In 2016, Mark Manson released his second book titled, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK.
It immediately hit the New York Times Best Seller List and it's been there ever since. An impressive 185 weeks.
If you've stepped into a Barnes & Noble, an airport convenience store, or any millennial's apartment in the past 4 years, chances are you've seen this book.
It has a bright orange cover, bold black font, and, oh yeah, the F word in the title.
Here's the thing: I'm convinced very few people actually read this book. Instead, it made for the perfect impulse buy that never quite became a priority.
No worries. I read it and took some notes along the way. It's a condensed version of the book that you can skim through in 10 minutes or less.
Click here if you'd like to read my notes in your web browser. I've also pasted them below for your convenience.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK
This book will not teach you how to gain or achieve, but rather how to lose and let go. It will teach you to take inventory of your life and scrub out all but the most important items. It will teach you to close your eyes and trust that you can fall backwards and still be okay. It will teach you to give fewer fucks. It will teach you not to try.
Self improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
Conventional Life Advice - all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time - is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you.
The fixation on the positive only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not. No truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she’s happy. She just is.
Everyone wants you to believe the key to a good life is more, more, more - buy more, own more, be more. Why? Because caring about more stuff is good for business. The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
Humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts. Now here’s the problem: our society today has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences - anxiety, fear, guilt, etc - is totally not okay.
Alan Watts: The Backwards Law - The desire for more positive experiences is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become.
Albert Camus said, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
When pursuing the negative yields a positive: Failures in business, pain in the gym, being open to insecurity, facing your fears. Everything in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
The most worthy struggle one can undertake in life: pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on personal values.
There is a premise that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved as if it were like getting accepted to law school or building a really complicated lego set. This premise, though, is the problem. Happiness is not a solvable equation.
We are wired to become dissatisfied with what we have and satisfied by only what we do not have.
Suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.
Pain is what teaches us what to pay attention to when we are young and careless.
Don’t hope for a life without problems, instead hope for a life full of good problems. Because happiness comes from solving problems, not in not having problems in the first place. Happiness is therefore a form of action.
Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity. Finding something important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most productive use of your time and energy.
Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
Emotions are Overrated:
Emotions are feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or wrong for us - nothing more, nothing less.
Negative emotions are a call to action to do something.
Decision making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks.
Hedonic Treadmill: The idea that we’re always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different.
People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness. If something good happens to them, it’s because of some amazing feat they accomplished. If something bad happens to them, it’s because somebody is jealous and trying to bring them down.
Typically plays out in two ways:
- I’m awesome and the rest of you suck, so I deserve special treatment.
- I suck and the rest of you are awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.
We are constantly flooded with the best of the best and worst of the worst. So much so that we believe exceptionalism is the new normal. And since most of us are actually average, we feel insecure and desperate. Our coping mechanism is self / other aggrandizing and through entitlement and addiction.
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.
The knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.
The Self Awareness Onion:
First layer - simple understanding of one’s emotions
Second layer - ability to ask why we feel certain emotions
Third level - personal values: why do i consider this to be success / failure? By what standard am I judging myself and those around me?
Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.
Bad Values: Superstitious, socially destructive, not immediate or controllable
- Material Success
- Always Being Right
- Staying Positive
Good Values: reality based, socially constructive, immediate and controllable
- Self respect
Five Counterintuitive Values
1. Radical Responsibility
There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise in our lives.
Responsibility and fault appear together, but are not the same.
There may be many people to blame for your unhappiness, but only you get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things.
Fault is past tense, responsibility is present tense.
Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When you learn something new, you don’t go from wrong to right, you go from wrong to less wrong.
Certainty is the enemy of growth. Constantly search for doubt.
Uncertainty is the root of progress and growth. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we have to learn.
Manson’s Law of Avoidance - The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
People are as afraid of success as they are of failure because it threatens who they believe themselves to be right now.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What if I'm wrong?
- What would it mean if I’m wrong?
- Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
If you’re stuck on a problem, just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing. The simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.
Action → Inspiration → Motivation → Action...
To build trust, you must be honest.
Unhealthy Love - two people trying to escape their problems through their emotions for each other.
Healthy Love - two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support.
People can’t solve your problems for you, and they shouldn’t try because that won’t make you happy.
The victim and the saver use each other for emotional highs
The victim creates more and more problems to solve
- Don’t hold themselves responsible for their problems
The saver solves and solves
- Can’t help but take responsibility for other’s problems
When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, person, or thing.
- Traveling, Partying, etc.
Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
Death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured.
Mark Twain, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time”.