Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck is not about “not giving a fuck” but rather choosing to give a fuck about what is important. Manson introduces quickly and abruptly our impending mortality in his book.
Manson writes: “You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice – well, then you’re going to get fucked” (Manson 13).
The thing about Manson introducing our mortality so early in the book stands as significant to me because I tend to think a lot about death. I have been fascinated by it and entranced by its notion for hours, some times days at a time, since a child. My father dying of cancer when I was a mere fifteen years old probably had something to do with it. I watched him deteriorate from a person into a ghost rambling incoherently and screaming at me to cut off his legs, because they had been rendered useless through paralysis. The point is, I think about death a lot and if I was going to take someone’s advice such as Mark Mansons’ in The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck, I knew I would be more receptive and could trust someone who just put it out there – “hey, we’re all dying here. Why don’t we choose to dedicate our time to a fuck worth giving.” Of course I am paraphrasing – quite horribly might I add – here. What I am trying to say is, Mark Manson had my trust since page thirteen when he laid it all out there and had his readers confront the realization of their own death.
Now you could argue “Well, that’s a little dramatic, ain’t it?” And I would argue yes and no. The point is not to scare you or make you envision your death in grueling detail, but rather get you thinking about your life and what you’re choosing to give a fuck about. I realized as I read this and reflected on my inevitable death, I had been selling myself short. I was giving too many fucks about the wrong things like if so and so found me interesting or cool if I did drugs with them. I was also giving way too many fucks about what other people thought about me because of my mental health and history of multiple hospitalizations.
I realized reading this that I was wasting my time giving a fuck about pointless shit I cannot change when I could be choosing to give a fuck about something worthwhile – like blogging more, which is what I am doing right now. If Manson can shove in my face that I’m dying and word it in a way that my perspective towards my life shifts and I am better for it, then what are you waiting for – buy, steal, borrow this book. It is worth the read because it prompts you to rethink what you truly should give a fuck about.
Manson breaks down the subtle art of not giving a fuck into three subtleties: “Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different” (Manson 14), “Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must give a fuck about something more important than adversity” (Manson 17), “Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about” (Manson 19).
Let’s address subtlety #1. Manson introduces right away, before the reader can be disillusioned into thinking otherwise, that there is no such thing as not giving a fuck. As he puts it: “You must give a fuck about something” (Manson 15). The suggestion here is that if we can get over the fact that there is no way avoiding giving a fuck we can then choose to be more selective of what fucks we give. Manson also suggests we can not give a fuck about what ultimately does not matter – in my case whether or not someone thinks highly of me.
The second subtlety introduces the idea that adversity can be overcome by “giving a fuck about something more important than adversity.” Manson suggests in his book that if you give too many fucks about trivial things than you most likely do not have an important fuck to care about. For example, I have been giving too many fucks about whether I have the latest moisturizer or lulu lemon sweater lately when I need to give a fuck about what’s important – finishing my degree/ finding a way to continue my education.
This leads into the third subtlety: “Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about” (Manson 19). When put simply and in swear-word form, this statement blew my mind a little. It wasn’t anything I have not stumbled upon in my own thought processes, but to have it re-instated in a way I could relate to, led to a deeper reflection of these words. It helps you think more clearly about what you’re choosing to find important in life and what you’re choosing to find unimportant. This book is so special because it encourages you to have difficult conversations with yourself and to re-evaluate your life and priorities.
When reflecting on these subtleties, I realized my life had become a mess of choosing to give a fuck about what’s ultimately unimportant. I was caring too much about superficial things like whether my hair was long or shiny enough, and not focusing my energy on what is important to me – building a future for myself. The great thing about this realization is that I can also choose to give a fuck about changing it.
I have decided after reading this book to start giving a fuck about the things I used to give a fuck about when my life seemed rosier so to speak – things like self-care, my education, and respecting, loving and caring for others. I have already started to take action by arranging counseling for my addictions, quitting smoking, and contacting my University to see if I can graduate with the credits I do have so far. With the help of this book, I’ve realized it is up to me to change and decide what is important in my life. There is a great deal of ownership introduced in the ideas Manson talks about. Two sentences in particular that Manson writes stand out in my mind after consuming this book: “There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances” (Manson 94). It is ultimately up to me to change and as much as that is scary, it is also a beautiful thing because I can begin to exert some form of control in my life.
Would I recommend this book? Abso-fuckinglutely.
But here’s the catch – this book is not about the subtle art of not giving a fuck but rather about choosing to give a fuck about what is truly important. It is not a manual on how to live a carefree life devoid of fucks but rather a careful reflection on how to live a more purposeful life full of the right kind of fucks – the important ones. If you’re down with re-thinking what you truly give a fuck about then this book is fucking perfect for you!