6 Take-Aways From Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”
This book was a quick 204 page read with meaningful content in every chapter. I will highlight my six personal main takeaways. While I was reading the book, I was able to make personal connections increasing the meaningfulness of each lesson. They’ve resonated with me long after I finished reading. I even found myself reopening the book and reflecting on specific pages when I felt ungrounded or lacked self-awareness. I highly recommend giving this book a read for yourself, make connections and reflect. These valuable lessons will have a different context and meaning to each individual, so see how you interpret them with your own story.
- Less is more
We are constantly bombarded by messages telling us we need more; Buy more, have more, be more and eventually, …you will be happy. We have more TVs, bigger houses, access to food and virtually any information online at the click of a button than in any time in history. Yet the number of health problems due to anxiety, stress and depression is skyrocketing. For many of us living in first world countries, the problem isn’t a lack of material but rather, a lack of identity. Companies profit from people’s addiction to fill their void of insecurity with things. They then pay advertisers to fixate on what people lack reinforcing the idea that we need more.
Our overconsumption is often an attempt to compensate for our lack of identity; buying things helps us feel like we’re apart of something. Learning that you don’t need to have things to fit into a box made by society is freeing, even better get rid of the box. A billionaire doesn’t feel the need to wear flashy clothes to prove to others that they have money; they already know they do. People who are truly living their best lives don’t feel the need to broadcast it to others. It’s not about feeling the need to prove your worth through materialistic possessions or forced behaviours. But rather the opposite removing labels and being comfortable with who you are will allow you to live your most authentic life.
2. Small Choices = Habits = Life
Be intentional about what you value and spend your time on. There are so many things to care about, but you can’t care about everything. You’re forced to make choices. Subconsciously every day you choose to give your time and attention to people. The power you have is choice; you get to control how much influence people or situations have over you. We often make excuses for wasting our energy on irrelevancies while in reality, we all have the same time; the same 24 hours in a day. What makes the 7.8 billion of us different is what we choose to prioritize in those 24 hours. You have the option to respond to someone’s negativity, to waste your time, to listen to other people’s drama. You choose who you surround yourself with, the relationships you build, you choose what you learn, what you practice. Over time all these choices form into habits which subsequently turn into lifestyles. If you haven’t heard enough people say this: time is money, don’t let people or unfulfilling things take it. By disconnecting from draining people, environments or activities, you can reserve your time and energy for significantly more impactful things.
Personally, when I was 15, I gave out my fucks like they were Halloween candy. The slightest inconvenience or remark would absorb all my energy and ruin my entire day. But I let it, I gave it power. It’s only been a year looking back at the “pressing” problems that I stressed over, and I genuinely laugh at how irrelevant they were. When I think of my current issues, I now ask myself, “will this affect me in a year? How about 3, 5 or 10”? By dedicating myself to things that are long term like my health, family, education etc. I remove distractions and lift burdens of useless sh*t doesn’t align with my values off my shoulders.
3. The Power of Pain
When you ask people what they want out of life, many will respond with happiness and success. However, if that’s what everyone wants, then why isn’t everyone happy and successful? A far more insightful question is, “what pain are you willing to go through, and what are you willing to suffer for?” Though this might sound morbid, it’s significantly meaningful: if you were to suffer for something, it must mean a great deal to you. Almost everything worthwhile in life is obtained through some form of pain or struggle. Some of the most monumental shifts in people’s lives are when they endure the most pain. Now, I don’t mean senseless pain like smashing your head repeatedly against a refrigerator. I mean the pain you work and persevere through for a higher purpose. The feeling you get once you achieve that purpose is far more fulfilling than any short term pleasure.
Happiness, like most emotions, is a temporary state or reaction caused by bio mechanisms in our brain. It’s a short term high, and once it’s over, you return to your normal state. Whereas pain too is a temporary emotion, but it often ends in growth, and results which lead to an improved state of being. Just like working out a muscle, you endure temporary discomfort for the long term gains. Olympians train for thousands of hours, perfecting their skills for their long term goals. Embracing short term pain leads to long term outcomes that happiness doesn’t offer. You would certainly be happy eating a tub of ice cream during a 5-hour sitcom marathon, but in the end, you wouldn’t accomplish anything. Whereas if you spent the same time doing something productive like working out, reading, coding, or putting your self out of your comfort zone. Future you would thank yourself for making those sacrifices because they’re beneficial in the long run. I’m not saying resist being happy but rather, don’t aim for happiness and pleasure. Instead, strive for eudaimonia — the concept of “internal fulfilment from the journey of working towards things.” Pain is necessary for eudaimonia; it’s what makes the process and result meaningful.
4. Death is inevitable
We have a finite amount of heartbeats; we’re are all going to die. The beauty is in this is that every single mishap, rejection, embarrassment you’ve ever experienced will no longer be relevant. I often picture myself at old age laying on my deathbed, looking back at my past and asking myself, “am I content with my life”? I don’t know what I exactly want in the future. But I do know that if I pursue my craziest and most ambitious dreams, even if I fail, I’ll be satisfied knowing I gave it my 100%.
In human history, we only remember those who defied the norm. Those who relentlessly went after what once seemed impossible, until they proved it wasn’t. So do something great, think BIG and aim high. The worst-case scenario, you fail, but no one will even remember! Question what will legitimately matter at the end of your life? Is it the Instagram followers you had? What Stephanie said about Becky? What car you drove? What Kim Kardashian ate for lunch? Or will it be what goals you’ve worked for your entire life, the people you impacted, the relationship you grew between yourself and your loved ones? This contemplation puts into perspective the true magnitude and relevance of your current problems. Once you set your values, you simultaneously develop your priorities, which help you be intentional and selective with your time.
5. Good vs Bad Values
We experience life in our own heads, is our emotions and thoughts as we react to the world around us. Our lives are only as good as we think they are. We control how we measure our quality of life using metrics.
To change how you feel about life, change your metrics and values. Favourable values are things in your control that can be adapted almost instantly, they are reality-based and socially constructive. Lousy values are dependant on external factors that are out of your control such as other people, money, environment etc. Consequently, when these are lost, we lose our sense of stability and feel helpless. On the other hand, when you attain them, they leave you wanting more because you’re disappointed and still feel a void.
Examples of good values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, advocacy, curiosity, humility
Bad values: Dominance, constant positivity, attention, fear of being alone, seeking monetary wealth, being liked by everyone.
The same experience can be positive or negative, depending on the metrics you use. For instance, a millionaire may be depressed about not having the latest car as a co-worker. Meanwhile, a child in a war-torn city cries out of joy at the sight of a bike. You may be bitter at home with your parents, while all your friends are out partying because you value social inclusion. On the other hand, you could also be filled with joy because you value family over partying.
6. Responsibility and fault
Responsibility and fault do not go hand in hand. Your circumstances might not be your fault, but it damn sure is your responsibility to cope and adapt to them. It wasn’t Stephan Hawking’s fault that he got diagnosed with ALS. It wasn’t Oprah’s fault that she grew up in poverty and was raped at the age of 9. It’s not Beethoven’s fault he was deaf. It’s not someone’s fault that they lost a family member in an accident. They could blame their circumstances, but they know that wouldn’t get them far. They take responsibility and never put themselves in the victim role; instead, they hold themselves accountable for their own lives. They distinguish between what’s out of their power and in their control. They figure out how they’re going to deal with their situation and ultimately overcome their circumstances.