The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 8/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 0062641549

Related: Mark Manson's blog, 12 Rules for Life, Principles


This book doesn’t reveal anything mind-blowing, but what Mark is good at is stating obvious things, reframing, and generally shaking people up with some language.

This is typically a book I recommend to people when they’re stuck in a rut, just had a breakup, etc.  I’d suggest you pick it up if you’re in a similar situation.  If you want to go a bit deeper, you can read some older philosophy, but this is a much easier read.

Favorite Quotes

  • "Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”
  • "True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving."


The Feedback Loop from Hell

  • 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.
  • Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
  • Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

  • Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
  • Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  • Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.

Happiness Comes from Solving Problems

  • Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress—
  • True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.

Emotions Are Overrated

  • Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.

Choose Your Struggle

  • A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” Because that seems to be a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.
  • Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for. People who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the ones who run triathlons and have chiseled abs and can bench-press a small house. People who enjoy long workweeks and the politics of the corporate ladder are the ones who fly to the top of it. People who enjoy the stresses and uncertainties of the starving artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.

Rock Star Problems

  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/ or how you measure failure/ success.

Shitty Values

  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what value and/or how you measure success/failure.
  • As Freud once said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

Defining Good and Bad Values

Good values are

  • 1) reality-based,
  • 2) socially constructive, and
  • 3) immediate and controllable.

Bad values are

  • 1) superstitious,
  • 2) socially destructive, and
  • 3) not immediate or controllable.

Some examples of good, healthy values:

  • honesty,
  • innovation,
  • vulnerability,
  • standing up for oneself,
  • standing up for others,
  • self-respect,
  • curiosity,
  • charity,
  • humility,
  • creativity.

You’ll notice that good, healthy values are achieved internally.

You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)

  • Growth is an endlessly iterative process.

Manson’s Law of Avoidance

  • The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.

The Importance of Saying No

  • Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.

Freedom Through Commitment

  • But depth is where the gold is buried. And you have to stay committed to something and go deep to dig it up. That’s true in relationships, in a career, in building a great lifestyle— in everything.

Something Beyond Our Selves

  • all the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.

The Sunny Side of Death

  • Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life. While most people whittle their ways chasing another buck or a little bit more fame and attention, or a little bit more assurance that they’re right or loved, death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: What is your legacy?
  • How will the world be different and better when you’re gone? What mark will you have made? What influence will you have caused?
  • And the primary lesson was this: there is nothing to be afraid of. Ever. And reminding myself of my own death repeatedly over the years— whether it be through meditation, through reading philosophy, or through doing crazy shit like standing on a cliff in South Africa— is the only thing that has helped me hold this realization front and center in my mind. This acceptance of my death, this understanding of my own fragility, has made everything easier— untangling my addictions, identifying and confronting my own entitlement, accepting responsibility for my own problems— suffering through my fears and uncertainties, accepting my failures and embracing rejections— it has all been made lighter by the thought of my own death. The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.

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