OK . . .
So, the title of this article may sound a little strange. I mean, who doesn’t want to not try at something? But I recent read New York Times bestselling author Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F____” . . . and, the book, which at first did not appear to be anything special to me, was – in the end – an eye opener.
Manson’s argument in a nutshell is this: We are all told that we have to care. We should care about what people think of us. We should care about the job titles we have. And we should care about how much money we have in the bank. But do any of these things – in our social media saturated lives – bring us any closer to being happy.
Not really, Manson argues.
Manson begins his book talking about the life of the deceased poet, Charles Bukowski. If you know anything about Bukowski, you may know that he was a seedy individual. Bukowski spent the better part of his life broke, depressed, and as an alcoholic. It wasn’t until when Bukowski was in his 50’s when he obtained fame and money from his poetry, and even then, that did not change him.
For Manson, Bukowski is an anti-hero who, in some ways, was a teacher. Not that anyone wants to spend their lives drunk, broke, and depressed . . . but . . . Bukowski appeared to “not care,” and this, in a way, remains a teachable insight.
This doesn’t mean that we should all become nihilists or pessimists. It simple means that – perhaps – we’ve put our money down on the wrong stock. Manson believes that people want to avoid pain, when, really, the key questions to being successful is: “What pain do you want to sustain?”
In my view, it’s very Nietzschean at its core, but it is not less true. In a world where everyone wins a trophy . . . in a world where everyone is told they can win, be rich, famous, and successful . . . what we need, Manson argues, is a little dose of realism, a little does of setting our priorities straight.
“What pain do you want to sustain?”
This is the key question for any one who considers going after any goal in their lives. Great things can be accomplished by great people . . . but Manson smacks us in the face by arguing that maybe, just maybe, it’s OK not to want great things. Maybe it’s OK to have a rent and pay an electric bill and have a somewhat normal life.
Finally, personally, I think we ought to care. But what we should care about is a different matter altogether. Reading Manson’s book was a wake-up-call for me, allowing me to realize that what I prioritize might not always be the things that may make me happy.
Manson, M. (2016). The subtle art of not giving a f***. Harper Collins, New York, NY.