*First, I know I’m not one to personally use any, shall we say…strong language, so this post may catch you a little by surprise. That being said, I do understand the power of using it properly (if there is such a thing 😉 ) and this book definitely packs that punch. Any use of unprofessional language is not reflective of me, will not be my own, and will only occur in any quotes I pulled from the book itself. I didn’t want to censor the quotes I shared because I feel they are important and should not be discredited solely because of any differences in language opinion. Okay, warning note over, let’s get to the good stuff!
I’ve quoted Mark Manson’s most recent book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, in various posts over the past few months because it’s just incredible. This is the only book I’ve ever taken a highlighter to and trust me, you’re going to want to do the same. I found myself nodding and silently having that “YASSS” moment on every single page.
I’ve been a fan of Manson and his blog for a while now; I love his blunt, no-sugar-coating outlook on life. I describe him as self-help for people who hate self-help, but he is far from any cliche attached to that term. He doesn’t tell you to love yourself. He won’t say the secret to happiness is to look into the mirror and tell yourself you’re happy. He isn’t going to argue that you’re perfect and valued just the way you are.
In this “counterintuitive approach to living a good life”, Manson tells you what you don’t want to hear, but really need to. It’s a hit-you-in-the-face, I-can’t-believe-he-just-said-that kind of book. It will turn how you see your life upside down. But, if you open yourself up to it, it will make you a much happier person. It’s the self-reflection that needs to happen but very rarely does. It challenges everything you thought you knew about living life to the fullest. It’s an oh-my-god-he’s-so-right kind of book. Honestly, I can’t say enough about it!
And no, I’m not being compensated in literally any way for raving about this book, I just love it that much.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m sharing my favorite line/s from each chapter below. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m really hoping these little glimpses get you thinking. I hope you’re ready because these chapter titles are not what you would expect from the typical life improvement writer; that’s what makes it amazing!
1. Don’t Try
“Because when you give too many fucks…you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times, that everything is supposed to be just exactly the fucking way you want it to be. This is sickness. And it will eat you alive.” (pages 13-14)
Being truly happy isn’t about ignoring what you aren’t. It’s being completely honest and vulnerable with yourself and getting comfortable with failure. When you constantly chase a high, you end up constantly focusing on the low, the fact that you actually lack the high. Sound complicated? It’s a mind twister, I know. With this book, get used to it!
Want a taste of this chapter? Read The Feedback Loop From Hell.
2. Happiness Is a Problem
“‘Don’t hope for a life without problems,’ the panda said. ‘There is no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.'” (page 30)
Okay, ignore the panda for a second. You’ll have to read the book to meet him. What you need to understand, Manson says, is that happiness is an action and it comes from solving problems. Now, these problems may not be earth-shattering or even half-bad, but by avoiding every problem, you’re avoiding happiness. You have to find the joy you’re willing to work for. Find the passion you’re willing to cry over, the one that makes you struggle beyond belief while at the same time loving every second of it. You’ll work incredibly hard, but never work a day in your life.
Want a taste of this chapter? Read The Hidden Costs of Happiness.
3. You Are Not Special
“[The] flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough. So more and more we feel the need to compensate through entitlement and addiction.” (pages 58-59)
Manson points out that what we don’t recognize as entitlement is our constant self-victimization, our constant pointing out that we “aren’t good enough.” We love those articles that say everyone is a special and unique little snowflake because it feeds into that happiness high we just talked about. So if everyone is special, is any one person actually special?
Want a taste of this chapter? Read Being Special Isn’t So Special
4. The Value of Suffering
“[Parts of life can be] stressful, arduous, and often unpleasant. They also require withstanding problem after problem. Yet they are some of the most meaningful moments and joyous things we’ll ever do. They involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair- yet…as Freud once said, ‘One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.'” (page 85)
Negative emotions aren’t actually negative. This chapter introduces the “self-awareness onion,” which talks about how our interpretations of our emotions are what helps us understand the value in them. As you get deeper and deeper down, you’re going to want to run. You’re going to want to cry and scream and give up, but you shouldn’t. If you want to make true progress at understanding your values and the metrics by which you measure them, you can’t throw that onion away.
5. You Are Always Choosing
“The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives.” (page 96)
Manson says that, although you may not be to blame for everything that happens in your life, you are responsible for it. All of it. You are always choosing because you decide how you react to everything that comes your way. We can’t control life, but we can control what we make of it. Get this: life isn’t fair. Something may not be your fault, but you still need to own up to everything that comes next.
6. You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)
“It’s easier to sit in painful certainty that nobody would find you attractive, that nobody appreciates your talents, than to actually test those beliefs and find out for sure.” (page 118)
We assume that we’re right because we’re terrified of being wrong. “[T]he human mind is capable of coming up with and believing in a bunch of bullshit that isn’t real,” (page 121) and we hold on to all of it. We go with our gut to develop this pigeonholed self-identity and we feel restricted. We close ourselves off from any opportunities outside of our little box because we’re afraid that the person we “know” ourselves to be is not really who we are. So, Manson says, don’t find yourself. It’s not worth it.
Want a taste of this chapter? Read Why I’m Wrong About Everything (And So Are You)
7. Failure Is the Way Forward
“If you think about a young child trying to learn to walk, that child will fall down and hurt itself hundreds of times. But at no point does that child ever stop and think, ‘Oh, I guess walking just isn’t for me. I’m not good at it.” (page 150)
We learn to be afraid of failure as we grow up. But, this also means we’re afraid of success. Like in the previous chapter, success challenges who we are, so we don’t do anything. After all, not doing anything means we’re safe. It’s hard, but we need to feel the sting of defeat because that’s how we grow. When you choose your suffering, embrace it. Then, learn to move forward with your life anyway.
8. The Importance of Saying No
“The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict…is a deep and subtle form of entitlement…because [entitled people] refuse to reject anything, they live a valueless, pleasure-driven, and self-absorbed life. All they give a fuck about is sustaining the high a little bit longer, to avoid the inevitable failures of their life, to pretend the suffering away.” (page 171)
Rejection is important because it leads you to where you really need to be. By avoiding rejection, you will find yourself in a job that you hate with a spouse you can’t stand and values you don’t really believe in. We crave honesty, but we hate the word “no.” Think about this though- “Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally…” (pages 182-183). Rejection is important because, if you’re constantly told yes, what do you really gain?
9. …And Then You Die
“…we’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about something is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death.” (page 199)
Man. That’s dark right? Everyone is living some “immortality project.” We live our lives trying to make sure our spiritual self never dies, even once our physical self does. We want our name and our legacy to live on after we’re gone. We want to be remembered.
But avoiding the fact that, yes, we are all going to die leads to a chaotic life full of the superficial, the trivial, and the fruitless. You want to know the one true question of life? The only one that really matters?
Wait for it…
“They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in Florida; well, what hurricanes will you leave in your wake?” (page 205)
So. Are you ready for an entire book of this?
As Manson says in chapter 1:
“[T]his book will turn your pain into a tool, your trauma into power, and your problems into slightly better problems. That is real progress. Think of it as a guide to suffering and how to do it better [and] more meaningfully…” (page 21)
Y’all. You know I had some existential life epiphany at the beginning of this year (because I probably mention it in every single blog post #sorrynotsorry). This book fed into that. It helped turn my life around. I may have chose joy and live my life with contentment and gratitude, but this book keeps me grounded. It keeps me rooted in the reality of life and keeps my head out of the clouds. I mean, look at the title of chapter 2 again. This book is where I learned that the equation for happiness is not what we expect it to be. I will read this book cover to cover, over and over again because it just speaks to me. It makes sense and I get it. If you listen to anything I’ve ever said here on this blog, listen to this- go read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
~So you’re going to go find this book now, right?