The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck should be used in marketing classes as prime example of what you can achieve with proper positioning. This book contains some pretty basic self-help advice (decent advice, for the most part) but appeals to a new audience by including fuck in the title. People who scoff at self-help are apt to pick it up and think, “Hey, this guy swears, he must be like me, not like those ultra touchy, feel-gooders who have a Ph.D. in Musicology but put Dr. in front of their names to peddle advice, as if their education is relevant to their advice-giving capabilities.” I may sound snarky, but I’m sincere in my admiration on that point. Obviously this strategy works, because my husband got two copies of this book for Christmas, one of which was from me.
Does being a blogger with a degree in business make you any less qualified to give self-help advice than someone with a Ph.D.? In spite of my elitist tendencies, I’m inclined to say no. Still, I can’t really say this book is anything new or different, other than the fact that author Mark Manson swears more than Joe Pesci in Casino. When he starts to throw in relationship advice, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Nevertheless, the book contains enough decent nuggets that I landed just north of a positive review.
In the first chapter, Manson presents the overarching premise: “The key to living a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.” So if you’re the type of person who measures himself by every mistake or slip up, or constantly compare yourself to others, Manson serves up some tough love that you probably need to hear. He cites a good example of two musicians who got kicked out of successful bands: Dave Mustaine and Pete Best. Mustaine got kicked out of Metallica and formed Megadeath, which went on to sell over 25 million albums. Unfortunately, Metallica sold over 180 million albums, causing Mustaine to ultimately consider himself a failure. Because he measures himself against Metallica, as opposed to any other Joe Shmoe with a guitar, he’ll never be satisfied. Most of us would love to have Mustaine’s money and success, but for him, it’s never going to be enough.
By contrast, Pete Best was kicked out of an even more successful band. He fell on hard times and attempted suicide in 1968. He never became rich, and he’s famous only for being the guy that was replaced by Ringo Starr. In spite of that, he said in an interview in 1994 that, “I’m happier than I would have been with the Beatles.” Best recognized that he would never have had the life he currently has (according to Wikipedia, he and wife Kathy have been married over 50 years) if he had become famous along with John, Paul, and George. He doesn’t give a fuck about what his former bandmates achieved. He only chooses to give a fuck about what he achieved: a wonderful marriage with beautiful children and grandchildren. The point is, we choose whether or not we are successful by the standard by which we decide to measure ourselves.
One piece of advice that hit home for me was the fear of failure. Small children learning to walk fall hundreds of times, but as Manson points out, “At no point does that child ever stop and think, ‘Oh, I guess walking just isn’t for me. I’m not good at it at all.’ ” At some point in life, many of us learn to fear failure, to be embarrassed and quit if we aren’t great at something right from the start. For example, I suck at carrying a tune. In my college days I’d get squeamish when anyone would start to bat around the idea of karaoke. I never wanted to do it because “I can’t sing.” Well, holy hell, if I’m honest, I’ve never actually tried! In the privacy of my car or in the shower I’ll belt out a tune, but I’d rather die than sing in a bar in front of actual people. Why do I give a fuck whether people know I have a terrible singing voice?
In conclusion, don’t give so much of a fuck what everybody else thinks. Live your life. Measure your success by what’s important to you. Use lots of swear words, and you too can make the bestseller list.