The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

On a long flight back in November, I was able to indulge in some reading. I've already shared my thoughts on Why I Left Goldman Sachs by Greg Smith. Another book I enjoyed was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a GoodLife by Mark Manson.

The book reminded me a lot of a typical South Park episode with its timeless nuggets of wisdom surrounded by crude language and scatological humor.

As far as self-help or personal development books go, Manson's is pretty typical. None of the advice is really counterintuitive, it's only the presentation that is. The presentation is also the book's chief selling point. I guess it is aimed at an audience that typically wouldn't read a Brian Tracy or Tony Robins book. At times I found myself thinking, "this is really good advice. People would take this a lot more seriously if it didn't have all the fart jokes and four letter words."

Then I remembered that was the entire point. I wouldn't have picked this book up if the title were "The Subtle Art of Caring About the Important Things and Setting Realistic Values." That is basically the content of the book. Don't stress about stupid things. Care about what is important to your life. Life is a struggle, and overcoming problems is what brings us happiness. It is the process that's important. Life is suffering. Accept that. The subtle art is choosing the problems that you deal with and adjusting your values accordingly.

At one point, Manson compares Pete Best and Dave Mustaine. Best was kicked of the Beatles just before they made it big. Dave Mustaine was kicked out of Metallica. Best never became a famous musician while Dave Mustaine went on to sell millions of records with Megadeth, but Manson argues that Best has had a much happier life. That's because his values (having a wife, family, etc) were ultimately different from Mustaine's (be better than and sell more records than Metallica--I wonder if this is still true after Mustaine became a born again Christian).

Manson also talks about Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who refused to surrender at the end of World War II because he was never relieved from duty. He hid in the Philippine jungle for 29 years, conducting a guerrilla campaign against enemies of the Japanese empire. It's his values that kept him going in spite of the terrible conditions and hardships that he faced. It's only after he was found, officially relieved of duty, and toured Japan that he got depressed. Manson's point is that the process of solving problems and having values to match is a very powerful thing.

Manson also talks about the Buddha and many other things. Pretty good for a book riddled with gratuitous profanity.

My favorite takeaway was what Manson got from William James (who went from complete loser to world renowned philosopher/psychologist): you are responsible for everything that happens to you. It doesn't matter if something that happened to you isn't your fault. You are still responsible in how you react to it.

I'm embarrassed to say that I never thought about responsibility in this way, at least explicitly. I've always been against the victimhood/I'm oppressed industry, but I never thought of myself as responsible for everything that happens to me. My life has improved immeasurably since my thinking on responsibility has shifted to this more explicit view. That's not something I expected when I picked up the Subtle Art. Thank you, Mark Manson.

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