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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Summary, Review, Notes

Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck will transform your suffering into a tool, your trauma into strength, and your issues into a little bit better issues in a fun and engaging way. 


Book Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach  to Living a Good Life
Author: Mark Manson
Date of Reading: October 2023
Rating: 10 /10

Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail

CHAPTER 1: Don’t Try

The author starts the chapter by explaining something we all know but sometimes refuse to admit. Modern culture often focuses on unrealistic expectations of happiness, health, and success, leading to a focus on superficiality and chasing happiness. 

This can negatively impact mental health, as it can lead to a fixation on superficiality and a focus on superficiality. Instead, a good life involves focusing on what is true, immediate, and important, rather than chasing more.

The Feedback Loop from Hell

Grandpa used to think to himself, “I sure do feel like a cow turd today,” when he felt bad… And now? Now, if you feel bad for even five minutes, 350 pictures of people who are obscenely happy and living fantastic lives are thrown at you, and it’s impossible not to feel like there’s something wrong with you. 

Consumer culture and social media have led to a generation believing negative experiences like anxiety, fear, and guilt are unacceptable, as seen in recent events and celebrity status. Accepting the world’s flaws as it is is crucial for saving the world, as it has always been and will always be.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Subtlety #1: Not giving a f*ck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.

Indifference is not admirable or confident, as it often leads to lameness, fear, and a lack of self-confidence. Indifference often stems from a lack of self-reflection, fear of letting others get close to them, and a belief in their uniqueness.

Subtlety #2: To not give a f*ck about adversity, you must first give a f*ck about something more important than adversity.

Consistently expressing frustration over trivial issues like ex-boyfriend’s Facebook picture or TV remote battery life is not a legitimate problem, but rather a lack of something going on in your life to give a meaning to.

Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a f*ck about.

Young people often give a lot of attention about everything and everyone, but as they grow older, they realize that superficial details have little lasting impact on their lives. People’s opinions and rejections have often worked out for the best.

CHAPTER 2: Happiness Is a Problem

If I achieve X, then I can be happy.

If I look like Y, then I can be happy.

If I can be with a person like Z, then I can be happy.

Life is a form of suffering, with the rich suffering due to their wealth, the poor suffering due to poverty, and those without a family suffering due to their family. While some suffering is more painful, we all must suffer.

The Misadventures of Disappointment Panda

We are programmed to be unhappy with what we have and to be content only with what we lack. Our species has been fighting and striving, constructing and conquering because of this ongoing unhappiness. Therefore, our own suffering is not a flaw in human evolution; rather, it is a feature.

Happiness Comes from Solving Problems

The solving of problems brings happiness. The essential phrase here is “solving.” You’ll make yourself miserable if you try to escape your problems or believe that you don’t have any. 

You will also make yourself miserable if you believe that your difficulties are insurmountable. Instead of not having problems at all, the key lies in finding solutions to them.

Emotions Are Overrated

Something is not necessarily great just because it feels good. Something is not necessarily bad just because it makes you feel bad. Our neurobiology only provides us with ideas through emotions; they are not laws. Consequently, we shouldn’t always put our own feelings to the test. In fact, the author thinks it’s best to regularly challenge them.

Choose Your Struggle

“What do you want to enjoy?” is not what decides your success. “What pain do you want to sustain?” is the pertinent query. The road to happiness is paved with humiliation and disgrace. You must make a decision. It is impossible to live pain-free. It can’t always be sunshine and unicorns.

CHAPTER 3 You Are Not Special

High self-worth individuals can honestly acknowledge their negative aspects of their character, such as financial irresponsibility and exaggeration, and work to improve them, while entitled individuals struggle to openly and honestly address their problems.

Things Fall Apart

Pain leads to feelings of helplessness and entitlement, often resulting in special treatment for oneself or others. However, there is no personal problem, as millions of people have experienced it. 

This doesn’t mean you’re a victim, but that you’re not special. Recognizing that your problems are not privileged in severity is the first step towards solving them.

The Tyranny of Exceptionalism

Pain leads to feelings of helplessness and entitlement, often resulting in special treatment for oneself or others. However, there is no personal problem, as millions of people have experienced it

This doesn’t mean you’re a victim, but that you’re not special. Recognizing that your problems are not privileged in severity is the first step towards solving them.

B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going to Be Special or Extraordinary, What’s the Point?

Our culture often believes we are all destined to do something extraordinary, with celebrities, business tycoons, politicians, and Oprah all expressing this belief. However, exceptional individuals become amazing due to their obsession with improvement.

CHAPTER 4 The Value of Suffering

The question we should be asking is not, “How do I stop suffering?” If suffering and our issues in life are unavoidable, then neither should we be asking. nonetheless, “Why am I suffering—and for what reason?”

The Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is like an onion. Self-awareness is a complex process involving understanding one’s emotions, questioning why we feel certain emotions, and examining our personal values. 

This process is challenging but crucial as it determines the nature of our problems and the quality of our lives. By peeling back layers, we can improve our emotional well-being.

Mark Manson Quote

Rock Star Problems

Best stated in a 1994 interview, “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.” Best argued that the events leading up to his being expelled from the Beatles finally brought him and his wife together. 

After that, he got married and started a family. His principles shifted. He started to evaluate his life in many ways. He acknowledged that fame and glory would have been good, but he felt that what he already had was more significant.

Shitty Values

Research shows that people who focus on superficial pleasures are more anxious, emotionally unstable, and depressed. Self-worth based on being right prevents learning from mistakes, empathizing with others, and embracing new perspectives. Admitting that life sucks is the healthiest way to cope.

Defining Good and Bad Values

Poor values lead to negative life outcomes, while choosing better values diverts focus towards important, well-being-enhancing aspects, resulting in happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.

CHAPTER 5 You Are Always Choosing

Imagine being forced to run 26.2 miles in under five hours, causing immense pain and fear. Despite the pain, choosing to run the marathon with loved ones and training diligently could be a glorious milestone in life. Notice that forced participation can be a terrifying and painful experience.

The Choice

The topic returns to the fact that there is no such thing as not giving a damn. It’s not feasible. Everyone of us must care about something. What we choose to care about is the true issue. 

What principles have we decided to apply to guide our behavior? What criteria are we selecting to evaluate our lives? Do those options represent good values and metrics?

The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy

One man believed that his short stature made him unattractive to women. He avoided dating women, focusing on small behaviors that might indicate his inadequacy. 

This led to a disempowering relationship, as women were attracted only to height. Instead of focusing on height, he should adopt a more inclusive approach, focusing on dating women who like him for who he is.

Responding to Tragedy

Malala Yousafzai, an 11-year-old Pakistani girl, who fought against school bans, attending local schools, and addressing violence against women in Muslim countries, ended up as a best-selling author.

Victimhood Chic 

We should carefully choose battles, empathize with the enemy, approach news with skepticism, prioritize honesty, transparency, and doubt over right, feeling good, and getting revenge.

There Is No “How”

Reassessing values may face resistance and uncertainty, but this can be beneficial as it allows for a deeper understanding of one’s values and potential mistakes.

CHAPTER 6 You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)

Growth is an iterative process that never ends. When we gain new knowledge, we do not automatically transition from “wrong” to “right.” Instead, our mistakes become a little bit less egregious.

Be Careful What You Believe In

Our memories work like a telephone game we played as kids, with each person hearing a different version of the original. We fill in gaps and embellish information to make sense of our experiences, leading to misconceptions and misconceptions

Our brain constantly makes sense of our current situation based on our existing beliefs and experiences, ensuring that new information aligns with our existing values and conclusions.

The Dangers of Pure Certainty 

To achieve real change or growth, we must first become uncertain of our current values and prioritizations, allowing us to examine and adjust them for better health.

Mark Manson Quote 2

Manson’s Law of Avoidance Chances

The speaker encourages never knowing oneself, as it encourages self-discovery, humility, and acceptance of others’ differences, while also pushing for self-improvement.

How to Be a Little Less Certain of Yourself Questioning

Question #1: What if I’m wrong?

Question #2: What would it mean if I were wrong?

Question #3: Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?

CHAPTER 7 Failure Is the Way Forward I really

Goals, such as college graduation, lake house purchase, or weight loss, are limited in happiness and can be helpful for short-term benefits, but not for life trajectory.

Pain Is Part of the Process

Pain often strengthens us, enhancing resilience and groundedness. Cancer survivors and military personnel report increased gratitude and mental resilience after battles and war zones.

The “Do Something” Principle

Don’t just stand still. Get moving. The solutions will come next.

In addition to being the result of motivation, action also fuels it. Most people only take action when they are sufficiently motivated.

CHAPTER 8 The Importance of Saying No

Being able to reject someone is a vital life skill. Nobody desires to remain unhappily committed to a partner. Nobody wants to be forced to work at a job they detest and don’t believe in. Nobody wants to feel as though they can’t express themselves honestly. However, people opt for these things. Every single time.


There are good and unhealthy types of love, the reality is. The foundation of unhealthy love is two individuals who use their feelings for one another as a means of escaping from their issues. 

Healthy love is built on two individuals being aware of and supporting each other while they work through their individual issues. Two factors determine whether a relationship is healthy or unhealthy: 1) how well each partner accepts responsibility; and 2) whether each partner is willing to both reject and be rejected by their spouse.

How to Build Trust

Trust is like a porcelain plate. If you break it once, you can repair it with some care and attention. It takes much longer to put back together if you break it again since it splits into even more parts. 

When something is broken repeatedly, it eventually shatters to the point where it can no longer be repaired. Both the amount of dust and the broken bits are excessive.

Freedom Through Commitment

Consumer culture often encourages the belief that more is always better, leading to the paradox of choice. Overloaded with options, we often become less satisfied with what we choose, as we are aware of potential forfeits and may be happier with less.

CHAPTER 9 . . . And Then You Die

Death scares us, leading to avoidance and acknowledgment of it, even when it’s happening to someone close. It measures life’s meaning, making everything feel inconsequential without it.

Something Beyond Ourselves

Death is inevitable, but we should embrace it to make more freely chosen values, free from dogmatic views and illogical quests for immortality, allowing us to choose our priorities.

The Sunny Side of Death

The main lesson learned is that there is no fear. Reminding oneself of their own death through meditation, philosophy, or extreme activities helps hold this realization in mind. 

This acceptance of fragility makes life easier, allowing for untangling addictions, confronting entitlement, taking responsibility for problems, and accepting failures and rejections.

Most Important Keywords, Sentences, Quotes

CHAPTER 1: Don’t Try

“I have one of two choices—stay in the post office and go crazy . . . or stay out here and play at being a writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

„After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she’s happy. She just is.“

“The smallest dog barks the loudest.”

„The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

„You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” 

 „After all, the only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.”

CHAPTER 2: Happiness is a problem

 „Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them“

„The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.”

“The solution to one problem is merely the creation of the next one.”

“Don’t hope for a life without problems,” the panda said. “There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.”

CHAPTER 3: You are not special

„We like the idea that there’s some form of ultimate happiness that can be attained. We like the idea that we can alleviate all of our suffering permanently. We like the idea that we can feel fulfilled and satisfied with our lives forever. But we cannot.”

“What do you want to enjoy?” is not what decides your success. “What pain do you want to sustain?” is the pertinent query. The road to happiness is paved with humiliation and disgrace. You must make a decision. It is impossible to live pain-free. It can’t always be sunshine and unicorns.”

CHAPTER 4:  The value of suffering

„Denying negative emotions leads to experiencing deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and to emotioConstant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems —problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.”

„One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”

„When we have poor values—that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others—we are essentially giving f*cks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our life worse. 

But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our f*cks to something better—toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.”

CHAPTER 5: You are always choosing

„It comes back to how, in reality, there is no such thing as not giving a single f*ck. It’s impossible. We must all give a f*ck about something. To not give a f*ck about anything is still to give a f*ck about something.”

Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.”

„Taking responsibility for our problems is far more important, because that’s where real learning comes from. That’s where the real-life improvement comes from. To simply blame others is only to hurt yourself.”

Mark Manson Quote 3

„We should pick our battles carefully, while simultaneously attempting to empathize a bit with the so-called enemy. We should approach the news and media with a healthy dose of skepticism and avoid painting those who disagree with us with a broad brush. 

We should prioritize values of being honest, fostering transparency, and welcoming doubt over the values of being right, feeling good, and getting revenge.”

CHAPTER 6: You’re wrong about everything. (But so am I)

 „Many people become so obsessed with being “right” about their life that they never end up actually living it.”

„Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity for growth.”

„We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.”

„The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”

CHAPTER 7: Failure is the way forward

„Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments. It’s only when we feel intense pain that we’re willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us. 

We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we’ve been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course for many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity.”

CHAPTER 8: The importance of saying no

„The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.”

„People can’t solve your problems for you. And they shouldn’t try, because that won’t make you happy. You can’t solve other people’s problems for them either, because that likewise won’t make them happy.”

„The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.”

„Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.”

„Commitment allows you to focus intently on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.”

CHAPTER 9: … And then you die

„Bukowski once wrote, “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.”

Book Review (Personal Opinion)

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving a F*ck is a phenomenal book. I’ve read a ton of self-help books and Manson’s book is right up top. He takes such an original approach toward self-help and distills the most important elements of it without the surrounding bulls*it. It’s fast-paced, entertaining, engaging, and fun and I highly recommend it!

Rating: 10/10

This Book Is For:

  • Millennials and Gen Z who want to figure out what truly matters in their life
  • Entrepreneurs who want to find work-life balance
  • People who are tired of regurgitated self-help tips and want something original

If You Want To Learn More

Watch the interview Mark had with Steven Bartlett at Diary Of The CEO:
The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck: Mark Manson | E111

How I’ve Implemented The Ideas From The Book

Positive thinking is the secret to leading a happy, fulfilling life, we’ve been told for decades. I was able to view life differently because of this book. We shouldn’t hold others accountable for our own struggles. 

Since we are the authors of our lives, every decision we make will eventually manifest as a favorable result or a valuable lesson. 

One Small Actionable Step You Can Do

Once you read this book, you can conclude that the secret to leading a fulfilling life is not caring about more things, but rather, caring about only those things that are consistent with your own ideals.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck - Summary-Infographic