Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

This book is better than its charming title suggests, although I am a strong advocate of swearing where appropriate. It draws on the author’s “growing up” process, experienced via many years of living the dream, psychotherapy and failure.

Here’s a summary of my notes:

  • You can’t give a fuck about everything. You need to choose when and where to give a fuck.
  • People without problems will invent them, so do give a fuck about something.
  • I just bought a sailboat (De Doffer, or The Pigeon), which I’d rename 90 Percent if renaming was not taboo. Why 90 percent? Because 90 percent of the boat is fine (it floats), so the other 10 percent is not worth worrying about because the “return on concern” is so low. Accept a few defects and issues and move along. Live wabi-sabi.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems, so get some and solve them!
  • You’re not special, not even when you “earn” your medal for participation, so stop comparing yourself to others, influencers, et al. Watch the “Century of the Self” to see how marketers hijacked self-regard. Read my paper on Google [pdf] to remind yourself that it’s impossible to compete with the world’s best.
  • Improve yourself. Set goals. Reach for them.
  • We are always choosing. You can chose to be a victim, or you can chose to accept reality and move along.
  • Every time you admit you’re wrong, you get the chance to improve and learn something. Accepting reality is easier than avoiding it.
  • The best way to improve is to fail. The best way to succeed is to start. Don’t know how to start? Doesn’t matter. Just start. (My boat kinda terrifies me, as it’s 77 years old and I’m not quite sure how to manage it, but the only way to learn is to do.)
  • Saying “no” is making a choice. You need to make choices and prioritise. In your relationships, you need to be honest about what you want and accept responsibility, just like your friend/partner does. Neither of you are responsible for the other’s happiness, since it’s impossible to do right and unethical to even consider.
  • “You need to be able to say no and hear no” in relationships (p177).
  • Some people are addicted to fixing others’ problems. Those people are never happy with folks who have their problems under control. They will make problems so they can have something to work on. Move on (I have).
  • Cheaters probably have issues that need more to fix than “I’ll try harder”.
  • You can lose trust in a fraction of the time it takes to rebuild that trust. Should you stick around to rebuild or more on? As someone accused of “betraying” someone (who happens to be deluded), I needed to hear this. There’s probably nothing I can do to rebuild trust when that person’s reality (and my role in it) is a fantasy.
  • Commitments to places, activities or people liberates you by helping you focus,  reducing the number of things you need to consider, and signalling to others where you need their support. I own my flat, have a permanent contract at work, and have a meaningful relationship. Now I can focus my energy on deepening those commitments, coping with surprise challenges, and trying new things — like sailing a boat!

My one-handed conclusion is that this book is well worth your time. Life is too short to give a fuck about the wrong things or too many things. Stop giving a fuck about useless shit and focus your fucks given on your priorities. FIVE STARS.

Here are all my reviews.

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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