction in life
  • People who feel trapped in the rat-race
  • Anyone who appreciates counter-intuitive viewpoints

Who Shouldn’t Read it

  • People who don’t like profanity (Manson’s writing style revolves around inserting profanity into every other sentence. It will strike some people as authentic and others as excessive or trying too hard.)
  • People who will not tolerate mildly sexist descriptions (“banging hot blondes”).
  • People who already have strong foundational knowledge in Buddhism and Stoicism.

Favourite lines:

  • “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…..We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually ever reaching truth or perfection.”
  • “Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a f**k about what’s truly f**kworthy.”
  • “Don’t hope for a life without problems…. There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.”
  • “It’s not about giving a f**k about everything your partner gives a fuck about; it’s about giving a f**k about your partner regardless of the f**s he or she gives. That’s unconditional love, baby.”
  • “All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.”

You can also access my notes of the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.