Saturday 16 December 2017

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

Probably like many of you, I spent (too) much time in my twenties and thirties worrying about stuff that seemed really important at the time, but I can barely remember now, over a decade later.

Becoming an adult is hard work.

I spent a lot of time feeling confused, wondering when I would actually feel like a grown up, even as I did adult stuff like go to work everyday, signed up for a mortgage and payed my bills on time. I loved being free and independent of my parents and loved being responsible for my own life, but was that it? Was that being an adult?

I might have been financially and emotionally independent, and more than capable of travelling the world on my own, but I struggled to find meaningful love relationships and I certainly didn't feel happy very often. I knew that buying into the Hollywood dream of happiness and love was a road to disaster, yet those images and ideals still seeped into my subconscious and infected my thinking anyway. I really don't know how young people, swamped by false, all-happy images on social media, cope at all these days. It was hard enough to keep the insidious messages of movies, magazines and media at bay without adding facebook, insta, twitter, snapchat et al to the mix. (Did that just make me sound really OLD?)

At the time, I looked for books or philosophies that might make it all magically better. I quickly learnt to avoid anything or anyone that promised me that I DESERVED to be happy because I was just soooooo god-damn special, unique and awesome. Someone, once, even tried to convince me that I was angel of the universe and deserved all good and wonderful things all the time! I was desperate to feel happy and normal and balanced, but apparently not too desperate to recognise bullshit when it was heaped upon me.

All this seeking and searching didn't leave me feeling like I was much of a grown-up. In fact, I felt that I was failing at it somehow.

But then, in my mid thirties, I faced death fair and square, with the sudden fatal illness of a dear friend. One of the many things that came from this time, was a reflection on how I wanted MY life to be viewed when MY end came. Was I being kind enough, loving enough? Was I doing stuff that gave my life meaning or was I just going through the motions? If I were to die tomorrow, would I have regrets for the things undone, unsaid? Was a living a life half-lived?

I decided it was time to let go of my childhood issues. I decided it was time to embrace MY life and be the person I really wanted to be.

It was during this time I discovered Buddhism, yoga and meditation. I also learnt to accept all the love that was in my life, via family, friends and colleagues, even if I didn't have a life partner.
I had to work this stuff out for myself the hard way. Over time and with lots of blood, sweat and tears.

And perhaps that's how it works for us all.

That's certainly how it worked for Mark Manson.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson is not only Manson's hard-won journey into becoming an adult, but also Buddhism 101 heavily laced with the F-bomb!

Manson's wraps up Buddhist thoughts about suffering, attachment and letting go ever so sweetly and succinctly in his title. The rest of the book expands on these ideas with humour, clearly articulated anecdotes and catchy phrases.

  • You must give a fuck about something.
  • Reserve your fucks for what truly matters.
  • Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what's truly fuck-worthy.
  • This book doesn't give a fuck about alleviating your problems or your pain.
Think of it as a guide to suffering and how to do it better, more meaningfully, with more compassion and more humility. It's a book about moving lightly despite your heavy burdens, resting easier with your greatest fears, laughing at your tears as you cry them. 
  • Happiness comes from solving problems.
  • We shouldn't always trust our emotions. In fact, I believe we should make a habit of questioning them.
  • Real, serious, lifelong fulfilment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and managing of our struggles.
  • Most of us a pretty average at most things we do.
  • 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.
  • Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you.
  • We should be in constant search of doubt.
  • All beliefs are wrong - some are just less wrong that others.
  • People can't solve your problems for you....You can't solve other people's problems for them either.
There are some experiences that you can have only when you've lived in the same place for five years, when you've been with the same person for over a decade, when you've been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime.
  • Breadth of experience is likely necessary and desirable when you're young....But depth is where the gold is buried.
  • Death is the only thing we can know with any must be the compass by which we orient all of our other values and decisions. 

If you've ever wondered what this life is all about it and whether you're doing it right and you don't mind a good dose of swearing, then this is the book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it insightful and practical as well.

Manson's website is here if you'd like to have a taste-test before buying.


  1. I learnt this lesson rather late, but certainly with my upcoming divorce I am learning very quickly to reserve my frustrations and anger for things that really matter, and not to care for other people's opinion.

    1. Sorry to hear you're going through tough times Marina. Around the time I was learning some of my lessons via the death of my friend, Mr Books was going through a divorce. Both events changed us forever and made us into the people we are today - able to appreciate our hard-won loving, happy relationship.
      I guess what I'm saying, is what Manson says in his book - it's the problems you have and how you chose to feel about them and how you chose to solve them that can lead to happiness.

      Good luck

  2. Ah, we're in sync! I've bought this but haven't read it (naturally), although I did just read (and blogged) The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k which seems to have quite a similar message, but without the buddhism. I'll hope to read this one next year.

  3. I kind of do mind the swearing. I find it a lazy, imprecise way to get attention and something I don't like to hear inside my head. So I would never pick up a book like this, but I love your list of take-away points! I just wish it could be without the f-word.

    1. I do actually agree with you Lory - 95% of the time. I think most swearing is lazy & attention-seeking. It’s also about power & aggression & intimidation.

      But occasionally swearing can be funny & very expressive.

      Manson’s swearing verges on aggressive at times, but is mostly done purposefully to attract his target audience. He uses the swearing for shock value. Perhaps even slightly ironically.

      For a more edifying take on his ideas, read pretty much any Buddhism for beginners guide. My personal favourite has been Lama Surya Das. Stephen Cope also does some interesting yoga/meditation books.

  4. After reading you very personal post....I struggled to find something to say. Then I stumbled upon this quote by author Poe Ballatine and it just sums it all up:
    It is "Mining the lost years…. How to take the dirty coal of your life (breakups, breakdowns, shattered dreams, sickness, death, misdeeds, indiscretions and other ringing failures…and compress it into diamonds!”

    1. Great quote thanks Nancy.
      Although now I will be singing ‘some days are diamonds, some days are stone’ all day!


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