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My rating: 4 stars
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Review:
I have to start review of this book by first saying what this book is not because title might make you think differently; this book is not about how you should make everything that’s around you unimportant and meaningless – it’s the opposite of that. From this book you will learn how to differentiate what is important in your live and what’s not; and after realizing what’s important you will, like the author like to say, start giving fuck only about things that are important to you and that will make you happier and more satisfied in life. And I have to say for all of us, this is the ultimate goal in our lives.
After realizing that your happiness and satisfaction should be your priority, author has gone and presented five things on which everybody should focus which are in depth explained in book.
And those things are:
- Radical form of taking responsibility: taking responsibility for everything that occurs in your life,
regardless of who’s at fault.
- Uncertainty: the acknowledgement of your own ignorance and the cultivation of constant doubt in your own beliefs.
- Failure: the willingness to discover your own flaws and mistakes so that they may be improved upon.
- Rejection: the ability to both say and hear no, thus clearly defining what you will and will not accept in your life.
- Contemplation of one’s own mortality: this one is crucial, because paying vigilant attention to one’s own death is perhaps the only thing capable of helping us keep all our other values in proper perspective.
I have to share my own experience and I can tell that I went through this two years ago without reading this book or any other book at that time. Back then I started to realize that my life is going nowhere and that I need to start making changes in my life. I was feeling depressed because I lack accomplishments in life, and I didn’t know what to do anymore at that point; all I knew is that, I can’t continue on doing the same things I was doing till that point in my life. My inner voice was telling me that I need to start on my personal development and I knew that reading books can help me. But, as majority of people I was more focused on finding some quick solutions to my problems – and those doesn’t exists. Long story short here I am today, running a book blog and read a lot in order to work on my personal growth and I have to say the journey so far was worth it. I’m now more focused on long-term goals in life. And this book focuses on learning you just that – how to start your own journey into creating better future.
The reason why I’m telling you this, it’s because I was fortunate to figure it out by myself what I need to do and my stubborn nature has helped me with that. That’s why I like this book and would recommend it; even though I went through all of this I know that there are many people out there who feel lost, depressed, anxious and don’t know what to do with their lives. I would suggest to anyone who is in that position that it should read this book. It’s also good reading material for beginners who are looking to get into reading. I would say that this book might not be much helpful for someone who suffers from clinical depression; who suffer a big lost of important person; someone who have some kind of disorder. Maybe it can help them, but since I don’t have any experience it that area I can’t make such a claim.
I find this book motivating and very interesting to read. If you want something to motivate you and if you’re feeling depressed last couple of days then, by all means, go ahead and spend some time reading it. After that you can start working on creating list of things that you do in life; and from that point start to focus on things that you find are important to you. And focus more on learning and implementing new things. I replaced watching TV and YT with reading books. After all, everything comes down that you need to start working on productive things and things that will ultimately lead you to have better life. Stop feeling miserable and down all the times and stop blaming everybody around you about your curent situation. Instead start improving yourself. This is the message of this book and it works.
If you like, you can read my other reviews of Self-Help Books
Also, check out my Best Business Books List
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Summary:
Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
But when you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you. You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’t have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you’re beautiful because you feel as though you’re not beautiful already. You follow dating and relationship advice because you feel that you’re unlovable already. You try goofy visualization exercises about being more successful because you feel as though you aren’t successful enough already.
The Feedback Loop from Hell
You get anxious about confronting somebody in your life. That anxiety cripples you and you start wondering why you’re so anxious. Now you’re becoming anxious about being anxious. Oh no! Doubly anxious! Now you’re anxious about your anxiety, which is causing more anxiety. Quick, where’s the whiskey?
Welcome to the Feedback Loop from Hell. Chances are you’ve engaged in it more than a few times. Maybe you’re engaging in it right now: “God, I do the Feedback Loop all the time—I’m such a loser for doing it. I should stop. Oh my God, I feel like such a loser for calling myself a loser. I should stop calling myself a loser. Ah, fuck! I’m doing it again! See? I’m a loser! Argh!”
The desire for more positive experience is it- self a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
So Mark, What the Fuck Is the Point of This Book Anyway?
This book will help you think a little bit more clearly about what you’re choosing to find important in life and what you’re choosing to find unimportant.
Happiness Is a Problem
One of those realizations was this: that life it- self is a form of suffering. The rich suffer because of their riches. The poor suffer because of their poverty. People without a family suffer because they have no family. People with a family suffer because of their family. People who pursue worldly pleasures suffer because of their worldly pleasures. People who abstain from worldly pleasures suffer because of their abstention.
The Misadventures of Disappointment Panda
Disappointment Panda would be the hero that none of us would want but all of us would need. He’d be the proverbial vegetables to our mental diet of junk food. He’d make our lives better de- spite making us feel worse. He’d make us stronger by tearing us down, brighten our future by showing us the darkness. Listening to him would be like watching a movie where the hero dies in the end: you love it even more despite making you feel horrible, because it feels real.
Happiness Comes from Solving Problems
1. Denial. Some people deny that their problems exist in the first place. And because they deny reality, they must constantly delude or distract themselves from reality. This may make them feel good in the short term, but it leads to a life of insecurity, neuroticism, and emotional repression.
2. Victim Mentality. Some choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems, even when they in fact could. Victims seek to blame others for their problems or blame outside circumstances. This may make them feel better in the short term, but it leads to a life of anger, helplessness, and despair.
Emotions Are Overrated
Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That’s it. They’re feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or likely wrong for us—nothing more, nothing less.
Choose Your Struggle
Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who run triathlons and have chiseled abs and can bench-press a small house. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who fly to the top of it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainties of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.
You Are Not Special
A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly—“Yes, sometimes I’m irresponsible with money,” “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate my own successes,” “Yes, I rely too much on others to support me and should be more self-reliant”—and then acts to improve upon them. But entitled people, because they are incapable of acknowledging their own problems openly and honestly, are incapable of improving their lives in any lasting or meaningful way. They are left chasing high after high and accumulate greater and greater levels of denial.
Things Fall Apart
When “real traumatic shit” like this happens in our lives, we begin to unconsciously feel as though we have problems that we’re incapable of ever solving. And this assumed inability to solve our problems causes us to feel miserable and helpless.
The Tyranny of Exceptionalism
Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it. And be- cause we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all.
B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going to Be Special or Extraordinary, What’s the Point?
The fact that this statement is inherently contradictory—after all, if everyone were extraordinary, then by definition no one would be extraordinary— is missed by most people. And instead of questioning what we actually deserve or don’t deserve, we eat the message up and ask for more.
Being “average” has become the new standard of failure. The worst thing you can be is in the middle of the pack, the middle of the bell curve.
The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement. People who become great at something become great be- cause they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.
The Value of Suffering
Humans often choose to dedicate large portions of their lives to seemingly useless or destructive causes. On the surface, these causes make no sense.
If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering—for what purpose?”
The Self-Awareness Onion
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.
Problems may be inevitable, but the meaning of each problem is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we choose to measure them.
Rock Star Problems
These stories suggest that some values and metrics are better than others. Some lead to good problems that are easily and regularly solved. Others lead to bad problems that are not easily and regularly solved.
1. Pleasure. Pleasure is great, but it’s a horrible value to prioritize your life around. Ask any drug addict how his pursuit of pleasure turned out. Ask an adulterer who shattered her family and lost her children whether pleasure ultimately made her happy. Ask a man who almost ate himself to death how pleasure helped him solve his problems.
2. Material Success. Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make or what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor’s.
3. Always Being Right. Our brains are inefficient machines. We consistently make poor assumptions, misjudge probabilities, misremember facts, give in to cognitive biases, and make decisions based on our emotional whims. As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly, so if your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.
4. Staying Positive. Then there are those who measure their lives by the ability to be positive about, well, pretty much everything. Lost your job? Great! That’s an opportunity to explore your passions. Husband cheated on you with your sister? Well, at least you’re learning what you really mean to the people around you. Child dying of throat cancer? At least you don’t have to pay for college anymore!
Defining Good and Bad Values
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.
Some examples of good, healthy values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, creativity.
Some examples of bad, unhealthy values: dominance through manipulation or violence, indiscriminate fucking, feeling good all the time, always being the center of attention, not being alone, being liked by everybody, being rich for the sake of being rich, sacrificing small animals to the pagan gods.
You Are Always Choosing
If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control—that there’s a problem you have no ability to solve, a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing.
Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be. Choosing to not consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing to not respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives. Even if you get run over by a clown car and pissed on by a busload of schoolchildren, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response.
The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
It is true. But there’s a better version of this quote, a version that actually is profound, and all you have to do is switch the nouns around: “With great responsibility comes great power.”
We all love to take responsibility for success and happiness. Hell, we often fight over who gets to be responsible for success and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where the real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from. To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself.
Responding to Tragedy
But then I actually applied my own advice. I chose my problem. I could get mad at this man and argue with him, try to “outpain” him with my own pain, which would just make us both look stupid and insensitive. Or I could choose a better problem, working on practicing patience, understanding my readers better, and keeping that man in mind every time I wrote about pain and trauma from then on. And that’s what I’ve tried to do.
Genetics and the Hand We’re Dealt
A lot of people treat being born with a disadvantage, whether OCD or small stature or some- thing very different, as though they were screwed out of something highly valuable. They feel that there’s nothing they can do about it, so they avoid responsibility for their situation. They figure, “I didn’t choose my crappy genetics, so it’s not my fault if things go wrong.”
And it’s true, it’s not their fault. But it’s still their responsibility.
The responsibility/fault fallacy allows people to pass off the responsibility for solving their problems to others. This ability to alleviate responsibility through blame gives people a temporary high and a feeling of moral righteousness.
There Is No “How”
A lot of people might hear all of this and then say something like, “Okay, but how? I get that my values suck and that I avoid responsibility for all of my problems and that I’m an entitled little shit who thinks the world should revolve around me and every inconvenience I experience—but how do I change?”
You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)
Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don’t go from “wrong” to “right.” Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong. And when we learn something additional, we go from slightly less wrong to slightly less wrong than that, and then to even less wrong than that, and so on. We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection with- out actually ever reaching truth or perfection.
Architects of Our Own Beliefs
Our minds are constantly whirring, generating more and more associations to help us under- stand and control the environment around us. Everything about our experiences, both external and internal, generates new associations and connections within our minds. Everything from the words on this page, to the grammatical concepts you use to decipher them, to the dirty thoughts your mind wanders into when my writing becomes boring or repetitive—each of these thoughts, impulses, and perceptions is composed of thou- sands upon thousands of neural connections, firing in conjunction, alighting your mind in a blaze of knowledge and understanding.
The Dangers of Pure Certainty
Uncertainty removes our judgments of others; it preempts the unnecessary stereotyping and biases that we otherwise feel when we see some- body on TV, in the office, or on the street. Uncertainty also relieves us of our judgment of ourselves. We don’t know if we’re lovable or not; we don’t know how attractive we are; we don’t know how successful we could potentially become. The only way to achieve these things is to remain uncertain of them and be open to finding them out through experience.
Manson’s Law of Avoidance
The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
That means the more something threatens to change how you view yourself, how successful/ unsuccessful you believe yourself to be, how well you see yourself living up to your values, the more you will avoid ever getting around to doing it.
My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.
The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
How to Be a Little Less Certain of Yourself
Questioning ourselves and doubting our own thoughts and beliefs is one of the hardest skills to develop. But it can be done. Here are some questions that will help you breed a little more uncertainty in your life.
- Question #1: What if I’m wrong?
- Question #2: What would it mean if I were wrong?
- Question #3: Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
Failure Is the Way Forward
Failure itself is a relative concept. If my metric had been to become an anarcho-communist revolutionary, then my complete failure to make any money between 2007 and 2008 would have been a raving success. But if, like most people, my metric had been to simply find a first serious job that could pay some bills right out of school, I was a dismal failure.
The Failure/Success Paradox
Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have.
Pain Is Part of the Process
Dabrowski argued that fear and anxiety and sadness are not necessarily always undesirable or unhelpful states of mind; rather, they are often representative of the necessary pain of psycho- logical growth. And to deny that pain is to deny our own potential. Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
The “Do Something” Principle
The “do something” principle not only helps us overcome procrastination, but it’s also the process by which we adopt new values. If you’re in the midst of an existential shit-storm and everything feels meaningless—if all the ways you used to measure yourself have come up short and you have no idea what’s next, if you know that you’ve been hurting yourself chasing false dreams, or if you know that there’s some better metric you should be measuring yourself with but you don’t know how—the answer is the same:
The Importance of Saying No
Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment toone place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
Rejection Makes Your Life Better
To truly appreciate something, you must con- fine yourself to it. There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.
The point is this: we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X.
The setting of proper boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t help or support your partner or be helped and supported yourself. You both should support each other. But only because you choose to support and be supported. Not because you feel obligated or entitled.
How to Build Trust
Trust is the most important ingredient in any relationship, for the simple reason that without trust, the relationship doesn’t actually mean any- thing. A person could tell you that she loves you, wants to be with you, would give up everything for you, but if you don’t trust her, you get no benefit from those statements. You don’t feel loved until you trust that the love being expressed toward you comes without any special conditions or baggage attached to it.
Freedom Through Commitment
Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom be- cause it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision- making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
. . . And Then You Die
Death scares us. And because it scares us, we avoid thinking about it, talking about it, some- times even acknowledging it, even when it’s happening to someone close to us.
Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
Something Beyond Our Selves
If you haven’t figured it out yet, our immortality projects are our values. They are the barometers of meaning and worth in our life. And when our values fail, so do we, psychologically speaking. What Becker is saying, in essence, is that we’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about some- thing is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death. And to truly not give a single fuck is to achieve a quasi- spiritual state of embracing the impermanence of one’s own existence. In that state, one is far less likely to get caught up in various forms of entitlement.
The Sunny Side of Death
You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact, this simple optioning for your own values in life, already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it. Even if you’re sleeping in a gutter and starving.
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