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Business Book Club: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Welcome to Business Book Club! We are here to get those little golden nuggets shared with us from the authors who take the time to share their expertise and experience so I'll be providing some of the highlights I got from the books I read and then you can decide if you want to pick up your own copy!

Today I’m going to be sharing information from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. In a nutshell, this book is about learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively by choosing what matters to you and what does not based on your own personal values. Let’s dive in:

Chapter 1 - Don't Try

  • The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And paradoxically the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience.

  • The more you pursue feeling better all the time the less satisfied you become as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.

  • Trying to avoid pain is giving too many f*cks about pain.

  • Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different. The question is what do we give a f*ck about, or what are we choosing to care about? How do we not give a f*ck about what ultimately doesn't matter?

  • You can't be an important and life changing presence for some people without also being a joke or an embarrassment to others. You just can't because there's no such thing as a lack of adversity.

  • If you have no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some. You need to have something important and meaningful in your life to give use of your time and energy.

  • Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a f*ck about.

Chapter 2 - Happiness Is a Problem

  • We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful for inspiring change.

  • We are wired to become dissatisfied with whatever we have and satisfied by only what we do not have. This constant dissatisfaction keeps us striving.

  • Problems never stop in life, they merely get exchanged or upgraded.

  • Happiness comes from solving problems, not avoiding problems (denial).

  • Acting like you don't have any problems, acting like there's nothing you can do to solve your problems, or blaming others is a victim mentality. It's easy to deny and blame others and it feels good versus solving our own problems which is hard and often feels bad. So happiness is a constant work in progress because we always need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action.

  • Remember whatever makes us feel good will also inevitably make us feel bad. A more interesting question than "What do you want out of life?" is" What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?" You can't be in love with a result without going through the difficulty to get it.

Chapter 3 - You Are Not Special

  • It turns out that adversity and failure are useful and necessary for developing strong minded and successful adults.

  • People who become so fixated on feeling good about themselves manage to delude themselves into believing that they are accomplishing great things even when they're not.

  • Entitled people exude a delusional degree of self confidence which can be alluring to others, at least for a little while. But the problem with entitlement is that it closes in upon itself in a narcissistic bubble, distorting anything and everything in such a way as to reinforce itself. Any attempt to reason with an entitled person is seen as simply another threat to their superiority by a person who "can't handle" how smart, talented, good looking, successful they are. Entitlement is another high - it is not happiness. Entitlement plays out in 1 of 2 ways:

    1. I'm awesome and the rest of you all suck so I deserve special treatment.

    2. I suck and the rest of you are awesome so I deserve special treatment.

  • The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences but rather how she feels about her negative experiences. She is able to look at the negative parts of her character frankly and then acts to improve upon them. Entitlement plays out in 1 of 2 ways

  • There's no such thing as a personal problem. Chances are millions of other people have had the same problems in the past, have it now and are going to have it in the future. It just means that you're not special.

  • The more freedom we're given to express ourselves the more we want to be free of having to deal with anyone who may disagree with or upset us.

  • Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. It is the extremes that get talked about. Our lives are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. Nonstop. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the middle.

  • The flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new norm but because we're all quite average, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate because clearly we are somehow not good enough. So more and more we feed the need to over-compensate through entitlement and addiction.

  • Entitlement is apparent across all of society due to mass media driven exceptionalism. The pervasiveness of technology and mass marketing is inflating a lot of people's expectations for themselves. The inundation of the exceptional makes people feel worse about themselves, makes them feel they need to be more extreme, more radical and more self assured to get noticed or even matter. Being average has become the new standard of failure.

  • We all deserve greatness! This statement is inherently contradictory after all, if everyone were extraordinary, then by definition, no one would be extraordinary - a point missed by most people.

  • A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it they'll never achieve anything, never improve and that their life won't matter.The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so because they're obsessed with improvement and that obsession stems from belief that they are in fact not that great at all.

  • Truth is, the vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy and that's OK. You will avoid accepting this but once ingested, your body will wake up feeling more potent and alive.That constant pressure to be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of always feeling inadequate and constantly needing to prove yourself will dissipate. And the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly want to accomplish.

Chapter 4 - The Value of Suffering

  • The first layer of self awareness is understanding of one's emotions. What makes you feel happy, sad, gives you hope?

  • The second layer is an ability to ask “Why” you feel certain emotions. Once you understand the root cause you can do something to change it.

  • The third layer is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success or failure? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me? It is difficult to reach this level but it is important because our values determine the nature of our problems which determines the quality of our lives.

  • Most advice operates at a shallow level of trying to make people feel good in the short term while the real long term problems never get solved. Honest self questioning is difficult. It requires asking yourself questions that are uncomfortable to answer:

    • What is bothering you?

    • Why is it bothering you?

    • Why does that seem true to you?

    • What if you were looking at it the wrong way?

If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure and success.

  • The values that create problems for people are: pleasure, material success, always being right (prevents you from learning from your mistakes) and staying positive all the time (things go wrong, people upset us, accidents happen).

  • Events that involve pain, struggle, even anger and despair are some of the most meaningful moments and joyous things you'll ever do.

  • Ask yourself what are the values you prioritize above everything else and therefore influence your decision making more than anything else?

The rest of the book is dedicated to 5 counterintuitive values that require confronting deeper problems rather than avoiding them.

Chapter 5 - You Are Always Choosing

  • You can feel miserable and victimized when you believe your current situation is outside your control (there's a problem you have no ability to solve or a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing). When we feel that we're choosing our problems, we feel empowered.

  • We can’t always control what happens to us but we can control how we interpret what happens to us as well as how we respond.

  • We are always responsible for our experiences: choosing not to consciously interpret events in our lives is still an interpretation of the events of our lives. Choosing not to respond to the events in our lives is still a response to the events in our lives.It is still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response. What are we choosing to give a f*ck about? What values are we choosing to base our actions on?

  • The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe doing so is also admitting fault for those problems. Fault results from choices that have already been made while responsibility results from the choices you are currently making.

  • You are already choosing what to give a f*ck about so change is as simple as choosing to give a f*ck about something else. It is that simple, but it's not easy. You may feel uncertain, dumb, like a failure, nervous, pissed off and may freak out!

Chapter 6 - You're Wrong About Everything But So Am I.

  • There is only what your experience has shown you to be right for you and even then that experience is probably somewhat wrong too. It changes over time.

  • We should be in constant search of doubt about our own beliefs and our own feelings about what the future may hold. Start looking for how you are wrong all the time because that opens you up to the possibility of change and growth.

  • We don't actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating. We only know what hurts or what feels good in the moment.

  • Our minds are constantly generating more associations to help us understand and control the environment around us. Each of these thoughts, impulses and perceptions is composed of thousands of neural connections firing in conjunction alighting your mind in a blaze of knowledge and understanding. But there are two problems:

    1. The brain is imperfect. We mistake things we see and hear and forget things or misinterpret events easily.

    2. Once we create meaning for ourselves, our brains are designed to hold on to that meaning. We are biased toward the meaning our mind has made and we don't want to let go of it even if we see evidence that contradicts this meaning we created.

  • The Self Improvement Junkie: embodies all the lessons learned, has a dream, is persistent, visualizes and takes action, and is relentlessly positive. The fact that she does everything "right" doesn't make her right. When things don't work out and she has moments of insecurity, and deep despair, she becomes susceptible to an insidious entitlement. Believing that she deserves to cheat a little to get her way, that other people deserve to be punished, and that she deserves to take what she wants.

  • The more you try to be certain, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel. So the more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel and knowing what you don't know. It removes judgments of others, relieves us of our judgment of ourselves and allows progress and growth.

  • The more something threatens to change how you view yourself, how successful or unsuccessful you believe yourself to be, or how well you see yourself living up to your values, the more you will avoid it. There is a comfort that comes with knowing how you fit into the world and anything that threatens that comfort (even if it could potentially make your life better) is scary.

  • There is little that is unique or special about your problems. That's why letting go is so liberating. When you feel as though your problems deserve to be treated differently, that is narcissism.

  • Give up your ideas about yourself that you're uniquely intelligent or spectacularly talented or intimidatingly attractive or especially victimized in ways that other people could never imagine.

  • Question if you are right or wrong. What it would mean if you were wrong? Would being wrong create a better or worse problem than the current problem for both yourself and others?

Chapter 7 - Failure is the Way Forward.

  • Being an entrepreneur is appealing if you hate being told what to do, prefer to do things your way, working in a job that you can do from anywhere and whenever you wanted.

  • Avoiding failure is something we learn later in life. We can be truly successful only at something we're willing to fail at. If we're unwilling to fail, then we're unwilling to succeed.

  • Goals can be helpful when pursuing quick short term benefits but as guides for the overall trajectory of our life, they suck. For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of adversity. Fear, anxiety and sadness are not necessarily always undesirable or unhelpful - they are often representative of the necessary pain of psychological growth. It is important to feel pain as part of the growth process because if you’re always chasing after highs to cover up the pain, indulge in entitlement and delusional positive thinking, you'll never generate the requisite motivation to actually change.

  • Don’t let your emotions define your reality. For example, when someone doesn’t want to talk to you and you come to believe that people really don't want to talk to you. Do not fail to separate what you feel from what is. Many people, when they feel some form of pain, anger or sadness, drop everything and try to numb out their feelings so they can get back to feeling good as quickly as possible, Learn to sustain the pain, then act despite it. It'll feel hard at first but if you start by acting like you don't know anything, there's nothing to lose.

  • When any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite, we propel ourselves ahead feeling free to fail.

Chapter 8 - The Importance of Saying No

  • As with most excesses in life, you have to drown yourself in them to realize they don't make you happy. While your experiences may be exciting, few of them will have any lasting significance.

  • Having lived under communism for so many generations, Russian society found the most valuable currency to be trust. And to build trust, you have to be honest without apologizing for it. In our Western culture, there exists an abundance of economic opportunity so you can present yourself in any way you want, even if it is false. Trust loses its value.

  • The act of choosing a value for yourself requires rejecting alternative values. So we all must give a f*ck about something in order to value something. We are defined by what we choose to reject. Honesty requires us to be comfortable with saying and hearing the word “No”.

  • We are actually often happier with less. Basically, the more options we're given the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose because we know there are other options we are forfeiting. This will make you unhappy.

  • The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. It's the law of diminishing returns.

Chapter 9 - And Then You Die

  • Death scares us so we avoid thinking or talking about it yet death is the light by which the shadow of all life's meaning is measured.

  • Humans are the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly. We can imagine ourselves in hypothetical situations, to contemplate both the past and the future and to imagine other realities or situations. We are also the only animal capable of imagining a reality without ourselves in it.

  • We have two selves: the first self is the physical self and the second is our conceptual self. In order to compensate for our fear of death, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. Question your conceptual self and become more comfortable with the reality of your own death. It is inevitable. Confronting the reality of your own mortality obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life. It's not about fame, attention, making more money or assurance that you are loved.

  • How will the world be different and better when you're gone? What influence will you have caused? What hurricanes will you leave in your wake? This is the only true important question in our life. We avoid thinking about it because it's hard and it's scary and because we have no clue what we're doing.

  • Happiness comes from contributing to something larger than yourself. Entitlement shifts the attention inward towards ourselves causing us to feel as if we are the one suffering all the injustices and that we are the one who deserves greatness over all others. People who demand that society cater to their feelings and sensibilities and high on a sense of false superiority fall into inaction and lethargy for fear of trying something worthwhile and failing. The pampering of the modern mind resulted in a population that feels deserving of something without earning that something. People declare themselves experts without any real life experience. And they do this not because they actually think they are greater than everybody else but because they feel they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts the extraordinary. Do not confuse great attention with great success. You are great not because of what you can do but because you continue to choose what to give a f*ck about and what not to. We are all gonna die and that alone should make us love each other. But it doesn't.

There is nothing to be afraid of. Ever.

Thanks for reading! To get your own copy of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, click here.

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