Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck isn’t revolutionary. A lot of the topics and themes have been covered elsewhere and in greater depth. But the true strength of the book is that it is incredibly digestible. It’s short, humorous, insightful, and downright motivating. It is a rare book that is both an easy read and an important read.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck isn’t about giving no fucks. As you read through Manson’s various topics on self-improvement, you come to discover that the book is about only giving a fuck about the things that matter. Unfortunately, Manson argues, our world has been designed to make us give fucks about stupid things.
Giving the Right Fucks
For those of us lucky enough to live in a developed nation, we constantly battle with modern problems like consumerism and social media. These topics of contention are not new or unique, but they illustrate a culture of giving a fuck about things not worth giving fucks about.
If you don’t give a fuck about having the fanciest new gadget, how will those companies stay in business? If you don’t give a fuck what others think of you, then how will they sell you products to “improve” your life? Profit-minded companies are programming what fucks we should give. And as one would imagine, these aren’t the things that truly make us happy in life.
I already said my piece on disconnecting from technology and Manson’s book discusses it too. I appreciate the fact that The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is not criticizing technological advancement, only advocating that you understand the role it plays in your life. Only give a fuck about things worth giving a fuck.
An Argument for Suffering
Manson dedicates a good chunk of his book to the idea that suffering in life is a good thing, but our society is telling us otherwise. Suffering is hard, but it’s also how we learn and grow. We might physically suffer or emotionally suffer, but from these moments we derive important life lessons that help shape us as individuals. But society has given us every reason and tool to avoid suffering.
A common example is the idea that participation trophies has basically ruined a generation of humans. I’m highly skeptical of how much “participation trophies” had on culture, but it’s worth talking about the greater implications, that adults appear to overprotect their children. The stereotype is that children can only live wonderful happy lives and must be shielded from any hardships. This, in turn, leaves children completely unprepared for real life, which is full of unavoidable suffering.
While I don’t believe entitled kids are going to ruin the world (and Manson isn’t arguing this), it’s undeniable that many people simply cannot handle common life-problems appropriately. I also think it is undeniable that some of this stems from an avoidance of suffering and thus an avoidance of learning. We should embrace suffering, because suffering is a part of life.
My biggest takeaway from Manson’s book is the idea of taking 100% responsibility for your life. Manson lays out this argument by clearly distinguishing the idea of “fault” and “responsibility” when it comes to how your life plays out.
Many shitty things happen to you that are not your fault. Everything from minor bad luck to unspeakable horrors. No one can blame you for these things. They are not your fault.
But, Manson argues, all of those shitty things are now your responsibility to deal with. That isn’t to say you have to be happy about them or that you can’t seek guidance, but they are now on you to fix. The ball is in your court.
That may seem obvious, but I think for many people (myself included), it’s natural to blame others for your problems. How many people hate their boss? But you have to accept that you hate your boss because you allow yourself to stay in that situation. You could talk to your boss about your frustrations. You could go to HR. Or you could just quit your job entirely. There are a lot of ways you could change the situation. That isn’t on your boss. That is on you.
This acceptance of being 100% responsible for your life is scary, but empowering. You have complete control over your choices and your future. If you choose to stay in a shitty situation, that is on you. If you want to improve your situation, that is also on you.
You Are In Control
That is the ultimate lesson from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. You are in control. Sometimes life sucks, but it’s up to you to deal with it. There is a whole world vying for your fucks. Discover what fucks make you happy and forget about the rest.