The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck By Mark Manson – Book Review


Best For:

Those who don’t mind cussing. Those who are wary of the woo-woo content in many self-help books. Also those interested more about picking values.

Difficulty To Digest:

The subtle art of not giving a f*ck is easy to digest. Language is casual and stories regularly break up the heavier content.

Key Insights:

The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson is a useful self development book without any of the usual trimmings. There are a few unique messages and several standard messages, all disguised by strong language and stories, many of which are personal. The book is very conversational, well balanced between content and examples, and, accordingly, fairly easy to get through.

Manson starts with an explanation of how what we care about (the f*cks we give) rule our life, and tend toward making us feel shitty. We expect positive experiences and when we don’t get them, we feel bad. The problem isn’t the experiences themselves, but our relationship to them. Pushing out negative experience is in itself a negative experience, we must learn to wholly embrace life. We must see our negative experiences as signals to act, and do so accordingly.

Instead of simply letting what we care about come to us, Manson argues we must actively choose the values we choose to enact. In doing so, we’re able to choose the problems we solve on a regular basis. Having this choice leads to greater happiness. We’re willing to endure far more when we believe it’s meaningful. This means we should base our values and actions around what’s actually most important to us.

The book also takes several serious swings at entitlement, saying our culture is creating more and more entitled individuals. He argues strongly that we should expect to be average and to accept even the most routine parts of our life. Some of the framing languages is a bit negative, but the point is we should be grateful for everything, even the ‘boring’ parts.

Challenging Values and Thoughts

Most importantly, the book also includes sections on challenging your values and thought process. Essentially, Manson challenges us to dig deeper into our thoughts and values, asking questions like “What if I was wrong about this?”. This will provide the flexibility to respond better to the events around us, update our beliefs accordingly, and craft expectations in a realistic way. Manson argues when we’re too certain, that’s what creates unhappiness.

Finally, the book closes with an evaluation of death. Essentially, Manson says that we should be constantly mindful of death, as a motivating force. Once we realize that we’re going to die, we’re free to focus only on what matters and disregard everything else. This is what will helps us take action in the direction of being happy, instead of getting fixated on minor issues.

In sum, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a fairly interesting read. You’ll have to parse through each chapter to decide if the content is applicable or generalizable, but for the most part, it’s useful. If you don’t mind the language, it’s definitely worth a read and some reflection.

Other considerations:

Some of the chapters feel unnecessarily manufactured. It feels like Manson is trying so hard to break the mold, he’s intentionally going over the top in some of his language choices. While it doesn’t necessarily detract from the message and it’s a stylistic choice, it can get a bit tiresome. Luckily, much of it seems to be for initial shock value and it tones down as the book progresses. Obviously, if strong language bothers you, you should steer clear.

Also be aware Manson includes quite a few personal experiences. For some, this could feel like you’re hearing too much about his life, but for others, it may be more relatable. There are also a few non-personal stories to help balance, but the majority are coming strongly from his perspective.

This book provides extremely specific recommendations for values to hold. These values may or may not be applicable to you and your life. While finding reliable, healthy values are important, I’d recommend only taking these as suggestions. There is a huge range of values that can produce happiness, not just the ones mentioned in this book. If they don’t seem to fit you, specifically, keep exploring, as there’s almost certainly something that’s a match for you.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck doesn’t seem to be organized in any specific way. Chapters each introduce a concept, but for the most part, they’re independent of each other. This can make it slightly more difficult to track completely, as you jump from topic to topic.

Applicable content:

  1. The book talks at length about caring about the right values. What are your values and are they designed to produce happiness?
  2.  Manson also discusses accepting the possibility of being wrong. What belief do you have that could be wrong?

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