There are plenty of self-help books out there, this one sets itself apart with a unique voice and advice which strikes home more often than not. I picked this book up without reading the reviews (something I very rarely do) because of its intriguing title. It’s a clever book written with a no frills crude language which talks about the important values to lead a good life.
Have you ever been bothered by something as trivial as a friend’s social media post or something someone you barely know said about you or by the rude attendant at the grocery store? Most of us have been there. If you have, you need to give this book a read. This painfully honest book points out values which have been hiding in plain sight. Now here’s how life is counterintuitive at times, there are times when you do something and don’t really think too much about it but you go on to excel at it. I’ve seen this happen in my life too.
As human beings, we naturally seek happiness. At the core of everything we do is the desire to be happy. But in this quest for happiness we have convinced ourselves that things have to be a certain way. Why? Maybe because we think that society won’t accept us if we’re different or because we’re scared of what the random person on the subway who affects our life in no way will think. Mark says that when we start being bothered by things like this is when we lose sight of what is truly valuable in life.
Now instead of worrying and overthinking about the things which don’t matter, if we only cared about those moments or situations in life which truly made a difference then our life would be a whole lot easier and relaxed. But as all good things in life, its hard to achieve a state where we only care about those things which are absolutely necessary because we are not born that way. This is where Mark’s three subtleties show how we can do that . Don’t judge them by the language used.
SUBTLETY #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
SUBTLETY #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
SUBTLETY #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
Because the book starts off with a lot of emphasis about not giving a fuck, it clears up any misunderstanding which might have arisen about what not giving a fuck actually means. It does not mean you are indifferent and don’t care about anything and become a couch potato. It means you choose your struggles/problems wisely. Mark says that “Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another,” so it makes sense when he tells that life sucks for those who constantly try to get away from problems. So instead of asking “how can I get rid of my problems?” the question you should be asking is, “What are the problems that excite me? What are the problems for which I am willing to sacrifice for, to work for?”. He mentions that instead of trying to achieve a perfect and problem-free-forever-happy life, stop and think for a while about what problems you would enjoy, because after all “In order to be happy we need something to solve.”
Bonus points to this book for having a Panda which does the most useful and helpful thing for a person (Who says pandas are lazy and just sleep around?). The panda is called the Disappointment Panda and its job is to go around telling things which no one wants to but need to hear like,
“Don’t hope for a life without problems,” the panda said. “There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems.”
Another major take away for me was when Mark notes , “The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.” This is the result of the extremely commercial world which we live in. This got me thinking about how I view self-improvement. We are constantly craving for more and something which is better than what we have, which is good but also not so good after all. We need to enjoy the present every now and then.
These were some of my major learnings from this book. And, if you pick up this book, which I highly recommend you do, you’ll not find it to be like the puffy feel good everything is amazing kind of self help book but on finishing it you’ll have actually learnt something and will find yourself feeling inspired and grounded and filled with promise.⭐️
Whatever makes us happy today will no longer make us happy tomorrow, because our biology always needs something more.
I leave you with a few highlights from the book which I found inspiring or interesting or just well written.
💬On self-improvement and choosing your problems:
“Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.”
“We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. What is wrong with me?”
“Look, this is how it works. You’re going to die one day. I know that’s kind of obvious, but I just wanted to remind you in case you’d forgotten. You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you’re going to get fucked.”
“…when a person has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some.”
“This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.”
“Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems.”
“The first layer of the self-awareness onion is a simple understanding of one’s emotions. “This is when I feel happy.” “This makes me feel sad.” “This gives me hope.””
“The second layer of the self-awareness onion is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions.”
“Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.”
“The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.”
“The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies—that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.””
“Pleasure is a false god. Research shows that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed.”
“As Freud once said, “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.””
“Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating. Some of the best and most gratifying experiences of our lives are also the most distracting and demotivating.”
“Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems—problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.”
💬On choices you make in life:
“…when you chose it freely and prepared for it, it was a glorious and important milestone in your life. When it was forced upon you against your will, it was one of the most terrifying and painful experiences of your life.”
“This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.”
“We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.”
“To not give a fuck about anything is still to give a fuck about something.”
“An overbearing mother may take responsibility for every problem in her children’s lives. Her own entitlement then encourages an entitlement in her children, as they grow up to believe other people should always be responsible for their problems. (This is why the problems in your romantic relationships always eerily resemble the problems in your parents’ relationship.)”
“The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.”
“The setting of proper boundaries doesn’t mean you can’t help or support your partner or be helped and supported yourself. You both should support each other. But only because you choose to support and be supported. Not because you feel obligated or entitled.”
“Bukowski once wrote, “We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.””
Thanks for reading!