Book Review: Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
"You are your biggest f*cking problem, and your greatest solution." This is the line my workout trainer yelled at me (and the rest of the class) the other day. I attend a wonderful workout studio called "Barry's Bootcamp" where I go once a week and do a mixture of interval training on a treadmill and weight training. It's intense. It's 60 minutes of flat out work, and quite frankly punishment, but the feeling it leaves you with is amazing. You walk out of that class feeling a wonderful mixture of endorphins and success at pushing yourself further than you thought you could previously. Not all of the trainers swear at you, but over the last two weeks, I've had two notable moments of being sworn at, where it's actually made a positive difference.
The first is the above experience with that particular trainer. He's right. I am the biggest problem with my life, but I'm also the only one that can fix it. The second similar experience, which is that I recently finished The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. This, alongside Mankind's Search for Meaning and Barking up the Wrong Tree are two books which have had a profound effect on mindset, and around achievements in life.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson was an eye opening book on how to own your life, how to take responsibility for your choices, and ultimately how to guide the situation you are in. As a continual worrier on all aspects of life, from war breaking out to the washing machine burning my house down, this book was purchased by my sister, in the hope of helping me chill out. It's a super easy to read book, will great structure around presenting very clearly the takeaways.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck's title is misleading; the book is not about inertia, or not about caring for anything (as I think my sister had hoped). It's about picking the things that you truly care about, and doubling down on them. It's about realising that we almost always have choices in our lives, and we dictate the direction of our life.
Like with my other book reviews, this book is not directly related to your finances, but as I've discussed in "How to Save 40% of Your Income", reading about success has a fantastic ability to improve all areas of your life, from your health to your relationships to your finances. My four top takeaways from the book are:
You Need to Give a F*cK About Something: you need to align yourself to something. If you find yourself caring about what shoes to wear that morning, your local barista not making your coffee hot enough, or the clocks going forward in summer and you loosing out on sleep, you might not have enough important things in life. You need to understand whether the small trivial aspects of life are something you actually need to give a f*ck about. If you find yourself worrying or stressing around the unimportant areas of your life, you need to find something bigger to worry about. You need to find something that sparks your internal fire, that you care about, that you can drive towards. You need to give a f*ck about something.
Complaining is Easy. Taking Action is Hard: this is my favourite one, and something I am incredibly guilty of. Many of us, myself included, spend a lot of time and wasted energy complaining. I'm good at it. What I have got better at, however, is doubling down on channeling that complaining into changing a situation and taking action. This is harder. It's harder to start up the mountain to changing a situation. Coupled with this, you are what you focus on. If you focus on complaining, you focus on the negative. Shift that internal focus. Shift it to what you want to see happen; make the situation in your head real, and make the decision and commitment to change.
Be ok with your own mortality: this one took me aback somewhat. We are going to die, and it may be soon. As Mark said, reminding myself of this fact every day is the spur to keep me driven and focused in life. This is not a trial run for life; this is life. Depending on your beliefs, this is the one shot you'll get at life; you need to make it count. You need to make yourself ok with the idea of death. If you die tomorrow, will you have passed away knowing that you were following a path you were meant to be on?
You are not unique: Brutal I know! Obviously this goes completely against what my parents have told me about being special, and individual and different from others. As this book rightly points out, however, your problems in life right now, are not unique. Someone will have experienced or will be experiencing the same issues as you. You should not dwell on your issues, or wallow in your own self pity. You are not a victim, and nor should you have victim mentality as your problems are not unique. They have been solved before, hundreds of times over. Realising this is liberating; channelling this knowledge into changing your personal circumstances of situation is doing something great with your life.
This book is not for the faint hearted; Mark does not mince his words, and paints a very frank picture of what we all know in terms of our individual flaws that live deep down within us. He is right though, as is my workout trainer at Barry's Bootcamp. The majority of us (myself included), go about our lives in a blur or haze of not knowing, not driving forward, or even worse, following directions on auto-pilot that were not made for us.
The reason you are in debt is because of you.
The reason you are not happy with your body is because of you.
The reason you keep doing a job you hate is because of you.
No one else is to blame for the above. The liberating thing that both my trainer and the book demonstrate though is that you are the solution to all these things as well. You have the choice and you have the ability to make those changes.