The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck - By Mark Manson

Date read: 
November 1, 2016
See My Collection of 50+ Book Notes

My Thoughts

One of the most popular books of the past decade. Approachable and some well-phrased points. Pain is our compass and growth equates happiness. Really enjoyed reading it but some of his conclusions will come out of left-field. Definitely worth reading.

Summary Notes

Conventional life advice – all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time – is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be. A fixation on the positive only serves to remind us of what we are not, what we lack or what we failed to be.

The desire for more positive experience is in 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 reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.


Pursuing the negative generates the positive:

  • Chasing pain in the gym causes better health, aesthetics and energy;
  • The failures in business teach you how to become successful
  • Being open about your insecurities makes you more confident and charismatic

Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.

“The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.”

When a person has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent one.

Practical enlightenment is becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable. Once you become comfortable with the shit thrown your way, you become close to invincible.

Pain is our body’s most effective means of spurring action and inspiring change. Pain is what teaches us to pay attention.

Don’t ask: “What do you want in life?”
Instead, ask: “What pain do you want in life? What are you willing to struggle for?”

Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, which usually takes shit-tons of time and energy, you’re average or below average at most other things. Brilliant entrepreneurs have a fucked-up personal life. Athletes are often uncultured and shallow. Many celebrities are probably just as clueless about life as the people who adore them.

If suffering is inevitable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering – for what purpose?”

The first layer of self-awareness is the simple understanding of one’s emotions.
The second layer is the ability to ask why we feel certain emotions. Why do you feel angry? Is it because you failed to achieve some goal?
The third is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? By what standards am I judging myself and others around me? Why do you equate wealth and adoration with success? If what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based on those values will be out of whack.

“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”

Internal & External

Good values are Reality-based, Socially constructive and immediate and controllable
Bad values are Superstitious, Socially destructive and not immediate or controllable

Good, healthy values are achieved internally.
Bad values are generally reliant on external events

Personal improvement and growth emerges from the realization that we are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.


The more people who proclaim themselves victims over tiny infractions, the harder it become to see who the real victims actually are.

It’s easier to sit in a painful certainty that nobody would find you attractive, that nobody would find you attractive, that nobody appreciates your talents, than to actually test those beliefs and find out for sure. Certainty is the enemy of growth

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. Anything that shakes up your comfort – even if it could potentially make your life better - is inherently scary.

Suddenly starting a business could threaten your identity just as much as losing a million dollars. For it challenges your identity as an aspiring entrepreneur. This is why people are so afraid of success: it threatens who they believe themselves to be.

“I was fortunate because I entered the adult world already a failure. I started at rock bottom. That’s basically everyone’s biggest fear in life, when starting a new business or changing careers. Things could only get better.”

Growth & Action

Happiness comes from solving problems. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that you discover.

Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.

If someone is better than you at something, it’s likely because he or she has failed at something more times than you have. A child never thinks “I keep failing down, walking isn’t for me.”

Growth is, above all, an iterative process. We grow from wrong to slightly less wrong. We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually reaching it.

It’s growth that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements. Most goals are limited in the amount of happiness they can produce. (Buy X, do Y. There’s nothing beyond reaching it) Picasso’s metric wasn’t “Become famous”, it was “Honest Expressions”, which is why he remained prolific until the end of his life.

How to become a programmer? Just program until you get better.  
How to become a writer? Just write.  
How do I ask her out? Just ask her.  
Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway.  

“If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.”

Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation -> Action -> Etc.

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