The Subtle Art of not giving a Fuck – Book Summary


If you’re looking to make a good start to the year and have no idea where to even begin, or you are struggling with your goals this month, then this book may be an interesting read to start with. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson is a book about finding what’s truly important to you and letting go of everything else that has no meaning or value to you.  Not everyone will be a fan of Manson and yes, he is a controversial writer.


However, reading the subtle art of not giving a fuck is somewhat interesting. And whilst I don’t agree with all of it, I have to say, some parts do make you wonder and question how we handle our personal problems, fears and uncertainties that we all encounter throughout life.  Manson speaks a few home truths but without the solutions many self-help gurus give.   What you find from the book is what most of us will face through life. Wouldn’t life be better if we would care less about unimportant stuff?  There is some sustenance to the book “The Subtle art of not giving a fuck”. You just need to figure out which lessons apply to you.





In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson writes about his philosophies and his take on life. What keynotes or lessons I personally took from the book are:


  • The key to a good life is to give a fuck about less. You can’t fix everything in the world. Choose what you really care about and not to give a fuck about anything else.
  • The values and beliefs you were brought up with don’t have to be yours forever. If you don’t believe in them yourself, question them and change them where necessary.
  • Failure is not a big deal. Just see those failures as stepping stones to getting there.
  • Death happens to us all, we are only here temporarily to create and write our story.



Chapter 1:  Don’t Try


“The problem is giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.”


You can’t fix everything in life. It’s that simple. The Subtle art of not giving a fuck helps you think about what you choose to find important and what to cut out what is unimportant to you in life. Choose what’s important to you right now in your life and give a fuck about that. Less is more. Stop giving a fuck about what you can’t control and what doesn’t affect you.



Chapter 2:  Happiness Is a Problem


Happiness comes from solving problems.  Problems never stop, they are constant and are part of life.  So we shouldn’t hope for a life without problems. Happiness is found in solving problems, not avoiding them. Think about how happy you were when you solved a problem. If you didn’t solve the problem you got frustrated. Embrace the problem and enjoy solving it. “ The joy is in the climb itself”

For example, you don’t climb Mount Everest for the view.  Throughout the journey to the top, there are countless problems that can happen along the way.  A crevasse might open under you. An ice-pinnacle can fall on top of you. The entire area can collapse. People climb Everest to be challenged – getting from point A to point B safely – in other words, solving the problem.  “To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is, therefore, a form of action.” We must remember, therefore, that happiness requires some form of daily struggle to get you there.


“Most people want to get the corner office and make a boatload of money – but not many people want to suffer through sixty-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork and arbitrary corporate hierarchies to escape the confines of an infinite cubicle hell” .


You can’t have a pain free life and be successful at the same time. And if you are able to not give a fuck about the pain your goals require, then you will become successful.



Chapter 3: You Are Not Special



“Many of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if your 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”


According to Manson, entitled people feel that they deserve good things without actually earning them.  The harsh reality is that you need to work extremely hard in order to get there. Those who become extraordinary in their talent(s)  are the ones who’ve become obsessed with improvement and worked their asses off each and every day. And not everyone can be extraordinary, otherwise, we wouldn’t have ordinary. So it’s okay to be ordinary and not to get disappointed as most of us live very ordinary lives.

The other harsh reality Manson points out is that there is no such thing as a personal problem. You’ve got the same shit in your life as other people. Chances are millions of other people have or will experience the same problems throughout life.

Manson also talks about negativity as shit happens and we can’t always be positive. I can’t really agree with him as having a positive mental attitude only makes you stronger. If you continue to be negative then people will slowly drift away from you. Negativity drains people.




Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering



“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?”

It’s no big secret, if you want to be successful in life, you have to be able to put up with the shit that comes with it. The big question though is how much shit are you willing to take to get to where you want to be. This can be a tough one to answer so Manson uses “The self-awareness Onion to help answer this.

“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.”


The first layer is to understand your emotions. How do I feel? What is my emotion? For example

  • I’m kind of sad.
  • I’m angry.
  • I am happy right now.


The second layer is the ability to ask why we are feeling those emotions.

  • Why am I sad?
  • Why am I angry?
  • Why am I happy right now?


The hardest layer is the third layer –  and is based around our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself and others? What I am measuring them on?


“This level, which takes constant questioning and effort, is incredibly difficult to reach. But it’s the most important because our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.” So clearly, knowing your values is important because, in the end, they determine the quality of your life.

The most simple system  I use to find out why something bothers me is to.

  • Ask why.
  • Keep on asking why (The 5 whys)

This strategy isn’t complex and really works.


Shitty Values

Let’s look at some common values that create poor problems – problems that can hardly be solved.



 “Pleasure is great, but it’s a horrible value to prioritize your life around… Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose.  Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.”


Material Success

 “When people measure themselves not by their behavior, but by the status symbols they’re able to collect, then not only are they shallow, but they’re probably assholes as well.”



Always Being Right

 “The fact is, people who base their self-worth on being right about everything prevent themselves from learning from their mistakes… It’s far more helpful to assume that you’re ignorant and don’t know a whole lot. This keeps you unattached to superstitious or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth.”


Staying Positive

 “It’s simple, really: things go wrong, people upset us, accidents happen. These things make us feel like shit. And that’s fine. Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.”


Examples of bad values: gaining control through manipulation either mental or physical violence, always wanting to be the centre of attention, being liked by everybody, being greedy for the sake of being rich.

Examples of good values are honesty, innovative, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, charitable and being humble.


 “When we have poor values – that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others – we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our lives worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better – toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.”


Manson then goes on to talk about ways to make your life better and goes through the following topics and how we can improve our lives. Again choose what is appropriate to you.


  • The first is a fundamental form of responsibility: taking responsibility for everything that occurs in your life, regardless of who’s at fault. – Something I question Manson’s on, I wouldn’t have put it as bluntly but rather we have a choice on how we deal with the situation.
  • The second is uncertainty: We don’t know everything and shouldn’t think we do and we should keep questioning our own beliefs.
  • The next is failure: the willingness to accept our own flaws and mistakes and how we can constantly learn and improve from ourselves.
  • The fourth is rejection: the ability to both say and hear no -what you will and will not accept in your life. This is based on your values.
  • The final value is the contemplation of one’s own mortality: death will happen to each and every one of us and accepting that will help keep other values in proper perspective.



Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing (Responsibility)


“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.”

This can hit a raw nerve for many but realistically some part of it is true in a certain way. When we accept that we’re responsible for everything in our lives, then we get to improve ourselves.  For example, it’s not your fault if you were born into a poor family, yet it’s still your responsibility for what you choose to do about it.   You choose to deal with the situation and chose what you do with it – either sink or swim. Mark Manson compares this to poker. No matter the hand you’re dealt, it’s your responsibility to deal with the hand. It’s about the choices you make. “People who constantly make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life.”





Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything (Embrace Uncertainty)


“Certainty is the enemy of growth… Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are.”


Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. There’s an old saying, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn. In that sense: embrace uncertainty.   This is also important in order to be able to understand, appreciate and respect other peoples values. In the end, if we want to change and let go of values we may not believe in then we need to become uncertain and question our current values and beliefs. My values changed as I traveled the world understanding others peoples values and beliefs.



Chapter 7: Failure is the Way Forward


Pain is part of the process. It makes you stronger and more resilient. Learn to sustain the pain you’ve chosen. Your proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity.

Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures. We all know that Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” If someone is better than you at something then it is likely because she has failed at it more than you have


The “Do Something” Principle:


“If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and that will inspire and motivate you to keep going.


Motivation is an endless loop. The correct order is Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation.  Keep actioning your goals no matter what. The inspiration and motivation will keep following. If you stop then the motivation and inspiration stops.


the subtle art of not giving a f*ck


Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No (Rejection)


“Rejection is an important and crucial life skill.”

After years of traveling Mark Manson learned when he was in Russia, that in order to fully trust others, you must be blatantly honest with each other. Without trust, the relationship (any relationship) can no longer function. Conflict is normal, both people must be willing and able to both say no and hear no. Without an honest chat, there is nothing.




Chapter 9: And Then You Die (Contemplation of One’s Mortality)


“Death scares us. And because it scares us, we avoid thinking about it, talking about it, sometimes even acknowledging it, even when it’s happening to someone close to us.

Do you ever talk about death? Probably not. We just don’t.  We live with the desire to never truly die. Therefore we do not truly live. As Mark Twain once said “The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”


“The only way to be comfortable with death is to understand and see yourself as something bigger than yourself; to choose values that stretch beyond serving yourself, that are simple and immediate and controllable and tolerant of the chaotic world around you. This is the basic root of all happiness.”



One woman we did speak about during the month was the great Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old unemployed woman who stepped onto the stage of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference centre in Glasgow for one of the biggest auditions ever to be witnessed on Britain’s Got Talent. The crowd sneered at the eccentric woman when she suggested she wanted to be as successful as Elaine Paige and wanted to fulfill her dreams by being a professional singer. And for one moment she didn’t care what the audience or the judges thought.  I guess you call it the subtle art of not giving a fuck really. You can check the full story here