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Notes from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Notes from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.

Chapter 1: Don’t Try

“If pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive” (p.9). The idea here is that the intelligent pursuit of a negative experience yields a positive experience. “Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience” (p.9).

“…when you give too many fucks…you will feel that you’re perpetually entitled to be comfortable and happy at all times…. And it will eat you alive” (p.10)

“To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity” (p.12). When one has no big thing(s) to care about, they will care about the next biggest thing which will be small, trivial things. “…if you don’t find that meaningful something, your fucks will be given to meaningless and frivolous causes” (p.12).

Chapter 2: Happiness is a Problem

Everyone has problems. Some have better problems than others. After a problem is solved, a new problem appears. “True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving” (p.18). Denying problems and thinking of oneself as a helpless victim pit against fate leads to unhappiness and inaction.

I’ve heard “it’s about the journey, not the destination” multiple times. After reading this chapter, I think it should rephrased to “it’s about the struggles, not the rewards”. A question worth answering is “What do you enjoy struggling for?”

Chapter 3: You’re Not Special

“…merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself” (p.24)

Entitled people feel they’re either “on top of the world or the world is on top of them” (p.29). To overcome entitlement, one must come to the realization that they are not alone in their problems. It is highly likely that at least thousands, if not millions or billions, of people in the past, present, and future share similar problems.

Everyday we’re bombarded with radical, extreme or exceptional nouns on Internet. “Being ‘average’ has become the new standard of failure” (p.31). To accept this mindset would be to accept that “most of the human population sucks and is worthless” (p.31). What an awful thing to accept.

Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering

Conduct root cause analysis on your emotions to obtain a higher level of self awareness and reorient your mindset in the right direction.

If life sucks, then you need to change your values and metrics because they define your success and happiness more so than your situation. In other words, your mindset determines your success and happiness.

Here are some poor and common values that lead to poor and unsolvable problems:

“Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable…. good, healthy values are achieved internally…. Bad values are generally reliant on external events” (p.43). “When we have poor values… we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better—toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.” (p.44)

Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing

“we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances. We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond… we are always responsible for our experiences” (p.46)

“What are we choosing to give a fuck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on? What metrics are we choosing to use to measure our life? And are those good choices—good values and good metrics?” (p.47)

With great responsibility comes great power

“The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them” (p.47)

Being responsible for every problem does not equate to being at fault for all of our problems. We are not at fault for most of our external circumstances but we are responsible for our experience.

Iterate over your values and metrics as needed. It will likely temporarily suck when you change your values and metrics but it’s for the better.

Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)

Previous generations were wrong about many things. Present generations are wrong about many things. Future generations will be wrong about many things. But each generation is less wrong than the previous generation. We, individually, must strive to be less wrong as the days go by. So doubt your values, metrics, beliefs, and experiences. Doubt everything because “certainty is the enemy of growth” (p.57).

One of the most dangerous forms for certainty is believing you know yourself and your role in life. That belief will keep you the same. This reminds me of a comment on Reddit regarding how to let go of your view of yourself; you are not the same to your peers, family, or strangers; everyone has a different version of you in their heads. In reality, you’re just a sack of meat. But that’s hard to accept so view yourself with the most generic labels like “student” or “son”.

Chapter 7: Failure Is The Way Forward

“Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.” (p.75) so do something.

This chapter was largely stuff about failure and adversity leading to success and growth.

Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No

This chapter was largely about relationships and the importance of staying committed to dive deep in anything.

Chapter 9: …And Then You Die

Adopting a nihilistic attitude can empower an individual to take action because there’s no longer a reason not to take action. Therefore, the lack of meaning to life, the inevitably of death, becomes a reason to take action.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” — Mark Twain

Entertaining death makes one more courageous and increases the probability of focusing more on the necessary and focusing less on the trivial.

Thoughts

Chapter 1 mentions that caring for something big will help you not care about the smaller things, and subsequent chapters rephrase the “something big” to a “good value”. This closely parallels a point made by Acharya Vivekji several times: one must find a purpose before letting go of the ego. The idea is to care about something bigger than yourself so all your problems become meaningless in the face of the higher purpose or value.

Chapter 3 made a solid point about trying to be exceptional.

Before reading this book, I had targets and measures where the targets were not under my control and the measures were rather binary. For example, one target was “obtain a software engineering internship at a reputable company” and the measure was “did I get a software engineering internship at a reputable company?”. This book makes the strong argument for adopting values and measures where the values are in immediate control and the measures are discrete with endless levels or even continuous altogether. For example, one value could be “study for coding interviews to boost the probability of passing them” and the measure would be “how many interview questions and mock interviews have I done?”. The shift from out-of-control targets and binary measures to in-my-control values and non-binary measures is a change I’d like to bring in to every facet of my life.

I can strongly recommend reading chapters 2 to 6 from this book. Overall, it’s a good book worth rereading.

Written by Omkar Konaraddi. Published on July 26, 2018.

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