The first chapter of Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, is titled “Don’t Try."
Don’t try to be a winner. Don’t try to be the best.
If you're a weirdo, embrace it. If you’re a loser, embrace it.
Because the more we try to be a “success,” the more we’re going to feel like a failure.
Not a conventional start to a book about personal development.
He goes on..
“Back in Grandpa’s day, he would feel like shit and think to himself, “Gee whiz, I sure do feel like cow turd today. But hey, I guess that’s just life. Back to shoveling hay.
But now? 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 [aka instagram], and it’s impossible to not feel like there’s something wrong with you.
It’s this last part that gets us into trouble. We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. What is wrong with me?
This is why not giving a fuck is so key."
Not your standard life-advice, and that is what makes it so powerful.
Manson doesn’t tell us that we need to think positive, or focus on our personal greatness, or any of that stuff we’re so used to consuming in personal development books.
In fact, he promotes the belief that we are all pretty average at pretty much everything we do and that we may not ever be great. And that’s OK.
He doesn’t tell us to be confident in ourselves no matter what because sometimes being uncertain is important. In fact, we should embrace it:
“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.”
He tells us to stop trying to eliminate bad things in our lives:
“Because here’s something that’s weird but true: we don’t actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating.”
He tells us that we need to stop asking ourselves what we want out of life and instead ask what kinds of pains are we willing to endure:
“Don’t ask yourself what you want out of life. It’s easy to want success and fame and happiness and great sex. Everybody wants those things. A much more interesting question to ask yourself is, “What kind of pain do I want?” What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out.”
He tells us that we need to stop giving a fuck about the little things in our lives so that we can really give a fuck about the things that our important.
Stop giving a fuck about what people think about you (your looks, your job, your sock choices, etc). Save those so you can give a fuck about what's actually important (your relationships, your values, your impact).
Somehow, amongst all of this shit, the book seems to give you a newfound freedom. Freedom to be who you are. Freedom to go after what you want. Freedom to live life on your own terms.
It’s self-development jiu-jitsu, and it feels fucking great.
So much advice today is focused on telling us that we need to do this and we need to do that if we want to be happy. Typical advice is always telling us to do more.
Like Kunu from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Manson gives us permission to do less.