The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

1. Don't Try

  • "I have one of two choices - stay in the post office and go crazy... or stay out here and starve. I have decided to starve."
  • On Bukowski's tombstone it reads "don't try".
  • Modern culture is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envided and more admired.
  • There is a saying in Texas, "The smallest dog barks the loudest." A confident man doesn't feel a need to prove that he is confident.
  • The key to a good life isn't giving more fucks. It is about giving less. Giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.

Feedback loop from hell

  • We joke about "first world problems", but our crisis is no longer materialistic. It is existential, it is spiritual.
  • The desire for more positive experiences is in itself negative.
  • The more satisfied you want to be, the less satisfied you become. Alan Watts referred to this as the "backwards law".
  • "You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live your life if you are looking for the meaning of life." - Albert Camus.
  • Everything worthwhile in life is won by surmounting the associated negative experience.
  • The avoidance of suffering is suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is a form of shame.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

  1. Not giving a fuck doesn't mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
  2. To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
  3. Whether you realise it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
  • Say fuck it to the things that don't matter and use your small reserve of fucks for the things that you do care about.
  • When someone has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some. "Life problems" are really just a side effect of not havin anything more important to worry about.
  • Remember sometimes when you're feeling the brunt of something, "That's what you get for giving a fuck about something when it wasn't your turn to give a fuck."

2. Happiness is a problem

  • Life itself is a form of suffering. The rich suffer due to riches. The poor suffer due to povery. People without a family suffer because they have no family. People with family suffer because they have family. People who seek wordly pleasures suffer for this, and those who do not suffer from a lack of.
  • Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them.
  • Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature, and very necessary to creating consistent happiness.

The Misadventures of Disappointment Panda

  • "Don't hope for a life without problems. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems."

Happiness Comes From Solving Problems

  • Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.
  • True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
  • No one who is truly happy needs to stand in front of a mirror and tell themselves that they are happy.

Emotions Are Overrated

  • Emotions evolved to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That's it. Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.
  • An obsession and over-investment in emotion fails us for the simple reason that emotions never last.
  • A fixation on happiness will inevitably amount to a never-ending pursuit of "something else".
  • A difficult pillow to swallow is the realisation that there is no ultimate happiness to be attained.

Choose Your Struggle

  • Every enjoys what feels good. Everybody wants the Red Sea to part when they walk into a room. Everybody wants that.
  • Real happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems.
  • The solution to things such as anxiety, loneliness etc is acceptance and active engagement of that negative experience.
  • You don't attract someone amazing without appreciating the emotional turbulence that comes with weathering rejections, building the sexual tension that never gets released and staring blankly at a phone that never rings. All part of the game of love. You can't win if you don't play.
  • Despite fantasising over things for a massive amount of lifetime, the reality never came to fruition. It can take time before you realise that you never really wanted it.

3. You Are Not Special

Things Fall Apart

  • When real traumatic events happen in our lives, we subconsciously feel as though we have problems that we're incapable of ever solving. This inability to solve our problems causes us to feel miserable and helpless.
  • Construing everything in life as to make yourself out to be constantly victimized requires just as much selfishness as the opposite.

The Tyranny of Exceptionalism

  • We can say that it is a statistical improbability that any single person will be extraordinary in all areas of life.
  • All day we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop.

4. The Value of Suffering

The Self-Awareness Onion

  • We all have emotional blind spots. It takes years of practise and effort to get good at identifying blind spots in ourselves and then expressing the affected emotions appropriately. The task is hugely important and worth the risk.
  • Continually ask yourself why to slice back the onion.

Rock Star Problems

  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.

Shitty Values

  • Pleasure is great, but a horrible value to prioritize your life around.
  • In the long run, completing a marathon makes us happier than eating a cake. Raising a child makes us happier than beating a video game. These activities ar stressful, arduous and often unpleasant. Yet they are some of the most meaningful and joyous things we'll ever do.

Defining Good and Bad Values

  • Good, healthy values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiousity, charity, humility, creativity.

5. You Are Always Choosing

The Choice

  • We don't always control what happens to us. We can always control how to interpret what happens to us and how we respond. It's your responsibility to interpret events and choose a response.

The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy

  • People hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible is also to be at fault.

Genetics and the Hand We're Dealt

  • If you were to round up people who had dealt with a disorder, struggled with depression, had suicidal thoughts, had been subject to neglect or abuse etc into a room, you would have to round everyone up. Nobody makes it through life without collecting a few scars.

6. You're Wrong About Everything

  • They're told their afraid of failure, rejection etc but that's not. It's an unwillingness to confront their own desirability, their own self-worth.

Be Careful What You Believe

  • If we're wrong, all the time, then isn't self-skepticism and the rigorous challenging of our own beliefs and assumptions the only logical route to progress.

The Dangers of Pure Certainty

  • Example: the behaviour of checking your partner's messages. There may be nothing, but you continue to then question why they have a second phone. This is insecurity and an aching desire to be certain.

Manson's Law of Avoidance

  • The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.
  • The party guy who wants to settle down but never does. To give that up would be like committing psychological harakiri to them.

Kill Yourself

  • Don't be special; don't be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Also not as some horrible victim or dismal failure.
  • Give up the sense of entitlement and the belief that you're somehow owed something by this world.

How to be a Little Less Certain of Yourself

  • What causes the bigger problem? Being right or wrong? This is the litmus test on determining if you have solid values.

7. Failure Is The Way Forward

The Failure/Success Paradox

  • Picasso and the napkin. Charging 20k for a napkin because it didn't take 20 minutes to draw. It took sixty years.
  • Don't let your metric for value be "success by worldly standards". You need goals that offer continual opportunities to keep growing and improving.

Pain is Part of the Process

  • Dabrowski studying the survivors found that a sizable percentage were convinced the painful and traumatic experiences made them better people.
  • He also argued that anxiety and sadness are not necessarily always undesirable or unhelpful states of mind. Just as one must suffer physical pain to grow stronger, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience.
  • Risking intense embarrassment and rejection feels far more complicated.

The "Do Something" Principle

  • Don't just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
  • Action isn't just the effect of motivation, it's also the cause of it.
  • If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life - do something to harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.

8. The Importance of Saying No

  • The bluntness of Russian culture. Gone are the fake niceties and verbal webs of politeness. You don't smile at strangers or pretend to like anything you don't.

Rejection Makes Your Life Better

  • As an extension of our positivity/consumer culture, many of us have been "indoctrinated" with the belief that we should try to be as inherently accepting affirmative as possible.
  • If we don't reject anything, we stand for nothing.
  • The avoidance of rejection is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better.


  • For most of human history, "romantic love" was never celebrated as much as it is now.
  • In relationships, people generally fall into one of two traps:
    • They expect other people to take responsibility for the problems.
    • They take on too much responsibility for the problems of others.
  • Entitled people who take the blame for other people's emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they "fix" their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they've always wanted.
  • The pattern of overblaming and overaccepting blame perpetuates the entitlement and shitty self-worth.
  • People can find it difficult to recognise the difference btween doing something out of obligation and doing it voluntarity. The litmus test: "If I refused, how would our relationship change?"
  • People with strong boundaries understand it is unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 percent and fulfill every need the other has. People with strong boundaries understand that they may hurt someone's feelings.

9. ...And Then You Die

Something Beyond Ourselves

  • All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die.

The Sunny Side of Death

  • Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life. This leaves the most important and painful question: What is your legacy?
  • People, high on a sense of false superiority, fall into inaction and lethargy for fear of trying something worthwhile and failing at it.
  • People declare themselves as experts, entrepreneurs, innovators, mavericks and coaches without any real-life experience.
  • "We're all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by life's trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing."