The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
My top takeaways from this refreshing self-help guide to getting your priorities straight in life.
When I came across this book for the first time, the title inadvertently suggested to me that this will be a guide to not caring about what other people think, because that's how this phrase is usually coined in real life. And I thought - great, we could all definitely use this. But after having read this book (multiple times), I can confirm that it actually covers a much broader message.
This book teaches you how to not give a f*ck about anything that you really don’t need to give a f*ck about. It's impossible to not give a f*ck about anything at all because you're still giving a f*ck about something, so that was never the point of the book. It's choosing what you give a f*ck about in life and allocating your total f*cks wisely. (Oof. That was a lot of f*cks given.)
For the record I don't agree with every word he wrote, nor did I care so much for the profanity, but there are a lot of truths scattered throughout his book that were pretty spot-on. His explanations are backwards or (as he calls it) counterintuitive to what we as a society are used to. So, I was taken aback at first, but then slowly realized that this should have been our approach to life from the start.
These are the top 5 things that resonated with me the most and I think are really good points to take away from this unorthodox self-help guide to living a better life:
1. Define your values.
Most, if not, all of our time is spent facing or solving "problems" in an effort to create the best life experiences for ourselves. Since it's impossible to get rid of problems completely and it would dissatisfy us of the joy we get from solving these problems, we must instead try to create good problems. Essentially aim to upgrade our current problems for better ones. The problems in our life are determined by what we choose to give a f*ck about, or in other words by what we value.
To identify our personal values we need to ask questions like: "How am I measuring myself and everyone around me? How do I measure success? By what standards am I judging myself?". We control how much our problems mean to us based on the standard we measure them using our values. To upgrade our problems for better ones, we have to filter out issues that are of less value with those that are of greater value instead. An example is trading values of superficiality and popularity with a good value like honesty. This way your problem upgrades from constant angst over wanting to be liked by others to making sure that you like yourself by staying true to who you are even if you aren't always liked by everyone. Trade up your f*cks, your problems, your life.
2. Contemplate your mortality. (Most important value)
“Death is the underlying anxiety that motivates everything we do.”
When we start to decide what we should give a f*ck about and what we shouldn't, it's important to understand what the big things are. What is the biggest thing that all of us give a f*ck about? Death. Death is the only thing in life that is completely certain and common amongst all of us. We often forget about or neglect this truth, because we can't really ever imagine it happening to us. The point here isn't to scare ourselves, but to help us realize that the thing we talk about the least actually has the deepest subconscious impact on us and everything that we do. We make decisions based off of trying to stay alive or wanting to live forever through whatever work we do or things we create. Coming to terms with our mortality as closely as we can will help us keep everything else in check. It reminds us of all our values, the things we should care about, the things we should invest our time and energy in. It is the overarching theme that measures our life and under which we can clearly determine what we truly give a f*ck about and what we don't.
3. Take responsibility for everything in your life.
“With great responsibility, comes great power.”
I know. It's the famous Uncle Ben quote from Spiderman - but flipped. It still makes sense though, trust. A simple and useful realization to have is that we are 100% responsible for our lives. We don't always control what happens to us, but we control what we do with whatever happens to us. So, things may not always be your fault, but often you may still be responsible for dealing with it. A game of poker is a classic example, some people will get dealt worse hands than others, but that ultimately changes nothing about the responsibility side of the equation. Life is like a game of cards, the way you are able to deal with whatever is thrown at you exhibits your strength. The more responsibility we accept for the different aspects of our lives, the more power we feel we have and can exercise over our lives.
4. Be willing to fail.
For almost anything new that we want to try, the first thing that usually comes to mind is: what if it fails? Or worse, what if it causes us some kind of embarrassment? And the fear of this happening usually paralyzes us before we actually do anything that pushes our boundaries. We all want to skip the part where we fail and get it right the first time, but making mistakes is what forces us to improve. Making mistakes is just a part of the process and something that you have to try not to give a f*ck about. I know that you've probably already read the "failure is the key to success" tagline before, but the idea here is to make sure you try. One of the worst things in life is regretting something you wish you had done. And, why do we not do those things? Because we're afraid. But, as Mark Manson puts it...
“In the face of the inevitability of death, there is no reason to give in to the fear of anything else.”
In short, YOLO. But seriously.
5. Renew your perception of pain.
Pain is strongly associated in our minds as something negative, and our most common response is to either avoid or reduce it. But this pain, as much as we have grown to dislike it, is very useful. Pain is a massive part of shaping who we become. Any kind of growth that we are able to achieve comes from surmounting painful moments. Weirdly enough, the way we perceive pain is also misconstrued. When people look back at the times they were slaving it at the gym or starting a business for example, those same moments (that were filled with some kind of "pain") are often remembered as some of the best or most rewarding times of their life. So, instead of asking ourselves what pleasures we want from life? Ask what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for? Because this distinguishes what you want versus what you really want, in other words, what you are going to get.
“ If you're able to not give a f*ck about pain, you become unstoppable.”
I didn't cover everything he said obviously. He makes a lot more points and uses lots of stories and examples to illustrate them, so read the book to get the full scoop!
Order it on Book Depository
Hunt it down at this second-hand book haven: Lily's Bookshop (Sheung Wan, HK)