To start off, the book’s title is incomplete. It should’ve been titled The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck about Unimportant or Uncontrollable Stuff. But again, that title wouldn’t be half as interesting. In this book, Mark Manson makes the core tenets behind Apatheia, a cornerstone of the Stoicism philosophy, highly accessible to the layman. In case you were wondering, Apatheia roughly translates to not giving a fuck.
This book is full of great ideas and examples. To keep this post short, I had a really hard time picking just the top 10 of those. What follows mostly are quotes from the book:
- Be selective: Not giving a fuck doesn’t mean being indifferent. It means being selective about what you care about. There are only a limited number of things that you can truly, deeply care about — you have to nurture the ability to care only about the values that are important and under your control.
- Overcome adversity: If you are able to not give a fuck about the pain your goals require, then you become unstoppable. To not care about adversity and overcome it, you first must care about something more important than adversity.
- Acceptance: The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience. This is one of the core tenets of Buddhism too — chasing happiness all the time is in itself a major cause for unhappiness.
- Pleasure is a false god: Research shows that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed. Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose.
- Happiness: Practical enlightenment is the act of becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
- Emotions: Negative emotions are a sign that something is going unaddressed. They are a call to action. Positive emotions are the reward for taking the correct action.
- Don’t compare: Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience. The best of the best, worst of the worst, and most upsetting of the upsetting. We only see the most exceptional news stories because that’s what drives revenue. This is a real problem when it comes to comparison because you can only be exceptional in one thing thing and you’re going to be below average in nearly everything else. That makes comparison a very dangerous game to play.
- You’re not special: People who are exceptional become that way by thinking they are average and focusing on improvement. You don’t become exceptional by believing you are exceptional. Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.
- Manson’s Law of Avoidance: The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. The more something threatens how you view yourself, the more you will avoid getting around to doing it.
- Commitment: Investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, but pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to enjoy the rewards of depth of experience.
This book is full of great life advice that you can read if you’re feeling uneasy about your choices so far. I certainly plan to revisit this book once in a while. But be warned — the amount of f-word usage will make you cringe once in a while:
“Fucks are cultivated like a beautiful fucking garden, where if you fuck shit up and the fucks get fucked, then you’ve fucking fucked your fucks all the fuck up.”
This is #18 in a series of book reviews published weekly on this site.