It's also the release of Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.
Before we dig in, Mark Manson is an outrageously successful personal development writer who offers counterintuitive-sounding advice that’s wise and authentic. It’s also, obviously, more curse-laden than other sources.
In a gambling mood today, I’m taking an extreme liberty: issuing a few hypotheses about ideas he covers. It all started last week, when he posted a photo of the table of contents on Facebook:
As soon as I read it, three lines caught my eye, so, book unread, I’m doing some armchair/IKEA desk chair philosophizing about his messages in these sections.
First, we have chapter two, Happiness is a Problem, section Happiness Comes From Solving Problems. There’s a myth in our culture that happiness is a state of having nothing to do. It’s lying on a tropical beach sipping piña coladas until dusk. But eventually, inevitably, the “accomplishment” of polishing off frozen drinks…melts.
Wait! You cry from your island hammock. My brain says no! Of course it does. Because logically, the typical definition of happiness should pan out. If having stuff we don’t want on our plate makes us unhappy, the elimination of those things yields happiness. Simple.
But long-term satisfaction doesn’t jive with amount of alcohol consumed. You can only drink so much before what made you happy makes you very sad, indeed.
Plus, how do you plan to only remove the gross parts of life? Is it like picking feta out of Greek salad? Because let me tell you, that’s slimy and laborious work, doomed to fail.
However. There is an alternative. What if the opposite of dealing with crap is dealing differently with said crap? If it’s finding satisfaction in reaching the bottom of the crisis and dispatching solutions. Of realizing, before you order, Greek salad’s not for me. I’ll take Caesar instead.
Best of all, if you can successfully commit to this happiness-is-solving-problems definition, then you’re guaranteed a happy life. Because problems are everywhere! So you’ll always have a job. It’s like being a plumber.
Moving on, we have diplomatic chapter six, called You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I). When I read section Architects of Our Own Beliefs, I might’ve said, “yes” out loud. We are totally the builders of our thoughts.
And architecture’s an excellent metaphor. Brick by brick we build our lives from the foundation. Some of us revisit the bedrock, reconfiguring, reinforcing or removing. Some never bother. For many it’s a combination of both. Then we decorate and embellish to convey our personal style—this is the symbolism that keeps on giving. I’m curious how he’ll use it. The idea also reminds me of the Erich Heller quote: “Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.” Build wisely.
The third and final line that caught my eye was chapter eight, The Importance of Saying No. Since Mark’s a dude, saying no is not novel, earth shattering, or panic inducing. Instead, it’s assumed, a fact of life. He starts from a place of “obviously you’ll say it, so here’s why it’s crucial.”
I love that.
Because if the average woman wrote this book, we’d have, chapter eight: You’re Allowed to Say No, with sections:
- Really, You Are
- Yes, I promise
- Stop hyperventilating
- You’re Going to be Fine
- Eventually People Will Get Over It
When a single passage, called Instead of Worrying Everyone Will “Hate” You for Refusing Them, Worry About Why You Care, would suffice.
Thankfully, we get to breeze past that insanity to Rejection Makes Your Life Better. Yes it does. Even if it can also, simultaneously, suck. Remember that a miserable answer is still an answer. True, it’s an answer named, “at least I know,” which is a dumb name, but a tremendously clarifying one!
Because you know what makes life unbearable? Silence. Not the companionable kind. I mean lack of communication. We’re talking Cold War levels of hush covering up avoidance, denial, and resentment. You can’t act on information you don’t have. So round up the intelligence, no matter how unpleasant.
And now order the book.
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