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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*

By Mark Manson

Summary by Basile Samel

5 min read

Why some stuff matters more than others, and how to get your priorities straight.

We need to stop giving a f*ck because fixating on self-improvement gives anxiety. It’s the concept of feedback loop from hell: the more you attach yourself to an objective, the worse you feel about yourself for not achieving it, and the less likely you are to reach it. Acknowledge your feelings, stop feeling bad about yourself, and focus instead on what’s true, immediate, and important. Don’t try to look for a bigger meaning.

Not giving a f* doesn’t mean escaping your responsibilities, it’s about being comfortable with where you are at the moment, not feeling upset about frivolous matter, and proactively choosing what to care about instead of merely reacting to your circumstances. It’s a simpler form of stoicism.

Suffering is inevitable, and needed to learn from our mistakes. Life is a series of problems, and happiness comes from solving them: we have to confront what troubles us. Denial and developing a victim mentality are addicting and prevent us from living.

Emotions are merely biological suggestions. We can’t trust them, we have to balance our feelings with a clear mind.

Choose your struggles, and live for the fight instead of the victory.

You are not exceptional, and you’re entitled to nothing. But that doesn’t mean you should be insecure and full of doubts: learn to be happy with being ordinary. Don’t expect a grand destiny, don’t expect anything. Just go with the flow and joy the simple pleasures: “nail down some good values, and success will naturally emerge as a result”.

Some values create more problems than they solve and should be avoided: pleasure (as a goal), material success (collecting status symbols rather than just satisfying basic physical needs), always being right (instead, just acknowledge that you barely know anything), and staying positive (denial of negative emotions).

Good values are reality-based, socially constructive, immediate, and controllable. Examples: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, creativity.

Five counter-intuitive values that Mark Manson believe to be the most beneficial: responsibility (take responsibility for everything occurring in your life), uncertainty (cultivate doubt, be aware of your ignorance), failure (be willing to discover your flaws), rejection (ability to say and hear no), and contemplation of mortality (know you’ll eventually die).

In every situation, you have the power to choose good values. It’s your responsibility, and no one else’s fault.

Trust yourself less: we all have beliefs, biases, and experiences tainting our view of the world. Reality is much broader, and we can’t possibly go through it all ourselves. We can only know so little. This is why it’s important to stay humble and cultivate doubts.

Manson’s Law of Avoidance: “the more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.” Keep learning, keep reinventing yourself. Shatter your world views.

Failing is learning, so we shouldn’t fear it. Just do something and the answers will follow, it’s Manson’s Do Something Principle: action creates inspiration, which later turns into motivation and generate more actions. Once you start doing, failure is much less frightening.

If we reject nothing, we stand for nothing either. Rejection is part of honesty, it’s a precious part of life. A healthy person has clear boundaries. When those boundaries are crossed, you have to say no. A person without boundaries is unable to create trust, and thus cannot hope to create strong relationships. Committing to a set of values is liberating: it allows us to experience things deeper.

Death gives meaning to life. If our time were infinite, nothing would matter. Quoting Becker, Manson proposes that humans take on new ventures because they believe it will allow them to live past death: creation and procreation. It’s a mental illness we all have, but we should instead make peace with the fact we’re never going to be immortal to truly enjoy what life has to offer. Failing to do so only creates more pain, for you, and for others when you try to force your immortality projects unto others.

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Written by Basile & Ali