I've been meaning to read this book for ages and finally got down to it. It is one of the better self-help books out there as it offers a blunt and tongue-in-cheek portrayal of how to lead a better life. Its blurb quite clearly captures the gist of the novel. "Manson makes the argument that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to better stomach lemons. Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. This, he says, is the real source of empowerment. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties - once we stop running from and avoiding, and start confronting painful truths - we can begin to find the courage and confidence we desperately seek. In life, we have a limited amount of fucks to give. So, you must choose your fucks wisely."
He serves up a lot of harsh truths and reality checks in an engaging and incisive (and often expletive-laden lol) manner. Below are many of (in my opinion) the most insightful posts from the book. Note that these quotes were taken directly from the book and are solely the rights and reproduction of Mark Manson, the author. I have marked many memorable quotes here clearly and will re-read them as I move through various stages of life.
CHAPTER 1: DON'T TRY
- The problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it's giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
- 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.
- Ever notice that sometimes when you care less about something, you do better at it? Notice how it's often the person who is the least invested in the success of something that actually ends up achieving it?
- What's interesting about the backwards law is that it's called "backwards" for a reason: not giving a fuck works in reverse. if pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive. The pain you pursue in the gym results in better all-around health and energy. The failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what's necessary to be successful. Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.
- There is a subtle art to not giving a fuck. What I'm talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and and prioritize your thoughts effectively - how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values. This is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one's life. It is perhaps the only struggle in one's life.
- You must give a fuck about something. Reserve your fucks for what truly matters.
- When you're young, everything is new and exciting, and everything seems to matter so much. Therefore, we give tons of fucks. As we get older, with the benefit of experience (and having seen so much time slip by), we begin to notice that most of these sorts of things have little lasting impact on our lives. Those people whose opinions we cared about so much before are no longer present in our lives. Rejections that were painful in the moment have actually worked out for the best. We realize how little attention people pay to the superficial details about us, and we choose not to obsess so much over them.
- Essentially, we become more selective about the fucks we're willing to give. This is something called maturity. It's nice; you should try it sometime. Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what's truly fuckworthy.
- Then, as we grow older and enter middle age, something else begins to change. Our energy level drops. Our identity solidifies. We know who we are and we accept ourselves, including some of the parts we aren't thrilled about. In a strange way, this is liberating. We no longer need to give a fuck about everything. Life is just what it is. We accept it, warts and all. This simplification actually makes us really fucking happy on a consistent basis.
- "Practical enlightenment" - the idea of not giving a fuck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not. Becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable - that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets and even death. Because once you become comfortable with all the shit that life throws at you (and it will throw a lot of shit, trust me), you become invincible in a sort of low-level spiritual way. After all, the only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.
- This book will turn your pain into a tool, your trauma into power, and your problems into slightly better problems. That is real progress. Think of it as a guide to suffering and how to do it better, more meaningfully, with more compassion and more humility. It's a book about moving lightly despite your heavy burdens, resting easier with your greatest fears, laughing at your fears as you cry them. not teach you how to gain or achieve, but rather how to lose and let go. It will teach you to take inventory of your life and scrub out all but the most important items. It will teach you to close your eyes and trust that you can fall backwards and still be okay. It will teach you to give fewer fucks. It will teach you to not try.
CHAPTER 2: HAPPINESS IS A PROBLEM
- The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear. Pain is our body's most effective means of spurring action.
- Pain is useful. Pain is what teaches us what to pay attention to when we're young or careless. It helps show us what's good for us versus what's bad for us. It helps us understand and adhere to our own limitations. Therefore, it's not always beneficial to avoid pain and seek pleasure, since pain can, at times, be life-or-death important to our well-being. In some cases, experiencing emotional or psychological pain can be healthy or necessary.
- The emotional pain of rejection or failure teaches us how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. And this is what's so dangerous about a society that coddles itself more and more from the inevitable discomforts of life: we lose the benefits of experiencing healthy doses of pain, a loss that disconnects us from the reality of the world around us.
- Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.
- Happiness comes from solving problems.
- To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it's an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you.
- Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
- Many people are taught to repress emotions for various personal, social or cultural reasons - particularly negative emotions. Sadly, to deny one's negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person solve problems. As a result, many of these repressed individuals struggle to deal with problems throughout their lives. And if they can't solve problems then they can't be happy. Remember, pain serves a purpose.
- A more interesting question is "What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?" Because happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems. Real, serious, lifelong fulfillment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and managing of our struggles.
CHAPTER 3: YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL
- 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. A person who actually has a self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly and then acts to improve upon them.
- The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they're exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they're obsessed with improvement. It's anti-entitlement. People who become great at something become great because they understand that they're not already great - they are mediocre, they are average - and that they could be so much better.
- You will have a growing appreciation for life's basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about. Maybe they're ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matters.
CHAPTER 4: THE VALUE OF SUFFERING
- Our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives. Values underlie everything we are and do. Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be. Most people are horrible at answering these why questions accurately, and this prevents them from achieving a deeper knowledge of their own values.
- Honest self-questioning is difficult. It requires asking yourself simple questions that are uncomfortable to answer. In fact, in my experience, the more uncomfortable the answer, the more likely it is to be true.
- Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.
- Values are about prioritization.
CHAPTER 5: YOU ARE ALWAYS CHOOSING
- 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.
- Whether we like it or not, we are always taking an active role in what's occurring to and within us. We are always interpreting the meaning of every moment and every occurrence. We are always choosing the values by which we live and the metrics by which we measure everything that happens to us. Often the same event can be good or bad, depending on the metric we choose to use.
CHAPTER 6: YOU'RE WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING (BUT SO AM I)
- Growth is an endless iterative process. We shouldn't seek to find the ultimate "right" answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways that we're wrong today so that we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.
- This openness to being wrong must exist for any real change or growth to take place.
- I say don't find yourself. I say never know who you are. Because that's what keeps you striving and discovering. And it forces you to remain humble in your judgments and accepting of the differences in others.
CHAPTER 7: FAILURE IS THE WAY FORWARD
- At some point, most of us reach a place where we're afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we're already good at. This confines us and stifles us. We can be truly successful only at something we're willing to fail at. If we're unwilling to fail, then we're unwilling to succeed.
- For many of us, our proudest achievements come in the face of the greatest adversity. Our pain often makes us stronger, more resilient, more grounded.
- Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments. It's only when we feel intense pain that we're willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us. We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we've been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course. Pain is part of the process. It's important to feel it.
- Learn to sustain the pain you've chosen. When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Relish it. Savor it. Welcome it with open arms. Then act despite it.
- Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes. Even when you're happy. Don't ever forget that. And don't ever be afraid of that.
- Most of us commit to action only if we feel a certain level of motivation. And we feel motivation only when we feel enough emotional inspiration.
CHAPTER 8: THE IMPORTANCE OF SAYING NO
- Absolute freedom, by itself, means nothing. Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one's life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief or (gulp) one person.
- Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves. This exposure to different cultural values and metrics then forces you to reexamine what seems obvious in your own life and to consider that perhaps it's not necessarily the best way to live.
- To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There's a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you've spent decades investing in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.
- Rejection is an important and crucial life skill.
- Commitment gives you freedom because you're no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy. Commitment makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out; knowing that what you already have is good enough, why would you ever stress about chasing more, more, more again? Commitment allows you to focus on a few highly important goals and achieve a greater degree of success than you otherwise would.
- In this way, the rejection of alternatives liberates us - rejection of what does not align with our most important values, with our chosen metrics, rejection of the constant pursuit of breadth without depth.
CHAPTER 9: ... AND THEN YOU DIE
- Death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: What is your legacy?
- How will the world be different and better when you're gone? What mark will you have made? What influence will you have caused? This is arguably the only truly important question in our life. Yet we avoid thinking about it. One, because it's hard. Two, because it's scary. Three, because we have no fucking clue what we're doing.
- Death is the only thing we can know with any certainty. And, as such, it must be the compass by which we orient all of our other values and decisions. It is the correct answer to all of the questions we should ask but never do. The only way to be comfortable with death is to understand and see yourself as something bigger than yourself; to choose values that stretch beyond serving yourself, that are simple and immediate and controllable and tolerant of the chaotic world around you.
- The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.