The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

I decided to read this book because of the reviews on it. Half of them were saying that the book was different from the usual motivation books and worked by different rules. And yes, it’s constantly poking the reader’s nose into reality, and that’s awesome.

Almost every chapter is like it’s about me. That said, the author tells me how to live with it, what to do and what not to do.

It all starts with a description of where the problems are growing from:

Buying more, doing more… Being something more. We are tempted by something every now and then. Buy a new TV. Spend your vacation better than your colleagues… Why? Apparently, because obsessing over “more, more” is good for business

Right off the bat, about what’s really important:

And the key to a good life is not in more and more cares: it’s in fewer cares. You only have to care about the real, present and important

For the first time, I recognize myself in the description of anxiety and worry:

Anxiety is eating you up, and you don’t understand where it’s coming from. And then you’re anxious because you’re anxious… Anxiety doubled. You’re anxious because you’re anxious, and that causes even more anxiety

Or you’re so anxious to get it right that you feel anxiety itself. Or you feel so guilty about every mistake that you feel guilty about guilt

Grandpa had a lousy feeling in his heart, but he’d say to himself, “Gosh, I feel like a cowpoo. But that’s life. I’m going to go make hay.” And now what? You’ve had your soul shat on, and in five minutes you’ve got 350 pictures of people perfectly happy and living their lives to the fullest

And immediately afterwards the author reminds us:

One day you will die. I know this is obvious, but just in case you’ve forgotten. You and all the people you know are about to die. In the little time you have left, you will have time to take care of little

Contrast this with the fact that the game we’re hovering about doesn’t deserve to be hovered about at all.

Or here’s one about self-improvement:

Self-improvement and success often go hand in hand. But that doesn’t mean they are the same thing

The author often refers to the difference between positive and negative experiences:

The pursuit of a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, accepting negative experiences is a positive experience

Everything in life worth striving for is gained through negative experiences

And the author’s point of view is that life is all about suffering, so it makes no sense to avoid it. You have to find suffering to your liking:

Life itself is a form of suffering. The rich suffer because of wealth. Poor people suffer because of poverty. Single people suffer because they have no family. Family people suffer because of problems in the family…

Don’t hope for a life without problems… Better hope for a life full of good problems…

Wherever you go, there’s a huge pile of shit waiting for you. And that’s the norm. And the challenge is not to run away from shit. It’s to find shit that you like to deal with…

Happiness comes from solving problems. The key word here is “solution.” If you run away from problems or assume you don’t have any, you will be miserable

This is how the author proves it:

That’s the way evolution made us: we always live with dissatisfaction and restlessness, because a moderately dissatisfied and restless being does his best to innovate and survive

…It makes you feel bad… that’s how your brain tells you that some problem you’ve left unaddressed and unresolved. In other words, negative emotions are a call to action

…To suppress negative emotions is to suppress the feedback mechanisms that help you to solve problems… Remember: pain makes sense

In doing so, the author often reprimands the reader so that he doesn’t misunderstand the book:

When we say “Mark Manson knows how to spit and score,” we don’t mean that “Mark Manson doesn’t care about anything.” What we mean is different: He doesn’t care if he gets in trouble on the way to his goals, or if someone gets annoyed by something he thinks is right and important and worthy. We mean: Mark Manson is the kind of person who will write about himself in the third person just because he thinks it’s right.

Action is not only a consequence of motivation, but also its cause

And here’s the thing about poking our noses into reality. He says, “You’re not unique at all, there are millions like you”:

You don’t get to play an important and key role for some people without becoming a laughing stock and a nuisance to others

However, there are no unique problems at all! Millions of people have lived with problems like yours in the past… It is very possible that there are such people among your acquaintances. This does not diminish the problems and does not mean that you should not be in pain… It means one thing: you are not unique.

Many people are afraid of being in the middle class, because if they put up with it, they will never achieve anything, they will never make it in the world. Their life will mean nothing. This mentality is dangerous…

The flow of extremes leads us to believe that exceptionalism is the norm. And since nothing special usually happens to us, the avalanche of reports about the exceptional brings on a sense of longing, of despair…

Technology has solved old economic problems, bringing us new psychological problems. On the Internet we find not only easy access to information, but also easy access to insecurity, shame and self-doubt

When you believe that it is your plane that will crash, or that it is your project that everyone will call idiotic, or that it is you who will be ridiculed and trampled upon, you are essentially saying to yourself, “I am the exception to the rule, I am not like everyone else; I am unique and special. This is pure narcissism. You assume that it’s your problems that deserve special treatment…

If I think one thing and everyone else thinks another, it’s much more likely that I’m wrong

The way of dealing with this he describes in the form of a shift in values:

Values underlie everything …that we do. If what we value is worthless, if we choose the wrong criteria for success and failure, then everything based on those values… will go wrong. All of our thoughts and feelings about any situation are ultimately determined by values

The right approach to emotional negativity is this: it has to be expressed in a socially acceptable and healthy way; it has to be expressed in terms of your values

Good values: Grounded in reality; socially constructive; immediate and verifiable

To change values, you have to think and ask questions:

What if I’m wrong?

What would it mean if I was wrong?

Would admitting I was wrong create more or less problems for me and others than it does now?

…One must first question the current values. One must mentally distance oneself from them, see their flaws and prejudices, their contradiction to the facts; face one’s own ignorance and acknowledge its scale

One must not be sure, but set oneself up like this: life will show

He says that we cannot control the situation because there are always too many external factors. But we can influence our attitude to it:

The objective truth about a situation is not as important as our attitude toward it, our analysis and evaluation of it… We are able to control the meaning of problems by choosing to look at them and the criterion by which we will evaluate them

…We are personally responsible for everything that happens in our lives, no matter what the external circumstances may be. Yes, events are not always within our control. But we can always control our own understanding of those events and our reaction to them… Often the only difference between a painful problem and a pleasant problem is that we have chosen the latter and are willing to take responsibility for it

And here’s more about relationships and being able to say no:

When you make a sacrifice for your partner, you should do it because you want to, not because you feel obligated or are afraid of the consequences of rejection. If your partner makes a sacrifice for you, it must be based on a real desire, not the result of manipulation through anger or guilt. Acts of love are meaningful only when performed without conditions or expectations

Only in unhealthy relationships do people try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel comfortable with themselves. In healthy relationships people solve their own problems out of concern for one another

If people in a relationship aren’t able to deal openly and honestly with their differences then the relationship is based on lies and manipulation and will gradually become toxic.

And he sums it all up again with a reference to death:

…Any meaning in life is shaped by an underlying desire not to die

I liked the book. It’s one of those that I will reread from time to time. Recommended.

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