Today, people enjoy more material wealth and comforts, yet we tend to feel more impoverished emotionally and psychologically. In this book, Mark Manson offers insights and tips to help us cope with our pain, failures and regrets, so we can live life fully and find genuine happiness. Manson delivers the ideas in his unique style, using irreverent and extremely “colorful” language to drive his points home. In this free version of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck summary, we’ll briefly outline the key ideas in 2 parts.
Debunking Myths on Success and Happiness
We are constantly bombarded by messages about becoming happier, healthier, smarter and richer. We buy more things and experiences, hoping to improve our image, happiness level and satisfaction. Yet, in the pursuit of more, we end up losing sight of what we already have, and reinforce our sense of lack.
Many of our modern values—like success, positivity, greatness, and freedom—can actually make us more insecure and miserable. The way to be happy and fulfilled, Manson says, is to not give a f*ck about everything we’re told to care about. Instead, get clear on what truly matters, focus your choices on those few priorities, and accept that in spite of that, you’ll still make stupid mistakes and suffer occasionally.
Here’s an overview of some of the success myths you should ditch. For more details on each of these myths, do get our full version of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck summary.
Here’s the paradox: the more you pursue the positives, the more negative you’ll feel. Those who desperately want to be rich, worthy or happy will only end up feeling poorer, more unworthy or unhappy. On the other hand, the more you accept the negatives in your life, the better you’ll feel.
In fact, most we’re surrounded by so many messages about being positive that we tend to feel bad for feeling bad. Manson calls this the “feedback loop from hell”. The way to stop the loop is to stop giving a f*ck about everything or trying to be perfect. It’s perfectly normal to feel upset or unmotivated at times. Stop giving a f*ck about conventional norms and others’ opinions (come on, be different!). Stop giving a f*ck about pain and adversity (after all, you can’t win without overcoming challenges). Instead, decide what you truly give a f*ck about, and focus on that above all else.
Pain Isn’t Bad
Pain (both physical and physiological) is a part of our biological feedback system to tell us something needs our attention and action. You can’t avoid pain, and trying to do so will only bring more pain. In fact, happiness doesn’t come from being problem-free; it comes from solving meaningful problems. Rather than focusing only on the outcomes you’d enjoy, ask yourself: What pain and struggles might you enjoy and sustain? For example, will you enjoy the pain of training for a triathlon, or the uncertainties of entrepreneurship? By identifying what you’re willing to endure, you can fall in love not just with the reward but also the process.
In our full summary we explain why every solution will generate more problems, and how you can use your pain and emotions as signposts to move forward in life.
You’re Not Special
Do you believe that you’re special and destined for greatness?
The bad news is, you’re not special–you’re average. And most of those amazing stories you see/hear on the mass media are the extremes, not the norm. Having unrealistic expectations of what’s “normal” is dangerous: it’ll only make you feel insecure/inadequate or give you a false sense of entitlement to success.
The good news is, you can still achieve extraordinary results. The key is to accept that you’re average, that others face similar challenges as you do, and the bulk of the work you do will be mundane and inconsequential. Only then can you focus on doing what’s really needed to improve yourself and overcome your flaws and problems.
Since suffering is inevitable, the question we should be asking isn’t how we can end our suffering, but for what purpose are we suffering. In our complete 13-page summary we’ll explain (a) the 3 layers of self-awareness, (b) how these levels of self-awareness affect your life and (c) how your values (both good and bad) can define how you live and see life.
In a nutshell, your values determine how you define success and failure, how you judge/measure yourself and others, and thus what you do and don’t do. Mark Manson’s core message in this book is this: to have a good life, you should only give a f*ck about the right values (which define your priorities). Don’t give a damn about anything else.
The 5 Counterintuitive Values for a Good Life
To improve your life, these are the 5 unconventional values you must embrace. We’ll now briefly introduce the 5 values. You can get more details from our full version of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck summary bundle.
Take Radical Responsibility
No matter what happens in your life, you can always choose how to react. Thus, you always have full control over the outcomes in your life, even if life deals you a bad hand (e.g. being born with deficiencies, or losing a loved one). To learn how you can gain power over your problems and make the shift toward radical responsibility, do get our full version of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck summary.
The only way to grow is to realize that your perspectives, knowledge, and even your values/beliefs aren’t absolute—they can always change or be proven wrong. Read our complete summary to find out why you can’t trust “universal truths” nor your own brain, why your perspective is so flawed and biased, why absolute certainty is so dangerous, and how you can open yourself up to alternative viewpoints and possibilities.
Earlier, we touched on why your values determine how you approach life. In the book, Manson also explains why you should go for process-oriented values, and how to handle pain and fear to keep moving forward.
Get comfortable With Rejection
Learning to say and hear “no” can actually improve your life in 2 key ways:
(a) When you make a commitment to something, you must say “no” to something else. This doesn’t tie you down, but frees you from trivialities so you can focus on what’s most meaningful (e.g. deepening a relationship or mastering a craft);
(b) To build healthy relationships, both parties must be able to say “no”, thrash out their differences, establish their boundaries and take ownership for their own problems: only then can true understanding trust and acceptance be established.
In the our 13-page summary, we elaborate why/how commitment can give you freedom and how to build/mend trust in your relationships.
Contemplate Your Mortality
Thinking deeply about death helps us to put our adversities in context and to appreciate life. If you fear death (or are preoccupied with ensuring that people remember you after you’re gone), you won’t be able to live fully. However, if you’ve confronted your mortality, can accept your life as a passing grain in the timelessness of the universe, and can focus on contributing to a wider cause that will outlive you, then you’ll find true peace and happiness, and become free to live each day to the fullest.
Other Details in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
If you’d like to zoom in on the ideas above and get more detailed tips and examples, do get our full summary bundle. This includes a one-page infographic summary in pdf, a 13-page text summary in pdf, and a 24-min audio summary in mp3.
Manson’s irreverent and colorful writing style offers a refreshing way to explore ideas on spiritual enlightenment, inner peace and happiness. The book includes many examples from his personal experiences and famous personalities, as well as some references to relevant empirical research. You can purchase the book here, or visit markmanson.net. for more resources.
Ready to take on the world? Don’t forget to check out You Are a Badass summary!
About the Author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life was written by Mark Manson (born 1984)–an American self-help author, blogger and entrepreneur. He started his first blog to market his dating advice business and later became a full-time blogger and digital nomad. He is also the CEO and founder of Infinity Squared Media LLC.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Quotes
“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.”
“Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.”
“Our own pain and misery aren’t a bug of human evolution; they’re a feature… Pain, in all of its forms, is our body’s most effective means of spurring action”.
“Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.”
“Emotions…(are) feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or likely wrong for us—nothing more, nothing less.”
“You can’t win if you don’t play.”
“Our struggles determine our successes.”
“Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.”