Book Talk: The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck (Mark Manson, 2016)

tsa-1I’m somebody who isn’t really that happy with their life and so – this admission out of the way – I’ve read a lot of self-help material and watched countless motivation and self-improvement videos on Youtube. Thing is, a good chunk of this stuff is, as it turns out, complete bullshit that doesn’t sink in at all. Even worse, a lot of it could be detrimental to our quests to improve. All of this advice that instructs you to be forcibly positive and happy 24/7 for example…it’s actually the opposite of what you should be doing.

Well, according to Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck that is. Avoiding the negativity in your life and plastering over it with forced affirmations and fake-it-until-you-make-it positivity is no good. Refusing to acknowledge problems means that you will never solve them and if you furiously focus on positives then all you are really doing is reinforcing the existence of the negatives. This is just a taste of the kind of insight this book offers.

In reality, Mark Manson’s advice is all stuff that we should already be aware of but we seem to have lost our way. Taking personal responsibility for everything in your life, the importance of being able to say “no” and how to decript the (potentially shitty) values that you are living by are just some of the over-arching themes that make up this book of real talk. It’s eye-opening stuff that seems so obvious and simple yet our consumer-driven culture obsessed with the ego, financial wealth and materialism has warped our sense of reality over time.

I’m not saying “buy this book and your life will be fixed” but all I CAN say is that this is the first self-improvement book that I burned through at a great pace then read again immediately. And you know what? I think I might even read it a third time. There are many lessons and pointers that you can take from the book and implement in your own life straight away but The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck has resonated with me so much that I feel like ramming it into my mind.

I’ve learned that I probably complain too much and that I also blame others and past events for my problems. I’ve learned that I need to take personal responsibility for 100% of my life. I’ve taken away new ways of thinking and looking at life.

As I said, all seemingly obvious stuff but until reading this book, I wasn’t fully aware of how much I was doing wrong in life. I’m not here to make such cliched statements as “It changed my life” but I do feel as if I have been given a kick up the arse and a bit of a jump-start. I cannot say the same for 99% of other books or videos that I have tried.

The book is very easy to read too as it comes across as more casual and direct-talking versus other alternatives which can sometimes be a bit too stuffy and loaded with psychology-speak. I would even go as far as to say that it is an enjoyable read in general regardless of whether or not you are looking to get anything out of the experience. If you are like me though and want to improve yourself and figure out where you might be going wrong then I would heartily recommend putting the other stuff on hold and giving The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck a shot.

Take Some Responsibility

Taking personal responsibility: it’s a normal act that appears to have become a black art; a taboo even. We live in a toxic blame culture where everything is always somebody else’s fault and some people believe it is acceptable to sue a coffee vendor because they weren’t warned that their beverage would be…y’know, hot. Insert a Captain Picard facepalm meme here if you feel like it because it certainly fits.

It’s about time that we – as a society – learnt to hold our hands up, admit when we fucked something up and take some responsibility. Take responsibility for the state of your life. Take responsibility for your feelings. Take responsibility for your errors. Take responsibility for that sprog you brought into the world after choosing to play a game of Hide The Penis.

At this point, some of you may be dying to ask, “but why should I take responsibility for shit that wasn’t my fault?”. Recently I have been reading Mark Manson’s excellent book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, and he makes some fantastic points about taking responsibility. What leapt out at me the most was learning to differentiate between “Responsibility” and “Fault” and realising that you must still take responsibility in some way even if a negative or unplanned event wasn’t your fault.

Blame-1

Events beyond your control may have caused set-backs, pain or heartache in your life but you are still ultimately responsible for responding and processing the resulting feelings while pushing on with your life. Somebody may have wronged you in some way but even if was their fault, you are responsible for how you let it affect your life going forward and whether or not you decide to dwell on negativity and anger. For a more obvious example, it may be the fault of Durex that a rubber was faulty and you accidentally became a father but you better believe that you were responsible the moment you decided to explore the interior of your lady-friend’s knickers.

That last example concerns a pretty big life-changing event and I used it because it’s actually the smaller, seemingly less significant events that people have greater trouble accepting responsibility for. The problem is that blaming somebody/something else is simply the easy way out and it feels good to absolve ourselves of fault…for a short time at least. Blaming others is a quick and easy high but one of the keys to long-term life satisfaction is learning to take responsibility for feelings, situations and events even if somebody or something else was originally at fault. Remember: you must separate “Responsibility” and “Fault”.

And as much as I may be coming across as preachy as fuck here, I’ve been just as guilty as everybody else when it comes to hurling the blame around and running from responsibility. That’s why I have been taking the advice from Mark Manson’s book onboard and trying harder to take greater responsibility for my life. For example, if somebody pisses me off then I have been accepting that it’s my responsibility not to allow that person/event to keep me down and make me feel like shit for any longer than necessary.

It’s my responsibility to go out and find more money rather than moaning about not having enough to do activity X or afford product Y. It’s my responsibility to learn from mistakes and not repeat them. It’s my responsibility to stop eating junk food and chain-drinking energy drinks if I know I’m going to feel like death later on. If I want greater success with women and dating then it’s my responsibility to up my game. I can decide to NOT do any of these things but then I don’t have the right to moan about the consequences down the line. The only person I will be accountable to is myself and no matter what bravado and bullshit I decide to project, I will KNOW the real deal and that’s what counts.

respons-1

Sure, there have been external factors at work throughout my life thus far that have set me back or contributed to things not turning out the way I would have preferred (I could write a list of the damn things) but that’s where I need to separate the Fault from the responsibility to myself. Of course, there are also those times when a poor decision, mistake or collossal fuck-up HAS been my fault but the end result is the same regardless of whether the bad shit is internal or external in origin. It’s my life and I have to take responsibility.

It is difficult, I will grant that. We have been raised in a blame culture where protecting one’s ego and image trumps admitting to your shortcomings and taking responsibility for doing better next time or making amends where necessary. Switch on the TV and you will see politicians and people in authority blaming others for shit that has gone wrong. Look around you in your own life and you will see countless people jumping to blame others or announce their complete exemption from any responsibility-taking when some seriously smelly shit hits the turbo-charged fan. It’s no wonder that several generations have lost their way in this sense.

Bottom line: take fucking responsibility for your life and everything within.