StyleBlueprint has greatly enjoyed Jennifer Puryear’s talented writing for the last several years. She researches all candidates for these book lists, many times reading over 20 books to come up with the top six or eight she summarizes for us with her quarterly articles. However, she has never called us about a book before, gushing that we needed to read it as soon as possible. We must have talked for over 30 minutes on how amazing this one book is. Yes, this is what happened with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. (The asterisk is in the book title; we did not add it!) Jennifer was worried about writing this book review because of the prolific use of the f-word, but we encouraged her.
This book is getting a LOT of buzz, and we’ve heard friends say “it’s life changing” and “a must read” and “it really makes you stop and look at your life.” These are all good things. However, there are some readers who understandably will not want to read this book, nor this review, because of the effusive use of this one word. Throughout this review, we are following the steps of the book title and using that little asterisk … That said, we understand that this in-your-face use of profanity has a slap-in-the-face result — that is clearly the intention of the book, and it may not be suitable for everyone.
With the message of this book being one that is resonating so loudly with women in our society today, in a positive way, we wanted to highlight it. But if you are offended by seeing “f*ck” used, please stop reading. This is not your book. And, that’s okay!
If I could give one book to every girlfriend I know this May, it would be a radical little think piece that makes you laugh out loud, shocks you with its language and — in the end — inspires you with its wisdom: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, by Mark Manson. Manson is a rock star millennial blogger, and this book is clearly intended for his peers. But I’m here to tell you: this book has a brilliant, bold message for the rest of us too.
In short, according to Manson:
There is a subtle art to not giving a f*ck. And though the concept may sound ridiculous…, what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively – how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values. This is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one’s life.
Manson believes that we need to question prevalent cultural assumptions as we clarify our priorities. Our culture teaches us to avoid pain and suggests that a problem-free life can be sought and found. That’s so wrong, Manson says. The nature of human life involves suffering. Instead of bemoaning it, 1) accept that pain will be part of anything you truly care about, and 2) choose your pain carefully – that is to say, your struggles – for “In life, we have a limited amount of f*cks to give. So you must choose your f*cks wisely.”
Manson expounds on this advice in varied and helpful ways.
One involves the way expectations of happiness – created in particular by social media sites like Facebook – can warp how we feel about ourselves:
I believe that today we’re facing a psychological epidemic, one in which people no longer realize it’s okay for things to suck sometimes. I know that sounds intellectually lazy on the surface, but I promise you, it’s a life/death sort of issue.
Because when we believe that it’s not okay for things to suck sometimes, then we unconsciously start blaming ourselves. We start to feel as though something is inherently wrong with us, which drives us to all sorts of overcompensation, like buying forty pairs of shoes or downing Xanax with a vodka chaser on a Tuesday night…
The idea of not giving a f*ck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not. Developing this ability leads to something I like to think of as a kind of ‘practical enlightenment.’
Does this sound familiar? To me, too. Buddhism refashioned for the 21st century.
One of my favorite sections of the book imagines a superhero named “Disappointment Panda” who wears a cheesy eye mask and a tight tee-shirt. His superpower is to tell people truths they need to hear. Here’s the most important truth Disappointment Panda has to deliver:
We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. We have evolved to always live with a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity, because it’s the mildly dissatisfied and insecure creature that’s going to do the most work to innovate and survive… [O]ur own pain and misery aren’t a bug of human evolution; they’re a feature.
So now we’ve got evolutionary biology in the mix along with Buddhism! And Manson extends the argument into the psychological realm…
Like physical pain, our psychological pain is an indication of something out of equilibrium, some limitation that has been exceeded. And like our physical pain, our psychological pain is not necessarily always bad or even undesirable…
Why not? Because it inspires change. Think about this, friends. It’s May. You’re in distress. What is your pain telling you?
I’m telling you, read this book! Figure out what means the most in May (and beyond). As for the rest? I can think of one excellent phrase that might be employed.
But I’d like to give Manson the last word: “This, in a nutshell, is what ‘self-improvement’ is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a f*ck about. Because when you give better f*cks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.”
To see all eight of Jennifer’s selections for our summer must-read book list, READ HERE!
For additional reading recommendations and miscellaneous musings by Jennifer Puryear, please check in at BaconOnTheBookshelf.com.