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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life- Book 23 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 10, 2018

There is an old anecdote about Pablo Picasso in which he sits in a café sipping coffee and doodling on a napkin. When he rises to leave, the woman at the next table offers to buy the napkin and asks if he will sell it.

“’Sure,’ Picasso replied. ‘Twenty thousand dollars.’

“The woman’s head jolted back as if he had just flung a brick at her. ‘What? It took you like two minutes to draw that.’

“’No, ma’am,’ Picasso said. ‘It took me over sixty years to draw this.’ He stuffed the napkin in his pocket and walked out of the café.”

There are quite a few anecdotes like that in this interesting book. At first glance, the title of the book looked like a desperate attempt to garner eyeballs. Being different by appearing different instead of actually being one. Mark Manson, Author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” has involved lots of swearing in this book but then you don’t really give much f*uck about it, do you?! One endearing part about this book is Mark doesn’t play around the bush but tells you the harsh truth, ( Disappointing Panda, he calls it). Not much sugarcoating, just an attempt to cut through all the bullshi*s and concentrate on the important things in your life. “Not giving a f**k does not mean been indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different”, Manson writes.

subtleThe Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck goes away from the positive psychology craze and rather provides you with a Stoic, no bullshit approach to living a life. A life that’s more about being meaningful and less about trying to be happy and successful all the time. Mark Manson emphasizes that it’s actually liberating when life doesn’t have to ooze happy vibes all the time. There is something weird about positive psychology and what’s that? Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Days and weeks pass by leaving you wondering what the hell did all the toiling and grinding result into? Ideally, you should have felt satisfied and happy but then you are far from ecstatic moods that your perceived success is supposed to bring to you. And what does Mark have to say about such questions; well, don’t give a fu*k about it.

To demonstrate what exactly his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counter-intuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is all about, Mark Manson starts with an anecdote about the eccentric poet and novelist Charles Bukowski.

“Charles Bukowski was an alcoholic, a womanizer, a chronic gambler, a lout, a cheapskate, a deadbeat, and on his worst days, a poet. He’s probably the last person on earth you would ever look to for life advice or expect to see in any sort of self-help book.

“Which is why he’s the perfect place to start.

“Bukowski wanted to be a writer. But for decades his work was rejected by almost every magazine, newspaper, journal, agent, and publisher he submitted to. His work was horrible, they said. Crude. Disgusting. Depraved. And as the stacks of rejection slips piled up, the weight of his failures pushed him deep into an alcohol-fueled depression that would follow him for most of his life.

“Bukowski had a day job as a letter-filer at a post office. He got paid shit money and spent most of it on booze. He gambled away the rest at the racetrack. At night, he would drink alone and sometimes hammer out poetry on his beat-up old typewriter. Often, he’d wake up on the floor, having passed out the night before.

“Then, when Bukowski was fifty, after a lifetime of failure and self-loathing, an editor at a small independent publishing house took a strange interest in him. The editor couldn’t offer Bukowski much money or much promise of sales. But he had a weird affection for the drunk loser, so he decided to take a chance on him.

“Upon signing the contract, Bukowski wrote his first novel in three weeks. It was called simply Post Office. In the dedication, he wrote, ‘Dedicated to nobody.’ Bukowski would make it as a novelist and poet. He would go on and publish six novels and hundreds of poems, selling over two million copies of his books .

“Stories like Bukowski’s are the bread and butter of our cultural narrative. Bukowski’s life embodies the American Dream: a man fights for what he want, never gives up, and eventually achieves his wildest dreams. It’s practically a movie waiting to happen. We all look at stories like Bukowski’s and say, ‘See? He never gave up. He never stopped trying. He always believed in himself. He persisted against all the odds and made something of himself.’

“It is then strange that on Bukowski’s tombstone, the epitaph reads: ‘Don’t try.’”

About Bukowski, our author continues: “The genius in Bukowski’s work was not in overcoming unbelievable odds or developing himself into a shining literary light. It was the opposite. It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself—especially the worst parts of himself—and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.

“This is the real story of Bukowski’s success: his comfort with himself as a failure. Bukowski didn’t give a fuck about success.” Thus the reason for emulation: Bukowski’s almost Buddhist ability to want nothing by way of having not a single fuck to give about the thing in life about which most of us have entirely too many fu*ks to give.

According to the author, “The problem is that giving too many fu*ks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a fu*k about less, giving a fu*k about only what is true and immediate and important.”

The real deal about The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k is that the book makes a surprising amount of sense. It’s a swift read presented in an easy manner. In a way, it’s just another self-help book but with slight twist and with loads of relevant examples dressed in millennial mumbo-jumbo. It’s entertaining though. He does talk about usual stuffs like accepting self, overcoming adversity, releasing fear, finding values et al, but all of them in a more stoicism oriented approach. What he has succeeded in is reinventing ancient Greek concepts in a new way using some pretty creative examples. He talks about authenticity, failure, rewards of not accomplishing your goals and mostly, uncertainty.

I loved this quote about uncertainty- “Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As an old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.”

Mark stresses on certain points like; Values you can’t control are bad values to follow. As author is a known stoic and common idea in stoicism is to focus only on the things you can control. For instance, popularity is totally out of your control. Sure, you can be nice and friendly to everyone, but you can’t control other peoples’ opinions. Some will always hate you, no matter what you do. So stop giving a fu*k about what others think of you or trying to be popular. Similarly, don’t believe you know anything with certainty, for it keeps you from improving. If you allow yourself to have a little doubt, you can then disprove this limiting belief you hold about yourself. One more important thing was trying to leave a legacy might ruin your life. Find ways to bring yourself, your loved ones and the people you meet joy in the now and let the legacy part take care of itself.

The trick of not giving a fu*k about most things is that you’ll be able to give one about what really matters to you. Let’s see how we can get a bit closer to that!

Author finishes off with this quote by Bukowski- “We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.” Think. Ponder.

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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