Book Review „The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck“
Ever read books with titles like “love yourself and it doesn’t matter who you are marrying” or watched advice videos on how to “become the best you can be”? Yeah, Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck” is a counter-approach to that.
This Book certainly tries very hard not to boost your ego or make you feel awesome about yourself. With chapters labeled like “Don’t Try”, “Happiness Is a Problem” or “You Are Not Special” it sounds like you would get suicidal thoughts if you dig deep enough into this book – which is not the case. “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck” is a paradox on many levels. It aims to make you feel good by acknowledging you are not feeling good. It aims to make you a better person by clarifying you’ll never be the best. It’s telling you to not give a fuck while teaching you to give a fuck for the things that matter.
Pretty good content
Mark’s book contains a compilation of insights from many different philosophers, psychologists and thinkers from various stages of humanity. From Buddha, Sigmund Freud or William James: He puts the conclusions from different significant big “influencers” of mankind in roughly 200 pages. He manages all that while sharing stories from his personal life, making hilarious remarks and round everything up with modern pop-culture references. In short: It’s a great book alright! But should You read it?
Whom is this book for
If you constantly find yourself under pressure that you don’t achieve enough, you have problems looking in the mirror because you are not in the Bahamas riding waves with your beloved pet sitting next to you on a surfboard. When you try constantly to make all your friends happy but strangely feel empty. If you have troubles getting over your past relationship and blame your ex for your emotional state – if you have a “my problems are special, and no one can get it” attitude and feel bad when you did nothing all weekend instead of lazing off, drinking and watching crappy shows. Then this book is for you!
Actually I would recommend it to everyone, but if you feel great right now and happy with where you stand in life you could skip this one – because it’s almost impossible not to question your own values, your decision making and what matters for you right now if you engage in this book. If you are happy with things the way they are right now in your life, then probably because you’re already choosing the right things to care about.
It’s not about not giving a fuck, it’s about choosing your fucks wisely
Think about the things you want to have, you want to be or where you want to stand in a few years. I’ll just make a blind guess here: “A wonderful job, a family with great friends, you want to be fit and healthy, while spending time on the creative stuff you are loving so much and go on a vacation every now and then.” Sorry about that blunt middle-class example there, but let’s move on.
Mark’s reply to that would be:
“Everybody wants that. It’s easy to want that.
A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? Are you willing to struggle for?””
Ultimately this mindset implies: Instead of daydreaming you should ask yourself: Are you ready to take the risk and effort to make it to that wonderful job that even pays you enough to go on frequent vacations. Are you ready to be there for your friends and build on a relationship at the same time (which can be a hard struggle you may have already experienced that), while love and educate your kids at some point aaaand while where at it: Get enough room in your agenda to practice creative hobbies and keep in shape?
“The truth is, I thought I wanted something, but it turns out I didn’t. End of story. I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love with not the fight but only the victory.”
This whole example is about one major aspect of the book. Like I wrote before the title might suggest you should care less about everything but that’s not the case. Rather decide for yourself what it’s worth to care – or to phrase it in the context – to give a fuck about and how to choose those fucks! Because aiming for unrealistic goals in your life will ultimately make you feel like an underachieving failure. So, finding the passion you are willing to struggle for is not only a worthwhile journey but rewarding as well!
“People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who fly to the top of it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainties of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.”
Mark implies that happiness comes not from having no problems but from solving them. It’s about choosing those that are solvable. A problem you can’t solve for example would be “I’m too short to date girls” or “I never get appreciated enough from my family”. If you got these kinds of problems you might want to ask yourself if you should give a fuck about them, because you’re going to have a very hard time solving them.
Mediocre is relaxing
A huge portion of the book is about reflecting your own Mindset. It’s about analyzing which assumptions about yourself makes you tick in a certain way. Ultimately on which factors do you measure your own successes or failure. Mark calls those your own metric or values you’re choosing to judge yourself on and in his opinion there are good and bad ones:
“Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable.
Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable.”
Remember those examples I gave earlier about how solving a problem like “I’m too short to date girls” or “I don’t get appreciated enough from my family” regarding the book, those are problems coming from choosing bad values and metrics. If you feel caught right now I highly recommend reading at least this part yourself. However, in the end, Mark wants you to come to one simple realization: You shouldn’t feel special (even if your mom doesn’t agree).
“The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all.”
Accepting that you are indeed not special is a though pill. We’re living in a society where everyone’s bombarded with individualism and how exciting and versatile life must be. Most people in their mid or late 20ties assume that to live out their “youth” means to partying hard every weekend, try out different hobbies, have a lot of sex and possibly drugs, while going on the occasionally self-journey-trip and if they don’t; they must have done something wrong.
“The Internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt, and shame.”
Therefore, accepting that you are mediocre can be such a relieve – it’s refreshing! And the book will guide you through that progress. As well as it wants you to appreciate problems, suffering and scars life left on you.
The deeper lesson
The first half of the book is all about analyzing your own mindset and having an occasional chuckle. Depending how reflective you are and how deep you have dug into those topics before, it can be quite the scary process – this book certainly goes not down like a kindergarten-slide landing your ass on a fluffy carpet! It’s more like a long intense night of harsh real-talk with one of your closest friends, pretty much derailing, a lot of conflicts and full of literal mind-fucks – followed by a hangover that is making you question your life-decisions!
So, the second half of the book is about getting you on track again. Involving different theories of philosophers and psychologists or even religious figures (mostly from Buddhism) about choosing different mentalities for yourself: About the inevitable death, reflecting on our society, learning to say “no”, accepting responsibility for yourself and valuing the simple things in life. But I’ve already wrote to much about the content and I don’t want to spoil you any further. Let’s get straight to the conclusion.
You should give a fuck about this book
“Calm down, amigo. Believe it or not, this is part of the beauty of being human. Very few animals on earth have the ability to think cogent thoughts to begin with, but we humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts. So I can think about watching Miley Cyrus videos on YouTube, and then immediately think about what a sicko I am for wanting to watch Miley Cyrus videos on YouTube. Ah, the miracle of consciousness! Now here’s the problem: […]”
I love this book, it is straight forward, honest and reflective, while maintaining a good sense of humor and not taking itself too seriously. It made me reflect A LOT about how I determine my own success or failure and for me personally I think it helped me sort a few things out – that really needed to be sorted out!
But like I said before, if you’re new with those theories and approaches collected in “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck” Mark Manson certainly can take you on a tough journey. He’ll make you question a lot of things that are buried deep in your consciousness and viewpoints, but never in a bad way – more like a dentist appointment, with a good one who swears a lot, and makes funny pop-culture references and when you walk out the door you know: Even if that fucker just kicked you out of your comfort zone – it was about fucking time!
As always I’m curious about for thoughts on the subject and your feedback. Feel free to discuss and correct me if you think I made any mistakes or fill in blank spots I might have forgotten. Or if you just want to share your experiences with the book. Thanks for reading and have a lovely day.
P.S. I also wrote an article about a changing discussion culture, that might interest you.