give fewer f*cks

#55 – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

dear kafka,

this is one of those books i wish i read when i was younger, which is perfect for you – the toughest 15 year old boy in the world.

some great words here:

“This book will not teach you how to gain or achieve, but rather how to lose and let go. It will teach you to take inventory of your life and scrub out all but the most important items. It will teach you to close your eyes and trust that you can fall backwards and still be okay. It will teach you to give fewer fucks. It will teach you to not try.”

it’s the perfect companion guide to marie kondo’s the life changing magic of tidying up, but instead of your house, you are decluttering your life.

throwing out stuff that you no longer use and no longer love.

this book has personality, i.e. the word “fuck” is used many times. i love this word and use it often, especially when i’m not angry. the book reminds us that life is short, the world is superficial and full of suffering, therefore live wisely.

here are some ideas i found helpful.

Give fewer fucks.

We have limited time and resources. There are a lot of things seeking our time and attention. Many of these things are stupid. We should not give a fuck about these things.

Instead… we should give a fuck about things that matter.

Here is what I give a fuck about:

good books, writing, mom, milou the dog, a few friends, japan.

Here is what i should not give a fuck about:

arguing about politics, social media, complaining or gossiping about colleagues, things i cannot control.

Don’t try.

Don’t try to hide your weaknesses – be honest with yourself and others. Being open about your weaknesses is a sign of strength.

Don’t try to be positive and happy all the time – “Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.”

We are average at most things.

“Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things. That’s just the nature of life. To become truly great at something, you have to dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to it. And because we all have limited time and energy, few of us ever become truly exceptional at more than one thing, if anything at all.”

Give yourself permission to be average at most things. Then find one or two things to be exceptional in.

Or you can like Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, combine different skills to offer something unique.

Scott Adams:

“One strategy for getting ahead is being incredibly good at a particular skill; you need to be world-class to stand out for that skill. In my case, I layered fairly average skills together until the combination became special. If you put me in a room with 20 people, I’m not going to be the funniest or the best artist, writer, or business person. Because I have all of these things in sufficient (but not world-class) quantity, it was the combination that made them successful.”

Accepting the bland and mundane truths of life.

“The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies—that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.”

I like and agree with those two truths above and will add the following:

I will not be famous and that’s okay.

I will not be rich and that’s okay.

I will not be missed when I die and that’s okay.

I am not world class at anything and that’s okay.

I am average and that’s okay.

Some people will think I am a failure and that’s okay.

I have many weaknesses, including laziness, hypocrisy, inconsistency, being judgmental, quick to anger. I will respond to these weaknesses in two ways: say sorry more often and accept myself.

“But depth is where the gold is buried.”

I don’t need more in my life. I don’t need a new job, a new book, a new camera, a new wardrobe (some might disagree with me on this one. ok, many).

I’m “blessed” to have so much. So much.

Dig deeper.

Depth is rewarding.

Fuck yourself.

“Buddhism argues that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all; that the arbitrary metrics by which you define yourself actually trap you, and thus you’re better off letting go of everything. In a sense, you could say that Buddhism encourages you to not give a fuck.”

How you define yourself can actually trap you. If you think of yourself as a guru, you will find it hard to learn from others. If you think you are smart, it will be hard to admit to ignorance.

“My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.”

“The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.”

a Zen Master once received a rude letter.

this was his response:

“At the end of your letter you say, “Go fuck yourself.” These are wonderful words that you have given me, and I thank you very much. If you attain enlightenment, I will give them back to you.”

Fuck myself.


Mark Zuckerberg inspired me to start an annual personal project – read a non-fiction book every week and write about it. 

My previous newsletters are here: https://isaiahlim.wordpress.com/category/isaiahlim_newsletter/

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