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

Master the profound power of life's values and ethos of "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson with this insightful review and summary.

The title is so misleading. Not giving a f*ck refers to not always pursuing the "feel-good" mentality like other Americans. What the author means is, not only to give a f*ck, but also to figure out which things in your life matter.

When I was anxious, hesitant, and vulnerable, someone always said in my ear, "If you are serious, you will lose." This kind of life wisdom seems to capture the essence of all suffering: if the inner chaos comes from caring, then the happiest way is to stop caring. 

If seriousness means failure, then we should look to the opposite of seriousness. It can be withdrawn and false, rather than sincere and wholehearted. It is a cold look, a faint smile, and a bystander mentality that "has nothing to do with me." 

The final reward is what Epicurus described as "inner peace." But contemporary supporters of Epicureanism shy away from discussing the risks of such wisdom.

First, it is difficult to pursue inner peace because caring is the basic way of human existence. When people advocate the art of not giving a f*ck, they have misunderstood human nature. 

Giving a f*ck or not seems to be a choice that everyone can decide: if we choose not to care, not to take it seriously, then we will have a smooth road to inner peace. 

This is a myth that needs to be debunked. It is very difficult and thankless to control or even contain concern. This is because we have a natural tendency to care about certain people, certain things, and certain ideas. 

This is the basic way for us to live in this world and get along with ourselves, others, and the world. We may choose to care about this or that, but we cannot choose to care about itself; without care, we will not know how to live.

Secondly, inner peace is the result of romanticization. Giving up caring means giving up many values of "worthwhile". 

The romantic vision of "not rejoicing in things and not being sad in oneself" is our imagination of the state of existence of gods, because they have no "I" and no "life" that "I" needs to participate in, so naturally they are not attached to "I" above thoughts and persistence. 

I had so much “me” and “my vision” and “my life” to unfold, and then there was “my pain and joy” and “my history and future.” 

If there are people who can "not care about anything", then their way of living is not worthy of envy at all. When they give up caring, they avoid not only pain but also happiness. Because they give up participating in life, they miss out on the precious value in life forever.

Manson believes that "improving our lives depends not just on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to take lemons better." People are flawed and limited. Not everyone can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of them are unfair and not your fault.

“There are only so many things we can give a f*ck about so we need to figure out which ones matter. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better because true wealth is about experience.”

Book: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

  • Author: Mark Manson
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: HarperOne
  • Publication date: September 13, 2016
  • Media type: Print
  • Pages: 272


Get it from Amazon

Book Summary

This kind of self-help guide is basically a chicken soup article. If you really take it seriously, many details will naturally not stand up to scrutiny. However, if you scrutinize the self-help guide in detail, you may be applying force in the wrong direction from the beginning. 

In fact, we basically all know the principles discussed in these books. The reason why we are willing to spend time, money, and energy on these truths that we already know from time to time is often because these truths are not easy to implement, so we often need others to remind us in various ways.

If a self-help guide is truly useful, it's probably not because it brings us new ideas, but because we actually start to put into practice those actions that seem simple but are not easy to put into practice. 

Therefore, the same self-help guide will naturally mean different things to different people. And the same person may get completely different things from the same self-help guide in different situations. 

In other words, the value of a self-help guide has very little to do with the content of the book but rather depends on whether we can make the effort to change our habits and implement the principles we already know.

After understanding the above principles, even if this book did not bring me any new ideas, I would not feel particularly disappointed. At least, the author's writing is quite smooth and lively, and the reader's performance on Audible is very good. The whole listening process can be regarded as a quite good experience.

Before I forget them all again, I hope to record here a few of my standout impressions after listening to this book. I just painted them randomly and did not follow a certain order.

First, we must distinguish between "happiness" and "high". The former is sustainable and can truly make life better. The latter is often a short-term physiological stimulation, which may cause deeper pain after the stimulation ends.

Second, life is full of problems because problems are the norm in life. There is no need to worry about the continuous problems themselves. If we are entangled by these worries, we will inevitably be unable to do other things, and then we will further worry about the lack of achievements, and fall into a vicious circle.

Third, happiness can only be obtained in the process of solving problems, and in the long run, avoiding problems can only bring more stress and challenges. To escape challenges by pursuing pleasure, in the end, it can only be like drinking seawater to quench your thirst. The more you drink, the thirstier you become.

Fourth, since pain and struggle are an inevitable part of life, you should always be prepared to face them head-on. At the same time, you must choose your own battlefield and use your energy, ability, and perseverance on problems that are truly worth solving.

Fifth, understand the values you care about, and at the same time understand whether the yardstick you use to measure these values is truly appropriate. Good values are often those that you can control, are real, and do not harm others. Good rulers often do not rely on the evaluation of others that we cannot control.

Sixth, what can truly and continuously bring happiness is the process of continuous self-improvement, continuous achievement of goals, and continuous problem-solving. However, any stock indicators, such as the amount of money, etc., once reached by us, will no longer bring happiness...

Seventh, there is no need to compare with others. There is no need to feel too good or bad about yourself. Sometimes, we feel that we are ordinary in some aspects. This is what life should be, and we just accept it.

Eighth, instead of complaining that you have no inspiration or motivation, it is better to get started and do things directly. Many times, inspiration and motivation are generated in the process of labor. Overcome inertia and fear, start taking action down-to-earth, and many problems will be solved.

Ninth, emotional support has its own meaning and value, but everyone's problems must be solved by each person. The best way to get along in an intimate relationship is not charity and dependence, but frankness and understanding.

Tenth, life is short, but people who live a fulfilling life will become calm in the face of death. Many of the things we care about may not be worth worrying about at all when faced with the grand proposition of life. We have to choose what we care about.

This time, among the many things I already understood, I still didn’t know how much I could do. However, it probably doesn't hurt to look at these values in your life that you need to remind yourself of.

Book Review

The core of this book is about the self-reflection and redemption of an entitled (full of superiority) American. Therefore, readers who are not often exposed to this group of people will feel alienated, the arguments are dry and boring, and they may not necessarily understand it. You are useful.

But as I read, I gradually identified the people around me, and followed the author to understand the origin of entitlement, why bipolar appears, and that everything they do as adults is just seeking "validation" and not wanting to Take responsibility, treating women like shit, being addicted to drugs and having deep insecurities inside that you can't shake. After reading some passages, I realized that in daily life, we have become victims of these people under their logic.

Point 1: Analyze the manifestations of the root causes of this entitled personality.

Childhood trauma caused me to have problems that I could never solve. The author feels that he should be different, so he likes to pretend, including packaging his success and playing with relationships with women.

I think the logical relationship here is very unclear. How is it that childhood trauma and the feeling of "impossibility" triggered an inner sense of superiority? This step is too big a jump and is not clearly stated. 

Even the author himself used the word "Somehow" in the original text. It can only be said that childhood trauma may have the biggest impact on the author's growth and personality.

My parents are good people. I don't blame them for any of this (not anymore, at least). And I love them very much. They have their own stories their own journeys and their own problems, just as all parents do. 

And just as all of their parents do, and so on. And like all parents, my parents, with the best of intentions, imparted some of their problems to me, as I probably will to my kids. 

When “ real traumatic shit” like this happens in our lives, we begin to unconsciously feel as though we have problems that we're incapable of ever solving. And this assumed inability to solve our problems causes us to feel miserable and helpless. But it also causes something else to happen. 

If we have unsolvable problems, our unconscious figures that we're either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we're somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us. 

Put simply: we become entitled. The pain from my adolescence led me down a road of entitlement that lasted through much of my early adulthood. 

Whereas Jimmy's entitlement played out in the business world, where he pretended to be a huge success, my entitlement played out in my relationships, particularly with women. 

My trauma had revolved around intimacy and acceptance, so I felt a constant need to overcompensate, to prove to myself that I was loved and accepted at all times. 

As a result, I soon took to chasing women the same way a cocaine addict takes to a snowman made out of cocaine: I made sweet love to it, and then promptly suffocated myself in it. 

I became a player—an immature, selfish, albeit sometimes charming player. And I strung up a long series of superficial and unhealthy relationships for the better part of a decade.


Second point: This feeling of superiority and lack makes him constantly look for self-verification, even through destruction to prove his own value.

In reality, I also feel helpless when meeting these Americans. Although they say "love" to each other, it is well known that saying I love you means a big deal in the Western world. But in fact, the love they say is not really for others. Love, but oneself seeking verification of love.

It wasn't so much the sex I cried, although the sex was fun. It was the validation. I was wanted; I was loved; for the first time since I could remember, I was worthy. My craving for validation quickly fed into a mental habit of self-aggrandizing and overindulgence. 

I felt entitled to say or do whatever I wanted, to break people's trust, to ignore people's feelings, and then justify it later with shitty, half-assed apologies.


Key Point 3: People with this personality are very likely to have two-level emotional experiences.

To me, this kind of explains how bipolar disorder has developed and functioned over time. It’s just that most of the feelings like the author do not reach the level of bipolar symptoms (at least the author did not disclose it). 

The main daily emotional experience is: sometimes Passionate and energetic, the other time when alone is all about self-denial and constant decadence.

The deeper the pain, the more helpless we feel against our problems, and the more entitlement we adopt to compensate for those problems. This entitlement plays out in one of two ways:

1. I'm awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment.


2. I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.

Further elaboration: This kind of emotion will also be reflected in either thinking that one is the king of the world and others are shit; or falling into the predicament of extreme inferiority and thinking that one is worthless. 

This appearance will be reversed inside and outside the person, but the selfish core of personality will always be sandwiched in the middle.

Opposite mindset on the outside, but the same selfish creamy core in the middle. In fact, you will often see entitled people flip back and forth between the two. 

Either they're on top of the world or the world is on top of them, depending on the day of the week, or how well they're doing with their particular addiction at that moment.


The following large paragraph has some value. It mentions some junk values that I have gradually realized will dominate and affect me. I simply excerpted it and listed it. The Chinese version is my comment.

Shitty Values: There are a handful of common values that create really poor problems for people—problems that can hardly be solved. So let's go over some of them quickly:

1. Pleasure. The material and economic development of the West is much more mature than that of developing countries, so there is nothing to worry about and worry about in life, and there are too many ways to pursue pleasure. 

When the pursuit of pleasure reaches a certain level, it is nothing more than drugs, meaningless sex, liquor, and other toxic and addictive shit... these are all the pleasures the author refers to here.

2. Material Success. Many people measure their self-worth based on how much money they make what kind of car they drive or whether their front lawn is greener and prettier than the next-door neighbor's. 

I completely agree with this point. Modern society excessively pursues material and consumer culture.

3. Always Being Right. Always thinking that you are right, well, typical entitled fixed thinking.

4. Staying Positive. Denying negative emotions leads to experiencing deeper and more prolonged negative emotions and emotional dysfunction. Always stay positive and optimistic. This is also the penetration of American culture into people. 

A person who is constantly rushing forward must remain the "world leader" and be the spiritual savior of all mankind. He cannot lose his crown at any time and cannot be pessimistic and dejected. 

This is going against the Eastern Zen culture. If his personality follows this, sooner or later There will be problems. Competitiveness (competition) is never a positive value. It may feel good to keep it up for a while, but it will consume a person's life. 

The author later also emphasized the transformation and impact of studying Buddhist culture and Zen on his own thinking.

In response to the above point, the author also wrote about how to resolve negative emotions healthily. There is no need to hold back internal injuries all the time and remain so-called "positive". 

It’s okay to vent your anger because anger is natural. As long as you don't get angry at this person, you can be honest with yourself and express your true thoughts. I also very much agree with this.

The trick with negative emotions is to 

  1. express them in a socially acceptable and healthy manner and 
  2. express them in a way that aligns with your values. 

Simple example: A value of mine is nonviolence. Therefore, when I get mad at somebody, I express that anger, but I also make a point of not punching them in the face. Radical idea, I know. But the anger is not the problem. Anger is natural. Anger is a part of life. Anger is arguably quite healthy in many situations.

To sum up: To improve this situation, you need to adjust and improve your values, and only do worthwhile things.

This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about prioritizing better values and choosing better things to give a f*ck about. Because when you give better f*cks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.


The paragraphs in the following chapters return to the previous paragraphs, analyzing various problems such as social anxiety and lack of self-worth. 

He said that he couldn't be interested in anything, he denied others, and he didn't dare to be interested, so he spent his life drinking, taking drugs, and smoking marijuana. A typical American young man from a middle-class family. . .

I struggled with social anxiety throughout much of my adolescence and young adult life. I spent most of my days distracting myself with video games and most of my nights either drinking or smoking away my uneasiness. 

For many years, the thought of speaking to a stranger —especially if that stranger happened to be particularly attractive/interesting/popular/smart—felt impossible to me. I walked around in a daze for years, asking myself dumb VCR questions.


Next, I wrote that the overly romantic and dramatic love values declared in current film and television programs are also unnecessary. I agree with this point, so I made a special note of it.

But today, we all get brain boners for this kind of batshit crazy love. It dominates our culture. And the more dramatic, the better.

Here the problem of entitled people is analyzed again. This kind of people are usually unwilling to take responsibility for their own problems, so their love relationships are often fake, without real dedication, and very vulnerable. 

Because their way of dealing with relationships is always to avoid problems and avoid internal injuries, rather than truly being grateful for the existence of their partner, and sublimating the relationship into love through joint correction and maintenance by both parties. This hit me so hard. 

When dating this kind of person, I often encounter this kind of problem. What's even more frustrating is that if this relationship is fake and fragile, I won't be able to judge if there is not enough time to gradually reveal the truth.

Entitled people adopt these strategies in their relationships, as with everything, to help avoid accepting responsibility for their own problems. As a result, their relationships are fragile and fake, products of a voiding inner pain rather than embracing a genuine appreciation and adoration of their partner.

When it comes to relationships between the sexes, this paragraph mentions that if one person in a relationship cheats, is that person worthy of being trusted again? The author also used a subtle metaphor here, as if I didn't mention the original text. It means that the trust between two people is like a delicate white porcelain plate. 

After it is broken for the first time and falls into two halves, it may be glued together and it can continue to be used. But the next time it is broken, the plate will be broken into four pieces, because the crack that was broken last time will also break again.

The author said that whether trust can be rebuilt depends on the person's attitude towards admitting his mistakes. If the cheater always thinks that it was caused by external factors or happened by chance and avoids taking responsibility, then he will definitely do it again and he will definitely not be worthy of trust again. 

If the attitude is one of extreme regret, self-blame, apology and sadness for the other person, and self-examination and reflection, perhaps it can be forgiven. I think this paragraph is also the author's own personal transformation.

If cheaters can't express their shitty values, and show that those values have been overridden, then there's no reason to believe that they can be trusted. And if they can't be trusted, then the relationship is not going to get better or change.


The last chapter writes about the impact of a friend who unfortunately passed away when he was young. As a typical child from a middle-class family, he has been lazy since childhood, unwilling to take responsibility, socially anxious, lacking inner security, and has no strong religious connections or beliefs, and is even an atheist. . . 

Seeing this, I couldn't help but sigh, isn't this the template psychological routine of most children from white middle-class American families?

Then he said that this friend was his opposite, older, more confident, mature, and experienced, and would have a more open view of the world. So I always like to make friends with such people. When I got here, I was shocked to see it. 

The entitled children around me really like to make such friends, and even their dates are of this type. I dated a boy who was a few years younger than me before, and his evaluation of me was exactly the same as "this friend". . . Clothes.

In life, I had been a pretty typical middle-class stoner kid: lazy, irresponsible, socially anxious, and deeply insecure. Josh, in many ways, had been a person I looked up to. He was older, more confident, more experienced, and more accepting of and open to the world around him.


All in all, this book doesn't have much useful information. It was an unexpected gain for me after reading it, which finally allowed me to classify the Americans around me (which is also a large number). 

The inherent problems of entitlement, selfishness, and irresponsibility among children from middle-class families in the United States may not be solved for the time being. 

Although more and more parents from middle-class families are now aware that these kinds of living conditions are too sound, affluent, and have a carefree life since childhood (the biggest blow and setback in life is the divorce of parents), the negative impact it has on their children is This "natural" problem of needing to be treated favorably and pampered, and always thinking that one is superior to others and that the resources of the universe are at my disposal, parents also hope to use some methods to improve it. 

But growing up under various worldviews of "America First", "White Supremacy" and capitalist hegemony, it is very difficult for a family/child not to be affected by them.

The logic of the whole book is not clear enough, and it goes back and forth. In the book, the author points out the current common entitlement mentality problem among the American public and uses simple and straightforward language to give some suggestions for revising values and awakening self-awareness. 

In his own words, it's like peeling off the layers of an onion and finally seeing the true self. He doesn't know which layer of skin he has peeled off, and he suddenly starts crying. 

This book may be suitable for giving some chicken soup to the large number of Americans who are wasting their lives on alcohol, drugs, and PUA. However, there was no in-depth analysis or constructive suggestions that could influence more people. 

For example, this problem of superiority is also a problem of values. It is because the superior environment in which one grew up was too easy to grasp. There is a lack of frustration education and fighting spirit, and a lack of understanding of values. 

An understanding of the world beyond one's own country and compassion and empathy for others. To put it bluntly, these are also social problems in the United States.

After Reading Notes

After reading through this book, I think the author Mark Manson mainly has the following views: control emotions; have a good value system; take the initiative; do not be afraid of making mistakes, and correct mistakes promptly; You must have a sense of boundaries; don’t get entangled when things happen, and don’t hesitate to make choices; learn to say no; and live every day of your life well.

Compared with ordinary chicken soup articles, this book lacks many examples. The main emphasis is relatively weak, leaving no excuse for attack. He could write a false proposition debunking "poisonous chicken soup" on the title of the cover. 

The core of this book is to popularize a kind of value, but this value is not preset by the author, but chosen by the reader. This choice of values can be combined with society, life, and universal values, allowing people to judge what kind of values are suitable for their own life development.

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what is your choice? Putting aside the entanglement of interest relationships and emotional maintenance, only by pointing directly to the true heart can the confused people come out of the haze. 

The so-called values are to question your own heart and ask what your original intention is to do? Life itself is a process of making mistakes. Making mistakes is not terrible. What is terrible is not correcting mistakes. A life that constantly corrects mistakes is a life that moves toward perfection.

In addition to values, this book popularizes another aspect, "action." When facing things, you must first "do". Only by achieving a "zero" breakthrough will there be greater motivation and motivation to complete the task. 

In the process of doing this, you must reduce the impact of "privilege consciousness" and "overcompensation" on yourself. Heng Wen of the Eastern Jin Dynasty said, "If a man cannot be famous for centuries, he should be infamous for thousands of years!" This kind of mentality mainly refers to the "consciousness of privilege", either "breaking the jar and throwing it down", or "not making a sound, it is a blockbuster". 

In the process of such actions, those who are ignored are often the middle class and the most ordinary people. Therefore, these two mentalities are relatively selfish in general. As far as social development is concerned, the middle class is more in line with the mainstream of society and can be in tune with the universal values of society.

If a person wants to be happy, he must first keep a low profile and be an ordinary person, and then not get entangled when facing things, actively choose to face difficulties and contradictions, and spend his own efforts to solve such problems instead of pushing the problem to others. people. If a person wants to be happy, he must not care about other things that have nothing to do with himself. 

He must focus on one thing and know what is relevant to his own interests and what is meaningless. "If you are obsessed with exploring the meaning of happiness, you will not be able to obtain happiness."

For oneself, whether it is success or failure, one should affirm oneself. In many chicken soup articles, there are often more advantages and fewer disadvantages. People who truly face their own shortcomings will often realize more advantages. Because he changed his mistakes, people gradually moved towards perfection.

We can completely refuse some additional requests that have nothing to do with us. When we complete some requests that have nothing to do with us, we will have some anxiety and feel that we have wasted our precious time. 

Mencius once said, "You can't have it both ways." Only by giving up can you gain something. Only by refusing can you have a stand, distinguish between good and bad, and have persistence in values. 

As the saying goes, people with different paths cannot seek each other. Rejection again and again will bring us closer to people with the same values. Rejecting unnecessary people and things will help us gain the trust of people who have the same pursuit.

What is happiness? Happiness is living well every day. When I first listened to "Luo Ji Thinking", I really liked Luo Zhenyu's way of telling stories. 

The first time he talked about living toward death. If there was no death, nothing would matter. We value death, so we cherish every day we are alive to realize our dreams and realize our ideals. 

In the book "How Steel Was Tempered", Paul Korchagin said, "The most precious thing for people is life. Life belongs to people only once. 

A person's life should be spent like this: When he looks back on the past, They will regret being inactive and wasting their years, nor will they feel guilty for being despicable and living a mediocre life." 

The ancient historian Sima Qian also once said, "Everyone is destined to die, which may be lighter than a feather or heavier than Mount Tai." Only those who realize their own values and are worthy of their values are happy people.

So "how to live the way you want" to rebuild happiness? Naturally, you should set your goals low without breaking the bottom line, work hard towards your goals but always take action. Only in this way will happiness stay around us and anxiety will disappear from our side.

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