Thoughts on “Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”

Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” is a popular book with a catchy title and filled with lots of f bombs to live up to the title. Most friends’ reviews were along the lines of “despite the title this is actually a thoughtful and useful book”. I agree with this assessment.

The book is probably not worth $15 or whatever the retail is, but is a good reminder for the millennial generation not to be special entitled snowflakes and be intentional about what we care about.

What I really got of this is various ways in which entitlement creeps into our lives, including mine.

The deeper the pain, the more helpless we feel against our problems, and the more entitlement we adopt to compensate for those problems. 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.

Entitlement and indignation then come hand in hand:

“Victimhood chic” is in style on both the right and the left today, among both the rich and the poor. In fact, this may be the first time in human history that every single demographic group has felt unfairly victimized simultaneously. And they’re all riding the highs of the moral indignation that comes along with it.

These kinds of topics are difficult to articulate, but Manson manages to elicit nods rather than provoke defensiveness. Instead of making the reader think “fuck you, I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work”, it made me try to map his words to situations I’ve seen in my life. At another angle, it was presented in a way that didn’t blame a global epidemic, but expressed ways to live your own life.

Aside from entitlement, the rest of the book is around values, choice, and how to handle the inevitability of death. A lot of these are relatively cliche, but do well to round out the book.

Manson’s method of operation involves stories and anecdotes from his life, history, and mythology – the stories are illustrative, but not comprehensive. Manson’s goal is not to create a perfectly defensible argument for his life guidelines, but rather to enable us to draw connections between our own experiences and his themes. It’s easy to pick out inconsistencies in his logic, but that isn’t necessarily the point.

Quotes

All the quotes I highlighted are on my goodreads, but here are a few ones that were useful takeaways for me

On uncertainty

Why uncertainty isn’t always a bad thing, and how to manage it as an asset rather than a liability.

Uncertainty removes our judgments of others; it preempts the unnecessary stereotyping and biases that we otherwise feel when we see somebody on TV, in the office, or on the street. Uncertainty also relieves us of our judgment of ourselves. We don’t know if we’re lovable or not; we don’t know how attractive we are; we don’t know how successful we could potentially become. The only way to achieve these things is to remain uncertain of them and be open to finding them out through experience.

An illustrative but not comprehensive anecdote

Here, he’s not saying Russia is the best model to follow, but that the perspective isn’t black and white.

But, in the “free” West, my Russian teacher continued, there existed an abundance of economic opportunity—so much economic opportunity that it became far more valuable to present yourself in a certain way, even if it was false, than to actually be that way.

On f bombs

An example of the litany of f-bombs scattered throughout the book. But useful ones.

What Becker is saying, in essence, is that we’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about something is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death.

On taking either no responsibility or too much responsibility

This is something that I know i do all the time – it’s good to have validation that it is a legitimate problem and to be taken seriously.

In general, entitled people fall into one of two traps in their relationships. Either they expect other people to take responsibility for their problems: “I wanted a nice relaxing weekend at home. You should have known that and canceled your plans.” Or they take on too much responsibility for other people’s problems: “She just lost her job again, but it’s probably my fault because I wasn’t as supportive of her as I could have been. I’m going to help her rewrite her résumé tomorrow.”

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