Book Summary The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Actionable Book Summary: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

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The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

An honest self-help book that’s totally different from anything you’ve read before. Mark throws all advice our minds were fed all these years – positive thinking and follow your passion – in the trash and explains in details what you should really do if you want to be happier and live a fulfilling life. His writing is harsh and even brutal at some points – as you can see from the title – but that’s what we really need if we really want to change in a positive direction, a hard kick in the butt.

The Core Idea:

If you give a fuck about too many things you won’t have enough time nor nerves to give a fuck about the important things in your life. It’s a total mindfuck and it doesn’t sound serious, but if you really think about it for a second, you’ll understand that this simple sentence is the essence of living a good life. Mark Manson is trying to help us realize that things will inevitably suck sometimes and this is cool. Following the advice in the book, you’ll successfully prioritize your values and start giving a fuck only about the important things in your life.

5 Key Lessons from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck:

Lesson #1: Being Wrong Matters

What’s the point of always being right?

If you want to learn something new, and you are constantly right, or you think you are, you’re actually blocking your mind from learning new things. Few hundred years ago we thought that the Earth was flat. In the 18th century, Sigmund Freud argued that clitoral orgasms were signs of mental illness. When I was a little boy I thought that tomatoes are poisonous (because they are red).

Being wrong plays a huge role in our daily lives. Even if you are right about one thing, there is a huge chance that you’re wrong about another 5 things. We are simply afraid to admit when we’re wrong because there’s so much outside pressure.

In the real world being wrong is good. Mistakes help us grow. But this is only true if we take some time to observe the real reasons for our failure. Later, take notes so we can avoid similar situations in the future. Or in other words, each failure is an opportunity to learn something new and exciting. So, embrace failure, understand why you fucked up when you do and make adjustments.

If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because he has failed at it more than you have.” Mark Manson

Lesson #2: Take Responsibility

I hate when people are not taking responsibility for their own lives. Mark makes a great point in his book about why you necessarily need to stop playing the victim all the time and start being a responsible human being.

Most of the time I hear these words coming out of the people around me: “It’s not my fault”; “Someone else put these things here”; “I grew up in the wrong neighborhood”; “My parents didn’t have enough money to send me to college”; “This is not part of my job”; ”He is rich because of his parents”.

Some people choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems. Such people are playing the victim and always seek to blame others, or outside circumstances, for their problems and misfortunes.

Why they do it?

Because it’s easier. Denial gives us a quick adrenaline rush and a shortcut to escape our current problems. At least for a short period of time.

On the other side of the coin there is this: solving problems and tackling nasty situations takes guts and willpower. But in the long-term is way better. The more you do the hard things the more positive things will come into your life. We, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.

Even though we don’t always control what happens to us. We control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.

Lesson #3: Do Something

Sitting and waiting for something good to happen is probably the dumbest idea you might ever come up with.

Often people are too scared or too lazy to do something better with their lives. They wait for A to happen first, so they can start working on B, which supposedly is their goal for ultimate happiness: “I will first graduate and then I will look for a job later.”; “I must first lose 10 kilos to ask Jenny to go out on a date with me.” ; “I must first come with a brilliant, groundbreaking idea in order to start a business. “; “I have to buy a new laptop and then start my online venture.”

Great authors don’t wait for their muse in order to start writing, they simply sit on their buttholes and execute daily, regardless. World-famous athletes surely want a bit more sugar in their daily meal. But if they really want the gold medal, they need to follow a strict schedule full of exercises and meals they don’t really love eating.

If you want to achieve something, anything, you must execute daily, regardless of your emotional, financial or physical condition. Life, people, your boss don’t give a shit about how you feel today. You may have a fever or breast cancer, but that won’t immune you from a bird pooping on your head or a robber stealing your purse.

Lesson #4: Satisfaction From Less

Living in the 21st century comes with few perks but also, as you can imagine, with a few downsides. We get to choose from millions of different products, opportunities, food, people to fell in love with. However, immediately after we buy something, or start dating someone, we think to ourselves: “I had to buy the other pair of shoes #sadface”.

Living in a small apartment, with just a few clothes and only the essentials, is a sign of poverty nowadays. At least, that’s what the society says. We are constantly bombarded by notifications about exotic places, new watches, phones, gadgets that will supposedly transform our lives.

But that’s not all.

Everyone around you is trying to convince you that you suck if you don’t get this new book or go through this new course about habits and stuff. Everyone around you is telling you that more will make you happier.

Believing in this modern mantra comes with a few (at least) downsides:

  • You will never be truly satisfied;
  • You will never have enough room to store all of your clothes;
  • You’ll most probably get in a lot of financial debt if you’re trying to be up to date with the latest technological trends;
  • Your mind will be cluttered.

Is there a solution?

There surely is.

Rejecting most of these offers will free up some space, both mental and physical, for the things that are actually worth it.

Choosing a certain value, craft, goal, person to be with, means rejecting the alternatives. As Mark describes it in his book: “If I choose to make my marriage the most important part of my life, that means I’m (probably) choosing not to make cocaine-fueled hooker orgies an important part of my life… We all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject not-X.”

Rejecting things is necessary if we want to maintain sanity. Learn to live with less, reject most of the things that knock on your door if you want to live better.

Lesson #5: Play With What You’ve Got

Our lives can easily be likened as a game of cards. We get certain cards when we’re born. Some of us get better cards than others. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will win/lose the “game”.

There are a lot of famous, successful people who had nothing when they were little: no money, no professional education, sometimes even no parents. Still, with hard work and a lot of courage they are now widely successful.

On the other hand, we all know people who had pretty much everything even before they were born. Kids, who were fed with a silver spoon through their entire lives – the perfect set of “cards”. As we know, though they had the ideal chance for achieving greatness we often see such people end overdosed in a dark alley.

So, it’s not about the set of cards you get, it’s about playing well with what you’ve got. Playing not to get out of the game, but playing to stay in the game.

Love taking notes? Download the worksheet

Actionable Notes:

  • What to give a fuck about: You need to carefully curate the things that enter your orbit. Decide what you really care about and ditch everything else.  
  • What not to give a fuck about: Worrying too much about what picture to share on your social media account is definitely something that falls under the “don’t give a fuck” category.
  • Always be honest with yourself: Hearing the truth is usually unpleasant but it’s absolutely necessary. Hearing the truth it’s the most effective stimulus for action.
  • Face your problems: What type of work you avoid? Is it because you’re scared or because you think that “someone else should do it?” Whatever it is, you need to face your problems.
  • We’re all going to die: That’s a fact. So, since sometime soon we’ll no longer be part of this circus, think about what you can do/create, that will benefit generations to come?

Commentary And My Personal Takeaway

A modern self-help book that doesn’t include the typical shitty – mentioned in all other books in this genre – you-can-do-it-all kind of stuff that obviously doesn’t work.

It’s a real book for real people. And as you can see for yourself when you read the title, a book that includes fucks. After the practical tips, the useful philosophy input, you finally realize why the F word is so broadly used. Because, in the end, you finally realize that life, in general, is not about giving too many fucks, it’s about giving a fuck about fewer things. And as it turns out, that the second option is way better.

Notable Quotes:

In life, we have a limited amount of fucks to give. So you must choose your fucks wisely.”

Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”

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.”

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