The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
by Mark Manson
Published by HarperOne (2016)
Self-help books are stereotyped in the market today. Get caught reading one, and you’re labelled as being depressive. Open up one, and you’ll find different versions/steps of arriving at the same conclusion: you are an incredible person, and you ought to be happy with what you’re born with. Rant against self-help books, and you’re labelled as someone who is nasty, who doesn’t understand that sometimes people need a pick-me-up, vote of confidence that puts the wind back beneath their wings, and the sails below their feet (or something to that effect).
Personally, I don’t read too many self-help books. I’ve dabbled in a few, and found them to be uninspiring. I do, however, see why it may appeal to some, and why certain lessons encountered, when spelt out, appear far more simplistic and easy to follow.
Manson’s book appealed to me initially because he seemed to be laying out his attitude to life in a manner comprehensible to the masses. The expletives were merely additional layers to make the book more relatable, it felt.
Take this: the different between indifference and not giving a hoot that you begin to prioritize what you care about. As a consequence, your attitude toward problems begins to become: What problem do I want to have? And that’s interesting. That’s an angle I appreciated – because as a victim of overthinking, I stress a fair bit about inconsequential things. It was a good way to get into the book, and Manson’s opening helps you decide fairly quickly if the book will suit you.
Manson then argues that in today’s society, the desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. In part, this is because of the manner in which our society celebrates “happiness”, but also because of how it trivializes the unique experience that happiness is.
And I found myself buying into that as well.
Manson has a unique manner of expression. Minus the expletives, his message is simple. You have limited time and limited resources. Accept this, and accept your other limitations. After accepting these, work on things you are desirous of working on. Don’t compromise on yourself. You’ll be happier as a result.
And, that, for me, is the sole reason the book is three stars.
The way in which the message is delivered does not detract from the archetypal self-help book trope. Further, I felt a little let down by the examples that were highlighted – particularly by the analogy of false memories and sexual harassment cases. I might be premature in saying this, but it is very possible that a reader will take nothing except the trivialization of a very real problem away from that example – something that is dangerous.
In contrast to a lot of self-help books, however, Manson delivers this message without anecdotal evidence. He relies on you realizing that the ones who appear carefree and confident are the happiest and most successful. That, in part, is his success, but to me, in part, is his failure.
Ultimately, I find contradictions in the message he puts out. Try to spend time on things you enjoy, with a caveat. Don’t get consumed by it such that it drives you every morning and takes control of how your day goes.
That’s an interesting perspective and one that I’d recommend reading – just for the style of Manson’s writing.