It’s an unconventional title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life(amazon link), but it’s an insightful, irreverent, and hilarious book that’s not too trite, sappy, or “duh, who doesn’t already know that!” kind of read. It seems to be about how so many of us get hung up on the wrong things and make ourselves and potentially others in our social solar system miserable. He helps the reader figure out what they really should give a f*ck about instead of wasting time and energy measuring their success or failures using other peoples metrics instead of their own.
He suggests if we go through life being uncertain about everything, including our adamant beliefs about ourselves and others, as well as accept our idiosyncrasies and human flaws, we will be much happier. I suck at directions, and that’s OK!
Those who are absolutely certain about things tend never to achieve lasting happiness because really, as most of us know, nothing is certain and disappointment is inevitable. As a person who practices yoga, self-learning, appreciates the teachings of the Buddha, was raised Episcopal/Southern Baptist, and performs much less mental self-flagellation than I used to, the concepts Manson discusses resonate with me.
It’s a much more upbeat read than the must read book Man’s Search for Meaning(amazon link) by Viktor Frankel, a psychiatrist who writes about concentration camp survivors. Those who made it through the experience (if they weren’t randomly killed) had something they really gave a f*ck about. Those who didn’t were more likely to be measuring success by using metrics that didn’t fit the situation in which they found themselves (i.e., the drastically unfortunate cards they were dealt). I think the lessons in Frankel’s and Manson’s books are similar, but Manson uses many more F-Bombs and has modernized it to address our current more whiny “first world problems,” because, fortunately, almost none of us Gen X’ers and Millennials had to survive a horrific concentration camp!
Other posts I’ve written on self-exploration that may be useful to new/future readers are:
- Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me (Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts – amazon link)
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin
- How People Believe in God (Musings about the movie Life of Pi and Deepak Chopra)
- Strengths and Weaknesses – How They Impact Our Worlds
- The Narcissistic Family – Entrepreneurs, Bosses and Employees
- A Transformation in Process (Landmark Forum)
- Who I Was Being Was Not Exactly Who I Am (Landmark Forum)
- Shifting Agreements
- The Happiness Hypothesis
- What’s Love Got To Do With It – Live Life Like You Mean It (Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want – amazon link)
- Failure, Rejection, and the Art of Being Average (I reference one of Manson’s blog posts In defense of being average.)
- Eat, Pray, Love, and Vacation
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
Wow, I didn’t realize how much I wrote about this sappy, self-help, existential crisis stuff! But I think all that writing and creating of songs I did was better than doing the 100+ less emotionally, physically, spiritually, medically healthy things I could have done while processing all that painful personal growth, trying to stay a mostly sane mother, and not turning into a raging HULK. Haha! Thanks to my readers who actually read my ramblings and still remained readers! 😛
Based on who you ask and when you ask them, I am much happier, tolerant, understanding, and calmer (unless provoked/poked while I’m under duress!) than I used to be even 3 to 5 years ago, which likely explains why I post much less frequently. I’ve learned to tame some of those demons (who never fully disappear), set better boundaries (which Manson mentions in his book), be OK with my human failings by relying on GPS, and try to make better choices largely thanks to the kindness, support, and understanding of my numerous truly amazing friends and certain great family members. Just like Manson and most of us, I am constantly learning what to give a f*ck about based on where I am in life. I’ve gotten better at letting the rest of it flow on by just like the river in Siddhartha(amazon link) by Herman Hesse.
I’ll be interested to see how Manson’s views change if/after he has kids. Those new humans can cause you to question your entire life in a mostly sleep deprived state as well as pummel your a$$ affirming how little we really know/understand about ourselves or tiny humans! He also discusses the “fear of death” in his book. Ironically, I fear pain more than I fear death. I fear dying before my kids are on their own, and I can’t even think about anything bad happening to them because then I might as well be dead.
I highly suggest you read this book because I care enough about all of you (even if I don’t know you) that I don’t want you to embody this quote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden.
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| Tags: herman hesse
, kate chopin
, landmark education
, landmark forum
, landmark seminar series
, mark manson
, subtle art of not giving a f*ck
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My best friend of 23 years is an English professor. We met during my first day in the dorm before starting my freshman year in college. I was a business major who didn’t know much about English other than writing seemed to come easily for me even at a young age. I can trace my interest in creative writing back to a 5th grade teacher I had the first year I moved to Lubbock, Texas. I would make A’s and A+’s on my English papers in high school for creativity but practically fail grammar until my freshman year in college when grammar all of a sudden made sense to me. Or maybe I should say I quit trying to make sense of grammar and accepted it for what it was. My best friend is a grammar guru and maybe the combination of taking freshman English and typing her papers for her, because I typed faster than she did, somehow helped me get the practice I needed to improve my grammar and punctuation.
Our professional worlds rarely collide, but when I’m facing a situation personally or professionally, she often has a reference to literature (sadly, my knowledge of great literature is not deep or wide given my business degrees) to help me try to make sense of what is happening. Fiction is fiction but as a writer I have come to appreciate that really good fiction is based often times quite heavily on the author’s direct experience or observation of others. A book that my friend suggested I read a while back when I was going through my personal family transition is called The Awakening by Kate Chopin (wikipedia) [The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions) – Amazon link], but she didn’t think it wise for me to read it while in the middle of my turmoil since the main character kills herself and she was concerned about me. Not that I ever had suicidal tendencies, but it was probably wise I wait to read it because I’ve come to realize that the state of being one is in when they read certain words has a huge impact on how they receive and interpret those words. So I read it this weekend.
The book was banished for decades after Kate Chopin wrote it in 1899 for it’s scandalous depiction of Edna, a married woman with two young boys, and her behavior. I find it scandalous even today given her dramatic moves, an affair with not one but two men (one physical, one emotional), feeling no remorse, shame or guilt, and then killing herself when she can’t be with the man she loves thereby leaving behind two young children. But it was back in the late 1800’s, when most women had no means to support themselves and they had to remain in situations they did not want to be in. The man also loves her but knows he can’t be with her because of the rules of their society and withdraws himself from her life. Since Edna is not able to pursue other opportunities or escape her current life, she resorts to killing herself (you’ll have to read the book to see how she does it) rather than live in a despondent world “without the vibrant colors of love.”
The main character, Edna, was 28 going on 29 when she began the awakening process. I was 38 going on 39 when I started to realize I was waking up to a different perception of myself and the world around me. I remember words I read in an email, I remember my response, I remember the place, the person, the drink, the conversation, the expression, a twinge that when placed together triggered a shift in my being that resulted in my songwriting, journaling, poem writing, emotion laden emails to co-workers, family and friends (i.e., gushes from my writer’s soul that had been behind an enormous dam for a long time). I sought understanding through courses like Landmark (Transformation in Process and Who I Was Being Was Not Exactly Who I Am) and Search Within that both guided the participant to live an authentic life and not what Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden – “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” That was a quote my best friend reminded me of this past weekend. I couldn’t go to the grave with the song still in me, and I hope I don’t die (mostly for my children’s sake) before I release the songs based on my lyrics that I’ve been working on with my songwriting partner. I also hope I don’t die before I find what some people call their soul mate so I can sing him my song, and he’ll understand it just as I will understand his song.
Here are some interesting quotes from the book written by an author who was 32 years old, widowed with 6 kids:
“In short, Mrs. Pontellier [Edna] was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relation as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight –perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.” p. 17
“She [Edna] is not one of us; she is not like us. She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously.” [This was said by Edna’s friend to the man, known to Edna’s husband, who eventually became the object of her love. Edna was not Creole but apparently it was common for young, unmarried men to cater to the needs of married women and flirt with them in that society.]
“Edna began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul.” p. 41
“He [the doctor] observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic. There was no repression in her glance or gesture. She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun.” p. 92
“Yes,” she [Edna] said. “The years that are gone seem like dreams — if one might go on sleeping and dreaming — but to wake up and find–oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” p. 147
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| Tags: book review
, edna pontellier
, english professor
, henry david thoreau
, kate chopin
, the awakening
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