Does it mean we’re indifferent and that we don’t care? Or is there more to it?
In his New York Times Bestseller: 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck', Mark Manson argues that not giving a fuck is both subtle and an art, that if done right, can be an effective approach to living a good life.
This post contains two of Manson’s key ideas from the book.
#1 - Defeating the feedback loop from hell
“Everyone is struggling. Some people are just better at hiding it than others.” Will Smith
The feedback loop from hell happens when you feel bad about feeling bad, anxious about feeling anxious, guilty about feeling guilty, or embarrassed about feeling embarrassed.
The worst of all the feedback loops from hell, and the one that affects our social media obsessed culture the most, is feeling unhappy that we're unhappy.
Back in the day if your grandfather was having a bad day on the farm, he might stop for a second and think - 'I feel terrible today.' Then he'd get back to ploughing the field and not give it a second thought.
Nowadays, if we're feeling unhappy, we sign into Facebook and see everyone we know at their best points in life; getting engaged, promoted or moving to Bali.
And because Facebook only shows us this half of life – the positive side, it tricks us into unconsciously thinking that if we're not feeling absolutely fantastic one hundred per cent of the time, and doing amazing things, there must be something wrong with us.
And this, Manson argues, has created a cultural epidemic he calls 'The Feedback Loop from Hell,' which has us thinking that it’s not ok to feel anything less than fantastic, one hundred percent of the time.
The trick though, is to realise that everyone has their struggles, low points and insecurities, and a huge portion of existence is mundane, bland and uninteresting.
And that's ok.
The more we can accept this, the less we feel unhappy that we're unhappy. And funnily enough, when you stop beating yourself up so much about feeling negative, the feeling passes a lot quicker.
#2 - A Better Approach for Figuring out What You Want to Do
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires.
Pain is an inextricable thread in the fabric of life, and to tear it out is not only impossible, but destructive: attempting to tear it out unravels everything else with it. To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable." Mark Manson
When we're trying to figure out what we want to do, we ask questions like:
'What's makes me happy?' 'What's my passion?' 'What makes me feel good?'
When we do this, we're trying to work out what we want to do by seeking the positive. The problem with this approach is that everything positive in the world has its associated negative counterpart too: night and day, light and dark, pain and pleasure, birth and death, etc.
You can’t have one without the other.
Therefore, by only chasing the positive, we ignore the negative half of the experience that inevitably comes with whatever we’re trying to do, and we’re blind-sighted when it comes.
A better approach, Manson argues, is to realise that:
“No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you. And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.” Mark Manson
Paradoxically, when you voluntarily accept and go head first into a negative experience associated with something you’re trying to achieve, you generate positive emotion as a by-product.
For example, the by-product of the pain you go through in the gym is the extra energy you have for the rest of the day. The by-product of the discomfort of asking someone you like out on a date is the potential relationship it could lead to. The by-product of accepting the uncertainty and risk of entrepreneurship is the financial independence and freedom it can create.
In other words, accepting that everything worthwhile in life comes from overcoming the associated negative experience, can help you get real about what you really do want.
So instead of seeking the positive, a better question to ask then is:
'What do I want enough that I'm willing to go through pain for?'
Contrary to what we usually think, ‘not giving a fuck’ doesn’t mean you’re indifferent.
It means you’ve accepted the negative side of whatever you’re trying to accomplish, and you don’t give a fuck about the pain that goes along with it.
It means you've worked out what’s important to you, and live your life accordingly.
It means you care hugely about a few carefully selected domains, and let all the other unimportant stuff go – whether it's the weather, other people's opinions or Donald Trump’s latest tweet.
Because ultimately you realise that life is short and you have very few fucks to give, so you reserve them for what's important.