Summary of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

There’s no better way to describe the times we live in than to say it is a double-edged sword. We are surrounded by so many options, much more than our parents and grandparents before us, however, that often leaves us feeling more stressed rather than blessed. Why? Well, there is no doubt that we are busier than ever before. We are trying to live balanced lives but trying to do it all often leaves us feeling burnt out and exhausted. 

So, what gives? What should we try to do in order to stop stressing about what option to choose and instead start focussing on what is important?  To start off with, most of us have not really defined what is important to us. That’s the beginning and the rest? Well, keep reading. This summary will tell you what you should do about it.

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • Defining what is important to you
  • Your path to happiness is yours alone
  • Positive change comes from acceptance
  • Love is not always healthy
  • The human need for immortality is a useless distraction

Key lesson one: Defining what is important to you

What do you wish to achieve in your lifetime? Saying that you want to be happy is not enough. Happy doing what? With whom? If you do not take the time to fill in the details, you will have nothing to work towards and will never achieve success in anything. Life is not easy for anyone. There is struggle involved in whatever you wish to pursue therefore it is important that you pick something that will be worth it. 

That is why you have to be specific in your goals and you have to be prepared to put in the necessary work. So, if you want to be a CEO, are you prepared to work 60 hour weeks, make hard decisions and fire people? It’s not worth having big goals if you are not prepared to do the hard work to be good at it. You will not be successful if the struggle becomes too much. That is why you have to choose the struggle that you think is worth it. That means identifying what you enjoy doing.

If you find something that makes you happy, chances are you will be less deterred by any struggles that may arise. The road ahead will always be filled with disappointments and hardships, there’s no escaping them. Enjoying what you do will help you get through these tough times without giving up. It will be because you know that the success that you will achieve will be the greatest reward and bring the most happiness. 

That’s why it is worth defining early on what is important to you and what you are willing to struggle for. There is no easy way to achieve success no matter what people tell you. So, choose something that brings you joy and forget about all the things that don’t. You have to be able to cut out the things that stress you out and make you unhappy. It’s time to concentrate on the good, nothing else is worth your time.

Key lesson two: Your path to happiness is yours alone

Another lesson we should all learn right now is that your success and your journey to success will be different to everyone else’s. Sure, there may be some similarities here and there but they will never be identical. Therefore you should never compare yourself to others. Nothing good will come from it. In fact, the only thing you will get from it is disappointment.

Just like how everyone’s journey is different, everyone’s success is different too. You cannot constantly compare yourself to others and diminish your own achievements just because they aren’t as good as someone else’s. Healthier values are needed as a yardstick. Imagine if you use material items as a means to judge your success. When would you be happy? When you obtain the biggest house on the block, the fastest car in the country or the flashiest diamond? These things are considered bad values as they do no lead to your improved well-being. Chasing wealth is never healthy, especially if you put it above friends, family and your integrity. The same goes for pleasure, which is another pursuit people find alluring in this day and age. 

Therefore you should avoid bad values and choose those which are healthy. In order to do that you need to remember three things about the values you choose. First, they should be based in reality. Secondly, it should be helpful to society and lastly, it should have an immediate and controllable effect. Examples of healthy values are honesty, creativity and generosity.

Key lesson three: Positive change comes from acceptance

When things tend to go wrong in your life, do you feel like a victim? It’s okay if you answer yes, most people do. However, the healthier option would be to take responsibility for your life. If something goes wrong, you should not focus on the outcome but instead, you should evaluate how you were responsible for the outcome. In this way, you can work on your mistakes and learn from them thus making you wiser as you move forward. 

The important thing to remember here is that you have to realize you are not always going to be right. You have to question yourself sometimes to figure out if there is a possibility that you are wrong. In doing so, you will be able to identify blind spots that you would have otherwise missed. It is by no means easy as identifying these blind spots can often also identify our own insecurities which are often hard to face. 

This brings us to our identity. Sometimes, we hold on so dearly to the concept of our identity that it hinders us from pursuing both happiness and success. You will not be defined by your mistakes or your successes. You have to let go of your identity. Much like the teachings of Buddha, identity is a mere illusion, a mental construct and if it isn’t real, you cannot let it define your life. 

Acceptance is the only way to bring about positive and healthy changes in your life. Thus, you have to let go of that which doesn’t serve you, accept that you will make mistakes and be wrong. These actions will make you stronger in the long run and enable you to live a happier life.

Key lesson four: Love is not always healthy

Love is the epitome of happiness right? Unfortunately, it is not often true. Yes, love can bring happiness, however, you have to make the distinction between romantic love and healthy love. You know that feeling when you fall in love? When nothing else matters except your significant other and everything is filled with passion and romance? Well, that’s romantic love and scientists have established that this point in a relationship affects the brain just like cocaine does. It’s what makes being in love so addictive and why some people cannot stay single for long. They’re constantly chasing that high.

There’s no need to panic though, romantic love does have the potential to become healthy love. You see when people use romantic love to escape their circumstances, it is doomed to fail. Love cannot be a distraction from an unhappy job or dysfunctional family. At some point, you will be unable to hide from your problems and at that point, romantic love will lose its lustre. Healthy love occurs when both people involved are completely dedicated to the relationship. Rather than a distraction, partners support each other through difficulties and grow together. Thus there are no dominating sides to the relationship but a true partnership that contributes to healthy and lasting love. 

Key lesson five: The human need for immortality is a useless distraction

Death is inevitable. We are all aware of this. However, being human means we can either totally forget this fact and live in blissful ignorance or we can constantly ask what if? What if I had a different career? Went to a different college or moved to a different country? What if I never do anything worthwhile?

This constant questioning leads people to pursue what is called immortality projects. Things that will survive after they have died. Their legacy so to speak. Often, people choose to seek fame. This is never a good option. We all know how Hitler tried to change the world and as much as it is an extreme example, it is based on the fact that that was what he saw fit to be his legacy. As a society, we should forget about this pursuit of immortality and instead concentrate on the present.

Be present and seek your happiness in the now.  Nothing else matters. In fact, the only thing that matters is you and your pursuit of joy. Everything else is a useless distraction.

The key takeaway from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is:

In this day and age, we must learn to focus on the important things. These are the things that bring us joy. We should do this because life is not easy, everything involves some sort of struggle. Thus it is important that your struggle is meaningful. If you are doing something that makes you happy, the hard times are easier to handle. We have to learn to let go of the distractions and be clear about what we want. We will make mistakes, we are all flawed but we must be prepared to learn and grow. It is the only way to healthily lead a life of happiness and love.

How can I implement the lessons learned in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

Learn to say no. It is the most important lesson from this book. No to whatever does not make you happy, no to unnecessary stress and no to trying to satisfy everyone else but yourself. Choose only the things that are important to you and stick to them. You are not missing out on anything if you are pursuing your happiness. You don’t need to see what everyone else is doing to know if you are achieving your goals. You do you!

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