Happy yet? Like really happy. You are content with every aspect of your life, and absolutely nothing has the ability to bring down your mood? Happiness, according to Mark Manson in The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is an action. Manson believes that if you have not become successful yet, it’s because you have chosen the wrong struggles: as he puts it, the “wrong fucks” to give about what you believe is important. On the whole, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck is a commentary on what to really care about, not a statement of imposed apathy about your given condition. It’s the difference between sitting around not doing anything for eight hours…Fuck it! Or resilient defiance in the face of adversity, fuck it, I’m getting this shit done! Both cases zero “fucks” given, way different mentalities. Let take a close look at this interesting philosophy, examining how one achieves this state of enlightenment.
You Will Suffer, That’s Just A Fact
One of the fundamental principles of rationalizing why people do what they do is the avoidance of pain, and the pursuit of pleasure. It’s not unknown that we seek comfort and avoid pain and look to maximize pleasure. Yes, on the savannas of Africa when our burgeoning species was still somewhat of an evolutionary startup this was a great idea. Why, because the things that were painful would fucking kill you. Pain was synonymous with death, while pleasure was associated with life. This is how we have evolved, and it’s time we progress again. What do you desire “what pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” On the ship that is your life, struggles are the high seas you choose to cross to make it to your desired destination. These periods of trial emerge on everyone’s journey and will be chosen for you if you do not select your own. If you are going to suffer anyway, it might as well be a torment of your own choosing that in turn, gets you to the desired location.
We Don’t Know Anything
Seeking the truth, an endeavor that humanity has engaged in since time immemorial. Whenever we became aware of our own thoughts and observations about the world, there was always some annoyingly curious asshole who sought to understand the ever pressing question of why. People claim to have it, but they are no closer to the final truth than you or I am, or probably ever will be. And this is okay! It’s okay to be wrong, admitting you haven’t a clue about what someone is talking about can be a great learning opportunity! You cannot improve if you possess the arrogance of certainty. As humans, we’d rather believe we won’t succeed instead of testing our ideas. If you never test your ideas, you are safe, hiding behind your pathetic excuses, those lamentations of failure… I could have tried. This buffer of mental gymnastics and rationalizations keeps you isolated from reality and actual success, allowing you to remain comfortably ensconced in your cocoon of bullshit.
Challenge Who You Are
To some, this might seem obvious. But I feel that it needs to be addressed anyway. We are too often content wandering through life, unwilling to take an honest look at who we really are, and what we have become. As a matter of fact, we actively ignore information that challenges our conception of who we think we are. This means that if an idea or thought conflicts with our mental image of ourselves, we will discredit that information even if it is beneficial to us. This notion is called Manson’s Law, and it states “the more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.” It’s a hellish version of the infamous comfort zone which does not allow you to rise or fall outside of certain primates in your life. For example, if you make $85,000 per year, and suddenly you get fired, you will find a similar job with similar pay. Because you identify as someone who makes a certain amount of money, even exceeding this amount will make you uncomfortable, causing you to seek alignment with your lesser standards.
Shut Up, You Are Nothing Special
The problem with entitlement is that it removes motivation, and does not allow you to analyze who you are accurately. Acknowledge that you are nothing special. You are in no shape or form God’s gift to the human race, you are just another one of us. But there is freedom in this realization as well. For example, if you hold yourself to unreasonably high expectations, you can now release them– you are not special. This is another form of entitlement: believing that you are worse off than others because there is something inherently wrong with you, again, you are not special. Just as the laws of space and time do not give a shit if you believe they are real, neither do the laws of progress and personal change. You are going to have to let go of your sense of entitlement if you ever want to move forward in any meaningful way.
Some final thoughts
Manson, in my opinion, does an excellent job conveying his no fucks given philosophy. The counterintuitiveness of the title adds to the mystique and builds intrigue while repelling those who probably would not listen anyway. The main takeaway from The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck is the idea of choosing what to care about. The direction of your life can be influenced by a variety of factors: friends, family, religion or just plain old social convention. These all have the ability to take you somewhere you don’t want to be. It’s up to you to choose what to care about. Fucks given can be seen metaphorically as your choice. As for their ramifications, that all depends on what you choose to care about.