Hey there, Dean here. I run content and SEO at AppSumo. Here, I write and share about productivity, leadership, money, psychology, marketing, and more.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck shares a counterintuitive approach to living a good life.
Seeking happiness directly is a journey to hell. Instead of thinking you’re special and believing you deserve great things and happiness, ask what you’re willing to struggle in order to get what you want.
The circumstances — and your life — may not be what you want, but stop dwelling and complaining. Because how you react to them is what matters.
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
Subtlety 1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different. Subtlety 2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity. Subtlety 3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
There is a premise that underlies a lot of our assumptions and beliefs. The premise is that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved as if it were getting accepted to law school or building a really complicated Lego set.
This premise, though, is the problem. Happiness is not a solvable problem. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature and, as we’ll see, necessary components to creating consistent happiness.
Pain, in all of its forms, is our body’s most effective means of spurring action. And as much as we hate it, pain is useful. Pain is what teaches us what to pay attention to when we’re young or careless. It helps show us what’s good for us versus what’s bad for us. It helps us understand and adhere to our own limitations. Therefore, it’s not always beneficial to avoid pain and seek pleasure, since pain can, at times, be life-or-death important to our well-being.
Problems are a constant in life. Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.
Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.
Everybody enjoys what feels good. Everyone wants to live a carefree, happy, and easy life. It’s easy to want that. A more interesting question, a question that most people never consider, is, “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?”
A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly and then acts to improve upon them. But entitled people, because they are incapable of acknowledging their own problems openly and honestly, are incapable of improving their lives in any lasting or meaningful way. They are left chasing high after high and accumulate greater and greater level of denial.
The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement.
Values underlie everything we are and do. If we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based those values — the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings — will all be out of whack. Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.
Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable.
Bad values are 1) superstitious, 2) socially destructive, and 3) not immediate and controllable.
We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risks we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with.
Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are. Being wrong opens us up to the possibility of change. Being wrong brings the opportunity of growth.
No matter how honest and well-intentioned we are, we’re in a perpetual state of misleading ourselves and others for no other reason than that our brain is designed to be efficient, not accurate.
Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.
Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
Avoiding failure is something we learn at some later point in life. At some point, most of us reach a place where we’re afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we’re already good at.
Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves. This exposure to different cultural values and metrics then forces you to reexamine what seems obvious in your own life and to consider that perhaps it’s not necessarily the best way to live.
Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict is not only normal, then; it’s absolutely necessary for the maintenance of a healthy relationship. If two people who are close are not able to hash out their differences openly and vocally, then the relationship is based on manipulation and misrepresentation, and it will slowly become toxic.
Death scares us. And because it scares us, we avoid thinking about it. Yet, in bizarre, backward way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.