Book Review: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck
A crude but much-needed reality check, this book proves that greatness can be discovered when we accept our ordinariness
In The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life, former dating coach Mark Manson offers advice that’s both punchy and profane. The book is a good guide to figuring out what you want in life and at work, and how to achieve it. The route to this, Manson believes, lies in not caring too much about everything. Once you give up the need to feel exceptional and be positive and happy all the time, as well as your fear of failure, you will be better off. “The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more—buy more, own more, make more, f*ck more, be more,” says Manson, who advocates that people focus instead on figuring out what’s important.
For those of us building careers, that would mean taking a hard look at what we want. If you don’t want 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, hoards of paperwork, and don’t want to navigate corporate hierarchies, explains Manson, that means you don’t really want to be CEO. If you don’t fancy taking risks, suffering repeated failures and working insane hours devoted to something that may earn absolutely nothing, you don’t want to be an entrepreneur. As Manson puts it, what determines your success is not what you want to enjoy, but how much suffering you’re willing to sustain to get there.
Using his own life as an example in the book, Manson talks about how the pressure to be exceptional led him to drugs and serial womanizing. It’s only when he realized that neither he nor his problems were special that he cleaned up his act and worked towards becoming an entrepreneur. He credits his success to his lack of fear of failure. “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. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all the painful learning experiences that you have,” he writes.
Interspersing tales from his own life, Manson also refers to several well-known personalities who adopted a similar approach to overcoming obstacles successfully. William James, better known as the father of American psychology, battled health issues that were life threatening. For many years, the young boy felt inadequate and went into deep depression. But then, one day, he read philosopher Charles Peirce and decided he would control how he responded to the problems that came his way. By just tweaking his attitude, James saw his career take off. He went on lecture tours, taught at Harvard, and is today regarded as one of the most influential intellectuals of his time.
These insightful and funny perspectives on life are what make the book well worth a read. It’s full of breezy advice as well as the I’m okay-You’re okay type of transactional analysis. Its success lies in the fact that it’s all very colloquial and conversational, and so easy to digest.