Book Report: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

I’ll read it so you don’t have to.

Yes. I read it. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k by Mark Manson.  I read it as I was struggling with a tough work relationship and felt like I had exhausted all of my “normal” tools…so why not take a “counterintuitive approach” since nothing else seemed to be working?

The premise of the book can be distilled to this–we have been taught to make lemonade out of lemons. We all have. We’ve been taught to look on the bright side and to give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in all of that and can find myself relentlessly trying to make lemonade.  Manson’s view is that we also need to learn how to better deal with the lemons.  Life is full of lemons, we can’t possibly drink all that lemonade!

“Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing. Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day. “

So, if you can, essentially accept yourself and your shortcomings and the shortcoming of those around you, you may be happier in the end. It is a perspective that I hadn’t really contemplated before yet aligns so nicely with finding contentment in life and satisfaction in the day-to-day.

My big take-aways that were, believe it or not, really helpful and valuable for my situation, were:

First– We have a limited number of f*cks to give. Be sure to put them in the right place. In my case, I was letting something at work bother me so much that I was letting it affect my relationship at home. My f*ucks are much better spent on creating and maintaining and enjoying a loving relationship at home than worrying about an ultimately inconsequential relationship at work (this is the entire premise of the book, so the lesson was well learned, thankyouverymuch).

Second– We ought to be careful about our metrics of success. The book outlines a story of a guitar player who got fired from his original band. The guitarist vowed to become a rock legend. He filled stadiums, sold millions of records, and won numerous awards. Yet, later in his life, when he was interviewed, he tearfully claimed his life was a failure. He thought he was a failure because his new band, Megadeath, wasn’t as successful as his original band, Metallica.  Now, I have no idea how how “big” either of those bands are–but I do know that Megadeath is a pretty big deal.  You can read more of that story here.  I was so worried about how I was being treated by one person (and thinking about how she might treat me) that I had to grapple with feelings of failure when things didn’t work out. Now, if my metrics for success were aligned with my values and if I even defined my metrics in the first place, I might have cared less or maybe it wouldn’t have gotten as bad as it did. In any case. This perception helped.

Now, there are some problematic bits–especially for a feminist like me. This certainly feels like it was written for white guys. And, frankly, white guys don’t need more fodder for their sexism.

Ultimately, we are in a competitive world that is, for some, made more so with social media and the ever present FOMO.  So, if we can all just calm down, we may find greater happiness. And if not happiness, contentment. And that would be pretty great, too.

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