Just Do It
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life (2016) 8 out of 10: Mark Manson’s best-selling self-help book approaches the self-help industry with a cudgel and profanity. Does he succeed in carving out his own space and imparting some wisdom? After some stumbles, the answer is an unqualified yes.
The Good: There is a lot of good in Mark Manson’s book. It just takes a while to appear. Let us start with the home run. The if you only read one chapter, this is the one to read. Chapter Seven The Do Something principle.
I have seen this elsewhere since Mark’s book came out, but I don’t think I have ever seen it so well put together. Doing action creates motivation just as motivation creates action. And guess which one you are in complete control over at all times. Did he originate the idea? No. But he puts it out there in a very convincing way. It is a game changer for people stuck in thier lives (And we all are on occasion). It is reason enough to recommend this book.
There are other reasons to recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Marc seems to embrace many Stoic principles (Marc has since claimed he was basically unfamiliar with Stoicism and the principles in his book are related to embracing of Buddhist and existentialism teachings. I am less than totally convinced of this.) In fact, if you can ignore the issues raised below under Bad and Ugly, this is an excellent book for anyone struggling or starting out on a journey to find a path.
The Bad: If someone came to me and stated that they read the first chapter of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and put it down as bro nonsense, I would not judge. It is a perfectly reasonable response. The titular piece of advice that we do better at things we don’t give a fuck about is perfectly awful.
Can I recall a time where I didn’t care about something and yet had a very positive outcome. Of course. One of the reasons such events stick out is that they are outliers. A surprise if you will. Hitting a hole in one while goofing around on the golf course kind of event. If you decide to embrace such a strategy to conquer the world, you are in for a world of hurt and disappointment. The reality is the things we work at are often the same things that we have positive outcomes with because of that hard work and are underlying skill developed by doing. There are no shortcuts and this is the hackiest of shortcuts.
Marc wrote a book about being a pickup artist (Models: Attract Women Through Honesty) and this sounds exactly like the left over advice from such a task. Pretending not to care might work when picking up a model at a bar. (In reality, it kind of does) but it really isn’t something that can translate to everyday activities.
The Ugly: Marie Kondo’s Jinsei ga Tokimeku Katazuke no Mahō (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) is a brilliant book with a fantastic central idea. It is also filled with seemingly endless stories of how Marie tortured her family as a young obsessive compulsive throwing out thier possessions.
I guess you got to fill a book up, so let’s talk about ourselves. While Marc does that Ryan Holiday thing on occasion of taking a relatively obscure historical figure to illustrate his point. (And to Marc’s extreme credit, they are well chosen and well written.) Like Marie, however, he can’t help himself. So we get a lot of the Marc Manson story.
So if you are interested in how Marc, a poor rich child, quit his job to start a blog and bed gorgeous woman in 85 different countries, you are in luck. If you find his stories the most insufferable and tone deaf boasting this side of Trump talking about crowd size, well, you are not in for a treat.
He sounds just like a guy who would write a book on how to pick up models through “honesty”. Which, to be fair, is what he is.
In Conclusion: Marc Manson has gotten better since 2016 when he wrote this wildly successful book. (Like Marie Kondo, it spawned dozens of mostly horrible imitators). His attacks on the self-help movement are well thought out and his advice is often grounded. He also has curbed the tendency to talk about himself too much.
There are actually quite a few good things in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. the last two-thirds of the book are excellent if you can skip over the when I was a teenager/college student/ James Bond stories from Marc. I will find myself reading the chapter on action and motivation often. It is always good for a refresher when I am stuck.