The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck Book Review, Summary, and Notes



πŸ“– The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Acknowledge the pain in your life, accept to live with it, choose the right painful experiences, and don't leave it to chance.
  2. Understanding your values is difficult and requires a lot of self-awareness, mindfulness, and work.
  3. After you find your self-values, align your actions to them to live a less painful life.

☘️ How the Book Changed Me

After reading the book, I re-evaluated my values, actions, and what I chose to do. Realizing the pain in life and understanding that there is no escape from it helped me find the pain that I can and would love to tolerate. Now, I'm looking at my values and things I do a bit differently. The book helped me see them more clearly and made me say no to things not aligned with my values.

🎩 My Top 3 Quotes

  • "Our desire is no longer material; it's existential."
  • "Don't hope for a life without problems. There is no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems."
  • "The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other's problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other."

πŸ“£What is The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson About?

This New York Times Bestseller book is about understanding life a little bit better. There is a positivist movement that pushes us to have positive experiences all the time. However, the reality is not like that. We're not exceptional but average. The book explains why this movement is harmful and why it is unreal.

The book helps the reader to find out the limitation of their lives by showing the shitty things. The first limitation is that we have a limited amount of fucks to give. When we know this limit, we can correctly choose what we should and shouldn't care about.

Happiness is a delicate topic but approaching it from a different perspective is always helpful. The author gives a different perspective than all the media pumps us. In this new perspective, we learn not to even try and even to give up.

⭐️ My Review

The book's counterintuitive approach is a slap in the face, and you need to stop reading and think about what you read just a moment ago. I really like these kinds of books that make you think. The book entered as one of my all-time favorites by receiving nine stars out of 10.

I will recommend and gift this book to people who are having an existential crisis.

Why not 10? Because I cannot give 10 to any book while knowing there might be books that deserve a better rating than this. So, it's not 10, but it should be. The only reason is that I cannot reserve the ten stars for the books that I just read. I might come back and change my rate after a couple of years when I see the impact on my life.

πŸ“ Summary, Notes, and Personal Thoughts

Happiness Is a Problem

  • There is no happiness without suffering. The whole imagination of happiness that we await in achieving goals is problematic. When we reach a goal, we are satisfied only for a moment; these emotions are always temporary. After getting the moment, feelings are gone, and we're back to suffering again for the next goal, along with an expectation of happiness. Social media tricks us by displaying everyone's happy moments and convincing us that the full-happiness is possible. But we never know what did the other person suffer to reach that joy. What pain did they have? We don't think they had any pain at all, which produces a lot of psychological troubles.
  • Suffering and pain are born from a physical need during evolution. Humans seek to suffer all the time. That's why regardless of richness, poverty, aloneness, being entirely social, hungriness, and fullness, everyone suffers from different things. When humans (or all creatures) suffer, they seek to change because evolution is based on small changes and adaption to the environment. If we don't suffer and be happy all the time, we wouldn't be looking for any single change. "Only mildly dissatisfied and painful creatures can put the work to innovate and survive." If there is no dissatisfaction, we never move a finger to change anything. In the end, our biological needs drive us.
  • In our everyday life, social media bombards us with happy moments. We create protection and safe zones to prevent suffering. While avoiding the pain, we're losing the benefits of learning how to deal with it. Like babies, when they are not exposed to germs early on, their adult lives become less immune. When we avoid pain, we're growing to suffer more and more from less important things. Social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, cause delusions of the actual world; however, the reality is full of pain. For us, the important part is learning how to deal with this pain. If we avoid healthy doses of pain early on, we become extremely sensitive to any trivial pain, and our suffering bar lowers every day. We need to benefit from learning and experiencing healthy doses of pain early on to choose what to suffer from later on.

Happiness Comes from Solving Problems

  • Happiness without any problems is improbable. Instead of focusing on removing all the issues, we should focus on which problems to tackle. Because if we try to solve every single case, we won't have any energy left. Also, big goals often have many struggles that lead to them. By only choosing to deal with these struggles, we can have access to our goals.
  • Good goals change from person to person. Upon choosing them, we can experience happiness consistently.

You Are Not Special

  • When we evaluate ourselves, we put some measurements. Depending on the measure, we feel satisfied, happy, and fulfilled. The measurements of self-worth (how much we feel valued by ourselves) usually come from negative experiences. It doesn't arise from how we feel happy or entitled to be happy, but rather what we hide beneath. How we feel about our negative experiences shows us our true self-worth. People with high self-worth can look at themselves and say; yes, this is where I'm weak or vulnerable.
  • The media likes to show extraordinary people who achieved great things because they create attention. Humans are interested in different things, and the press uses the exceptional to keep the interest high. The misperception created by the media causes many mental problems. The extraordinary people we see in media do their unusual things because they usually accept themselves as average or worse at what they do. They live the reality: most things in life are either average or suck. The media blurs this reality. It creates a fake one by saying that everyone can achieve everything. The mental burden of seeing these people and being pumped with 'you are special' speeches leads us to think that we must be extraordinary while we are not. Once we accept that we are average, we can leverage the appreciation of the essential things in life. This mindset lets us accomplish what we want to achieve without having self-criticism or judgment. It helps to focus on the moment more instead of blaming our past or creating dreams that will never happen.

The Value of Suffering

  • Everyone has values and metrics that define their perspective and perception of life. They also describe the problems they face. In each situation, people interpret the events and either accept them as a problem or not. When people don't take the "bad" event as a problem, they just don't give a fuck about it. It's also possible that they see these things as good things. It's a half-glass full or half-glass empty situation. Their values and which measures they use to evaluate these values define how they see the glass. Some good metrics yield good results; some bad ones yield poor results. The crucial part is that when they want happiness in life, they need to be cautious about which metrics to use to measure happiness and which values they are looking for. For example, if their value is honesty and they count the number of lies, telling the truth satisfies them. However, if they value success by measuring how they are doing compared to others (mainly extraordinary people), they will always feel unsatisfied and unhappy.

You Are Always Choosing

  • Our lives are full of choices. We always have to choose if we will care about something or not. We decide to have a particular perspective on different things. Even when we don't choose anything, it's still a choice by its nature. The reality is that the choice is unavoidable, so we should focus on how and what we choose. If the reason we choose something is apparent and aligned with good values, we can grow happier. If we decide on something with our shitty values, then there is a high chance that we won't feel that much satisfied. That's why figuring out the values and making mindful decisions is crucial for happiness.
  • As we were born, the cards were already dealt with in our life. We may be lucky and get a good hand, or we're out of luck and have a terrible hand. The reality is that these cards are not our choices. However, having a bad hand doesn't mean that we will lose the game. Think poker; your strategy is your choice. Ultimately you're responsible for choosing how you will approach playing with that hand.

    The same applies to life as well. If we are not in a good position from the beginning, we will have a good or bad life depending on how we want to live. If we choose shitty values, it's our responsibility. We can have a better life when we decide to move on after a bad thing that's not in our control. If we choose to blame ourselves for something that happened, although we didn't choose it and didn't impact it, we are responsible for having a miserable life. The choice is ours, and we're responsible for it. We need to choose good values and measurements over bad ones to stop ourselves from complaining all the time.

You're Wrong About Everything

  • Similar to acquiring knowledge, being certain and pursuing certainty makes you more uncertain. The more you read and learn, the less you know. The more uncertain you are, the more you are open to learning and changing.
  • The more you are open to uncertainty, the more you feel comfortable finding something you don't know.
  • When you are certain, you limit yourself and put borders around your thoughts. Certainty is the enemy of open thinking.
  • When we put everything in a certain way, there is no joy in it. The pleasure, learning, and growth come from enough uncertainty and being open to new things.
  • When we have values that define our personality, we always act accordingly. So, our values are limiting us. For example, if we value friendship, we will never yell at our friends even if we really want it. If we value kindness, we will never tell a person that we hate them and never want to see them again because these are against our values. Besides the good sides of having values, just having them limits us. Having no value at all is what enables us to be curious and discover new things in life. When we set a new value, we set a new identity that we will try to fit in any chance.
  • Having good values is a good direction in life to have a better structure and time. However, knowing the side effects and being aware of the limiting behavior is eye-opening, and it pushes us to be more careful and mindful of personal identity and choices.

Failure is The Way Forward

  • Action β†’ Inspiration β†’ Motivation β†’ Action β†’ Inspiration β†’ Motivation β†’ Action ...
  • The "Do something principle" and bias for action have different perspectives on motivation and inspiration. If you wait for motivation or inspiration to arrive, you most probably won't find it. Even when you do, you probably won't take any action about it. You will procrastinate if you approach it in this way.
  • The loop will follow if you take action and do something before waiting for inspiration or motivation. This process is painful, and to proceed further, accept this pain, and do something, it doesn't matter what. You will see the results. For example, if you want to write, don't wait for inspiration. Just start putting word after another, and both motivation and inspiration will find you.

The Importance of Saying No

  • Only you can be honest with yourself if you are honest with others. That's where many cultures lack. When people try to be in harmony with the group and avoid conflicts, they think they drive to success. It's sometimes true, as we also see in Japan. However, understanding ourselves require being honest with ourselves. Being honest with ourselves demands being honest with others, even if we have to confront them.

Rejection Makes Your Life Better

  • The focus is fundamental for achieving many things, and sticking to the values is one of them. Accepting a value requires saying no to the things that break the value. For example, if fidelity is one of our values, we need to say no to cheating.

    Saying yes and sticking to a thing requires saying no to many other things. Society nudges us to say yes to many things by embracing being part of the community. People who say no or don't accept this culture are considered outlanders. However, the actual value comes from saying no. Accepting and being in sync with everyone is impossible, and even trying it is incredibly tiring.

How to Build Trust

  • Conflicts are healthy parts of relationships. If we always agree on each other, there will always be one side sacrificing something. When we always agree, it feels fake. The relationship doesn't look and sound natural.
  • Each individual is different, but society forces us to be the same. Always confirming each other and avoiding conflict doesn't help us to find the truth. When there is no truth in the relationship, we cannot be honest and cannot form trust.

Freedom Through Commitment

  • Committing to something is perceived as limiting your options, limiting your freedom of choice. But committing brings liberty and freedom from things that don't matter.
  • When there are many options for the same thing, we get stressed and cannot decide. Especially in the digital age, different things bombard us to capture our attention.
  • Committing to one thing means freedom from distracting things. It enables us to work on one thing to excel at it, and it keeps our attention on that and discards others.
  • Committing is saying no to many other things, and it frees us, reduces our stress, and enables us to get better at the thing we commit.

...And Then You Die

  • Death is an unavoidable yet the most neglected concept in life. We live as if we can escape from it, and we don't think about it and continue our lives as if it is not there. The immortal feeling gives us entitlement.
  • Immortality, actually fake immortality, prevents us from understanding that whatever we do will stay in this world. At the same time, we work toward breaking this understanding. Many people want to leave something behind that will remind them long after they die.
  • Once we accept and always remember that we will die, we can choose not to give a fuck about many things. We can get rid of the entitlement and select our values correctly. Death keeps our focus on important and valuable stuff, and it gives us freedom.
Book Review and Notes Last Updated: Sep 23, 2022