The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson: Summary and Lessons

the subtle art of not giving a fuck mark manson “Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.”

Rating: 6/10

Related: Everything is F*cked, Models, How to Win Friends and Influence People

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Short Summary

Sometimes life just really sucks and we cannot run away from it. We need to learn how to let go in order to enjoy life more. The key to living a good life is not giving a fuck about more things but rather focus only on the things that align with your personal values. A no-bullshit approach to living a life that might not always be happy, but meaningful and centered only around what’s important to you.


In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson writes about his philosophies and take on life. Here are my favorite lessons:

  1. Either you are or you are not. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not
  2. The key to life is to choose what you care about and not give a fuck about anything else
  3. Only follow values that you can control

Don’t Try

The fixation on what’s better and superior serves as a constant reminder of what we are not. It reinforces the idea of what you lack and what you should have been but failed to be. By giving too many fucks, you become overly attached to the superficial and fake and live life 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.”

Dedicate your fucks only to what’s truly fuck-worthy. Choose what’s important to you and give a fuck about that. Less is more. We no longer face a material crisis, but rather an existential and spiritual one. Because there are many things we can now see or know, there is also an infinite number of ways to discover we are not good enough and things aren’t as great as they could be. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experiences. Accepting your experience of life as being great and wonderful is the single greatest thing you can do for your happiness.

“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.”

The Feedback Loop From Hell

Giving too many fucks about things that don’t matter makes us feel bad about ourselves. This leads to the Feedback Loop From Hell: you feel a certain feeling for some reason (or no obvious reason at all) and having this feeling makes you feel even worse. For example: You get pissed off because your spouse hasn’t thanked you for washing the dishes. You realize you are pissed off for a tiny matter and that again pisses you off even more. Now you’re pissed off about yourself being pissed off. The solution is to not give a fuck about negative experiences (anxiety, anger, guilt, fear etc.). It’s okay having these feelings and feel like shit sometimes. Don’t make it worse by beating yourself up for feeling that way.

“By not giving a fuck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell; you say to yourself, ‘I feel like shit, but who gives a fuck?’ And then, as if sprinkled by magic fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Here’s Manson’s definition of not giving a fuck means:

  1. It’s not about being indifferent, but being comfortable with being different
  2. To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first care about something more important than adversity
  3. You are always choosing what to give a fuck about. The key is to gradually cut the things you care about so that you only give a fuck on the most important of occasions

Happiness Is a Problem

Happiness is not a solvable equation. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature. These are necessary components of creating consistent happiness. Don’t hope for a life without problems but for a life with good problems. Problems never stop, they only get exchanged or upgraded. Happiness is found in solving problems, not avoiding them. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.

“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action.”

Our pain and suffering is not a bug in human evolution, it is a feature. Pain is useful. It teaches us what to pay attention to when we are young and careless. If you are able to not give a fuck about the pain your goals require, then you become unstoppable. The moments when we don’t give a fuck and take action are often the moments that most define the course of our lives. Learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively based on finely honed personal values is perhaps the greatest and most important struggle in life.

The Value of Suffering

You can control problems based on how you choose to think about them. To change how you see problems, change what you value and/or how you measure failure or success. Only choose to have values you can control. Values you don’t control are bad as they’ll be a constant source of unnecessary suffering in your life.

  1. Good values are
    • Reality-based
    • Socially constructive
    • Immediate and controllable
  2. Bad values are
    • Superstitious
    • Socially destructive
    • Not immediate or controllable

Examples of good values: honesty, innovation, on our ability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, and creativity. Examples of bad values: dominance through manipulation or violence, indiscriminate fucking, feeling good all the time, always being the center of attention, not being alone, being liked by everybody, being rich for the sake of being rich. When we have poor values, we essentially give fucks about things that don’t matter and make our lives worse. Self-improvement is all about prioritizing better values and choosing better things to give a fuck about. When you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life Beneficial counterintuitive values that you can adopt:

  1. Assuming responsibility for everything that occurs in your life
  2. Acknowledging your own ignorance and constantly questioning your own beliefs
  3. The willingness to discover your own flaws and mistakes in order to improve
  4. The ability to both say and hear no, thus clearly defining what you will and will not accept in your life
  5. The contemplation of one’s own mortality

Failure is the Way Forward

Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures. If someone is better than you at something then it is likely because she has failed at it more than you have 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. The “Do Something” Principle:

“If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.”

Motivation isn’t only a three-part chain, it is an endless loop. The correct order is Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation. If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something, anything, and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.