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

The main message delivered by the author of this book, who is a popular blogger, is that we don’t have to be positive at all times and that what we should instead do is choose what deserves our attention.

How many times have I been told in difficult situations: “Think positive!”, especially from people who have never been in that situation before and have zero idea what I might be feeling at that moment.

Ironically, wanting to be positive implies that you’re not happy. It’s what the English writer Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”:

The idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.

The problem with being positive all the time is that you underestimate, or even worse, ignore, your negative feelings.

I understand that “being positive” is a strategy of coping and an attitude but what if the external circumstances remain bad or even become unbearable? If you remain positive, it means that you’re not appreciating what’s going on around or inside you.

Keeping the “positive mindset”, despite the emotional pain or difficult situation, is called toxic positivity. Not only this is unpractical and unhelpful, but it will also backfire at a certain point.

While not to feel positive at all times is okay, it’s normal, it’s human.

So, the overall message of the book is that we all feel negative emotions, whether they are created by external circumstances or by our mind. We cannot control the external events, but we can control what happens inside us. For Manson, the healthiest way to do it is to select what deserves our attention and, most importantly, to choose what doesn’t deserve it.

In Conclusion

The book conveys a powerful message that I totally agree with. However, the reason I’m giving it three stars is because of the way it is written. Very superficially, very “look at how amazing I am”, and very misogynistic.

Also, there’s lots of unnecessary and tiring cursing but, to be fair, I should have expected this, given the title.

There are significantly better researched and written books that explain the same points in a more adequate way than this one. One for all: A Monk’s Guide to Happiness.

Some of My Favourite Quotes From the Book:

You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of f*cks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a f*ck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get f*cked.

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a f*ck about what’s truly f*ckworthy.

Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much f*cking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a f*ck about anymore.

We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.

In my life, I have given a f*ck about many people and many things. I have also not given a f*ck about many people and many things. And like the road not taken, it was the f*cks not given that made all the difference.

Life is essentially an endless series of problems.

If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.

Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – A counterintuitive approach to living a good life
Author: Mark Manson
Content warnings: suicide, cursing, misogyny
Year first published: 2016

From Goodreads:

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected American society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up.

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—”not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault.” Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek.

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.