Reading Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” while traveling this week was an energizing experience. Manson brought to light the social trends of victimizing and entitlement, then he shoved them from said light and created a throughway to bowl them over at top speeds.
As someone who’s bought a lot of “self-help” (or “thinking” books, as my fiancé calls them) this year, (currently on my shelf: Tiffany Dufu’s “Drop the Ball”, Adam Grant’s “Originals”, and Travis Bradberry’s “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”), Manson’s was different – and I’m not just talking about the profanity-laced prose.
All the books above have a Tony Robbins-esque shine to them. They’re like TED talk speakers – shiny, with practiced words, tight prose, solid life lessons, and easy implementation strategies. Reading books like these help shape my twenty-something brain into creating a schedule and routine now that will continue to work for me well into my thirties and forties, and I legitimately believe that they carry worthy lessons and advice.
Yet Manson strikes you in the gut. He combines sociology, anthropology, and good old fashioned storytelling to edit your entire life philosophy. At the heart of the book, he argues that we care too much. We care too much about so many things, in part because of the lateral nature of the Internet and social media, and in part because of the sensationalist news that has come to be. No longer are somber men telling us what’s important every night at 6pm on the dot – no, instead, we’re held hostage by the black screen and white words telling us that graphic images are ahead, or the red text on a YouTube video stating “You won’t believe this!” Even in my own writing, I’ve seen a marked difference between posts titled “Use this One Word to Combat Difference” versus lists such as “Patience, Perseverance, Passion”.
As content makers, authors, strategists, marketers, and brand ambassadors, we chase numbers. We chase readers. We edit our content to suit their needs – with lists, bolded keywords, pictures and infographics, and pithy titles. Manson is arguing that instead of chasing numbers, we chase things we can control: our outlook, our philosophy, our way of doing business, our reputation, and our patience.
Two weeks ago, I was walking, and was completely bowled over. A man knocked me down at the metro stop on my way home, and I was shaken – I thought, “Is this what I get for being a small white girl dressed in business casual in a predominately black area?” “Is this what Trump’s America will be?” “Did he not see me?” Coming home that night, my fiancé told me I was overthinking. Reading Manson’s book solidified that thought. Could I control what happened? No. Could I control how I reacted? Yes. In the grand scheme of things, 20 years later, am I going to remember this? Probably not. Therefore, I pushed it from my mind and focused on other things.
Just like the myth of “busy” is killing us, so is caring too much, about too many things. I prioritize my time well; why can’t I prioritize my thoughts? Manson recommends thinking on key values and then whittling your time and priorities to reflect those.
I’m not touting Manson’s book as the next Bible or Qur’an; we shouldn’t be worshipping his words as the ultimate way to live a life. Yet his ideas do have merit – to really have that perfect, successful, well-adjusted life, you have to first define what success means to you. Then actually do something about it. Adjust and reflect often. Hold fast and tight to what serves you, and let go of what doesn’t.
So how will you actively and subtly give less f*cks?