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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Book Summary – Mark Manson

What you will learn from reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

– The ability to optimise and reorganise the foundations that shape who you want to be.

– Learn to tackle problems with the correct mindset and not be afraid of taking risks.

– Make you more aware of the excuses you use to satisfy your lack of improvement

“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action.”

Setting Goals

When you define success by what you own, you end up creating this complex of needing more to feel like you’re succeeding. But this can easily lead down a spiralling path where you never end up being satisfied with what you actually have or who you actually are. The illusion of defining yourself in respect to what you own is a dangerous one. 

Pursuing goals can be a bit of a catch 22. We all know that having goals is a good idea, it incentivises us to do things, however, it’s not the goal achievement that people should be solely focused on, but more the path itself. Not the product but the process. By focusing on the process and learning to enjoy it, the product becomes much easier to achieve. 

Don’t make money the goal, make what you want to do the goal and then through this money will become a bi product of it.

What to Give a F*ck About

Imagine for a minute that you live in a type of world where you are given a set number of tokens, and these tokens can only be spent on things that you care about. Now would you really go around just spending them willy nilly? 

The idea of Mark Manson’s book is to learn to not care about things that don’t need caring about, things that can’t change what has happened and so it is better to keep your token (or how he puts it, a ‘f*ck’) and save it for something you genuinely want to spend it on. Ask yourself, what’s so f*ck worthy?

This can be quite hard in a society that mollycoddles everyone and tells them that everything is always alright. It’s taken our backbones away, and so now we have become so sensitive to anything that seems even remotely out of place, so now even the slightest bump on a tube seems like it’s worthy of a token. We all need to get a little bit better at taking a hit so to speak.

Problem Solving

Problem solving, not the most exciting 2 words, but they could be. You see it’s all about the mindset with which you approach things in. It’s very easy to think of the word ‘problem’ and conjure up numerous negative connotations, but its all about reprogramming that. Instead of approaching a problem with the attitude of “ugh not another problem” (while rolling your eyes), you should try to approach it with excitement like “yes, another problem.” 

You see with every problem you overcome; you are literally a better version of your old self. And it’s not about overcoming the biggest problem to get the biggest reward, because most big rewards come about from overcoming numerous little problems.

Biggest step to solving a problem is not talking about it but taking action… easier said than done (believe me I know). But that’s what gets you that little hit of dopamine (bliss feeling), that reward you’re after.

Don’t get stuck on the same problem that you can’t do anything about, e.g. someone’s death (you can’t solve it). Choose a different problem to solve, a more productive problem.


Human beings are inherently inquisitive. Constantly wanting to know the reasons behind everything, including why they can’t seem to succeed at something. This is a perfect reason why ‘excuses’ are used, it fills that reasoning gap and makes someone feel a bit more confident in themselves. The only problem with this, is that its flawed, and easy to rely on for, well, practically anything. This can quite easily play out in numerous forms of entitlement:

Entitlement expresses itself in 2 ways:

  • I’m better than you so I deserve better treatment
  • You’re better than me so I deserve better treatment

The system is either too high or too low, there’s no equilibrium. Often entitled people flip between both. One extreme to the other. Rather than accepting the situation and trying to resolve it or move forward.

There’s no denying that everyone has their fair share of personal problem, but when these problems aren’t tackled it can lead to a sense of vulnerability and susceptibility to being offended. This is where the entitlement comes in and is projected onto others.

In our society the media tends to publicise anything that is at the most extreme ends of the spectrum. For example, the most successful or the most poverty ridden people. 

The problem with this is that it gives a false sense of reality as most people are in the middle. So to constantly compare oneself to a better or worse version of themselves amplifies our insecurities and therefore our ability not live up to them, this unfortunately leading to a false sense of importance and in turn entitlement.


Values are the underlying motives you have behind doing anything. Your value is what drives you to success but is also the thing that can drive you to failure. The way you look at it, either positively or negatively will determine which way you go.

We judge people through our values, e.g. if our value in life is to be successful, then when we see someone who is being average, we judge them and compare them to our goal/value.

Your values should be something you can control. This is a lot like stoicism. If you can control it then you can do your best. If your life value is connected to something outside of your control, then you will constantly strive to change something that you cannot change yourself. 

Because you can’t control anything beyond yourself (external forces), it is much more worth wild pursuing values that are internal (internal forces):

  • Good Values are achieved internally. E.g. honesty, innovation, self-respect, etc
  • Bad values are achieved externally. E.g. Money, dominance through violence, etc.

People build up values that they believe in, the problem is once they create a value, they anchor it (visualise an anchor) so they can never move on or change. Life is ever changing, and you change to, so our values should change with it, don’t anchor yourself to something. Look over your values and reassess them, see if they need to be changed so that you can be open to improvement.

When we are in emotional pain, we are able to question our values and see why they are causing this pain and in turn change our values so that we can alleviate it. This in turn enables us to get past the emotional pain and make us stronger. The problem is we try to avoid things that can cause anxiety, fear, pain, etc. And therefore are unable to improve our emotional resilience.

Certainty or Uncertainty

The idea of certainty in itself is a false one. Apart from objective truths, nothing is really certain, and the sooner you come to terms with that, the better.

You see, people and uncertainty don’t mix well. The fear of the unknown is a big one, especially for creatures that have evolved through predictability. 

Certainty makes us feel safe if we know what is coming, but the problem with this is that nature is constantly moving, and to try and apply a static rule to something moving is never going to work out.

The more certain you try to be, the less certain you will become and insecure in the process.

It’s all well and good having judgments and predictions, but if they are so firmly set in place, don’t be surprised if something gives and you end up getting a different outcome then the one you were hoping for.

The more you embrace being uncertain the more comfortable you will feel in knowing what you don’t know. Uncertainty removes our judgments on others and ourselves. The only way to achieve things is to remain uncertain about them and see if you will achieve them.


Anything that scares you or gives you anxiety, fear, embarrassment e.g. going up to someone and talking to them, going up first in class, etc. Is good for you as the pain is good for you, the easier you can do those things the more emotionally resilient and comfortable you are.

The motivation one gets from pursuing something, no matter how small, can catapult them into doing another small thing, and before you know it, you have built up that skill to be proactive and get busy. This is especially helpful when tackling big projects, if you break it into small ones, you are more likely to build up the momentum to continue at a good pace.

Questioning yourself, you succeed, then you ask more questions, it’s a continuous process.

Adapting to Our Society

Like Darwin once said ‘it’s not the strongest or the smartest that survives, but the one that is willing to adapt the most,’ this is echoed in business as well. 

Before technology became forever changing the world was much less complex and slower, therefore the early part of our life was spent studying until you find a job and very slowly change over time. Now with everything moving so fast, we have to adapt.

When kids are at school or have just left college, that doesn’t mean they know everything and that they should stop learning, we should continue that curiosity of learning past our college days for the rest of our lives. 

The problem is with a fast-moving world, is that if you don’t understand something there will always be a person overtaking you at one point, this in turn incentivises you to skip a couple of steps or get to your end goal through other means. This leads to a corrupt system which then becomes the norm. With the corrupt system in place that is forever moving fast, people now have to adapt by being corrupt themselves. This creating a corrupt loop that creates corruption. The answer to this, is don’t rely heavily on comparing yourselves to others, go at your own pace.

Be wary of emotionally vulnerable points in your life that allow you to change your values. They can be an optimum time to choose some heathy values to follow, but it is just as easy if not easier to go the other way too. If people fail at something that is a positive thing, it’s easier to give up and change your values to something negative that is easier to accomplish but won’t benefit you personally.