Not your momma’s self help book!
For the last two months, every Sunday night at bedtime just before my work week starts, I’ve been laying down in bed and picking up my (digital) copy of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I decided that reading a bit of this book before the start of each work-week would help me have a better perspective on my work life, my career, and all other aspects, so it became sort of a Sunday night ritual. I don’t read self help books generally (this is the first one). I’ve never felt that I needed to. I’ve lived my life—up until now—believing that I have everything figured out. Now I realize I’ve had a skewed mentality about more than I realized, and not in a good way.
This book was recommended to me by one of my African American friends at work who struggled with racism in the workplace during his early career (he still deals with it today). He told me that the book changed his perspective on how he allows others to see him, how he sees himself, and how he chooses to allow racism to affect him. He spoke highly of it, and recommended it to me, so I fell for the bait and I’m happy that I did.
The author Mark Manson offers his readers raw truth (based on his own experiences and academic research) in the form of real talk, personal narratives, and profane humor filled with explicative after explicative. Yes, there are likely more F-boms dropped in this book than any other in existence, but it all adds to the book’s personality. If you’re someone who doesn’t like cussing, go into this with an open mind and understand that it’s merely part of the book’s “charm.”
We are frequently told by the world that we must think positive and be positive at all times. We have been told that positivity is the key to a happy life, success, achievement, and all that other bull crap that comes to “successful people” who aren’t us. We have been told that our lives will be better if we just take everything in a positive light. Not feeling well? Don’t drag everyone down by telling them you feel like crap. Put a positive spin on it. No one wants to hear your negativity. Negativity only drags you down.
Manson is here to tell us, “F*ck positivity. Let’s be honest, sh*t is f*cked and we have to live with it.” He uses his personal experience, telling a story of his time in Russia to show us how much better he felt (once he adjusted) to being in a society where honesty wins over everything. In Russia, if you do something stupid, expect to hear about it. He gave a personal anecdote of how he went on a date with a Russian woman in a coffee shop and a few minutes in she told him something he said was “stupid.” That caught him off guard. This was all to illustrate the most important point and that is: Honesty can be brutal, but necessary. To have truly meaningful relationships we must establish trust, and to trust we must be honest.
A common problem in our society, Manson explains, is that we often give too many f*cks about too many things. We must better choose what f*cks to give, and they ought to be meaningful. Moreover it is just as unhealthy to give no f*cks as it is to give too many. I myself have fallen prey to the “too many f*cks given” end of the spectrum. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still find that even the simplest mishap can ruin my day, be it a negative comment on my writing from a Wattpad reader, forgetting to get milk at the grocery store, or hearing mean comments from someone about someone else from people standing in front of me in the supermarket line. I hide these upset feelings (because we live in a society where there is only room for positivity). How fake is that?! The whole point here is, all too easily we allow our frustration over silly things to eat into our mood, our productivity, our day, and for what? What is the point? Focus on what really matters: getting your work presentation finished so you can amaze your sales team, finalize your plans for the family vacation coming up so that the time you spend with your family is quality time, finish writing that manuscript you’ve been putting off, get that blog post written, call your Mom who you haven’t talked to in over a month and see how she’s doing. Don’t sit at your computer fuming at 8:00am before an important meeting because your husband purchased dark roast coffee and you only like medium, or some asshole cut you off in the turn lane nearly causing an accident on your way in. Let it go (give no f*cks about the coffee or the asshole) and move on to what is really important in life. Don’t waist your emotions on slip ups, mean-spirited people, and unfortunate events. Spend it on what really matters.
This book is broken into various topics which will call to different people for different reasons. I found a few to be particularly helpful: choosing your pain, values, responsibility, and the “do something” philosophy. When I picked this book up, I found myself highlighting sentences and even paragraphs within the first few minutes of reading it. I don’t think i’ve ever highlighted a book this much in my life. I kept reading things thinking, “Yep, that applies to me.” I’m going to pick a couple of my favorite excerpts. Read them and see if you are as wow’ed as I was reading them:
“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.”
This idea blew me away. We pursue what we don’t have. Our very pursuit then becomes a reminder that we don’t have whatever it is we are pursuing. Not having things makes us feel as if we are lacking. This turns into a vicious cycle. No wonder we are constantly wanting the next best thing, bigger and better than what we had before. I think we can also thank media and advertising for that, but that’s a completely different argument.
2. “Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.”
Manson explains that it is okay and normal to feel fear and anxiety. So many people feel that if they are anxious, there must be something wrong with them. Don’t get me wrong, mental illness is a real thing. But it’s okay to feel anxious! Better still, these emotions allow us to build more courage and perseverance. If you’re anxious about giving a presentation, don’t just run away and say “Welp, guess I can’t present because I’m too anxious.” Go out there and give it your all, even if you’re miserable about having to do it. You’ll feel better afterward.
3. “Entitlement closes in upon itself in a kind of narcissistic bubble, distorting anything and everything in such a way as to reinforce itself. 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 a notch. Entitlement is impervious. People who are entitled delude themselves into whatever feeds their sense of superiority.”
This was by far one of my favorite quotes from the book. Many people suffer from varying amounts of entitlement. Those who are fully entitled will never take responsibility for anything. Manson argues that we must take responsibility for everything! Even if whatever happened is unfair and not our fault, what we chose to do in the aftermath of such an event is our responsibility and ours alone. I’ll support this argument with another of Manson’s quotes in the next part.
4. “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.”
I don’t think this needs much of an explanation. We as humans must take responsibility for every choice we make, even if the stupid driver who hit our car was out of our control, what we choose to do in the aftermath is our choice and our responsibility.
5. “If you think about a young child trying to learn to walk, that child will fall down and hurt itself hundreds of times. But at no point does that child ever stop and think, “Oh, I guess walking just isn’t for me. I’m not good at it.””
“At some point, most of us reach a place where we’re afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we’re already good at.”
“If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.”
I included three quotes (all from the same chapter) for this last part. I enjoyed reading this chapter particularly because I’m a perfectionist who hates to fail at anything. I will sacrifice a lot of my own happiness if it means performing better so that I don’t do poorly at something. But it’s okay to perform poorly! It’s okay to be mediocre. In a world saturated with social media, we have been led to believe that our lives are meaningless unless we are driving the most expensive car, get the most likes on a photograph, or have the most friends. The real truth is, there is nothing wrong with being mediocre.
I cannot stress enough how great this book is. I’m on the final chapter now, and will be sad when it ends. If you still aren’t convinced, head over to Amazon and check out some of the other reviews. I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck to everyone, but specifically those who take things to heart too easily, or get upset over spilt milk (I’m one of those). Enjoy!