The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson (Oct 2019)

First Thoughts

First things first. I adored this book (for more by the author click here). It took me a while to read it because it required a lot of focus. Despite that it was definitely worth the read. There’s a lot in a book of this kind so I felt I needed to take it slow. Throughout the book there are theories and concepts which take a while to filter through. I needed the time to process and sometimes re-read ideas. And I’m really glad I did. I’ve learnt a lot about letting go, suffering and thought processes. There’s definitely too much information to really do it justice so I’ve picked out two of my favourites. The rest are yours to discover.

Feedback Loop from Hell

One of the first ideas you encounter is the idea of the feedback loop from hell. Reading this section was when I knew that this was the book for me. The feedback loop from hell is hard to describe so I’ll let Mark’s words to the talking:

“Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: You get anxious about confronting somebody in your life. That anxiety cripples you and you start wondering why you’re so anxious. Now you’re becoming anxious about being anxious. Oh no! Doubly anxious! Now you’re anxious about your anxiety, which is causing more anxiety”.

To me this hits my anxiety on the head. I seem to spend a large amount of my time being anxious about the prospect of being anxious.  When I notice that I get annoyed and/or anxious about the fact that I’m anxious about future anxiety which may or may not happen. Often, when whatever I thought I’d be anxious about comes around, I’m not anxious. But  I’ve wasted so much energy being anxious about being anxious. Hence the feedback loop from hell.

To Mark the problem with this phenomena is that we’re surrounded by people who seem to have everything sorted. We spend our lives comparing ourselves to people who have it better. And that’s really the kicker. Not the feedback loop itself. It’s the fact that we “feel bad about feeling bad” and end up asking that age-old question: what’s wrong with me? So what’s the solution? Don’t give a f*ck. Not caring about feeling bad, or anxious, or annoyed helps you circumvent the feedback loop. It’s your get out of jail free card. And how do we not give a f*ck? Well there’s a whole book for you to read.

Failure/Success Paradox

The other part that really resonated with me comes later in the book. It’s the failure/success paradox. Many of us are so afraid of failure that we never even give success a chance. And if we do, every success has been built on myriads of past failures. I’ve heard people say that F.A.I.L stands for First Attempt In Learning. Whilst I don’t really love that acronym it rings true. Every time we fall and pick ourselves back up we’re one step closer to success. That’s part of being resilient. We become more resilient individuals when we learn from our failures. Mark explains it like this:

“If you think about a young child trying to learn to walk, that child will fall down and hurt itself hundreds of times. But at no point does that child ever stop and think “Oh, I guess walking just isn’t for me. I’m no good at it”. 

Mark continues to make the point that at some point we learn to fear failure. We’re not born with it. It’s not a biological impulse. It’s something we learn and therefore something we must (and can) unlearn. And how do we unlearn? We must recognise that the things we are willing to fail at are the things we most want to succeed in. Anything we are ready to give up on may not be something we truly want.

Giving Suffering Meaning

In the words of Victor Frankl:

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it”

When we are willing to suffer for something. To take the scrapes. To fall down once, twice, a million times and get back up again. That is something we’re willing to suffer for. It’s something we’re willing to fail at. And therefore it’s something we have a chance at succeeding with.

The chapter continues to look at the meaning behind suffering and you could quite honestly write a book on it. But that book is written so I suggest you go have a read. But I will leave you with one last idea, the last one in the book in fact. The last one of life. Death.

Death is perhaps the biggest fear we have. The biggest failure. It marks the end of our ability to change or to succeed. We can’t take it with us. What we leave behind is the memories we have with others. Shared connections. Contributions to the world. Our legacy. Every minute not spent building or connecting. Every minute fear of failure holds us back is another moment we haven’t lived. Because life is all we’ve got.

Have you read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck? What were your thoughts? What were your favourite parts?

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