Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

Book Notes – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck – Mark Manson

NOTES

  • The secret to Charles Bukowski’s success: the simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself—especially the worst parts of himself—and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.
  • Conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack.
  • “The smallest dog barks the loudest.” A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident.
  • You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give a fuck about having a better vacation than your coworkers. Give a fuck about buying that new lawn ornament. Give a fuck about having the right kind of selfie stick.
  • Companies want you to give a fuck: giving a fuck about more stuff is good for business.
  • The problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction.
  • 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.
  • Very few animals on earth have the ability to think cogent thoughts to begin with, but we humans have the luxury of being able to have thoughts about our thoughts.
  • We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious.
  • By not giving a fuck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell (feeling bad for feeling bad).
  • Say to yourself, “I feel like shit, but who gives a fuck?” And then, as if sprinkled by magic fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.
  • We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.
  • Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
  • You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon.
  • In the short amount of time between being born and being dead, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.
  • Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent;
    • It means being comfortable with being different.
    • People who are indifferent are lame and scared.
    • It’s about not caring about pissing some people off to do what he feels is right or important or noble.
  • You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others.
  • To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  • “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.
  • Most things in life have little lasting impact on our lives.
  • Become comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.
  • Life itself is a form of suffering.
  • The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.
  • We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.
  • Our brains don’t register much difference between physical pain and psychological pain.
  • Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of the next one.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.
  • Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you.
  • Many people fuck things up in at least one of two ways:
    • Denial, and/or;
    • Victim Mentality
  • If you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved.
  • Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better.
  • Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good.
  • The Hedonic Treadmill: the idea that we’re always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different.
  • You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You know what else three-year-olds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
  • You don’t REALLY want something if you want the reward and not the struggle, if you want the result and not the process.
  • People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness.
  • If 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.
  • Entitlement plays out in one of two ways:
    • I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment.
    • I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
  • The more exposed we are to opposing viewpoints, the more we seem to get upset that those other viewpoints exist.
  • The vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.
  • Millennials often get blamed for this cultural shift, but that’s likely because millennials are the most plugged-in and visible generation.
  • This constant stream of unrealistic media dogpiles onto our existing feelings of insecurity, by overexposing us to the unrealistic standards we fail to live up to.
  • Because social media only shows unrealistic standards, it becomes better to be at the extreme low end of the bell curve than to be in the middle, because at least there you’re still special and deserve attention.
  • Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
  • The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.
  • There are a handful of common values that create really poor problems for people—problems that can hardly be solved.
  • Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose. And yet, pleasure is what’s marketed to us, twenty-four/seven.
  • Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.
  • We consistently make poor assumptions, misjudge probabilities, misremember facts, give in to cognitive biases, and make decisions based on our emotional whims. As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly.
  • Material Success: Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor’s.
  • If your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.
  • Sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.
  • Constant positivity is a form of avoidance.
  • One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.
  • Good values are:
    • reality-based,
    • socially constructive, and;
    • immediate and controllable.
  • Bad values are:
    • superstitious,
    • socially destructive, and;
    • not immediate or controllable.
  • When we have poor values we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter.
  • Self-improvement is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about.
  • 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.
  • If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control.
  • There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
  • We are always taking an active role in what’s occurring to and within us.
  • The point is, we are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not. Always.
  • The real question is, What are we choosing to give a fuck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life?
  • Example of bad values: “a man felt that he was too short, he didn’t often go out and try to meet women. The few times he did, he would home in on the smallest behaviors from any woman he talked with that could possibly indicate he wasn’t attractive enough for her and then convince himself that she didn’t like him, even if she really did. As you can imagine, his dating life sucked.”
  • There are also problems that we aren’t at fault for, yet we are still responsible for them. For example, if you woke up one day and there was a newborn baby on your doorstep, it would not be your fault that the baby had been put there, but the baby would now be your responsibility.
  • Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense.
  • Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you.
  • One side effect of the Internet and social media is that it’s become easier than ever to push responsibility—for even the tiniest of infractions—onto some other group or person.
  • The moment you change your values, your turnaround will reverberate out through your relationships.
  • 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.
  • A certain man works his ass off and believes he deserves a promotion, but he never explicitly says that to his boss. He is therefore never rewarded for his hard work.
  • We don’t actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating.
  • We experience something. Then we remember it slightly differently a few days later, as if it had been whispered and misheard. Then we tell somebody about it and have to fill in a couple of the plot holes with our own embellishments.
  • By linking our present experiences with that imagined past, our mind allows us to maintain whatever meaning we already established.
  • Not only is certainty unattainable, but the pursuit of certainty often breeds more (and worse) insecurity, because the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel.
  • Before we can look at our values and prioritizations and change them into better, healthier ones, we must first become uncertain of our current values.
  • Manson’s Law of Avoidance: “The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”
  • Buddhism argues that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all.
  • If you assume that your plane is the one that’s going to crash, or that your project idea is the stupid one everyone is going to laugh at, or that you’re the one everyone is going to choose to mock or ignore, you’re implicitly telling yourself, “I’m the exception; I’m unlike everybody else; I’m different and special.”
  • Aristotle wrote: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
  • Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
  • If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have.
  • Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
  • If I measure myself by the standard “Make everyone I meet like me,” I will be anxious, because failure is 100 percent defined by the actions of others, not by my own actions. I am not in control.
  • For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity.
  • Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
  • VCR questions: From the outside, the answer is simple: just shut up and do it. But from the inside, from the perspective of each of these people, these questions feel impossibly complex.
  • Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. A series of VCR questions. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you’re happy.
  • Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
  • Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
  • Trick yourself into action (by Tim Ferriss): Promise yourself to write two hundred crappy words per day, that’s it. The idea was that you force yourself to write two hundred crappy words, more often than not the act of writing will inspire; and before you know it, you’ll have thousands of words down on the page.
  • Do something. That “something” can be the smallest viable action toward something else. It can be anything.
  • Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
  • The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.
  • The difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship comes down to two things:
    • How well each person in the relationship accepts responsibility, and
    • The willingness of each person to both reject and be rejected by their partner.
  • Wherever there is a healthy and loving relationship, there will be clear boundaries between the two people and their values.
  • People in a healthy relationship with strong boundaries will take responsibility for their own values and problems and not take responsibility for their partner’s values and problems.
  • A healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.
  • The setting of proper boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t help or support your partner or be helped and supported yourself.
  • People with strong boundaries are not afraid of a temper tantrum, an argument, or getting hurt.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that it’s unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 percent and fulfill every need the other has.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that they may hurt someone’s feelings sometimes, but ultimately they can’t determine how other people feel.
  • 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.
  • When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing.
  • If there really is no reason to do anything, then there is also no reason to not do anything.
  • By spending the majority of your short life avoiding what is painful and uncomfortable, You essentially avoid being alive at all.
  • Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
  • Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly.
  • Because of this unique mental ability, Becker says, that we all, at some point, become aware of the inevitability of our own death.
  • Death terror: a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
  • We are all aware on some level that our physical self will eventually die, that this death is inevitable, and that its inevitability—on some unconscious level—scares the shit out of us.
  • To compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. This is why people try so hard to put their names on buildings, on statues, on spines of books.
  • All of human civilization, he says, is basically a result of immortality projects: the cities and governments and structures and authorities in place today were all immortality projects of men and women who came before us.
  • All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.
  • 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.
  • Mark Twain: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
  • You too are going to die, and that’s because you too were fortunate enough to have lived.

This book contains some serious life lessons, sometimes on the boundary of stoicism.  There is a reason these notes turned out to be over 3.000 words. I highly recommend this book for everyone, especially in this day and age of entitlement and victim mentality, but also this time of unlimited options and infinite possibilities. If you liked these notes, you can support my blog by purchasing the full book on either:
Bol.com: Early Retirement Extreme on Bol.com
Amazon: Early Retirement Extreme on Amazon
Check out this book on Goodreads. I rated it 5 out of 5.

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