Your road to self-empowerment

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck – Book Review

The backward law

In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, one of the first things Manson dives into is the permanent human need for MORE. our constant desire to keep getting more, keep being better and changing where we are now. “if I get this car, then I will be happy”, “if I get this promotion, then I will feel good” or “I need to married, only then I will be succesful”. Manson notes that it is this desire for bigger and better that is causing us to be miserable in the first place, because the more we want something else than what we have or feel now, the more we reinforce that right now is not good enough. This is what is called the backward law in the book.

“The more we want something else than what we have or feel now, the more we reinforce that right now is not good enough.”

And if God forbid we ever manage to fail to reach one of our goals, we have a tendency to get stuck in a “feedback loop from hell”: we worry about not reaching our goal, and then we worry about worrying about not reaching our goal. Because – reflective creatures that we are – we believe we’re not supposed to be worrying. We think worrying is bad. So when it occurs, we worry about it occuring, too. Logical creatures we are. So what does Manson say to this?

“Don’t try”.

Let it be. Stop trying to better. Stop trying to change shit. Just…accept how things are, cut off the worrying and move on.

Well. That’s part of his story. The other part is that you are allowed to actually care about things, but you have to be very conscious of the things you choose to care about. Everyone cares about at least something, its only natural. Our mind is wired to give fucks. But we do have limited resources – think time, energy and the capacity for emotional regulation. Hence, we can only give so many fucks before we break down and feel unhappy and overwhelmed. Therefore, remember:

“Our mind is wired to give fucks naturally, but make sure you choose to give it to something important.”

Choosing your fucks carefully and committing to them leads to freedom: it narrows your focus on the things that are important to you, no longer being distracted by things less important and spending your full time and attention on the things you want and the things that make you happy. It makes decision-making easier because of the focus.

Choosing your fucks carefully also leads to decreased suffering. Suffering is always around the corner. It never stops. It’s a complete rabbit hole; fix one thing and the next issue pops up. The question therefore is not: how do I stop suffering? Rather, it becomes “for what am I suffering?”. Having consciously chosen what you give a fuck about will make the unevitable suffering that comes with it easier to endure. You chose it, after all.

On the question of “how” to do all the above – how to carefully give your fucks and choose your suffering consciously – Manson says “there is no how, it’s just as simple choosing to give a fuck about something else”. That simple huh?

The power of action

Now when it comes to actually acting on the fucks you’ve chosen to give, we need some motivation. Most of us only take action after we get motivated. And we wait for this motivation to fall out of the sky like a miracle. And until this happens, we’re more than comfortable being a couch potato.
As an alternative, Manson offers the perspective of a cycle between action, motivation and inspiration. It does not matter where you start, as long as you start. Start by taking action, even though you lack motivation, and you will generate the inpsiration and motivation on it’s own. He calls this “the do something principle”.

Keeping your fucks up to date: “You’re wrong, and so is everyone else”

Everyone has varying life circumstances leading to various interpretations, meanings and ideas on “what is right” and “what is our purpose”. Manson advocates that our brain is extremely good at giving meaning to things, but that doesn’t mean that this is the meaning.

“Our mind is wired to give fucks naturally, but make sure you choose to give it to something important.”

Mark advocates reflecting on the idea that there is no ‘one’ truth one can be certain about, and he aims to move our towards welcoming uncertainty (I am not sure what is true) instead of keeping certainty (my truth is the truth). Don’t judge yourself or others for being a certain way, but realize your judgment of right and wrong is often not accurate or truthful. Be open to experience, as your truth will change over time. And so will your fucks given. Keep an open mind and regularly reflect on your current fucks to make sure you don’t feel bad when your fucks and “truth” unevitably change one day. Manson offers various questions to ask yourself in order to help you reflect on the current status of your fucks and your truth:

  1. What if I’m wrong?
    What if my current beliefs, convictions, standards and fucks are not the “right” ones? Questioning your “truths” can create growth, compassion and humility.
  2. What would it mean if I were wrong?
    If you are wrong. In what light would this put your currenct actions and thoughts? How are you affecting others? And how are you limiting yourself?
  3. Would being wrong create a better or worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
    An interesting question that helps us make a conscious decision in what outcome we want to achieve.


Manson takes a different approach than most self-help books, making it clear that suffering is always here. It’s not about eliminating suffering, it’s about choosing what you want to suffer for. Consciously choosing what you spend your time and energy on will give you more direction and focus on life and helps you to let go of things that once seemed important but may not be relatively to your new, chosen priorities. In that sense, the title of the book may be a bit misleading as he does not advocate not giving any fucks, rather, he advocates giving your fucks carefully. Nonetheless, a good read on how to choose your own direction in life.