Book review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson, Audiobook

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck book cover

This book has spent years in the New York Times Bestsellers List, and first topped the list in 2017.

Having just read ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne, with a heavy focus on positive thinking, Mark Manson takes a big dump on that immediately. 

He says visualisations and affirmations about being more successful are harmful because they highlight what you lack. ‘’No true happy person needs to stand in front of a mirror and say she’s happy.’’ 

Choose your battles

In a nutshell, choose what you give a fuck about and don’t spend time fretting over things that don’t have to matter to you. He certainly thinks you shouldn’t give a fuck about social media people who appear to have everything.

Equally, don’t expect to feel good all the time, because it’s unattainable. Being positive? If life sucks, admit it. Feeling like shit is a necessary part of emotional health. Do not duck your problems, they add meaning to life.

‘’Feeling like you don’t measure up, and the how to be happy shit.’’

If you feel bad, don’t give a fuck that you feel bad. It might help. Do not burn in entitlement. You are not entitled to be happy all the time. 

Wanting positive experiences is a negative experience. Whereas acceptance of a negative experience is a positive experience.

No one owes you shit

Here he talks about what might be considered petulance, and he delves into ‘offence porn’ or ‘victim hood chic’ that seems to dominate media discourse yet distracts from the real victims in society who need our help. 

Instead, be driven by your values, and this I wholehearted agree with Manson. Don’t worry about adversity in the pursuit of your goals / values. Reserve your fucks for only the things that matter.

Find something meaningful and important to give a fuck about otherwise you end up giving a fuck about meaningless shit. As we mature we become more selective about what to give a fuck about. Such as, material wealth.

Be driven by your values

Manson recommends 5 values to adopt:

  1. Responsibility- take it for everything in your life
  2. Uncertainty- take this as doubt about your own beliefs and being open to listen – it removes biased views and judgment of ourselves. It’s the route to progress and growth. 
  3. Failure- be willing to be aware of your mistakes and flaws so they can be improved upon 
  4. Rejection- the ability to hear and say no, what you will accept in life 
  5. Be aware of your own mortality- it keeps everything in perspective 

An excellent example of a cause to care about is Malala Yousafzai, a young Muslim woman who went to school in defiance of the Taliban occupation in Pakistan. She was 14 years old and shot in the face for her values, survived and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. There is something to give a fuck about right there!

Be prepared to change

  • what if I’m wrong?
  • Manson recommends asking yourself questions like this develops humility. I call it soul searching.

Autobiographical elements

The author goes into more autobiographical mode in the latter half of the book. He travelled to 50 countries doing the digital nomad thing with a successful online business, and I started to hate him. Bloggers envy I suppose.

A married man, he goes into relationship expert mode (he successfully ran a dating blog for a while), but relationship advice is a big yawn. Basically don’t give a fuck to someone who isn’t your significant other and if you do, think about your values.

An anecdote at the end about his friend Josh, who dies after falling from a cliff, packs a punch as you realise this man lost a good friend and the tragedy compelled him to change his ways.

‘’Without death, everything feels inconsequential.’’

The subsequent chapter examines the idea of death and how we try and obtain immortality via a ‘conceptual self’ that lives on beyond our death in our children, or a book. He calls them immortality projects.

For me I suppose I’m like that film Lucy with Scarlet Johansen when she turns into a computer at the end. Maybe our blogs and books will live on way beyond our deaths whereas Manson says we as a society, need to become comfortable with the idea of our own deaths.

The book ends with A poetic experience of redemption as Manson stands on a cliff at the Cape of Good Hope to confront his own mortality. 

He asks us, what do you leave in your wake? This is truly the most important question in your life. This is precisely what I am wrestling with the last 12 months.

This book is a timely reminder that I am part of something bigger than myself and to be values driven while considering where to give a fuck, and where I really shouldn’t.

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