The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Cover & Diagrams
This book is all about finding what is truly important in life and discarding everything else. The language here is irreverent and abrasive, but it helps drive home the idea of just saying "f*ck it" to things that don't matter.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck may seem like another self-help program dressed up in gritty terms and scare tactics. But a closer look reveals that the lessons here are more about "wake-up" than they are about "self-help." Layer after layer, the book peels away those ineffective "feel good" tactics and replaces them with a good dose of reality.
"Look, this is how it works. You're going to die one day. I know that's kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you'd forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of f*cks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a f*ck about everything and everyone without a conscious thought or choice - well, then you're going to get f*cked."
The key to living the good life is to stop trying to get rid of all that pain, suffering, and disappointment. Everything worthwhile is achieved by overcoming some obstacle or solving some problem. Conventional self-improvement advice often focuses on what is lacking and avoiding negative experiences. But that advice just creates more agony and desperation because it doesn't address the real issues. Someone can spend a lifetime searching for their life purpose or some other prize and miss the simple, daily events that matter.
Happiness is a problem
The pursuit of happiness may be everyone's right, but happiness as a goal is overrated. Feeling unhappy is more of a call to action than it is a symptom of some flaw or void. When someone avoids feeling unhappy at all costs, they are missing some lessons for achieving the very happiness they want. Solving problems and using pain to create change can create happy outcomes. Suffering and struggling, and moving forward, is the path to finding happiness.
"Our crisis is no longer material; it's existential, it's spiritual. We have so much f*cking stuff and so many opportunities that we don't even know what to give a f*ck about anymore."
You are not special
Everyone is unique in some ways, but many people have an unhealthy obsession with being "special." This feeling can come not just from some achievement or skill, but also from a sense of being a victim. It seems that being "average" has come to be associated with failure of some sort. Reality check: most people's lives will be unremarkable, not on one end of the "special" spectrum, but somewhere in the middle. Realizing that it's okay to be average opens up opportunities to appreciate the simple rewards of daily life.
The value of suffering
At the heart of all this suffering are values. Stop asking, "how can I avoid suffering?" and instead ask, "what is my suffering telling me to do?" People experience all kinds of self-induced suffering from comparing themselves with others to stressing over perceived needs. Suffering is a natural state that offers a chance to learn and progress, not something to avoid. Accept suffering and listen to it. It will reveal what values are the most important and put problems in perspective.
"The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is itself a positive experience."
You are always choosing
Good choices come from good values. When someone chooses their problems by following their values, they feel in control. When they just react to problems that appear, they feel like a victim. No one can control what happens, but they can control how they see problems and how they respond. Sometimes the best choice is when someone chooses to ignore a situation or problem because it's not worth giving a f*ck about. These choices, based on worthwhile values, naturally minimize a lot of suffering and anxiety.
You're wrong about everything
When someone feels that they are always right, or knows more than everyone else, then they are living a life that has no room for growth. That stigma of admitting being wrong is so strong that some people would rather die than admit it! The mind relates to experiences in a way that aligns with previous experiences and beliefs. When someone finds a situation that doesn't align with their experiences, they tend to rationalize the inconsistency away instead of having the willingness to change their mind. The mind has the bad habit of jumping to conclusions to find patterns that fit, regardless of reality. All that rationalizing and making the world fit a certain view prevents any chance for change.
"If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success."
Trust yourself less
Someone can make all the right moves, and things can still go wrong because of faulty values. Weak values equal weak results because people tend to trust those values without ever realizing what they mean. Racism, terrorism, and other horrible things occur because of people's belief in the wrong values. These types of people cause chaos and suffering because they have undying faith in those distorted values and are confident of their righteousness. When people aren't brave enough to challenge their beliefs, then they will find that their very identity will never feel secure.
Failure is the way forward
There is no success without failure, yet most people will do anything to avoid it. This consuming fear usually comes from unexamined values and uncertainty. When someone avoids the pain of failure, they miss the opportunity to look at their values and see why they are failing. Failure isn't to blame, it's ignoring the pain and what it can teach that causes problems. When someone stops and listens, that pain will likely be telling them that their values are too goal-oriented rather than process-based. When values become more about the journey than the destination, it makes it easier to accept uncertainty and keep going.
"F*ck positivity, Let's be honest; sometimes things are f*cked up and we have to live with it."
The importance of saying no
It's easy to just say yes in most situations. But all those "yeses" can become a habit that prevents someone from saying no to the things that don't matter. A person who can't say no to faulty alternatives is living a life with no boundaries. People with solid boundaries aren't afraid of conflict or getting their feelings hurt. When someone can't say no, they often find themselves caught up in the habit of trying to say what someone else wants to hear. This desire to always go along doesn't help relationships; it weakens them because without conflict there is no real trust. Don't be a "yes man." Honesty is far more important than a brief moment of good feelings.
...And then you die
Death is the great equalizer. The thought of death has a way of putting everything in its place and clarifying what's important. That's because the fear of death is an underlying factor in everything a person does. Confronting and accepting the inevitability of death reveals all those superficial values and offers a chance to choose values more genuinely. People buy into some pretty flimsy dogmas in attempts to delay or somehow get around death, but that only prevents them from seeing alternatives that would be much more useful.
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. Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life's meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
Wake up. Stop searching for that fairy-tale ending and accept that it's the struggle itself that helps create a fulfilling life. Success, no matter how it's measured, will always be the result of overcoming adversity. So slow down and figure out what it is that brings meaning to life, and stop giving a f*ck about all those things that don't matter. The result will be a life of purpose instead of a life consumed with elusive goals.