(by Mark Manson)
Chapter 1: Don't Try
- Conventional life advice, or all the positive stuff and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time, fixates on what you lack.
- If you're dreaming of something all the time, then you're reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over: that you are not that.
The Feedback Loop from Hell
- Consumer culture and social media has bred a whole generation who believe that having negative experiences like anxiety, fear, guilt, etc is not okay.
- The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience, while the accepting of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience.
- Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience, so don't try to escape it.
- You must learn how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively, or how to pick and choose what matters to you and what doesn't based on finely honed personal values.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
- Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck doesn't mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
- Indifferent people are afraid of the world and the repercussions of their own choices, which is why they don't make any meaningful choices.
- You must say "fuck it" not to everything in life, but rather to everything unimportant in life. Save your fucks for what truly matters.
- Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
- If you don't find that meaningful something, your fucks will be given to meaningless and frivolous causes.
- Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
- Maturity is what happens when we learn to give fucks about only what's truly fuckworthy.
So Mark, What the Fuck Is the Point of This Book Anyway?
- Practical enlightenment is becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is inevitable, and that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, and even death.
- The only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.
Chapter 2: Happiness Is a Problem
- Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them.
- Happiness is not a solvable equation. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature, and necessary components to creating constant happiness.
The Misadventures of Disappointment Panda
- We suffer because it is biologically useful: It is nature's preferred agent for inspiring change.
- A constant dissatisfaction has kept our species fighting and striving, building and conquering.
- A society that coddles itself more and more from the discomforts of life is dangerous: We lose the benefits of experiencing healthy doses of pain, which disconnects us from the reality of the world around us.
Happiness Comes from Solving Problems
- True happiness occurs when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
- Instead of solving, people either a) deny they exist in the first place, or b) choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems, even when there is.
- Forms of blame and denial allow us to temporarily escape our problems, and that escape can provide us a quick rush to feel better.
Emotions are Overrated
- Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, it's because you're supposed to do something.
- To deny one's negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person solve problems.
Choose Your Struggle
- An interesting question that most people will never consider is "What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?"
- Real, serious, lifelong fulfillment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and managing of our struggles.
- What determines your success isn't "What do you want to enjoy?" but "What pain do you want to sustain?" Our struggles determine our success.
Chapter 3: You Are Not Special
- A true and accurate measurement of one's self-worth is how you feel about the negative aspects of yourself.
- Entitled people have a delusional degree of self-confidence.
- Because entitled people are incapable of acknowledging their problems openly and honestly, they are incapable of improving their lives in any lasting or meaningful way.
Things Fall Apart
- If we have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we're uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. Put simply: we become entitled.
- Entitled people flip between being on top of the world or having the world on top of them, demanding special treatment in each case.
- It takes just as much energy and delusional self-aggrandizement to maintain the belief that one has insurmountable problems as that one has no problems at all.
- In an age when we're more connected than ever, entitlement seems to be at an all-time high.
The Tyranny of Exceptionalism
- Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that what sells.
- This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. Because we are mostly average, this drives us to feel insecure and desperate.
B-b-b-but If I'm Not Going to Be Special or Extraordinary, What's the Point?
- When a culture's standard of success is "be extraordinary," it's better to be at the low end of the bell curve than in the middle, because there you're still special and deserve attention.
- People who become great at something become great because they understand that they're only mediocre, and that they could be so much better. It's anti-entitlement.
Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering
- If suffering is inevitable and our problems are unavoidable, then we should not ask "How do I stop suffering?" but instead "Why am I suffering – for what purpose?"
The Self-Awareness Onion
- The first layer of self-awareness is a simple understanding of one's emotions.
- The second layer is the ability to ask why we feel some way; these questions are important because they illuminate what we consider success or failure.
- The third layer integrates our personal values; this is important because our values determine the nature of our problems, which in turn determines the quality of our lives.
- We must ask these questions accurately to achieve a deeper knowledge of our own values.
- What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation, and how you choose to measure it and value it.
- Problems may be inevitable, but their meaning is not. We can control our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we measure them.
Rock Star Problems
- If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and how you measure failure or success.
- Shitty values include:
- Pleasure: People who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed.
- Material Success: Once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, etc), the correlation between happiness and worldly success approaches zero.
- Always Being Right: Assuming you're ignorant keeps you unattached to superstitions or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth.
- Staying Positive: Constant positivity is an avoidance of life's problems – but upon choosing the right values and metrics, these problems should motivate you.
- The trick with negative emotions is to 1) express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner, and 2) express them in a way that aligns with your values.
Defining Good and Bad Values
- Good values are reality-based, socially-constructive, and immediate and controllable; while bad values are superstitious, socially destructive, and not immediate or controllable.
- Good values are achieved internally, and thereby controllable so that you engage the world as it is rather than by how you wish it were.
- Bad values are generally reliant on external events, and thereby outside your control so that you must rely on socially destructive or superstitious means to achieve them.
- Values are about prioritization: What values do you prioritize above all else, and therefore influence your decision-making above all else?
- By choosing better values, you divert your fucks to something better – to things that matter, improve our state of well-being and generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side-effects.
- When you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.
Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing
- When we feel like we are choosing problems, we feel empowered. When we feel like our problems are being forced upon us, we feel victimized and miserable.
- We don't always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.
- Whether we like it or not, we are always taking an active role in what's occurring around or within us. We are always choosing, whether we recognize it or not.
The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy
- The more we choose to accept responsibility into our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is the first step to solving them.
- We hesitate to take responsibility for our problems because we believe that to be responsible for our problems is to also be at fault for our problems.
- But we are responsible for experiences that aren't our fault all the time.
- Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you're currently making, every second of every day.
- Responsibility means you get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, and how you value things. You choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.
- Taking responsibility for our problems is far more important than taking responsibility for success and happiness, because that's where the real learning comes from.
Responding to Tragedy
- Pain of one sort or another is inevitable for all of us, but again, we get to choose what it means to and for us.
Genetics and the Hand We're Dealt
- People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they're given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in life.
- Public sharing of "injustices" garners attention and emotional outpouring, rewarding people who are able to perpetually feel victimized with ever-growing amounts of attention and sympathy.
- The biggest problem with victimhood chic is that it diverts attention away from actual victims.
- But part of living in a democracy and a free society is that we all have to deal with views and people we don't necessarily like.
There Is No "How"
- You are already choosing, in every moment of every day, what to give a fuck about; so change is as simple as choosing to give a fuck about something else.
Chapter 6: You're Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)
- Growth is endlessly iterative. We shouldn't seek to find the ultimate right answer for ourselves, but instead slowly chip away at the ways that we are wrong.
- There is no correct dogma or perfect ideology, but only what your experience has shown to be right for you.
- Instead of looking how we're right all the time, we should be looking for how we are wrong. Being wrong opens us up to change, and in turn brings us opportunity for growth.
- Don't trust your conception of positive/negative experiences. All we know for certain is what hurts in the moment and what doesn't.
Architects of Our Own Beliefs
- What we understand as "meaning" is generated by the associations our brain makes between two or more experiences.
- But there are two problems: The brain is imperfect, and once we create meaning for ourselves, our brains are designed to hold onto that meaning.
- Many of our values are products of events that are not representative of the world at large, or of a totally misconceived past. So most of our beliefs are wrong.
The Dangers of Pure Certainty
- For individuals to feel justified in doing horrible things to others, they must feel an unwavering uncertainty in their own righteousness, beliefs, and deservedness.
- The more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing that you don't know.
- Uncertainty is the root of all progress and growth, as the person who believes he knows everything learns nothing.
- Before we can look at our values and priorities and change them into better, healthier ones, we must first become uncertain of our current values.
Manson's Law of Avoidance
- Manson's Law of avoidance states the more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
- Until we change how we view ourselves, what we believe we are and are not, we cannot overcome our avoidance and anxiety, and so we cannot change.
- There is little that is unique or special about your problems, and it's pure narcissism to believe otherwise.
- Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten your identity.
How to Be a Little Less Certain of Yourself
- To create uncertainty, ask yourselves three questions:
- What if I'm wrong? We are the worst observers of ourselves, and so chip away at your certainty by consistently questioning how wrong we might be about ourselves.
- What would it mean if I'm wrong? Being able to evaluate different values without necessarily adopting them is perhaps the central skill in changing one's own life meaningfully.
- Would being wrong create a better or worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others? Our problems are endless, so we must look at which problem is better.
- If it feels like you versus the world, chances are it's really just you versus yourself.
Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward
The Failure/Success Paradox
- Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you've failed at something.
- At some point, most of us reach a place where we're afraid to fail, and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we're really good at.
- Shitty values involve tangible external goals outside our control, and once they're achieved you feel empty because there are no more problems to solve.
- Better values are process-oriented, and their problems must continuously be re-engaged. Such a value is an ongoing, lifelong process that defies completion.
- Consequently goals, as they are traditionally defined, are limited in the amount of happiness they can produce in our lives.
Pain Is Part of the Process
- We must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
- If you avoid pain by chasing highs or indulging in entitlement or overindulging in substances, then you'll never generate the requisite motivation to actually change.
- When you choose a new value, you choose to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Learn to sustain it, and act despite it.
The "Do Something" Principle
- The "do something" principle states: Action isn't just the effect of motivation; it's also the cause of it.
- We assume a chain reaction of emotional inspiration ⇒ motivation ⇒ desirable action, but it's actually an endless loop: inspiration ⇒ motivation ⇒ action ⇒ inspiration.
- We can therefore reorient our mindset around the chain action ⇒ inspiration ⇒ motivation.
- So if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.
- With doing something as your only metric for success, then even failure pushes you forward.
Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No
- The only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance is one's life is through a rejection of alternatives, or a narrowing of freedom – a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or one person.
- Exposure to different cultural values and metrics forces you to reexamine what seems obvious in your own life and whether it's actually the best way to live.
- There is such pressure in the West to be likable that people often reconfigure their entire personally depending on whom they're dealing with.
Rejection Makes Your Life Better
- We need to reject something. Or else we stand for nothing, and are without values and live our lives without any purpose.
- To truly appreciate something, you must confine your life to it. There is a certain level of joy and meaning you reach only after focusing significant time on a single relationship, craft, or career.
- Entitled people, because they feel as though they deserve to feel great all the time, avoid rejecting anything because doing so might make themselves or others feel bad.
- Healthy relationships are defined by 1) each person accepting responsibility, and 2) each person being willing to both reject and be rejected by their partner.
- People in healthy relationships with strong boundaries take responsibility for their own values and problems, and do not take responsibility for those of their partner.
- Entitled people either expect take others to take responsibility for their problems, or take on too much responsibility for other people's problems.
- Entitled people adopt these strategies in their relationships, as with everything, to help avoid accepting responsibility for their own problems.
- In an unhealthy relationship two people solve each other's problems to feel good about themselves. In a healthy relationship they solve their own problems to feel good about each other.
- "Victims" and "savers" end up in relationships because they use each other to achieve emotional highs.
- Acts of love are valid only if they're performed without conditions or expectations.
- It's not about giving a fuck about everything your partner gives a fuck about; it's about giving a fuck about your partner regardless of the fucks he or she gives.
How to Build Trust
- Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits.
- A healthy relationship requires both sides to be willing and able to say no and hear no, or else boundaries break down and one person's problems and values dominate the other's.
- When trust is destroyed, it can be rebuilt only if 1) the trust-breaker admits and owns up to the true values that caused the breach, and 2) the trust-breaker builds a solid track record of improved behavior over time.
Freedom Through Commitment
- The more options we're given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we're aware of all the other options we're potentially forfeiting.
- There are some experiences that you can have only when living in the same place, being with the same person, or working on the same craft for significant time.
- You will find increased opportunity and upside in rejecting alternatives and distractions in favor of what you've chosen to let truly matter to you.
- The rejection of alternatives liberates us from things that do not align with our most important values or with our chosen metrics.
Chapter 9: ... And Then You Die
- In a backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all life's meaning is measured.
Something Beyond Our Selves
- We are the only animals that are aware of the inevitability of our own death; this "death terror" is a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
- To compensate for our mortality, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. All human civilization is a result of such "immortality projects."
- Our immortality projects are our values – the barometers of meaning and worth in our life. And when our values fail, so do we, psychologically speaking.
- Rather than attempting to implement our conceptual self across the world, we should question our conceptual self and become more comfortable with the reality of our own death.
- Becoming comfortable with our mortality allows us to choose values more freely, unrestrained by the quest for immortality, and freed from dangerous dogmatic views.
The Sunny Side of Death
- Death confronts us all with a painful and important question: What is your legacy?
- To be comfortable with death, see yourself as something bigger than yourself, choose values that go beyond serving yourself, and that are simple and immediate and controllable and tolerant of our chaotic world.
- Our culture today confuses great attention with great success, but they are not the same.
- There is nothing to be afraid of. Ever.
Last modified 18 April 2022