I swear Mark Manson lives inside my head. Practically every time I read one of his blog posts, I find myself nodding along enthusiastically and then sharing it with everyone I can.
So it wasn’t exactly surprising that the same could be said about this book.
Contrary to the title, the book isn’t so much about not giving any fucks at all, as about choosing which fucks to give. But I imagine The Subtle Art of Working Out How Many Fucks to Give and About What wouldn’t have been such a marketable title.
I have noticed that the older I get, the fewer fucks I give. Sometimes I worry that I’m not giving enough fucks, but Manson seems to think I’m doing OK.
In typical Manson style, there’s a lot of well-thought-out, deeply researched stuff in this book. It’s not your average self-help fluff and bollocks. It’s a straight-talking look at how people live their lives, and how to change yours if you want to.
It talks a lot about entitlement, in a way that made me nearly weep with joy: Someone agrees with me about what entitlement is! Spoiler alert: it’s not solely people who think the world should give them everything on a plate. There are other types of entitled people too, and at some point in your life you’ve probably been one. (To date, I have been two types of Manson’s entitled people – neither of which is the “give me that, I DESERVE IT” type – and the second type is one I’m still shaking off. I’d say “Read it and then guess which one I am”, but I feel that could end badly.)
Another theme Manson discusses is that of exceptionalism. I’ve had conversations with a few people recently about this: about how now that we see so many highlights from different people’s lives and so little of the boring sad drudgery type stuff that it’s easy to believe our lives should be exceptionally amazing at all times. Which of course they won’t be, nor should they. In Manson’s words:
The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.
Lots of books with self-helpy sounding titles tell you what you should be prioritising, how you should define success, and then how to achieve that success. They do this to varying degrees of usefulness, of course. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, on the other hand, helps you to work out how you define success already, and why; and then to shift your perceptions if that would be helpful. In other words: the book doesn’t start from the premise that you’re fundamentally flawed (or no more than anyone else, in any case) but instead that there are reasons why you do the things you do, and so if something’s bothering you, the way to stop that from happening first of all involves working out the reason behind why it’s bothering you before you even think about trying to change it.
In summary: this is a realistic, useful, practical, very well-written guide to navigating your way through the world. And god knows we could all use that from time to time.