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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck - Book Notes (Part 1)

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Book note from one of my favorite books. I made some notes while reading the books mostly quotes. This is part 1 of this book includes chapters 1 and 2.

Don’t Try - Chapter 1

  • It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself — especially the worst part of himself — and to share his failing without hesitation or doubt.[3]

  • Self improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.[3]

  • Because giving a fuck about more stuff is good business and while there’s nothing wrong with good business, the problem is that giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you become overly attached to the superficial and face, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction.[5]

  • The key to good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.[5]

  • We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. What is wrong with me? This is why not giving a fuck is so key. This why it’s going to save the world. And it’s going to save it by accepting that the world is totally fucked and that’s all right, because it’s always been that way, and always will be.[8]

  • 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.[9]

  • 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.[9]

  • You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.[10]

  • If pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive.[11]

  • Everything worthwhile in the 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. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering, The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a from of shame.[11]

  • Essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively— how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values. This is incredibly difficult, It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one’s life.[13]

    • Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.[14]

    • Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.[17]

    • Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.[19]

  • You can’t be an important and life changing presence for some people without being a joke and an embarrassment to others.[17]

Happiness is a Problem - Chapter 2

  • There is no value in suffering when it’s done without any purpose.[25]

  • The greatest truths in life are usually the most unpleasant to hear.[27]

  • Just like stubbing our toe teaches us to walk into fewer tables, the emotional pain of rejection or failure teaches us how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.[29]

  • What’s so dangerous about a society that coddles itself more and more from the inevitable discomforts of life: we lose the benefits of experiencing healthy doses of pain, a loss that disconnects us from the reality of the world around us.[29]

  • Life is essentially an endless series of problems.[30]

  • Happiness comes from solving problems.[31]

  • Happiness is a constant work in progress because solving problems is a constant work in progress — the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems and so on. [31]

  • For many people, life doesn’t feel that simple. That’s because they fuck things up in at least one of two ways:

    • Denial: Some people deny that their problems exist in the first place. And because they deny reality, they must constantly delude or distract themselves from reality. This may make them feel good in the short term, but it leads to a life of insecurity, neuroticism and emotional repression

    • Victim Mentality: Some choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems, even when they in fact could. Victims seek to blame others for their problems or blame outside circumstances. This may make them feel better in the short term, but it leads to a life of anger, helplessness, and despair. [32]

  • Emotions are feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or likely wrong for us—nothing more, nothing less.[33]

  • Much as the pain of touching a hot stove teaches you not to touch it again, the sadness of being alone teaches you not to do the things that made you feel so alone again. Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.[34]

  • Emotions are part of the equation of our lives, but not the entire equation. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. Emotions are merely signposts, suggestions that our neurology gives us not commandments.[34]

  • Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks. [35]

  • Because happiness requires struggle, it grows from problems. Whether you suffer from anxiety or loneliness or obsessive-compulsive disorder or a dickhead boss who ruins half of your walking hours every day, the solution lies in the acceptance and active engagement of that negative experience—not the avoidance of it, not salvation from it. [37]

  • People want to start their own businesses. But you don’t end up a successful entrepreneur unless you find a way to appreciate the risk, the uncertainty, the repeated failures. The insane hours devoted to something that may earn absolutely nothing. [38]

  • The path to happiness is a path full of shit-heaps and shame. You have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns all the time. [38]

  • I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love with not the fight but only the victory.[40]

  • This is the most simple and basic component of life: our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems. It's a never-ending upward spiral. [40]


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