Book Note on The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson)


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is the second book by blogger and author Mark Manson. The book was originally published at 2016

  • This is the real story of Bukowski’s success: his comfort with himself as a failure. Bukowski didn’t give a fuck about success. (p. 3)


  • A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident. A rich woman doesn’t feel a need to convince anybody that she’s rich. Either you are or you are not. And if you’re dreaming of something all the time, then you’re reinforcing the same unconscious reality over and over: that you are not that. (p. 4)
  • 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. (p. 5)
  • Now if you feel like shit for even five minutes, you’re bombarded with 350 images of people totally happy and having amazing fucking lives, and it’s impossible to not feel like there’s something wrong with you. (p. 7)
  • We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore. (p. 8)
  • Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. (p. 9)

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. (p. 9)

  • Don’t try. (p. 10)
  • 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. (p. 11)
  • Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. (p. 11)
  • These moments of non-fuckery are the moments that most define our lives. (p. 12)
  • What I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively. (p. 13)


  • Because here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a fuck. You must give a fuck about something. It’s part of our biology to always care about something and therefore to always give a fuck. (p. 15)
  • Because here’s a sneaky truth about life. There’s no such thing as not giving a fuck. You must give a fuck about something. It’s part of our biology to always care about something and therefore to always give a fuck. The question, then, is, What do we give a fuck about? What are we choosing to give a fuck about? And how can we not give a fuck about what ultimately does not matter? (p. 15)
  • You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others. (p. 17)


  • I once heard an artist say that when a person has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some. I think what most people — especially educated, pampered middle-class white people — consider “life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about. (p. 18)


  • I see practical enlightenment as becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable — that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death. (p. 21)
  • This isn’t to say that all suffering is equal. Some suffering is certainly more painful than other suffering. But we all must suffer nonetheless. (p. 26)
  • We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. (p. 27)
  • Our own pain and misery aren’t a bug of human evolution; they’re a feature. (p. 28)
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. (p. 31)
  • To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover in a top-ten article on the Huffington Post or from any specific guru or teacher. It doesn’t magically appear when you finally make enough money to add on that extra room to the house. You don’t find it waiting for you in a place, an idea, a job — or even a book, for that matter. (p. 31)
  • True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving. (p. 32)
  • People deny and blame others for their problems for the simple reason that it’s easy and feels good, while solving problems is hard and often feels bad. (p. 32)
  • Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change. (p. 34)
  • Negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, it’s because you’re supposed to do something. Positive emotions, on the other hand, are rewards for taking the proper action. (p. 34)
  • Emotions are merely signposts, suggestions that our neurobiology gives us, not commandments. (p. 34)
  • Psychologists sometimes refer to this concept as the “hedonic treadmill”: the idea that we’re always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different. (p. 35)
  • What creates our positive experiences will define our negative experiences. (p. 36)
  • What it took me a long time to discover is that I didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to imagine the summit. (p. 39)
  • Our struggles determine our successes. (p. 40)
  • We’re not all exceptional. (p. 43)
  • The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences. (p. 46)
  • The truth is that there’s no such thing as a personal problem. If you’ve got a problem, chances are millions of other people have had it in the past, have it now, and are going to have it in the future. (p. 56)
  • It just means that you’re not special. (p. 56)
  • The more freedom we’re given to express ourselves, the more we want to be free of having to deal with anyone who may disagree with us or upset us. (p. 57)
  • Perhaps these same technologies that have liberated and educated so many are simultaneously enabling people’s sense of entitlement more than ever before. (p. 57)
  • Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average. (p. 58)
  • The pervasiveness of technology and mass marketing is screwing up a lot of people’s expectations for themselves. (p. 59)
  • The Internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt, and shame. (p. 60)
  • Sounds boring, doesn’t it? That’s because these things are ordinary. But maybe they’re ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matters. (p. 62)
  • Sometimes brothers — even brothers who love each other — don’t have close relationships, and that’s fine. (p. 75)


  • We’re just a bunch of finely ornamented apes. (p. 77)
  • Because we are apes, we instinctually measure ourselves against others and vie for status. (p. 78)
  • Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else. (p. 79)
  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success. (p. 79)
  • Pleasure is great, but it’s a horrible value to prioritize your life around. (p. 82)


  • Research shows that once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, and so on), the correlation between happiness and worldly success quickly approaches zero. (p. 82)
  • As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly, so if your metric for life success is to be right — well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself. (p. 83)
  • It’s far more helpful to assume that you’re ignorant and don’t know a whole lot. This keeps you unattached to superstitious or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth. (p. 83)
  • Denying negative emotions leads to experiencing deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and to emotional dysfunction. (p. 84)
  • The trick with negative emotions is to 1) express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner and 2) express them in a way that aligns with your values. (p. 84)
  • This is why these values — pleasure, material success, always being right, staying positive — are poor ideals for a person’s life. Some of the greatest moments of one’s life are not pleasant, not successful, not known, and not positive. (p. 86)



  • Some examples of good, healthy values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, creativity. (p. 86)
  • If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control. (p. 91)
  • We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond. (p. 94)
  • We are responsible for experiences that aren’t our fault all the time. This is part of life. (p. 98)
  • The biggest problem with victimhood chic is that it sucks attention away from actual victims. (p. 111)
  • We should prioritize values of being honest, fostering transparency, and welcoming doubt over the values of being right, feeling good, and getting revenge. (p. 112)
  • When viewed from this perspective, personal growth can actually be quite scientific. Our values are our hypotheses: this behavior is good and important; that other behavior is not. Our actions are the experiments; the resulting emotions and thought patterns are our data. (p. 117)
  • Certainty is the enemy of growth. (p. 119)

Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are. (p. 119)

  • Our brains are meaning machines. What we understand as “meaning” is generated by the associations our brain makes between two or more experiences. (p. 122)
  • The result of all this? Most of our beliefs are wrong. Or, to be more exact, all beliefs are wrong — some are just less wrong than others. (p. 123)
  • Our brain is designed to be efficient, not accurate. (p. 125)
  • Our beliefs are malleable, and our memories are horribly unreliable. (p. 129)


  • The more you embrace being uncertain and not knowing, the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know. (p. 134)


  • Buddhism argues that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all; that the arbitrary metrics by which you define yourself actually trap you, and thus you’re better off letting go of everything. (p. 139)
  • My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator. (p. 140)


  • Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” (p. 143)


  • We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we’ve been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course. (p. 154)
  • Pain is part of the process. It’s important to feel it. (p. 155)
  • Because I failed to separate what I felt from what was, I was incapable of stepping outside myself and seeing the world for what it was: a simple place where two people can walk up to each other at any time and speak. (p. 157)

Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it. (p. 160)

  • 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. (p. 161)
  • If we follow the “do something” principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting — when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite — we propel ourselves ahead. (p. 162)
  • That “something” can be the smallest viable action toward something else. It can be anything. (p. 163)
  • Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves. This exposure to different cultural values and metrics then forces you to reexamine what seems obvious in your own life and to consider that perhaps it’s not necessarily the best way to live. (p. 168)
  • There is such pressure in the West to be likable that people often reconfigure their entire personality depending on the person they’re dealing with. (p. 170)
  • To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives. (p. 170)

The point is this: we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X. (p. 171)

  • Rejection is an important and crucial life skill. (p. 171)
  • These are the yin and yang of any toxic relationship: the victim and the saver, the person who starts fires because it makes her feel important and the person who puts out fires because it makes him feel important. (p. 178)
  • But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. (p. 187)
  • The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you. (p. 187)
  • Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. (p. 188)


  • Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? (p. 188)
  • Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly. (p. 197)
  • This realization causes what Becker calls “death terror,” a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do. (p. 197)
  • In order to compensate for our fear of the inevitable loss of our physical self, we try to construct a conceptual self that will live forever. (p. 198)
  • Our immortality projects are our values. They are the barometers of meaning and worth in our life. (p. 199)
  • While death is bad, it is inevitable. Therefore, we should not avoid this realization, but rather come to terms with it as best we can. (p. 200)
  • Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life. (p. 205)
  • Death is the only thing we can know with any certainty. And as such, it must be the compass by which we orient all of our other values and decisions. (p. 206)
  • 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. (p. 208)

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