Summary: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k

[ NOTE: These book summaries are designed as captures for what I’ve read, and aren’t necessarily great standalone resources for those who have not read the book. Their purpose is to ensure that I capture what I learn from any given text, so as to avoid realizing years later that I have no idea what it was about or how I benefited from it. ]


  • Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience
  • They key to life is not not caring, it’s choosing what you care about and not giving a fuck about anything else
  • The desire for a positive experience is itself a negative experience
  • Pursuing things only reinforces that you lack it
  • The best thing you can do to be happy is accept your current experience of life as wonderful
  • “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” -Albert Camus
  • Everything good in life comes from overcoming a negative
  • If you embrace or even enjoy the pain associated with achieving your goals, you become unstoppable
  • The moments where you don’t give a fuck and take action are life-defining
  • Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck is not about being indifferent. It just means you’re comfortable with being different. Don’t say fuck it to everything in life, just to the unimportant things
  • Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first care about something more important than adversity
  • Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about. The key is to gradually prune the things you care about, so that you only give a fuck on the most important of occasions
  • Evolution taught us to be unhappy so that we’d always be striving. Whenever there is calm, the mind invents unhappiness
  • What most people — especially educated, pampered middle-class white people — consider “life problems” are really just side effects of not having anything more important to worry about
  • Finding something important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most productive use of your time and energy
  • There is no value in suffering when it is done without purpose
  • Don’t hope for a life without problems. Hope for a life with good problems
  • Problems never stop. They merely get exchanged or upgraded
  • Happiness is found in solving problems, not avoiding them
  • You can’t merely be in love with the result. Everybody loves the result. You have to love the process
  • Self-esteem, by itself, is overrated. It doesn’t help to feel good about yourself unless you have a good reason for feeling that way. The struggle makes self-esteem useful, not the participation trophy
  • Your problems are not privileged in their severity or pain. You are not unique in your suffering
  • Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience. The best of the best, worst of the worst, and most upsetting of the upsetting. We only see the most exceptional news stories because that’s what drives revenue. This is a real problem when it comes to comparison because you can only be exceptional in one thing thing and you’re going to be below average in nearly everything else. That makes comparison a very dangerous game to play
  • The more uncomfortable the answer, the more likely it is to be true
  • “Pleasure is a false god. Research shows that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed. Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose.”
  • People will often fight over who gets to be responsible for successful and happiness. But taking responsibility for our problems is far more important because that’s where real learning comes from
  • You have to own your own problems. It’s empowering.
  • Entitlement is where you feel you deserve happiness, and that others are failing if they’re not giving it to you
  • Certainty is the enemy of growth
  • Manson’s Law of Avoidance: The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it. The more something threatens how you view yourself, the more you will avoid getting around to doing it
  • Manson’s idea of “kill yourself” is similar to Paul Graham’s idea of “keep your identity small.” The central point is that if you don’t have an identity to protect, then change becomes much easier
  • “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle
  • If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself
  • Goals are limited in the amount of happiness they can provide in our lives because they are finite. Once you achieve the goal, it can no longer provide happiness because the finish line has been crossed. Paradoxically, then, by choosing processes as your focus, you can increase your overall, lifelong happiness by focusing on the process and not the goal. Processes never end, which means happiness can continue indefinitely
  • 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
  • The mark of an unhealthy relationship is when two people try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves
  • Investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, but pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to enjoy the rewards of depth of experience
  • Rejection of alternatives liberates us. In a strange way, commitment to one thing offers more freedom than anything else because it relieves you of all the second guessing about what else is out there
  • If there is no reason to do anything, if life is pointless, then there is also no reason to not do anything. What do you have to lose? You’re going to die anyway, so your fears and embarrassments and failures don’t mean anything. You might as well try
  • All of the meaning in our life is shaped by our innate desire to never truly die. Our physical bodies will die, but we cling to the idea that we can live on through religion, politics, sports, art, and technological innovation
  • The only way to be comfortable with death is to understand and see yourself as something bigger than yourself, to contribute to some much larger entity
  • It is the act of choosing your values and living by them that makes you great, not any outcome or accomplishment


  • There is still an inherent contradiction in working to make yourself better when self-improvement as a goal still means you’re chasing something
  • I am not sure what this does to one’s desire not to die. I think it merely shows that the focus should be on living on through helping others and being part of something bigger. And that if you’re merely focusing on saving your own actual identity then that’s probably a limited and selfish goal that will only lead to the problems described above


  • Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience.
  • 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.
  • 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. Seriously, I could keep going, but you get the point. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame

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