About big ideas and life advice that doesn’t suck

It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review – almost three and a half years actually. Why starting again now? Obviously because I just read a great book: “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson which, being a self-help book, offers a great and highly innovative approach to achieving a better and happier lifestyle. My husband gave it to me as a present because he thought that actually I give too many f*cks about life, work and everything else and this could help. I’d never heard of Mark Manson before but became instantly intrigued. While reading the book simultaneously with my husband, I challenged myself to finish it first and then review the whole thing. I won, so here’s my humble opinion.

Actually, self-help books are not my typical read (well, whoever would admit to even browsing them really?). But this one is different. As we can learn in the blurb, superstar blogger Mark Manson shows us “the key to being stronger, happier people and stop trying to be ‘positive’ all the time”. Wait: Isn’t that a contradiction? How can I become a happier being while NOT staying positive AT ALL TIMES? That’s exactly the opposite of every self-help advice I’ve ever heard. Are you serious?

I am. Or rather: Mark Manson is. Let’s explore. The book consists of nine chapters each showing from different angles that trying too hard to pursue happiness actually makes us unhappy and dissatisfied. Accordingly, the chapter headings may sound a trifle disconcerting: “Don’t Try”, “Happiness Is a Problem”, “You Are Not Special” or “The Value of Suffering”. Wow – is the man serious? He is. Already on page 9 I started highlighting sentences freshmen style while trying to process why the constant attempts to become a happier person are in fact leaving you less satisfied. Ever thought about that? By accepting your own shortcomings, according to Manson you will appreciate life’s basic experiences more: friendship and laughing, caring for your family, creating something, helping, reading, learning. These are the things that matter and make us happy in the long run. Sounds corny? Maybe. But try not to give a f*ck. Because, and that’s the central message: Whatever we may think about a situation, an experience, a life choice – it all depends on how valuable we perceive it to be. Thus, if the things we consider a success are actually a poor choice, we subsequently are prone to becoming unhappy and discontent. Meaning, we can’t always control what happens to us, but we are in control of interpreting and responding and thus indeed are responsible for how to proceed with our lives. There may be a myriad of people to be blamed for your unhappy situation, but, and that’s a real eye-opener: Nobody but yourself is responsible for how you feel about and deal with the situation. And it all depends on your perspective and eventually your value system. You get to choose the metric.

Manson lists a couple of “shitty values” such as pleasure, material success and always being right. I am picking material success to elaborate: As long as you are not starving and living on the streets but make a decent amount of money per year, an extra ten thousand dollars income won’t make a difference to your happiness – even if you might think so.

Because there will always be someone making more, outranking you, buying better clothes, going on vacation thrice a year. So, as Manson puts it, you’re killing yourself working overtime for basically nothing (valuable) instead of investing the most valuable thing you have, your lifetime, in something worth your while. If you don’t get it, just google Dave Mustaine or read the subsection “Rock Star Problems” on page 76f. Most of our self-made problems stem from today’s culture of equating great attention and great success. You are not great because you launched a new app, published a bestseller, got a new client, made more money than your neighbor or bought yourself a new [insert preferred high-end product]. But, to say it with Manson’s words:

“You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it.”

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is a New York Times bestseller and deservedly so. If you want to learn more about Mark Manson, check out his blog or Twitter feed. Have fun now while reading and don’t forget to enjoy a hip vanilla soy latte or whatever drink you prefer. Cheers!

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