5 Lessons From The Best-Seller, The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck

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So often do we see such kinds of advertisements, where a suited-up man steps out of a Lamborghini and says, “Do you want to live the life of your dreams? I earned all the money in last 5 years by trading bitcoins blah blah…..You can do it too. I will tell you 5 secrets to this achievement.” And the advertisement ends with him leaving in a private jet along with two beautiful ladies. He might even mention how he was a loser like yourself.

You might even start fantasizing about the life that you can have after he reveals those five secrets like it’s a holy grail that makes you immortal. Getting out of a Lamborghini and boarding a jet is the experience you would want to chase. The more you think about it, the more insecure you become. And then, you feel unhappy about the fact that you don’t have it.

“The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience.”

Mark Manson

The book -The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is not a book on How to become successful, but a book that dares to define success in a non-conventional manner.

Define your value system

Let’s assume you follow those 5 secret steps to success. You might not end up having a private jet or a Lamborghini. But maybe end up with a luxury car, let’s say a Mercedes. Also, a two-bedroom Condo in a decent neighbourhood. Good enough till now!

You meet the girl you always had a crush on, that girl from your high school. She is now an aspiring model with half a million followers on Instagram. You ask her out, and she agrees to it. After going out for a couple of months (fancy restaurants most of the time), you get into a relationship. Congratulations, the hottest girl in the town is your girlfriend now!

After a few months of fine dining, the relationship gets boring. Later, your girlfriend meets that guy who is exactly like the one in the advertisement, the private jet kind. And, she leaves you for that guy to leave you heartbroken. Your life comes crashing down.

You start to question yourself about what exactly went wrong in the relationship. Oh! I loved her so much, took her out for dinners to such fancy restaurants every other day. Bought such expensive rings. I don’t understand what went wrong.

What went wrong here was your value system. If you give more weight to superficial things, you are bound to end up unhappy. Your whole idea of love was based on providing a luxurious lifestyle rather than honesty, integrity and mutual respect. Unless we define our value system, we shall always end up as miserable fucks.

Please excuse me for writing it from a male perspective. But, even if you look at the girl’s side, it’s the same story. Eventually, she might get dumped for someone else, who could be more beautiful than her. Fucked up values in both cases!

Success has always been defined as the money in the bank account. The entire value system runs around gathering as much as possible. It’s time we redefine our success based on values that matter more in life.

Success could be based on being happy and being more in control of your life. It’s not about demonizing money, it’s about putting things into perspective and the role it can play in your life.

If you keep thinking that you will never become successful till you have a million dollars; you will never appreciate the things you have. It could be your friends, your parents or your partner. The desperation to become rich will make you feel poorer.

With the rising influence of social media amongst youngsters, defining the value system has become more crucial than ever. The FOMO factor (Fear of missing out) is causing anxiety amongst youths. As we can’t control the environment around us, defining our personal values could at least help us alleviate the angst caused by social media.

Choose your Suffering

Before anyone gets offended, let me explain what the author exactly means by this statement. Let me give you an example of a high school situation.

Nerdy boy Harry loves solving math problems. He always tops his class, loves participating in science competitions, and of course, he wins most of them. He aspires to work for NASA when he grows up. He doesn’t mind studying for more than 4 hours a day to accomplish his ambition. But on the flip side, attending a physical education class feels like a burden for him.

On the other hand, there’s a guy called Mickey, a typical Jock personality. He loves playing soccer, and also he is at the top of his game. His coach tells him to run 5 miles and recommends spending an hour in a gym every day. He aspires to play for the national team one day. But, he hates sitting in Math class because he knows that he sucks at it.

If you reverse the situation where nerdy boy Harry has to work out in the gym, and jock Mickey has to study for 4 hours every day. Both of them will feel trapped. Each day of their respective lives will feel like living hell.

When Harry and Mickey chose the goal for themselves, they also chose their grind/suffering. They are ready to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Mickey doesn’t mind sweating it out in the gym, whereas Harry finds solace in the books.

The suffering becomes more bearable when they choose. In fact, there is an element of joy in the grind. We need to take up a goal or a cause that’s worth suffering for. If we do not choose our cause wisely, our suffering will become intolerable.

Take responsibility

This point is in connection with the previous one. We might face situations in life where the occurrence of an event is absolutely beyond our control. We are not at fault.

I can’t think of any better example than Bhagat Singh. He was a revolutionary from the Punjab region of India who fought against British rule in the early 1900s. He protested staunchly against the unjust laws that were imposed by the rulers. So he went on a hunger strike for 116 days for his demand for improvement in conditions of Indian prisoners. His popularity amongst the Indian masses sent a chill down the spine of British rulers. They were so scared that he was eventually hanged to death when he was just 23. To date, he is one of the most revered revolutionaries in Indian Independence history.

He wasn’t responsible for the British rule in India. He never said it’s not my fault though I will have to suffer for it. He never thought of himself as the victim of his circumstances. Instead, he chose to take responsibility for his people and put up a staunch fight against injustice.

The above example might sound extreme. But, there are situations which we face in our everyday life where we have an option to take responsibility. If you feel stuck at your job, you have to take up the task of finding another one. If you don’t like the work you do, you have to find something you are passionate about and make a living out of it. If your five-year-old relationship comes to an end, it’s up to you to cope. Being accountable is the first step towards change.

Get rid of self-entitlement

We always have that character around us who is self-absorbed and feels that he is God’s special child, so he deserves all the happiness. On the other hand, we have someone who thinks that he is in a disadvantaged position, so he deserves special attention.

Both kinds of behaviours are equally detrimental in nature and a form of narcissism. Self-entitlement without putting in the work will lead to the creation of a bubble that eventually bursts. The damage it can do to someone’s mental health is beyond imagination.

“We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Fight Club

That’s a quote from the movie Fight Club that resonates with this point.

In today’s world, social media makes us believe that we are entitled to all the success and fame. We create a fantasy world around us, and when reality strikes, we aren’t prepared for it.

Entitlement without sacrificing for an achievement will eventually lead to disappointment as we come to terms with reality. Only accepting the truth can save us from self-inflicting damage that can be caused in the long run.

Learn to say no

‘Sugar and spice, not everything can be nice.’

In a consumer culture, everyone is a salesperson. We create deception in our behaviour to appease others. We keep saying yes to everything in a bid to maintain a hunky-dory relationship. Saying no to something can cause confrontation, open a conflict and lead to rejection.

Such behaviour usually tends to happen in a relationship. We ignore unacceptable things about our partners due to fear of rejection. For instance, if your partner gets drunk every other day, it’s imperative to address the problem and confront it, instead of letting him/her turn become a full-fledged alcoholic. In the long run, your partner’s problem becomes yours too.

Saying no to something means saying yes to things that matter. That means you are committing to one thing that you value, to give up something less valuable. You are giving up other potential mating candidates when you commit to a person who matters the most. Limiting your choices is actually more liberating than keeping your options always open. You end up losing anxiety and stress.

I read this book 4 years ago when social media was still at a nascent stage for being considered a reason for causing anxiety and stress. But, with the rise of the recent social media wave, it has become crucial to define our value system. That I believe is one of the ways to keep our mental health intact.

To conclude, you can learn the following lessons from the book

  • Define your value system
  • Choose your suffering
  • Take responsibility
  • Get rid of self-entitlement
  • Learn to say no

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