Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is an interesting and fun read. Manson borrows some of his insights from stoic philosophy. Manson doesn’t refer to the stoics a lot in his writings but much of the book is focused around this philosophy. The two main ideas in this book are don’t worry about what you can’t control, and you are dying every day. Both these principles are main focuses in stoic philosophy. I’ve created a list of the six lessons I’ve learned from, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. This book contains excellent insights and is worth the afternoon it takes to read it.
1. Happiness is a problem – Everyone assumes happiness is something that you can achieve in life for example when I get that promotion then I’ll be happy. But Manson argues that happiness is biological and that the human species is prewired to not be content. Manson’s argument is our species made progress trying to make life better, so it is only biological we strive to achieve this. Suffering and discontent are human evolutionary features more than a personality traits. Manson premise for this concept are there will always be problems, but the goal is to have good problems. The solution of a problem just creates a new problem. Manson states, “True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.” This can be applied to both our professional and personal life. I’ll elaborate on this from a professional perspective, if you spend your whole life in a job that you hate you will constantly be solving problems you hate. A job is basically being paid to solve problems for others. Although if you find a job you enjoy (I say enjoy because finding a job you love is very hard), then you are solving problems that you don’t mind having!
2. You are not special – This is mainly to do with entitlement. The idea that we are special and deserve something from the world even though you haven’t put in any work. Entitlement seems to be a growing trend in our society. People are expecting a great job or business idea to fall into their lap like the world owes them something. If you don’t put in some work and at least contribute something to the world this will never happen.
Mason states two kinds of entitlement:
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.
Most people are not awesome, nor do they suck. If a person is great at something it is because they put in the work and spent time perfecting their skills. They were willing to do things others were unwilling to do. The 5 AM practices and work outs. Taking a risk, quitting their job and starting a business. Reading 100’s of non-fiction books to expand their mind and knowledge. These are things that make you great, things others are unwilling to do but you are!
People need to understand that most of their problems are not unique to them. If you have a problem, millions of other people in the world are going through the same problem. Understanding this can keep things in perspective. Manson argues we should stop thinking we are special and start to accept being average. Then pressures of doing something extraordinary will be lifted and then we might actually achieve greatness.
3. The struggle is real – You have to be willing to struggle at something to achieve success. One of the best principles in this book came from one line, “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.” What are you willing to do for a particular goal to achieve success? When you see successful musicians who either achieved success at music school or commercially. Most of the time you don’t hear about their back stories. To achieve success, they had to practice craft for six hours a day or driving across the country in a van living off crackers. Most people are unwilling to do these things to become successful. In competitive fields like music you have to be willing to suffer through the pain in order to achieve your goal.
I am much like Manson, I grew up loving music and music was a huge part of my family. I even have my grandfather’s album hanging on my wall. Through my teenage years I thought my life would revolve around something to do with music, not necessarily a performing artist but possibly a producer. But I was never willing to put in the work to achieve these goals. I never put in the hours of practice required to get into a music school. I didn’t even try. I never struggled to get myself to open mics and put myself out there for people to see. I didn’t understand why I didn’t go after these things until I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Really, I didn’t want it that bad. Basically, what I’m getting at here as I pound on my keyboard at 6:00 in the morning is life really is what you are willing to suffer for.
4. You’re wrong about everything – What Manson is saying here is life is a matter of perception and everyone is wrong about everything because everyone perceives things differently. Manson states the following, “the brain is imperfect. We mistake things we see and hear. We forget or misinterpret quite easily.” Put simply as humans we are constantly perceiving things differently. How often do we misinterpret the meaning behind a person’s actions or words? When receiving a text from a person, how often do you have to think what a person means from their text? Is there a hidden meaning behind the text? Naturally our minds go to the unhealthiest places. Usually, there is no hidden meaning behind anything, it was just something that happened. In this digital age it is hard to decipher what people mean through emails and texts. Sometimes that one line in an email from our boss can ruin our whole day. Although most of the time emails and texts are sent quickly without much thought. In general, I prefer emails and texts just because they are quicker and there is a record to refer too. Although if it is something important, I will send an email followed by a quick phone call, so nothing is deciphered incorrectly. Mainly Manson is saying everyone is wrong because no two minds perceive things the same way. No two people have all the same experiences, so their minds cannot work the same way!
5. Values – Manson talks a lot about values, which I have read about in numerous self-help books. This is also the main focus for Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Manson talks about having shitty values which are pleasure, material success, always being right, and staying positive. Values are what we base our lives around, it’s not our life goals or our achievements. Where our decisions are centered from is our values. Manson lists some good and bad values in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and they are:
Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable.
Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate and controllable.
Good values are based from within and are based from something you can control. Bad values are based on external things and cannot be controlled. Bad values are things you can either achieve or obtain. Manson isn’t saying you shouldn’t have goals, but your decisions shouldn’t be centered from want and desire. In my journal this morning, I wrote my values that have been rolling around in my head for some time now, which are still a work in progress.
1. Stay Motivated
2. Stay Focused
3. Stay Calm
These values are in no particular order but give me some basis of where to make my decisions from. Make decisions from a calm and focused mind. From a place of love while staying motived towards my goals are my values. They are pretty general but gives a basis for your values.
6. And then you die – I see a stoic philosophical perspective in many of the books I read. It might be because the philosophy is simple, and you can relate it to many concepts. Although I think it’s because many writers take their influences and approach life from a stoic perspective. One of the main teachings of the stoics is that every day that passes you are one day closer to death. This isn’t meant to be morbid, but one of the first steps for embracing life is to understand that death will happen to all of us. The stoic teachings were not meant to scare us; it is a way to put things into perspective. This allows us to appreciate our time more and make the best of the time we have. This isn’t to say we should go through life frightened that death is around every corner. Although we should understand that death happens to all of us and to appreciate every moment. Manson states the following, and I think these are some of the most insightful words in his book:
Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
Some wise words from Mark Manson.
When I started this blog post, I intended for it to be a shorter post around 700 – 1,000 words. Apparently, I had a lot more to say on the book than I thought. This book is worth the small amount of time it takes to read it. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is around 200 pages and most of the pages are packed with good insights. So, if you are looking for a deeper understand of Manson’s views, I would recommend you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. If you are looking to hear more from me, subscribe to my blog or look me up on Instagram @the_52_book_challenge! Check back next week for my next blog pots!