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.

Book review: The Secret, Rhonda Byrne, Audiobook

The Secret

This is a seminal text with 30 million readers worldwide and translated into 50 languages. claiming to have the secret to change your life, for the better of course.  

What is the secret?

Well, it wasn’t the first chapter, a turn off for me because there is a huge emphasis on money. The secret being that if your predominant thoughts are of monetary wealth, then monetary wealth is what you will ‘manifest.’

Asking the universe to cash your future cheques feels a bit iffy to me.

One ‘secret’ is that if you worry and stress about bad things, then bad things happen. It’s called The Law of Attraction. Whereas if you think of good things, you will attract good things.

It sounds so simple, in theory, but anyone who is British will tell you that we don’t really do positive thinking. 

Nothing to fear but fear itself

If fearful thoughts of loss become dominant thoughts, you will lose whatever it is you fear losing. ‘The law’ , as they call it, ‘responds to your thoughts no matter what they may be.’

It’s a little bit like in Ghostbusters, the 1980s version, when Ray accidentally thinks of The Marshmallow Man as the destructive form of Gozer. If you try not to think of something, it pops into your head! So think of what you do want instead. One method is with vision boards, which aren’t just for children.

Magnetise

To bring what you want into your life, like if you fancy someone for example, like attracts like, and you should think of yourself as a magnet. 

The Law of attraction is a law of nature, so it gives you whatever you were thinking about.

This salient point is repeated throughout the book. 

The most salient point

Gratitude. Start a list of things you are grateful for, the things you feel good about. This is the way to bring more into your life. Appreciate the good. Appreciate the mundane and you begin to realise the abundance you live in. This is so true and something I practice myself. 

Let’s pretend

Decide what you want, decide you deserve it, put that into your thoughts and ask the universe.

Sadly, the examples they usually give in this book is money. Now, isn’t money the source of all evil? 

Although the author does give the example of super-rich philanthropists who give more money, and therefore receive more. Rhonda Byrne says when giving to charity, don’t sacrifice – give from a full heart and a place of plenty.

Self respect

Good advice in the book is to always treat yourself with love and respect. Treat yourself well. You deserve to be treated with love and respect. Everyone does. A healthy respect for yourself is not conceited. 

Chapter 7 claims positive thinking can heal bad health. The theory is that love and gratitude dissolves all negativity in our life, and any disease. 

For example, you could praise and bless your enemies, to dissolve all negativity and dischord with the feedback of good feelings and bless the things you are grateful for. 

Use ‘I am’ e.g. I am happy. I am in receipt of everything I want and need. These are  affirmations . I am whole, perfect, powerful and happy. I really am. 

Well, you know, I’m British so, I’m ‘alright.’

Be present

There are some great truisms for life towards the end of the book. Take a moment to feel your ‘life presence’ inside you. This gave me a feeling of pure joy. Try it! That presence is the real you. 

Seek out joy

This might sound daft but I rarely seek out joy! Rhonda says; What do you enjoy? Do the things you love and what brings you joy. Once you find and commit yourself to them, more joy will come into your life. Do what you love and you will attract joyful things. Whatever you choose is right. 

It’s a characteristically upbeat way of ending The Secret, but it’s the strongest message for me. I waste so much time doing unnecessary things I don’t enjoy. I’m going to seek more joy in my life. 

Have a nice day.

Recipe: Creamy mushroom pasta suitable for vegans

I had some button mushrooms to finish off in the fridge and thought a creamy sauce would be good. Here goes:

Ingredients: Button mushrooms, half an onion, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons of olive spread, a mug of soy milk, 2 tablespoons of flour, half a lemon, 1teaspoon of nutmeg, whole meal pasta.

Chop your mushrooms, garlic and onion. Place your pasta in a pan of boiling water, then turn down to simmer. Fry your onion and garlic clove for 5 minutes in olive oil, then add your mushrooms.

For the cheese sauce, melt your olive spread in a pan.

Pasta is simmering, onion is frying and your olive spread is melting in a pan

The next step is to create a roux. Once your olive spread is melted, add your two tablespoons of flour and stir.

A roux

Return the pan to the hob and gradually add the soy milk, stirring. Once the sauce has thickened up, you can add some grated vegan cheese if you like and then a teaspoon of nutmeg too, for a little sweetness.

Add a dash of ground nutmeg to your vegan cheese sauce
Everything will come together at the same time
Creamy mushroom pasta, suitable for vegans, and hungry people. I love it when a plan comes together!

Creamy sauce can be quite heavy on your palette, so to lighten it up a little, squeeze half a lemon on top. A quick, simple meal suitable for vegans and everybody else!

Recipe: Rice with grapes, greens and chick peas (peace) (man) (no ham)

Here’s a relatively quick dish to prepare that is light and fluffy in taste but nutritious at the same time. Right, let’s get started.

Ingredients: Brown rice, vegetable stock cube, olive oil, pepper, tender stem broccoli or greens of your choice, black seedless grapes, chick peas, lemon.

Quarter your grapes and finely chop your greens, I’m using tender stem broccoli
Simmer your brown rice with a vegetable stock cube. Bring your chick peas to the boil then simmer

I’m using brown rice and that takes about 20 minutes to cook properly. When there is about 5 minutes to go, steam your greens. If you have a steamer cool! I have pans so here’s what I did:

Using a sieve in a pan of hot water to steam my broccoli
Pop a lid on

The idea of the other ingredients is to make a light accompaniment to the rice, especially because brown rice can be quite heavy, so we want to keep the flavours light and fresh.

Stir the broccoli, grapes and chickpeas together. Add the juice of a lemon, a dollop of olive oil, ground pepper, and stir.
You can mix the rice and vegetables together once you tuck in. Here’s one of my rice sandcastles!
With a glass of water or tonic with a slice of lime of lemon, this is a light and fruity dish

Autobiographical: thankful for what I’ve got

Grateful for the little things I didn’t notice before lockdown

My last relationship ended right at the start of lockdown when two people drifting apart suddenly had a reason not to spend time with each other anymore, so we took it. I had no idea of the scale of the pandemic in those early days, nor how long it would last, or how long I would be alone.

I love writing and threw myself into that in the hope of becoming a freelance writer, something I might try again in the future. I was living alone so the world was filtered through my television and laptop, Google news updates, and the general mood at the local grocery store. Incidentally, I cannot ‘’slut drop’’, but I can crouch down to pick up items off the bottom shelf and stand up again, something I do for fun as well as subtle dancing in the aisles when no one is looking.

Careful what you wish for 

Being single during lockdown has its own drawbacks, such as lack of touch or reassuring handholding when you need it. Before lockdown hit, I would probably liken myself to a cactus. I was prickly, hurt from life experience left me prickly to friendly people who were trying to help. I kept everyone at arm’s length as best I could, and now suddenly it was the law. 

For me, lockdown is like that film Freaky Friday, or Big, where you switch places with someone else because you believe they have it better than you, and at the end you just want to tap your ruby heels together and say ‘’there’s no place like home.’’

New found appreciation

I’m grateful for my local shops, I’m grateful for trains, I’m grateful for people who bother to keep in touch, I’m grateful for exercising outdoors when I’m cooped up all day, I’m grateful for the internet, I’m grateful for my family who drove me mad at times, I’m grateful for so many things in a way I wasn’t before. Perhaps this is what God intended when this virus erupted? Maybe we need to learn to be grateful for what we have, because we’ve all lost so much and it makes you appreciate what you had. 

I’m grateful I’m still alive and have a chance to live life differently after lockdown, God willing. Lockdown has changed me, but in all honesty, it’s a welcome change and what I needed. I would like to see some changes in society though. 

For example, home working and flexible working would make life so much easier for so many people, including parents, and reduce carbon emissions from reducing the number of commuters. I hope the government makes progressive changes like these for the benefit of all of us following how well everyone has coped with the work from home arrangements. The benefits far outweigh any drawbacks from what I can see.

Recipe: Tender stem broccoli for 99p? Go on then!

Finding interesting things to do with vegetables isn’t too hard, if you have the time and the will to try. Today I picked up some tender stem broccoli on the reduced aisle so hopefully I’ll do my bit for reducing food waste, something we could all bear in mind.

Ingredients: tender stem broccoli, button mushrooms, brown rice, half an onion, vegetable stock cube, slice of lemon, fresh parsley.

Start by frying your onion in a large pan, while boiling your (brown) rice in a vegetable stock cube.

Chopped mushrooms and broccoli
Fried onion and simmering rice

Next, add your button mushrooms and broccoli to your frying pan. After a few minutes, transfer some of the stock cube water from your rice pan, to your vegetable pan. Let that create a little moisture in your vegetable pan, the stock water will probably sizzle a little bit- very exciting! Smells good.

Lightly frying mushroom, tender stem broccoli and onion
A squeeze of lemon and a handful of freshly chopped parsley does the job nicely

Nearly there! All that’s left to do is dish up. I like the sandcastle effect when you fill a cup with rice and build – that’s right- a sandcastle on your plate- it looks pretty hey?

Tender stem broccoli and mushrooms with rice in under 30 minutes
Looks good enough to eat, enjoy!

Tell me about your vegetarian and vegan recipes, I love learning new recipes! And follow me if you enjoy food and hate waste.

Autobiographical: a tea break that gave me time to miss someone

A cup of tea is always welcome

She flicks her wet hair back behind her shoulders and the cold wetness gave her bare shoulders goosebumps.

Plugging her earphones into some soft gentle swing music of the olden days, where men were men and women were beautiful and strong.

Carrying the kettle to the tap she hums along to a melody she didn’t quite know but knows enough about Swing to make an educated hum in accompaniment to the band.

Sprrrrrrrsh, plonk, click, the kettle is now ready to heat up. Her wet hair begins to curl at the ends as the warmth from her body teases the hair into curls.

Dancing on the spot, listening intently to the music, a band, an old time band, who knew how to woo, as her hips swing around the kitchen and her feet follow the rhythm, with a pretend lead leading her dance. Lost in the music she imagines him with his hand around her waist, or even, in the small of her back, reassuringly.

Psssffffffttttttt click bubble bubble bubble, the kettle boils awakening her from her reverie. Leaving a few moments for the bubbles and steam to clear, she lifts the kettle and pours hot water into the mug, no airs and graces here.

The tea stains the water like ink and she sits beside the mug for a moment watching the water stain darker, and the tea develop into something to savour. Then she notices her hand is still around her waist.

The music sways on and she imagines the kind of man who would woo over time, as opposed to the man who is in a hurry to prove her coyness and suspicions wrong. Where were the old time wooers? Where was the man willing to romance?

The tea is a darker shade now and looking good enough to pour onto a canvas. She loves the sound of the water filling the cup. A small splash of her vegan milk is her own signature touch.

Lifting the mug, she blows gently on the tea before it touches her lips. The music in her earphones fills her head and the band bring the dance to a climax.

Her loose hair curls into waves about her shoulders from the warmth of her body. The music and the heat from her tea give her goosebumps once more. If only he was here to share it with her.

Autobiographical: Food and drink, and how not to offend

I don’t want to eat that!

I’m thinking about food and drink, temperance and covetedness, and vanity.

I have principles around food and eating meat, something I choose to abstain from. It has caused conflict in my family and that makes me wonder if it really is good of me to abstain or not. Thankfully the conflicts have eased off. I hope I can always be grateful for the food I eat.

Food is certainly a place where gluttony, covetedness, envy, and vanity can come into play. I’m reflecting on this after two years as a vegetarian and recent efforts to try the vegan lifestyle- lifestyle because it is more than a diet. I’m failing at being vegan, for example, vegans apparently do not wear wool products. It is taking me a while to catch up with what is and isn’t acceptable. Meanwhile, I must be mindful not to insult my family or friends by appearing ungrateful, which sometimes happens when you refuse food or hospitality.

I also chose sobriety a few years ago, and the book of AA said you must want what they have to remain sober. That sounds a little like covetedness to me, but in AAs defence, they live a spiritual life and give back to atone for their own previous selfishness or wrongs. This seems like an excellent way of life to me.

Guilt

Another aspect of Sobriety I am discovering is guilt. Guilt and remorse. For example, recently I was ill and couldn’t buy Christmas presents for my loved ones or even spend the day with them. I feel such remorse, believing my illness could have been prevented. That is my shame and guilt, that maybe I could have prevented my breakdown.

I am sober these days but years ago I wasn’t and I feel guilt over irresponsible things I did while still drinking, the worry I caused my family, the friends I neglected. It’s a strong emotion and the reason it’s there, I believe, is because it is deliberately uncomfortable and so it spurs you onto do something about it. Ie I need to change my ways, and work on my shortcomings.

I’m not sure what I can do to assuage my own guilt from the past, but I do know this is along the lines of the 12 steps. Maybe it is time for me to make amends with people, something I was starting to do not so long ago until I lost my way.

What can I do for others instead of what can others do for me. Time to say how can I be of use in this world for the time I have left instead of what can I get out of life. What am I brave enough to change and what do I have to accept that I could never change even though I might want to? It is a conundrum, so I ask for help.

Temperence is a virtue but covetedness is not. To me , when it comes to food and drink, I need to think about my MO. What am I doing this for? What do I hope to get out of it and how is it helping others? Why am I abstaining and how can I avoid offending my loved ones with different dietary choices.

This will be what I reflect on while considering food and drink. As someone who used to suffer with an eating disorder, there is so much to consider in terms of offences caused, and how to remedy that within my own family and friendships. I hope I can do the right thing.

Autobiographical: Are we nearly there yet?

Picturing a beach

I saw the ocean in a dream last night, it felt so soothing. I floated over the beach and the water gently lapped at the edge of the bay. The sky was a grey blue, not the picture postcard variety for a cheesy travel brochure, more of a natural blueish grey and the water was calm and lapped gently at the end of the bay. I floated over the beach and the water gently lapped at at the edge of the bay.

I floated over the beach and the beach was wet from water, perhaps the tide was going out or coming in again, I don’t know, all I know is that the water kept lapping at the edge of the beach gently, and I was floating over the sands while the sky was a natural blueish grey. I felt calm and a deep breath in gave me a feeling of pure calm as the blueish grey sky gently stretched into the distance.

I was floating over the beach and the sea was wet, maybe the tide was going out or gently coming in as it always begins with streams and then a thin layer of water. I never could tell when the water was coming in or going out, all I wanted was to see the sea, to feel that calm that relief I get every time I see the sea.

The sky was blueish grey, a natural blueish grey, not a picture postcard, and I was floating over the bay while the waves lapped gently at the edge of the sand. I felt calm, the sea had the answer to the questions I needed to ask and the questions I never asked.

Copywriter: NASA rover Perseverance indicates early Life on Mars consisted of mods and rockers

Is there life on Mars?

NASA’s Perseverance rover has the unenviable task of spending the next two Earth years collecting rock and soil samples, as reported in The Times today. It would have to be a robot, I can’t think of any person who would want that gig.

Life on Mars, the David Bowie classic, was released in 1971 – 50 years ago (checks wrinkles in the mirror), and I think that was when they propelled Perseverance into space too.

It’s landed on a Delta, that isn’t blue, more sort of rocky and a bit dull. Any water would have been microbial, as is most people’s interest of life on Mars. 

Anyway, Europe sent a robot too- the European Space Agency – and its being sent to collect the metal ‘‘cigar tube’’ samples collected by Perseverance, like a minimum wage glass collector, or, me and my ex. 

So I definitely think the independent UK should send it’s own robot, to a different part of Mars, an island-y bit, because where the other robots landed looks boring. There could be loads of cool rocks on the dark side of Mars. If you held the next World Cup there, half of Britain would go.

Obviously the A-Team would have to build the robot. Hannibal is bound to have some cigar holders. Mad Murdoch would definitely want to go into space, and Face would, if there was a lady robot too, probably. I doubt Mr T would though. Call it a hunch. 

I reckon smooth talking Rishi Sunak could convince Boris to ride the British rocket as it lands on Mars, in 2030, Dr Strangelove style, waving to the cameras in the PR moment of the century. It would be sponsored by Red Bull ofcourse, and definitely not Coca cola. Rishi has that one covered.