»The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck« by Mark Manson
Goodreads page for details and reviews
I got hooked to Mark Manson’s writing through his blog (the first text I’ve read was »Screw Finding Your Passion«) and loved this book. It covers lots of deep topics, gives simple metaphors that can serve as helpful compainions and cuts through the usual motivational writing to deal with difficult topics, emotions and life circumstances.
It’s a book on personal values and how we can unlearn shitty ones and how we can replace them by useful ones to let them guide us through living our lifes.
My notes from the book
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.
The Feedback Loop from Hell.
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.
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.
Or put more simply: Don’t try (cf. Bukowski).
Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.
These moments of non-fuckery are the moments that most define our lives.
Essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively—how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values.
Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
They say, “Fuck it,” not to everything in life, but rather to everything unimportant in life. They reserve their fucks for what truly matters.
The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.
What most people—especially educated, pampered middle-class white people—consider “life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about.
Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
Greatness is merely an illusion in our minds, a made-up destination that we obligate ourselves to pursue.
Happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
We all have our chosen methods to numb the pain of our problems, and in moderate doses there is nothing wrong with this. But the longer we avoid and the longer we numb, the more painful it will be when we finally do confront our issues.
Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.
If you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved. In other words, negative emotions are a call to action.
Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks.
A fixation on happiness inevitably amounts to a never-ending pursuit of “something else”—a new house, a new relationship, another child, another pay raise.
This is why our problems are recursive and unavoidable.
I was in love with the result — I wasn’t in love with the process. And because of that, I failed at it.
We have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we’re either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we’re somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us. Put simply: we become entitled.
This entitlement plays out in one of two ways: 1. I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment. 2. I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
Often, it’s this realization—that you and your problems are actually not privileged in their severity or pain—that is the first and most important step toward solving them.
Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it. And because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all.
This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal.
The tendency toward entitlement is apparent across all of society. And I believe it’s linked to mass-media-driven exceptionalism.
And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement. People who become great at something become great because they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.
Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.
– The first layer of the self-awareness onion is a simple understanding of one’s emotions.
– The second layer of the self-awareness onion is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions.
– The third level is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/ failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?
Problems may be inevitable, but the meaning of each problem is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we choose to measure them.
We’re apes. We think we’re all sophisticated with our toaster ovens and designer footwear, but we’re just a bunch of finely ornamented apes.
The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others; rather, the question is by what standard do we measure ourselves?
If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/ or how you measure failure/ success.
– Material Success.
– Always Being Right.
– Staying Positive.
Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable. Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate or controllable.
These values are immediate and controllable and engage you with the world as it is rather than how you wish it were.
Values are about prioritization.
What “self-improvement” really is about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.
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.
In his diary, William James wrote that he would spend one year believing that he was 100 percent responsible for everything that occurred in his life, no matter what. During this period, he would do everything in his power to change his circumstances, no matter the likelihood of failure. (..) James would later refer to his little experiment as his “rebirth,” and would credit it with everything that he later accomplished in his life.
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.
Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.
My ex leaving me, while one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had, was also one of the most important and influential experiences of my life. I credit it with inspiring a significant amount of personal growth.
“Do, or do not; there is no ‘how.’
You are already choosing, in every moment of every day, what to give a fuck about, so change is as simple as choosing to give a fuck about something else.
Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong. And when we learn something additional, we go from slightly less wrong to slightly less wrong than that, and then to even less wrong than that, and so on. We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually ever reaching truth or perfection.
Personal growth can actually be quite scientific. Our values are our hypotheses: this behavior is good and important; that other behavior is not. Our actions are the experiments; the resulting emotions and thought patterns are our data.
Certainty is the enemy of growth.
Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change.
Emo Philips once said, “I used to think the human brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
The backwards law again: the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel. But the converse is true as well: the more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know.
The man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.
Manson’s law of avoidance: The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
I say don’t find yourself. I say never know who you are.
Buddhism encourages you to not give a fuck.
The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
If it’s down to me being screwed up, or everybody else being screwed up, it is far, far, far more likely that I’m the one who’s screwed up.
If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.
The problem was that my emotions defined my reality.
Because I failed to separate what I felt from what was, I was incapable of stepping outside myself and seeing the world for what it was: a simple place where two people can walk up to each other at any time and speak.
Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen.
Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
Action → Inspiration → Motivation
And to build trust you have to be honest. (..) That means when things suck, you say so openly and without apology.
Honesty is a natural human craving. But part of having honesty in our lives is becoming comfortable with saying and hearing the word “no.” In this way, rejection actually makes our relationships better and our emotional lives healthier.
Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
Becker called such efforts our “immortality projects,” projects that allow our conceptual self to live on way past the point of our physical death. All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects:
Becker later came to a startling realization on his deathbed: that people’s immortality projects were actually the problem, not the solution; that rather than attempting to implement, often through lethal force, their conceptual self across the world, people should question their conceptual self and become more comfortable with the reality of their own death.
How will the world be different and better when you’re gone? What mark will you have made? What influence will you have caused? They say that a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa can cause a hurricane in Florida; well, what hurricanes will you leave in your wake? As Becker pointed out, this is arguably the only truly important question in our life. Yet we avoid thinking about it. One, because it’s hard. Two, because it’s scary. Three, because we have no fucking clue what we’re doing.
People declare themselves experts, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, mavericks, and coaches without any real-life experience. And they do this not because they actually think they are greater than everybody else; they do it because they feel that they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts only the extraordinary.
You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to.