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.

Unrequited Attraction: A Necessary Suffering

Here on Unfiltered Opinion, I’m not shy about dropping F-bombs or broadcasting my blunt assessments of news events and life. As such, it may seem that I have a harsh or unforgiving nature but I’m here today to make a somewhat contradictory confession to lead us into the topic that I want to discuss today. That admission is that I am a bit of a sappy romantic when it comes to love. I can’t get enough of things like chivalry, legends of heroic knights saving the day for their lady and all that crap. This has led me into trouble on several occasions because I have found myself hopelessly giddy for certain girls/women in the past and gone in WAY too deep with my heart while neglecting my mind and reason.

Before I go any further however, I feel that it’s important to point out that I do also believe that none of this should be applied to real world romance. Yes, there are exceptions amongst the fairer sex that will be receptive to some good old-fashioned chivalry but on the whole, the White Knight persona is bad news and should be discarded immediately if a man wishes to push a woman’s biological buttons and rev her up. I’m not saying that you should be an arsehole instead or that you shouldn’t hold doors open or buy a girl flowers but there’s a fine line between being a gentleman and just being a mug.

As I said, I have been down the path of getting too swept away by an initial attraction and this post is about coming out on the other side and being better off for some emotional suffering and hard but entirely necessary life lessons. As I also said, I still love all of that romantic shit but my head is screwed on tightly these days and I don’t intend to be so gung-ho about the flowery stuff going forward.  This is me relating (loosely to smudge over any sensitive or personal information) my most recent folly and the important lessons that I learned.

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[Image: Pinterest]
This happened a few years back now. The lady in question was somebody I met through work and it was a completely unexpected encounter that knocked me for six. Have you ever bumped into somebody for the first time and thought “wow” then been unable to stop thinking about them? Well, that’s what happened here and it didn’t take me long to think “fuck it” and go for it. I got knocked back and was fine with that at first because I was just glad that I at least knew I’d chanced my arm but still, she wouldn’t leave my head and with having to see her frequently, the attraction refused to wane.

This went on for about a year with me in full-on fool mode, telling myself that I had no chance but not believing the truth that I was attempting to convince myself of. I couldn’t get her out of my head and I got into quite a bad place where I ultimately ended up wishing I’d never met her or that she’d just leave me alone. It was a bit of a mini episode that I look back on now and feel embarassed about in all honesty. I obviously wasn’t in full command of my rationale and I still kick myself for having let it happen after going through a couple of similar albeit less dramatic scenarios in the past when I was even younger. It was self-inflicted torture and a subconscious refusal to just accept the situation and let go.

I was angry that I’d allowed this to happen but looking back on it now, I can see how this lady got under my skin. I met her at the tail end of a year where I’d been fighting depression and had some pretty nasty thoughts about wanting to just give up and not carry on. I was tired and had had enough so my state of mind must have been quite fragile at this point and my emotional guard very low. I do remember feeling that I’d had more than enough shit and that I felt like I deserved to pursue something positive. Ironically it turned out to be a massive neg in the end but that stressful experience became a life lesson – I can see that now in hindsight.

For you see, we all want to be that person who doesn’t have to deal with remembering the one that got away and nobody wants to feel like they lost out but the truth is that most of us WILL encounter unrequited attraction or love at some point. Perhaps you are desperate for somebody who is already spoken for or maybe you think the world of somebody who simply doesn’t view you as anything more than friends. These things happen. They hurt and they suck giant balls but it’s a form of suffering that needs to be endured and come to terms with because important lessons rise from the ashes of these unfortunate situations.

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[Image: weheartit.com]
In my case, the biggest take-away was learning (as I should have done years ago to be fair) not to get too invested or set on somebody and simply be much calmer about it all. So far, my new attitude towards attraction has been working pretty well and when I’ve not managed to get anywhere with somebody I’ve taken a liking to (for whatever reason) then I’ve simply thought “well that was a bit shit wasn’t it?” and moved on. Yes, I DO want somebody but I’m not desperate to force a situation and escaping being single is no longer a do-or-die mission in my head. It’s not “giving up”; it’s about having greater self-respect for myself and not ignoring oppurtunities but also not allowing them to rapidly evolve into the be all and end all.

For the majority of people, this is all pretty self-explanatory or just common, subconscious “normal” behaviour anyway so you will be probably be reading this and thinking “what the fuck is this twunt banging on about?” but some of us are just wired differently or affected by our past experiences and relationships. In my case, I’ve had to learn to alter my attitude and philosophy after that particular emotional slog and while I feel that I might be “behind” in terms of society, I am glad of the emotional suffering because I learnt from it.

This brings me to the final thing I want to touch on in this post and that is about how it seems that millenials and younger people in general today appear to be determined to actively avoid this suffering and rejection. I don’t wish to tar all teenagers and those in their very early twenties with the same brush but I have seen a lot of avoidance and complete inability to cope with rejection on social media. Rather than seeing the eventual value in suffering and moving on, it seems more popular to congregate in Facebook and Twitter’s echo chambers and feed off of others’ negative emotions while contributing their own to the big mixing bowl of depression. The extreme posts I have seen such as people making suicidal statements because they were dumped or acting as if they are the only ones to ever be rejected in the history of humanity are something else. I also learned of “ghosting” and to be completely frank, that is such a heap of pathetic bullshit that should never have been given a name let alone existence as an actual concept.

It can’t be healthy for society in general if people are growing up with this entitled attitude and believing it is better for them to indulge in each other’s misery rather than growing as human beings. Perhaps it is hypocritical of myself to make these observations after taking (in my humble opinion) far too long to learn some of my own lessons but it’s another of those instances that makes me question the negative reprocussions of social media being so tightly intertwined with the lives of the younger generation.

New Year’s Resolutions are Bullshit

It’s been a while since I last posted but believe me when I say that I have a pre-planned list of topics jotted down that I intend to get around to over the coming weeks. Before I continue however, I want to say that I hope you all had a great Christmas. Unfortunately though, I’m here to lower the tone and drop a huge steaming turd on the head of the next annual ritual: New Year’s Resolutions.

They are complete bullshit for the simple reason that 95% of adopters (a figure I admittedly pulled from thin air rather than obtaining through painstaking research) have already set themselves up to fail at the same time they forged their resolutions. The simple reason for this is that they can’t be serious enough about changing if they can’t commit to making that change right there and then as opposed to waiting for January 1st to land.

It’s the same mindset as vowing to lay off alcohol after “just one more drink”, resolving to eat healthier (but only after one last, final blowout McDonalds) or promising to kick a porn addiction…but not until you’ve said farewell by watching one last compilation of hardcore deepthroat. Thing is, this “one for the road” mentality doesn’t speak of determination or true resolve. It is the sufferer still enslaved to their vice(s) and bound by invisible shackles to whatever the poison in question is. It is the the act of seeking a quick high by promising to change tomorrow and feeling good about yourself in the process while also getting one ‘last’ hit of the good bad stuff. For these people, it is always tomorrow…or the day after, or next week even. As long as it isn’t now. This is a lifestyle of never getting anything important or big done and constantly running/hiding from personal problems or demons. ‘Saving’ a problem to be the target of a New Year’s Resolution is simply an excuse; a way to avoid confronting it until the last possible moment. If you can’t face up to it now then where is the magical strength of the New Year gods going to suddenly come from on January 1st?

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[image from realbuzz.com]
The fact is, if you are actually serious about making a change and setting a resolution or two (or three) then you will stop right now and make that change. Waiting or delaying for whatever reason only proves that you aren’t mentally committed and that includes waiting around for that mysical date of 01/01.

It is important to remind ourselves that the concepts of time, dates and calendars are human creations designed by us as a species to complement Order and act as a form of measurement. This is all quite necessary BUT the flow of time is constant and so in reality there is absolutely no change between December 31st and January 1st other than some numbers that we attach to these days in order to understand where the fuck we currently are relative to the past and future. Strip all of this away and the daftness of waiting until January 1st 2019 to make a (potentially crucial) change in our lives is painfully stark. It is simply another day and to view it as special for any reason is pointless in reality. The act of making a New Year’s Resolution is purely symbolic and the problem with symbolism is that it doesn’t count for fuck all on an individual, personal level unless there is a genuinely impactful and powerful life-changing event behind it.

So no, I won’t be making any resolutions this year. Don’t get me wrong though: despite what I’ve just bashed out on the keyboard in this post in true preacher style, I have a HEAP of faults, flaws and life elements that I need to fix or improve. I eat too much crap, waste too much time on the internet, don’t put enough effort into my love life, watch too much porn, work an unstimulating job with non-ideal pay…the list could continue on into a thick notebook to be honest and it is the same for all of us. The point is that these are all things that I can constantly work on now and take personal responsibility for. Thinking that I will find sudden success by re-wording my problems into resolutions for 2019 is simply foolish.

New Year’s Resolutions also seem to take the form of cold turkey self-imposed bans on doing specific things and this too is a road to failure. After all, you crave what you aren’t allowed that much more and with nobody but yourself to be accountable to, a slip-up is inevitable. Problems have to be tackled one at a time and with an analytical approach that targets the roots, just like any good weed killer chemical.

I plan to discuss some of my own problems and how I am working on tackling them in upcoming posts. Maybe it will be useful for somebody else to read and I will no doubt learn much myself purely by putting my thoughts into words. One thing I AM clear on though is that New Year’s Resolutions are not the way to go about it.

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.

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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.

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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.