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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life Hardcover – September 13, 2016
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In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people. For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.
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Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** employs a witty use of profanity laced with satirical comedy that's bursting with philosophical wisdom. Much of Manson's inspiration originates from nihilists, Buddhists, Albert Camus, and Charles Bukowski, but he brings those philosophies into a more modern and palatable perspective. He reminds us that life is too short to react so passionately about every little thing. We have a limited emotional capacity, and we often squander it on reactions to mean-spirited people or unfortunate events, completely forgetting that, although we can't control the world around us, we can control ourselves. This book has empowered me to exercise control over my reactions.
Shortly after reading this book, my husband commented at how "zen" I've become. I'm no longer angrily venting to him about all of the various ways the world upsets me. I still allow myself to feel and talk about things that bother me (I'm not aiming to achieve nirvana as a Buddhist monk), but petty things no longer have a hold on me. I let the negativity wash over me now without letting it absorb into my soul, and my life has been much more enjoyable as a result.
I was so inspired by this book and its philosophy, that I wanted a permanent reminder for myself to further ensure that I use my f***s wisely from now onward. For my birthday, I got this simple, but meaningful tattoo on my right wrist. The ∞ symbol reminds me of the infinite nature of time and outer space, and the 0 on the bottom represents humanity's relevance to time and space as a whole. It can also be translated as don't make something (∞) out of nothing (0) or a reminder that there are infinite opportunities to give a f***, but that I will remain steadfast in giving 0 f***s about things that don't really matter.
If you're the type of person who's struggled to keep their temper in line or if you're like me and you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster because you take every event in the world and within your own life to heart, I strongly encourage you to read this book. If profanity is so much of a problem for you, that you can't tolerate reading the first half of this book (the last half is much less profane) you're probably too narrow-minded to have taken away any of the many philosophical benefits this book offers.
(1) Choosing what to care about; focusing on the things/problems that are actually meaningful/important (= "giving a f*** about the right things")
(2) Learning to be fine with some negative things; always aiming for positivity isn't practical, and is stressful in itself
(3) Taking responsibility of your own life; it's good for your self-esteem not to keep blaming the circumstances for your problems
(4) Understanding the importance of honesty and boundaries, especially in relationships
(5) Identity; it might a good idea not to commit strongly to any special identity such as "an undiscovered genius", because then any challenges will make you fear the potential loss of that identity you've clinged to
(6) Motivation; how to improve it by accepting failure and taking action
(7) Death; how learning to be more comfortable with one's own mortality can make it easier to live
The first 20% of this book were a little bit boring to read, but after that, the experience was very absorbing. Just like Manson's previous book (Models), I will give this one five stars.
(BTW this book wasn't as humorous as I expected. It was much more a serious than a funny book to read. The final chapters, discussing the acceptance of death, made me actually a little bit tense and distressed.)
The premise of the book is to look to the things that really matter in life and work on that. That means sometimes taking a hard look inside to see what trivial things we care about, and what mistakes we have made that must be changed. Personal accountability for ones' own life is paramount.
The "flow" of this book is a lot more like a blog. It's an easy read that feels more like a conversation than a treatise on nihilism. At times some of the story-telling goes on a bit longer, and sometimes it feels like there's a little filler. I think this book could use some edits to condense down the more salient points. (I almost gave 4 instead of 5 stars, but in fairness, it doesn't detract from the book overall).
As an aside, I got this book immediately after someone gifted me "The Secret," which is about as opposite of this book as it gets. While "The Secret" promotes thinking good thoughts so good things will happen (the "thoughts become things" premise), The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* promotes personal growth and responsibility. I've recommended this book to most of my friends, and would recommend to anyone who feels constantly overwhelmed.