The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson – a Book Review

One of the most life changing, eye opening books I read was by Mark Manson, Models, when I was 19, a young pick up artist. It opened my eyes on my relationships with my friends, my family, and the opposite sex. It gave me an intellectual structure to improve my relationships with women.

Ever since then, Mark, the author, didn’t release any books and was working on a new book that he constantly rewrote. Finally, his new book: the Subtle art of not giving a fuck, was released in September 2016, and it didn’t disappoint.

The Review of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

The book came at a befitting time. He talked about how he himself, thought that the lifestyle of a digital nomad was one that he pursued. The book’s like a good slap to your face.

I had left school to pursue entrepreneurship, pursue the lifestyle of a digital nomad. The idea of travel to a culture unknown, falling in love/lust with an attractive lady, visiting museums, temples, basking in culture and the spirit of the unknown, that was supposed to be fun, exciting and the dream.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – The Main Ideas

1) The Problems with Entitlement

That was how I felt when I was 21. I felt entitled to be anything, and whoever the fuck I wanted to be. I had a few notches, and ‘lays’ on my record, and I felt invincible. I had read a few books on entrepreneurship, dating, and self-improvement, and I felt I was ready to take on the world.

Yet, in some fucking sick entitled way, I felt I should and could be a successful writer and entrepreneur.

Never mind that I had no business experiences, never mind that I couldn’t even get my grades right, never mind that I had no like-minded individuals to help me.

I just felt entitled to be a digital nomad, and writer.

What happened then? The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

I bummed around freelancing for companies. I attended investing courses and promised an unrealistic amount of returns per month. I attended internet marketing courses that promised the ‘Live Anywhere, Work Anywhere” lifestyle without questioning if it was just clever marketing if it was real at all.

My social life went down to zero. I took a good amount of savings, and whatever little money I had left, and attempted to travel whenever I could, and learned whatever fast cash generating method I could.

It’s a period fueled with entitlement.

The deeper the pain, the more helpless we feel against our probblems, and the more entitlement we adopt to compensate for those problems. Entitlement normally plays out in one of two ways:

  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

Opposite mindset on the outside, but same selfish creamy core in the middle. What most people don’t correctly identify as entitlement are those people who perpetually feel as though they’re inferior and unworthy of the world.

This is why the I lamented about the pick up artist industry on the whole. This is why people brand themselves as a ‘life coach’ or ‘self-help coach’ after their mere few successes. Seriously, think about it, anyone that has a girlfriend would consider them a dating success wouldn’t they?

They’ll then have to ‘right’ to give out dating advice right?

I also questioned the fact if I was entitled to teach others about dating, self-development, even though my own love life was a mess. Yeah, I had a mediocre ‘track record’, but it’s never enough, or it never felt right, something was messed up deep down in me that I am not in touched with yet.

How about the clinical psychologist that has done thousands of hours in the clinic, doing psychotherapy, proven and tested by decades of psychotherapy, helping hundreds of people on their emotional core issues and relationship problems, but because he doesn’t particularly go out 6 times a week like pick up artists do, wouldn’t he be more qualified to dish out dating advice on a whole?

2) Responsibility and Fault Fallacy

The Subtle art of Not Giving a Fuck also addresses the murky areas of responsibility and fault.

  • Having a baby show up at your front door isn’t your fault, but now it’s your responsibility.
  • Having an abusive childhood isn’t your fault, but it’s your responsibility to get better
  • Being shit poor at intimacy and acceptance due to past traumatic experiences isn’t your fault, but it’s your responsibility to get better

The author argues that people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible for your problems is also be at fault for your problems. Fault is the past tense, and responsibility is the present tense.

3) On Avoidance and ‘Killing Ourselves’

Then again, this points back to responsibility as well, most people (including myself) actually don’t want to take responsibility for their problems.

For whatever reasons. It could be because it’ll confront their ideas and their beliefs about themselves.

  • The guy who failed school, who never attempted to go back to school, is afraid of failure, and he identifies himself as a rebel.
  • The person who never puts his work out there, and only rationalizes it as a ‘hobby’, is actually afraid of getting his work rejected. The guy who never approaches a girl never tries to go for a date is afraid to confront his own beliefs about his own attractiveness.

I used these examples because I’m the one who failed school, who is afraid to put my work out there, and in some fucked up areas, still is afraid of many things in my own dating life.

3) What are Good and Bad Values

I know a long time friend. Through the years, we drifted apart, that’s because our values weren’t as similar as they were back then. When we were 19, all we cared about was how victimized or lives were. How our girlfriend fucked us over, how society fucked us over. How everything in life was fucked.

Up till today, he still believes that a majority part of society is fucked. He still believes there’s no point to education. He believes everything can be attributed to the spiritual realm and all of the energy and chakras. The more he went on about God, the more he went about how everything is meaningless/ pointless, and how everything is attributed to the hands of God, the more we drifted apart.

It’s irritational.

If there was no education, mankind would never invent the internet for him to be able to research about chakras. If there no schools, not innovation, no striving for more, there would be no airplanes invented, no oil processed to drive the airplane engines and more, and more.

The book addresses what values and what beliefs one should ideally take on.

  • 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 or controllable

As you can see, my friend’s values are not reality based, not exactly socially constructive, and not immediate and controllable.

4) On Being Wrong about Everything

I thought I was a good entrepreneur, but only to have spent 2 years, failing, bumming around, chasing highs as a distraction. I thought I was ‘good with people’ and could ‘socialize with anyone that I desired’, only to find myself to have no stable social circle, hacking hours alone in front a computer.

  • I was wrong about how long it’ll take to be a successful writer
  • I was wrong about how long it’ll take to be a successful entrepreneur
  • I was wrong about how I felt about my relationship with my father

I didn’t like to hear that at first.

But, on a more objective level, we’re wrong about everything. Take into account all the fields of study, you’ll find that our fields of knowledge are a fraction compared to what’s known out there. Take into all accounts of artistic pursuits, academic pursuits, technological pursuits, and we’re by large, as an individual, knowledgeable and capable of the fraction of human knowledge.

5) The Denial of Death and Immortality Pursuits

One of the books that changed, and knocked on the walls of my reality is the Denial of Death, nonetheless, the main concepts are mentioned in the Subtle art of not giving a fuck.

Basically, here are the ideas:

  • Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly. Dogs don’t sit around and worry their career. Cats don’t think about their past mistakes or wonder what would have happened if they’d done something differently. Monkeys don’t argue over future possibilities. This is a problem as well. Because of this unique mental ability, Becker, the author of the book, says that as some point, we’re aware of the inevitability of our own deaths. Because we’re able to conceptualize alternate versions of reality, we are also the only animal capable of imagining a reality without ourselves in it. This realization causes what Becker calls a “death terror”, a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
  • Becker then suggests that we essentially have two “selves.” The first self is the physical self – the one that eats, sleep, snores, and poops. The second self is our conceptual self – our identity, and how we see ourselves. His argument is this: we are all aware on some level that our physical self will eventually die, that this death is inevitable and that its inevitability – on some unconscious level – scares the shit out of us. Therefore, in order to compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. This is why people try so hard to put their names on buildings, statues, on spines of books. It’s why we feel compelled to spend so much time giving ourselves to others, especially children, in the hopes that our influence – our conceptual self – will last way beyond our physical self. That we will be remembered and revered and idolized long after our physical self-ceases to exist.He calls such efforts “immortality projects,” projects that allow our conceptual self to live on way past the point of our physical death.
  • He also suggests that all of the human civilization, he says, it basically a result of immortality projects: the cities and governments and structures and authorities in place today were all immortality projects of men and women who came before us. They are the remnants of conceptual selves that ceased to die. Names like Jesus, Muhammad, Napoleon, and Shakespeare are just as powerful today as when those men lived, if not more so.Whether through mastering an art form, conquering a new land, gaining great riches, or simply having a large and loving family that will live on for generations, all the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die. 

6) Giving Mediocrity a Shot and the Value of Suffering

I told myself that I had to be above average, I had to chase a legacy. Everything was about “life purpose”, driving and finding meaning into my life. The ironic thing about pursuing a legacy and immortality at all costs is that it’s often painful in itself.

Gandhi famously undertook months of fasting, till the brink of death, for months out straight. He also confessed that one of the biggest regrets in his life that he wasn’t able to convince/ parent one of this eldest sons.

His eldest son’s life was spent rebelling against everything his father believed in. Gandhi’s stern morality, sexual abstinence, and principles stand against Britain were all challenged by his son, who was an alcoholic gambler trading in imported British clothes even as his father was urging a boycott of foreign goods. He even converted to Islam and changed his name to Abdullah before his death in 1948, only months after his father was assassinated by a Hindu extremist.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – On Giving the Right Fucks

I left school, and under the auspice of legacy, entrepreneurship, self-development and I spent hours building, crashing, writing, being depressed, growing fat, hating the world, isolating myself with the projects (especially this Singapore dating coach project) that I started, and deleted within months. Whilst my peers were graduating from Universities, getting corporate jobs, I was playing writer, playing entrepreneur, escaping to another foreign land every other month, and using up my life savings.

It was a painful 24 months. It made me question my grandiose ideas recently: is suffering all that it is? Is it that worth it? It was as if nothing was stable routine, and everything was in chaos. It got me re-thinking the pursuit of legacy and immortality. It got me re-thinking mediocrity. Can we all more comfortable with our own deaths, without trying to immortalize ourselves at all costs or at the expense of others?

Can we all more comfortable with our own deaths, without trying to immortalize ourselves at all costs or at the expense of others?

Thrive for meaning, of course, that’s what drives a level of happiness in our lives, but then again, take careful note of our actions and behaviors. Are we overcompensating in some way or another?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck made a good point that suffering is a must. There’s no such thing as eternal happiness, compassion or enlightenment. That one must choose his or her suffering wisely. However, just purely suffering in itself, for the sake of immortality, or any other causes or pursuit, is not worth it in itself.

With these ideas in mind, I’m humbled and decided to return to where I left from, which is finish my undergraduate degree.

I decided to give mediocrity a shot.

I decided to strip myself away from entitlement.

Purchase the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck here. Ps. It’s an affiliate link, meaning to say if you buy it, I’ll get a tiny commission at no extra cost to you.

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