Book Club Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Book Review The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Mark MansonMark Manson’s quick start guide to cursing…and a better life through better problems.

If you’re interested in reading the book, you’ll be getting a full-on assault of that egregious four-letter word. The barrage slows down after chapter 1, and the book kicks into surprisingly high gear.

All fucks aside, Mark Manson’s little book of wisdom proves why it is a New York Times best seller.

Spoiler: The title is for shock value. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is a guidebook for being wiser and more selective about what you choose to care about. Apparently “How to turn your pain into a tool, your trauma into power, and your problems into slightly better problems” wasn’t catchy enough, but it pretty well describes what you’re in for.

This is an off-color, no frills bible for resiliency.

“Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.”

As Manson sums up, “pain is part of the process.” 

It forces us to step back and take stock. When life is cheery, or even just so-so, we tend to bumble along without much intention or purpose.

Sadly, this tends to be what we strive for. Easy weekends. Early retirement. Argument-free relationships. A life without any bumps, challenges, or difficulty.

Who would we be without our pain? What meaning would there be in getting out of bed? What motivation would there be to change, grow, or improve?

“It’s only when we feel intense pain that we’re willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us. We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we’ve been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course.”

So, how do we do pain better?

I attempted to boil down a great deal of highlighted gems into a few memorable guidelines:

  1. Stop trying to do more / be more / feel better. Enter the “backwards law”: the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become. In fact, you may want to take down that vision board: “…if you’re dreaming of something all the time, then you’re reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over: that you are not that.” What would it feel like to find joy in your current reality?
  2. When the shit hits the fan, look for artistic wall art. This is a mantra of the “rockstar comeback” mindset. Adversity is a prerequisite for happiness. “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.” With practice, the undesired simply becomes unexpected, difficulty becomes opportunity, and a really bad day can become the day that changed your life.
  3. Take responsibility for your problems, especially those gifted to you by others. Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it…With great responsibility comes great power.” Out of victim state and into action. Self-control is the only control we actually have, and therein lies the source of all our power.
  4. Be particular. A friend recently upgraded the minimalism concept for me – it’s not about having or doing less, it’s about being intentional. Intentionalism. Manson highlights this in chapter 8: “Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom…

If we had to pick just one takeaway? A quote aptly placed at the end: 

“We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.” – Charles Bukowski

Don’t get eaten up by nothing. “See: it’s a never-ending upward spiral. And if you think at any point you’re allowed to stop climbing, I’m afraid you’re missing the point. Because the joy is in the climb itself.”