Personal Ramblings: Review of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck


What a great companion to my Timekeepers readathon!

These two books could easily be drinking buddies!

Timekeepers as the elderly, elegantly intelligent hardcover

And The Subtle Art, or TSAoNGaF (yes, I acronym-ed it) as the young, impetuous e-book, tricking you with swear words into a much deeper conversation.

Caution: swear words ahead. Turn back if you’re a pansy.

the subtle art of not giving a fuck marc manson

This book is a real must-read, perhaps especially for those obsessed with self-improvement, with how to always be …ER: better, fitter, smarter..

One of the reasons I loved it so much is because it redlines exactly what conventional self-help is doing wrong. All those self-help books completely focused on what we lack, while TSAoNGaF does just the opposite.

The book redlines exactly what conventional self-help is doing wrong

Like the Road Not Taken, it is the Fucks Not Given that make all the difference.

Why Give a Fuck (About this Book)

The book is not about becoming a psychopath unshaken by anything in the world and caring about nothing. It IS about:

  •  Being comfortable with being different
  •  Giving a fuck about things that matter
  •  The willingness to stare failure in the face and give it the middle finger
  •  Knowing that you always get to choose where you give your fucks

Saying Fuck It not to everything in life, but of everything unimportant.

Essentially, who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. It’s those moments of non-fuckery that most define our lives. Because to not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action

“Don’t hope for a life without problems, there’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.”

People seem to think that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy and things are supposed to just be exactly what we want them to be.

Which is the greatest disease of our modern world, because then every adversity will start to feel like injustice & every disagreement will feel personal.

Also, when we are young we give way too many fucks because everything is new and seems to matter so much. As we age, we naturally become more selective about the fucks we give Until at some point we become so callused with the world given that we wake up liberated by it.

Real SuperHero Figures

Mark Manson speaks about his favorite made-up superhero, Disappointment Panda, to help readers better relate to the concepts he’s proposing.

Disappointment Panda’s superpower is knocking on people’s doors and spitting harsh truths in their faces.

And people hate him & love him; because, in a masochistic way, we all crave for the truth, even though we hate to hear it.  Suffering is biologically good for us because it’s nature’s way to inspire change and make us evolve. Being a lobster basically.

Manson promotes the healthy concept that happiness comes from having, and solving problems ( key being solving). The person you marry is the person you fight with. The house you buy is the house you repair. The job you love is the job that eats up your time..

TThat emotions are simply biological signals designed to point you in the beneficial direction.

Negative emotions are a call to action and positive emotions are rewards for having taken action.

So denying or repressing our negative emotions will break the feedback mechanism that helps us solve the problem.

Everything comes with an inherent dose of sacrifice – making you feel good & bad at once.

Choose your Struggles

After all, we don’t know the true value of the things we want unless we feel the struggle of getting them. If we lived forever, would we even care about the precious gift of life anymore? Would we be able to see it as a gift or take it for granted?

Who you are is defined by what you are willing to struggle for. Most people have dreams, but don’t want the struggle that comes with achieving those dreams. So we settle. But happiness grows from problems and requires struggle.

Failure is a very relative concept.

The magnitude of your success is measured by the number of times failed at doing something. As a child, we don’t just quit learning how to walk because we repeatedly fail at it – avoiding failure is something we learn later in life.

Life is about not knowing something then doing it anyway.

You Are NOT Special

I really loved this bit, talking about the plague of entitlement we all have these days – whether we’re aware of it or not.

Also dubbed: #firstworldproblems.

The behavior of entitlement is summed up by two reactions. Either:

  • I am awesome & the rest of you suck, so I deserve special treatment
  • I suck & all the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment

Manson feels that it’s the mass media driven exceptionalism makes people feel as though they constantly need to be special or should strive to be special as a measure of self-worth – but the truth is: most of our lifetime is pretty average. We only get to be exceptional at a thing or two – if any at all!

Thank you, Disappointment Panda! I hate you too.

And yet, people’s expectations of themselves are skewed by the perception driven by mass marketing and social media. Because, as Manson puts it, the internet has open-sourced more than information: it has open-sourced insecurity & shame.

In this world, being average has become the new standard for failure – and paradoxically, everyone is missing the point here:  if we are all extraordinary, then by definition no one would be extraordinary, right? BOOM.

It’s the knowledge of our mediocre essence that will set us free to accomplish the things we really want to accomplish, and have a better appreciation for the simple, basic experiences in life.

The Self Awareness Onion

It’s exactly how it sounds: the more you peel back, the more likely you’re going to cry. And know yourself, your worth, and your true passions.

Manson also talks about shitty values:

  • The False God of Pleasure, or the crap we’re fed 24/7
  • Measuring your self-worth by material success
  • Always Being Right – or how you’re preventing yourself from learning from your mistakes
  • Always Staying Positive – because negative emotions are a crucial component of our emotional health and should be dealt with, not buried.

Give better fucks = Get better problems = Build a better life.

The book really centers around 5 main values that Manson believes most beneficial to real self help:

  1. Radical form of Responsibility
  2. Acknowledging your own Ignorance ( & breeding constant doubt in your beliefs)
  3. Failure – willingness to discover your own flaws & improve upon
  4. Rejection – the power to both say & hear NO
  5. Contemplating our Mortality– to keep all other values in check

You learn that growth is an endless process, not going from wrong to right but from wrong to slightly less wrong.
And that certainty is the enemy of growth

Another thing I found very relatable in the book: The Manson Law of Avoidance.

The Manson Law of Avoidance boils down to this: the more something threatens your identity, the more you avoid it: Better to be the artist no one has heard of than the artist no one likes.
Giving up something that potentially defines your identity is hard to do – like committing psychological harakiri.

Travel – A Fantastic Self-Development Tool

See? I’m not just knee-jerk obsessed with going places all the time. I’m actually striving to improve!

Mark views travel as a self-development tool because it takes you out of your preset values, and it transplants you into a different culture with different values >> showing you that one can function with a different set of values and not self-implode.

But enough already. I’m not going to spoiler alert all over the book. So I’ll leave the rest of this juicy reading to you, concluding with :

“When we feel that we’re choosing our problems, we feel empowered. When we feel that our problems are being forced upon us against our will, we feel victimized and miserable.”


Happy reading!

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