Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

I read self-improvement books and articles online sometimes but I’ve never really enjoyed their blinding prospects of staying positive. This one did much better than most in my opinion! Honestly before I wrote this, I went and read some of the reviews on goodreads. It’s a pretty alright book but the content, according to most people, is a repackaging of Buddhism and psychology for today’s young adult audience living by “Western” values. Aside from the fact that Western values are not set in stone, Manson refers to the effects of some American socio/economic trends in recent years; the surplus of economic opportunity, increased amount of media/advertisement that is presented to us, larger platforms on social media. Due to these factors, Manson basically suggests that the average influential young adult has become a person who feels self-entitled and avoids responsibility for their problems.

Self-entitlement plays out in two ways according to the book (55).

  1. I am 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.

At this point you could basically decide how comfortable you are reading on but hear the rest of the review out or you could just skip to the summarized ideas I’ve compiled below. I’ve read some similar concepts in multiple other books but I like the way Manson packages them all up for a particular audience. The book is structured and organized well. Its language is clear, simple, and unfiltered. Switching between anecdotes, research studies, and personal experiences keeps the narration interesting. The book can be divided into two significant sections: the three subtleties to not giving a f*ck and the five counterintuitive approaches to living a good life. These are summarized as follows.

Three Subtleties to Not Giving a F*ck

  1. Not giving a f*ck does not mean indifference. It means being comfortable with being different (14).
  2. To not give a f*ck about adversity you must first give a f*ck about something more important (17).
  3. We are always choosing what to give a f*ck about (19).

Five Counterintuitive Values that Manson Believes are Most Beneficial to Adopt

  1. Responsibility: taking responsibility for everything that occurs in your life, regardless of who’s at fault (89).
  2. Uncertainty: the acknowledgement of your own ignorance and the cultivation of doubt in your beliefs (89).
  3. Failure: the willingness to discover your own flaws and mistakes so that they may be improved upon (89).
  4. Rejection: the ability to both say and hear no, thus clearly defining what you will and will not accept in your life (89).
  5. Contemplation of one’s own mortality; paying attention to one’s own death keeps all other values in proper perspective (89).

It’s a good approach we can work towards but I agree that simplifying this topic comes off as sounding conceited. If you can get past that notion though there’s a viable message he wants to deliver: problems will always be around and they keep us growing; approaching them correctly leads to long-term happiness. Nothing new actually but the straightforward narration delivers the concept well. What I like the most about this book is that it stays clear of promoting a false roses and sunshine outlook on life. It also doesn’t suffocate you with excessive poesy or grandiose phrases. The authour gets straight to being his desired superhero figure: Disappointment Panda. Never heard of him? He’s all hard truths.

For those who are put off by the profanity, that’s totally fine! However here is why I think it is genius that he uses the F-word as he does. In case you aren’t familiar with its broader use, “to give a f*ck” can be roughly translated as “to allocate your time, energy, and other resources toward”- basically this is just a shorter way of saying a lot more. Moreover his frankness with his history for sleeping around – where he learned that more did not make him happy – makes it a great pun. Finally, the use of the F-word in the title was risky because although it would appeal to some people, there would be many who would think twice about picking it up in public. Does this all seem like Manson has a superiority complex? Possibly, but he doesn’t have to care about what you think; he’s too busy selling his book and blogging.

I like that I can keep this book handy and go through the funny narration and interesting outlook whenever I feel down. Self-help books aren’t always for everyone but I think this book is still a good read overall! It outlines ways to approach how we interpret our experiences and how the adversity in our life can be used to make us happier individuals. The Self-Awareness Onion is one such exercise (70) and here are its first three layers.

The Self-Awareness Onion

First Layer: Understanding one’s emotions. e.g. This makes me happy. This gives me hope (70).

Second Layer: Why do we feel those emotions? e.g. Why does this make me angry? Why does this make me anxious (71)?

Third Layer: What metric am I assessing the situation with and what are my personal values? e.g. Why do I consider this to be success/failure? By what standard am I judging everyone and myself (71)?

There are some great points Manson makes that I wouldn’t have read if my cousin hadn’t urged me to borrow her copy of the book. Of course I then went and picked up the neon orange-covered paperback from Indigo myself because I had to read it again for this review. Overall, this book expects you to approach it with a take it or leave it attitude. I learned some useful pointers to managing my life and would recommend others to read it too.

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Saima

Likes phone games and cooking!

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