5 Powerful Lessons & Key Takeaways From The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
In his New York Times bestselling book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson talks about how you can master the delicate art of not caring by directing your energy, attention, and care to things that matter the most to you — things that you truly desire and find genuinely fulfilling. Rather than your typical book review for Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, I’m going to share 5 of the lessons and my takeaways that I learned from the book.
Life is short and we have limited things to give a fuck about.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck teaches readers how to live a happier, anxious-free life through practical philosophy centered around the rejection of any self-help effort. It is a vulgar, but well researched appeal for those struggling to get the most from life to reframe their thinking so they can focus on what truly matters.
The book is not about becoming an apathetic care-free zombie similar to Ron Livingston’s character in Office Space. It’s about CHOOSING what you should care about, and what you shouldn’t and how to stay true to that.
Mark Manson talks about how happiness is achieved by solving problems. Positive emotions come from making progress in solving your problems. Negative emotions spawn out of unsolved problems in your life. The formula is simple; identify a stressor, identify the problem causing stress, identify actions you can take to solve that problem. Eliminating problems will make you happier, according to the author.
The pursuit of living a life without pain, discomfort and worries is futile. It’s simply not possible.
However, you can always choose the route of meaningful suffering in the pursuit of something that you truly care about. This brings happiness, joy and fulfillment, not only when you attain success, but in your everyday actions as well. While sometimes a bit blunt for my taste, Mark Manson writes in a way that I think will attract a lot of non-traditional readers, as well as traditional readers, and I think that’s important because practically everyone could benefit from the information he shares in this book, particularly young leaders.
Although I’ve listed 5 big takeaways down below, I recommend you to read the book from start to end to get a better understanding of living a better life!
If you are anything like me, then you will have read and loved Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck when it originally was published in 2016. Three years since that time, the book is still picking up speed and popularity for its general message of there being big benefits from taking a more casual, laid back approach to life that doesn’t involve getting so caught up in every single ounce of business possible. If it passed you by the first time around, then here are the best lessons to learn from The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck!
Takeaway #1: Giving too Many Fucks, Fucks Up Your Life
We only have limited number of fucks to give in this life. So we have to pick them carefully and let go of the rest which are mere distractions. Shit happens to everybody. But we have to take responsibility for our feelings when it happens to us. We choose how to deal with it and we are in control of whether we let it consume us in misery or rise above it and move on.
When we live in an era of opportunity how is it possible that we can be so stressed and unfulfilled?
It’s because we’re trying to do too much, we have a fear of missing out and therefore spread ourselves thin by trying to be, do, have everything. Life is always going to be a struggle, there’s no getting around it, but how much of a struggle you make it is up to you. You need to find out what you want in life and focus only on that. Being happy, wanting kids, wanting to meet Mr./Miss Right are all too vague and don’t make you strive for success. Find something that you like doing, that makes you happy, that’s worth the struggle. Whilst you say yes to the things that fill you with you, you have to be ruthless and say no to everything that doesn’t make you happy.
When you have poor values, you give fucks about things that don’t matter and only make life worse.
Most of us give too many fucks: we care about some celebrity’s new car, our ex-boyfriend’s cute girl, having the latest footwear, and many more trivial things. Little do we know that giving too many fucks has a detrimental effect on our mental health as it makes us focus on things we can’t have. But, when you have better values, you divert your fucks toward things that improve your state of well-being, generate happiness, increase pleasure, and lead to success. That is to say, when you give better fucks, you get better problems and better problems lead to a better life. Choosing better things to give a fuck about ultimately leads to self-growth and self-improvement.
Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
There is no such thing as not giving a fuck. You must give a fuck about something. Its part of our biology to always care about something and therefore to always give a fuck. The question, then is what do we give a fuck about? What are we choosing to give a fuck about? And how can we not give a fuck about what ultimately does not matter. Essentially, we become more selective about the fucks we’re willing to give. This is something called maturity. It’s nice; you should try it sometime. Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what’s truly fuckworthy.
Less really is more in pretty much every area of life.
If you try too hard to have your fingers in all of life’s pies at the same time, you are just going to end up overwhelmed and with messy hands! Focus on the things that you do have right now rather than caring too much about getting more. We are wired to care about many things. However, if we want progress, we must choose to care about the things that add value to our lives. We must stop giving a fuck about useless things such as posting a perfect selfie on Facebook or having the best swag in town.
Takeaway #2: Don't Measure Your Success Against Others
I cannot stress this enough, but I truly feel that a certain extent of competitiveness can become toxic. I’ve never been much of a competitive type, but at times I feel that society conditions us to compare ourselves to others, regardless. Whether it’s “riding the curve” in terms of school grades, public postings about successes that make us evaluate ourselves, or superficial things such as “good looks” and “number of friends,” I genuinely do not see the purpose of comparing.
We live our own lives, and nobody is the best — it’s unrealistic for us to give ourselves the expectation of being better than everyone else, because that’s chasing the impossible.
This goes back to The Backwards Law — stop chasing what others have, and appreciate things for the way they are. You can’t control other people to be “worse” than you (and if you do want to do that, that’s a bit psychotic). Cutting myself loose from this “race of life” is a feeling that’s been both liberating and eye opening. A persons life ultimately comes down to the values he adopts.One should constantly evaluate and upgrade his values.One should also change the metric by which he sees the problem.Values also help you to choose what or what not to give a fuck about.
Comparing yourself to others, and your success against others is the fastest route to disappointment and unhappiness.
At the same time, everyone knows that it’s bad to try to keep up with the Jones’s and use material possessions as a measure of their success — Money doesn’t buy happiness. So how can you choose good values? You might think that choosing pleasure over fame and fortune is a good value but it’s actually not as chasing pleasure can end in addiction, anxiety, and depression. Good values are based in reality, they’re helpful to society, and are immediately controllable examples include living a life of honesty, being generous, being creative, and being humble.
Everyone and their TV commercial wants you to believe that the key to a good life is a nicer job, or a more rugged car, or a prettier girlfriend.
Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick. Why? My guess: because giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business. And while there’s nothing wrong with good business, the problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
Don’t try to be somebody else. After all, you are the only person who can be you.
Making comparisons between yourself and other people is just a waste of time because no two people in the world have the same attitude or the same experience or the same circumstances. Imagine what you could do with your life if you took all of that energy spent looking at others and turned it inwards. When you’re always comparing yourself to others, it’s easy to lose sight of what you already have. If this is you, then it can help to (re)focus your attention on your strengths and blessings by keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude is strongly correlated to positive emotions and good experiences, and the reason why is very simple to explain. When you are grateful, you are always remembered about positive events and experiences in your life. Being grateful for these things allows your mind to think of these positive events, which encourages a positive mindset. A positive mindset is scientifically proven to be a factor of long-term happiness.
Takeaway #3: Pain is Inevitable
Everything in life teaches us valuable lessons, even the mistakes that we make and the negative experiences that we have. Through those negative experiences, we learn a lot about who we are, what’s important to us, and where we are going. Those negative experiences actually help to guide us to bigger and better things, so we shouldn’t overlook them or try to shut them away; we should embrace them and accept that they are beneficial, even if it doesn’t seem like they are at the time.
One of the things we talk about in Buddhism is that humans are always seeking comfort and seeking to avoid discomfort, which often leads to suffering, because suffering is an inevitable aspect of living.
In Manson’s book, he refers to the “hedonic treadmill,” which is an idea that people are constantly trying to make their lives better, but no matter what they do, they still feel the same. We constantly fantasize about happiness at the next step of our life, but it’s always just a carrot we dangle in front of ourselves. Why does sadness seem to imminent? It’s because of how we perceive pain. Pain is guaranteed, and so Manson believes, “What determines your success isn’t, ‘What do you want to enjoy?’ The relevant question is, ‘What pain do you want to sustain?’ The path to happiness is a path full of shit-heaps and shame.” If we want to be a workout goddess, then we will have to sustain the pain of exercising every day.
Sometimes life sucks, and that’s actually okay. Suffering is biologically useful, as it’s nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.
A certain degree of dissatisfaction keeps you fighting, striving, building, and conquering. Pain, in all of its forms, is your body’s most effective means of spurring action. As much as you might hate pain, it serves a purpose — it’s useful. Pain and suffering teach you to pay attention when you’re being careless, show you what’s good for you versus what’s bad for you, and help you understand your limitations. Pain is an indication of something being out of equilibrium so you can recalibrate.
While there is something to be said for “staying on the sunny side of life,” the truth is, sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.
Denying negative emotions leads to experiencing deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and to emotional dysfunction. Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems–problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you. It’s simple, really: things go wrong, people upset us, accidents happen. These things make us feel like shit. And that’s fine. Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.
Never expect to live a life of everlasting happiness because problems will never end.
For example, if you are poor, you will have money problems, and if you become rich, you will experience money management problems. Problems never end; they transform. Therefore, instead of wishing you never had problems, wish you had good problems. The goal isn’t to try to sail through life without ever having a negative experience at all, but rather to take these negative experiences when they arise and turn them into valuable learning lessons for the future. Everybody loves the final outcome. You have to love the process to rise above mediocrity. While fancy cars and luxurious lifestyle can lure many, only the deserving get it because they focus on the journey rather than the destination.
Takeaway #4: You Are Always Choosing
One should accept the fact that one’s life is fully their responsibility. Others may be at fault for causing you pain and trouble but they are never responsible for your life. The acceptance of this simple fact helps you to take your problems head-on and take complete charge of your life.
This may be the most important realization we can take away from this book: we are always choosing.
When we wake up in the morning and feel strangely sad about life in general, we can either go back to bed and let the sadness wash over us, or we can get up and decide to make what we can out of the small victories. When someone at work dumps a bunch of problems on us, we can either complain about it and throw a fit, or we can challenge ourselves to overcome the obstacles with a good attitude. No matter how good or bad life is, we can always choose what we make of it. And this is absolutely empowering once we begin to practice this.
Mark Manson says that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we certainly can choose what it means to us and how we respond to it.
Happiness is not something that is magically bestowed upon you. You won’t find happiness waiting for you in a place, a job, an idea, or a book. Instead, happiness is a constant work-in-progress. True happiness is a positive emotion that you’re rewarded with after taking the proper action when faced with a problem. The secret to having a good life is not trying to be THE best, but instead just TRYING to be your best. It isn’t healthy or realistic to try to reach the success of people far above you in terms of experience or talent, so try to find more intimate and meaningful happiness in your own little universe instead.
You are responsible for everything that happens to you. Most people like to play the ‘blame game’.
While many people might be the reason for your unhappiness, they’re not responsible for it. You are. A lot of unexpected things will happen because you cannot control everything that happens to you. Blaming someone else or regretting over something that you cannot change are the biggest poisons and time-wasters. Keep the learning and move on to live a better and responsible life. Shit happens. Someone less smart than you might get a promotion and you might not. It is neither his/her fault nor his boss’. It is not your fault as well but it is your responsibility.
Life is a sum of all your choices.
Some people don’t want to accept responsibility for how they respond. When battered by difficult events, they assume the role of the victim and begin to blame others. When good things happen, instead of being grateful, they feel entitled. When you acknowledge your power to choose how you respond to life’s events, you assume control and responsibility for your life. Amazingly, our capacity to choose is so powerful that we are not even restrained by our past choices; we can choose to change our decisions and/or correct our mistakes. For instance, perhaps you’ve never developed any marketable skills; you can choose, today, to change that. Perhaps you’ve been in the wrong career; change careers. You are not a tree — move.
Takeaway #5: Negative Experiences are Valuable
Accepting a negative experience is actually a positive experience, because you are focusing on what you have and not what you don’t have. And whoop-dee-doo – life is full of negative experiences. Now how do we classify negative experiences? Things that don’t always work in our favor right? But don’t the best things actually happen unexpectedly? That’s just one example. The key is to accept the negative experience and not let it push you down an eternal hole of grief and darkness. Take the experience, learn from it, embrace it, and love it. The process of learning more about oneself, working towards improvement, and appreciating what is sounds pretty amazing.
Sometimes failure isn’t a failure and you’re looking at situations wrong.
It’s critical to set appropriate values for situations and measure them by appropriate metrics. What is objectively true about a situation you’re in is not as important as how you choose to measure the situation and value it. Problems may arise in certain situations, but you don’t have to view problems as failures. You get to control what your problems mean by how you think about them and the standard by which you choose to measure them. Both failure and success are intertwined and are crucial to living an exceptional life. You have to experience all seasons of life to make it worth living. After all, it’s the cumulative lessons of a lifetime of peaks and valleys — all the failures and successes that come your way — that help you develop mastery, grit, discipline and determination.
Life does not always turn out as we want & one cannot always be truly happy.
Life sucks. We are so busy looking for ways to make a perfect life where there’s always happiness. We try to earn more money, get into a better relationship, do a job that we love. And even after we get all of it, there’s always something else. Even when people have a 7-figure bank balance, they have problems. The truth is, ‘It is okay to have problems’. Not everything is in your control and that’s okay. If you didn’t get the job you dreamt of, that’s okay. Work towards getting a better one.
You must also train yourself to listen to nos. Like failures, rejections play a key role in our lives.
And as paradoxical as it may sound, some rejections are actually blessings in disguise. Take a pause and reflect on your past rejections. I’m sure you’ll find the truth in this. Also, think about your friends and people with whom you associate with closely. Who will you respect more: your friend who always says yes to you in order to not offend you even if their calendar is already filled up, or the friend who is always honest with you and politely rejects your request when it’s not possible for them?
Positive thinking will drive you to places you never thought possible.
Positive thinking about your potential, about other’s thoughts of you, and about the the potential for your current situation to turn around. Your thoughts create your reality, so why not create a positive reality? By opening yourself up to more experiences you increase your potential. You are no longer held back by limitations and you start to grasp a sense of fulfillment and gratitude for the situations you once perceived as negative. That’s not to say that these negative experiences won’t require hard work to continue persevering through, but you will realize the value of persevering, and you will be willing to put in the effort.
After reading this book, I am convinced that the key to happiness and fulfillment is through setting good values and metrics to judge myself by. From today, I am more determined than ever to align myself with my value metrics in all aspects of life. The most important one being, having better boundaries in my dealings with others so that I have fewer but healthier and more meaningful relationships.
In 204 pages or less, you’ll learn what to give a fuck about and what to stop giving fucks about in order to live a happier life. It’s really that simple!
Mark Manson’s life lessons are incredibly applicable right away, and having his guidance in mind while the majority of your decision-making years are still ahead of you gives you time to consider his suggestions carefully to ensure you’re living life as happily and freely as possible. If you can handle the cold, hard truth and you’re ready to unpack why you care too much about everything and too little about the things that actually matter, then I encourage you to pick a copy of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck up and get reading.
All in all, this is a good book.
I think it is a bit over-hyped simply because of the title. It has good values and good advice for the most part. If you are new to “self-help” I highly recommend this to start you on the path to becoming a better “you.” If you have been a subscriber to “self-help” books for a while, it is still a good read and a good book to refresh your memory to help you focus on some areas that you may be lacking in.
With every breath we take, we are granted another opportunity to do our best. To be our best.
One of the ideas we have in Buddhism is that there is a Buddha in everyone. “A flower for you, a Buddha to be.” But although all of us have the Buddha within us and are inherently deserving of loving-kindness, we should each individually attempt to think and act more intentionally, with more love, with more understanding. While we are heaven just as we are, it is still our responsibility moving forward to continue bettering ourselves.
We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually ever reaching truth or perfection. And I believe that’s the point. That’s life.
Whether you agree with Mark Manson or not on these many points, I would love to hear your perspective! I also highly recommend you read the book yourselves (if you haven’t already). If you’ve never read this book, I highly suggest checking it out. And if you’ve read it already, leave a comment with some of your biggest takeaways. Let’s have a conversation about it!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.