Book Review & Book Notes: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k / Mark Manson

Ten Second Review: 10/10. I believe this book is required reading for anyone, especially any millennial. This book is part pop-psychology, part pop-Buddhism, and is a guide for better understanding life as a person living in a developed country in 2016. Would definitely recommend

My favorite principle: It’s not about living a problem-free life, it’s about living a life where you get to choose what problems you solve.

  • We are living lives more privileged than previous generations or people around the world could imagine. That said, we have become victims of our own success. Our issues are no longer, “Where will I get my next meal?”, they’ve become an endless cycle of “if I only had X, then I would be happy”
  • Our biggest issues have become existential anxieties. To confound things, we are then greeted with a slew of “don’t feel bad, just buy/do/get/become this thing and you’ll be happy social media.” Everyone works very hard to show the world that they’re constantly doing great.
  • Mark refers to some of Alan Watt’s principles, best summarized by Alan Watt’s himself:
    • “To put is still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.” ~ Alan Watts
  • Mark alludes that the quest and the clinging to something is in fact, a constant reminder that we do not have that thing. The pursuit of happiness is a negative experience.
  • Get off the hedonic treadmill – the pursuit of one thing simply leads to the pursuit of another thing. Instead, enjoy the process, enjoy the pain that comes with solving the kinds of problems you want to focus on.
  • I love the connection between our human evolutionary psychology (Mark calls this biology) and our incessant need to move on to the next thing. It was likely useful to our early human ancestors to constantly be looking for something better: better food, better mates, better locations, better safety, etc..
    • This lives today in the hedonic treadmill mentioned above
  • Fall in love with the process, and you can find fulfillment in our problems. Problems and suffering are inevitable, find a way to love it.
  • The more against we are against a viewpoint, the more likely we are to get offended that the other viewpoints.
  • Mass marketing shows us the absolute extremes: the funniest jokes, the most exceptional people, etc.. This compounds with people’s insecurities, and we feel like losers because we are bombarded with people (who seemingly) don’t have those problems.
  • Most successful people become great because they focus on improvement and fall in love with the process of improvement.
    • This section on goal setting reminds me a lot of Zen Habits: Achieving Without Goals:
  • Our values determine our happiness.
    • i.e. Dave Mustaine kicked out of Metallica, only to live a life hellbent on becoming more famous than Metallica. Megadeath, Mustaine’s band, went on to become incredibly successful, selling 20m copies. Compared to Metallica, +150m Dave Mustaine will go on to continue to see himself a failure. His ultimate value metric was “Metallica Level Success”, so even though he went on to become wildly successful, he was ultimately unhappy.
    • Conversely, when Pete Best was kicked out of the Beatles – in a similar fashion before they became famous – Pete Best’s values changed. He focused on living life with his wife and family. He would go on to talk about how getting kicked out of the Beatles led him to values more important. All was lost was fame, compared to his family, which he valued a lot more.
  • Good VS Bad Values
  • Responsibility VS Fault
    • It’s not our fault if a baby lands on our doorstep in a wicker basket, but it is our responsibility to make sure it gets taken care of. In the same way, it’s not our fault when shitty things happen, but it’s our responsibility to rise above.
  • Self Awareness:
    • We’re usually wrong.
    • Self-awareness onion: it hurts to become aware of ourselves, as we’re often coming up with stories to protect our egos
    • Law of Avoidance: We will avoid things that make us uncomfortable with ourselves
    • The less certain we are of ourselves and our “goals” the better.
      • Recipe for disaster: I am certain I need a house and great job to be happy
  • Fail yourself forward:
    • Stuck with inaction? Do anything to move forward, learn from it
    • Action precedes motivation, not the other way around.
      • Not feeling motivated? Just take action, and you will build momentum
  • Freedom through commitment:
    • Commitment to the meaningful values provides freedom. Freedom for the sake of freedom breeds angst

Moving from Martyr to Hustler

Joey Roth created one of my favorite posters. It’s been far too long since I’ve been inspired by it.

charlatan martyr hustler

Where are you on this list?

For the last few years, while building Search Scientists, I have proudly thought of myself as a hustler. Rise and grind. Here is a screenshot from my time tracking app toggl, where I track all my work-time. During that 2014 year, I produced less than 5 blog posts. Which puts me centered on Roth’s poster as a martyr. Working hard, and not sharing it with anyone.

2700 hours of grinding, and only 5 blog posts.

I’m happy with what was achieved in 2014. We 3x’d our annual profit from the year before. The team is stronger than ever. Clients are happy and get great results. Technical ability is soaring. Work is getting easier, and life is getting better.

There is one major issue. Other than a few people, no one knows how hard we work, how talented we are, or how happy our clients become.

2015 is the year of going public, move from the martyr stage to hustler stage. As Marc Ecko puts it in a Mixergy Interview

And the guys that do it and do it right, and are not Charlatans, or Martyrs, but are really authentically Hustlers, where they’re square at the top and they’re square at the bottom.


Time to get my hustle on. Podcast, writing, networking. Let’s make magic, and do the hustle.