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Book Note

Thoughts On: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck—by Mark Manson

Summary: What you care about will shape your life. Rewrite your narrative to not think you're special—either positively or negatively—and care about things with real value.

Actionable Takeaway

Write an elevator pitch version of your personal narrative and internalize it. Your story shouldn't view yourself as special or entitled (either positively or negatively) and should aspire to goals that reflect positive (internal) values.

Concepts in the book

Don't Try

The virtue of not giving a fuck. Though this is deceptive, the argument is actually to not give a fuck about the wrong things, while very much giving a fuck about the right things. Wrong things are empty possessions, insecurities, what other people think of you. Right things are things of consequence.

Happiness is a problem

Unhappiness is a lie. Human nature is such that we're always dissatisfied. No matter how good we have it we will always have problems. We're happiest when we are solving problems but there will always be new problems. So aim for having better problems. Happiness is a life of solving the type of problems you enjoy solving.

Everybody wants the same thing in life but we're not all willing to do the painful work required to achieve it. Be that the hours of work, the corporate bullshit, the relationship compromises. If you have a dream, first figure out if you're willing to put up with the shit it comes with. If you have a dream, make sure you're not in love with the goal, and not the work required to get there, because happiness (and success) is enjoying the process.

You are not special

Some people believe they are special. Either uniquely wonderful and so entitled to special treatment or uniquely awful and so entitled to special treatment. We are raised to believe we are special. Through social media, we are bombarded with examples of special people. We begin to believe being exceptional is attainable. It's not. Even those who manage to put the time in to become exceptional at one thing do so at the cost of other areas of they're life. One should learn to embrace mediocrity.

The value of suffering

we measure our happiness against values that we set for ourselves. These can be arbitrary or destructive.

Good values are:

  • reality-based
  • socially constructive
  • immediate and controllable

Bad values are:

  • superstitious
  • socially destructive
  • not immediate or controllable

Examples of good values are:

  • honesty
  • humility
  • innovation
  • charity creativity

Examples of bad values are:

  • dominance
  • sex
  • pleasure
  • attention
  • being rich
  • not being alone

Often, you can tell the difference between good and bad values because good values can be achieved immediately through your initiative whereas bad values are externally dependent (either the action or opinion of others)

You are always choosing

We are always choosing. While we aren't responsible for every random event, we are responsible for how we interpret and react to it. When a bad event happens, we can wallow or we can improve, we can blame or we can grow. See William James for a tangent

We're responsible for our values and how we choose to see the world. When we change our values there will be external effects. I'm reminded of how my friends have reflected my values through life: My life has been a seesaw of priorities flipping back and forth between self-destructive alcoholism and drug use, and manic focus on work and self-improvement. Each time I've switch, friends have drifted away.

You are wrong about everything (But so am I)

We view the world through our assumptions and as we learn, and realize we're wrong, we update our assumptions so they're less wrong. We are always wrong, the goal is to become less wrong.

This too is how we should view ourselves. We have a narrow definition of ourselves but should amend it as we grow.

Manson’s Law of Avoidance and goes as follows: The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid doing it. This often sabotages our success (true).

Your identity story writes your values so rewrite your identity story. Don't be special, either positively or negatively. The narrower your story is the stricter your values have to be. Embrace a mediocre storyline.

Failure is the way forward

Fear of failure is the result of striving towards goals rather than values. "Have everyone like me", as a goal, is failable, whereas, "be likable", as a value, is a process. Goals are finite whereas values are a lifelong pursuit.

Action is the result and the cause of motivation. If you're lacking the motivation to start something new, just start doing it and the motivation will follow.

The importance of saying no

Every decision for something is a decision against something else. To be for something, we must inherently be against something else. Avoiding conflict by not standing up for the values you've chosen is a way of not fully committing to those values.

And then you die

The core concept of this chapter is that one should not give a fuck about death or immortality through legacy. I take issue with this chapter because it is written by someone who has had children. Having children is immortality in a biological sense. Having passed on your genes, your life, from an evolutionary viewpoint, is a success. As someone without children, my life is an evolutionary failure, so to speak, and so I must strive to create.


Not giving a fuck is actually about giving a whole lot of fucks about the right things. Instead of focusing our energies on short-sighted goals or negative beliefs, we should focus on realistic, process-driven values.