Friday, September 14, 2018

Book Review and 4 Lessons You Can Implement Today from "The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck"

When I read nonfiction it is with the intent to learn something that I can apply to my own life, and "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck" by Mark Manson didn't disappoint. Sometimes, I read reviews before purchasing to see if someone will just summarize it for me, so I don't waste 3 or so hours reading what could have been summed up in a couple of paragraphs.

That isn't the case here. There were a number of gems in this short book, and I would recommend it to read because there are things in the book that I may not hit on, but will mean something to you.

Having said that, it is laced with the F-bomb, so if you can't get past that, them maybe just stick to this summary.  I personally don't have this issue (as those that know me well know).

Lesson 1: 

Dropping the F-bomb occasionally is the secret to happiness. I jest, I jest.  Real lesson #1:

Our Culture Screws up the Definition of Happiness.

Manson states, “Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistic positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest.” and that "all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time-is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, then emphasizes them for you."

Like when I say, I am a pretty happy person now, but I want to learn how to be happier, then I start seeking all the ways, methods, things that could make me even happier. So, now instead of focusing on what I have going for me now that makes me happy, I am chasing what I think I am missing, on what I am lacking.

Also, it makes us believe that if we aren't happy, then there must be something wrong with us that needs to be fixed or we must immediately do something about it. As humans we are wired to do what is easy to make us feel better immediately like eating a gallon of ice cream, vegging out on the sofa, mindlessly surfing the internet. Sometimes that chase to feel good turns into an addictive cycle as we try to ignore, numb, or mask a deeper pain.  Whereas, if we just admit to ourselves that "I feel like shit today, and that's okay", then we can sit in that for a while, decide if it's necessary to do something about it or if it is just a passing mood and to wait it out (perhaps with ice cream). This is a healthy, normal thing.

However, this is not what happens most of the time. Instead when we feel like poo, it makes us uncomfortable. We panic and rush to distract ourselves in our attempt to pretend everything is okay, and not even giving ourselves a chance to look at what is making us run in the first place.  Then we keep running, until we become exhausted and break.

As humans we have an ability to feel a huge range of emotions. We are not built to feel one or two emotions. Too much sunshine kills things (as my garden can attest). We need the sun, the rain, the cold, the warmth, etc..  People who are not able to feel a wide range of emotions are typically psychopaths. Let's not aspire to be psychopaths.

That song that comes on the radio that you love because it helped you through hard times probably comes from someone else's willingness to wallow in some pretty shitty emotions. Likewise, your ability to face and deal with unsavory emotional states allows you to empathize with your fellow man (opposite of psychopath), and may even drive you to make the world a better place.

So name it and feel it, then go have a bowl of ice cream and revel in feeling crappy for a bit.

So if happiness isn't feeling happy all the time, then what does make you happy?

Lesson 2: Choose Better Problems then Give Less F*cks to Everything Else.

I don't want problems. I want to be happy. Well, Manson gives this advice: you are going to have problems that you get worked up about whether you choose them or not, so why not choose what is worthy of your time?

Manson gives the example of the lady in the grocery store line that gets all worked up over her coupons not working. She is yelling and throwing a fit and holding up the line over $.75, and you are thinking, "For the love of god, here is $.75!"

Yet, you know she doesn't want your $.75. She wants to be angry over the establishment trying to cheat her time and time again, and she is not going to take it anymore! And.....she doesn't have anything else in her life to get all worked up about, so it's the coupons.

How do we prevent this coupon catastrophe or it's equivalent from happening to us?  

Choose better values. Better values helps you pick better problems. The book goes into a lot more details about "shitty" values versus the right values and it is worth the read if you want something extra here. Make no mistake, not making a choice is still making a choice.

Coupon lady could pick some cause to get behind that that line up with her values, and I am guessing she will feel way better about herself for getting passionate over something more worthy of her time than yelling at the poor checkout person just trying to make a living.

Here is a quick exercise to find your values. What are the top 5 things that matter most to you in this world? Family? Starting or growing your business or career? Being kind? Helping the less privileged? Animal welfare? Education? 

I love to read, and I think education is important, so I could volunteer to tutor someone who needs help. I can share my list of tope 10 children's books. I could lobby for education reform. I could make a point to read to my kids every night and help them discover a passion for reading. I could choose to stay at home and read for hours on end. There are a million things big and small that you could do once you identify values that matter to you.

The secret to happiness is knowing what to get worked up about. Having good problems in your life (like so many books, so little time), and giving zero fucks to everything else.  

When you find yourself getting worked up, take a step back and think 1) What are you really upset about here? 2) In the big picture, is it worth giving a fuck about? If not, let that shit go and move on.
Speaking of moving on......

Lesson 3: Action

You've made your list of 3-5 things that matter most now it is time to take action.

Action leads to happiness.

Now you have to get to work. Put your money where your mouth is. Do something that lines up with the values you picked (and again, let the rest go).

Spoiler alert: "easy" doesn't necessary lead to happy.

Sitting on the couch bing watching Game of Thrones won't make you happy in the long term, but achieving something will. The harder it is, the prouder you are, and the happier you will be.

Kids are a great example of this. I love my kids more than life itself. However, they are also messy, inconvenient, loud, expensive, and cause endless amounts of stress and worry. They bring home countless illnesses which they share with me (who doesn't love a good stomach virus?). They change how and where I vacation, and even where I eat. Parenting isn't easy, but they have brought me more happiness, fulfillment and growth than I could ever have imagined, and I wouldn't change any of it.

Running a marathon, climbing Mt Everest, starting a business, even putting yourself out there to meet new people when you are terrified of doing it, taking action and doing the hard thing (and what is hard for me may not be hard for you), is what will lead to happiness.

However, two things generally stand in the way of taking action. Procrastination and Fear of Failure.


Often we procrastinate because we don't know where to start and because it takes a lot of energy to get over our inertia, so we sit around and wait for enough inspiration or motivation to hit us that we get moving.

Here is a Manson nugget that resonated with me. Inspiration comes after action.

You start something, anything, even a tiny step works. Like writer's block, the way to overcome it is to write. Write your name. Write "I don't know what to write." Write anything, but write something, and keep at it. Inspiration and motivation will follow action, not the other way around. 

I do this with the gym. I promise myself I will go and do something for at least 5 minutes, and I have literally gotten on the treadmill, warmed up for 5 minutes, walked down stairs, and just kept heading for the door and said, "Nope, not today." And, I didn't beat myself up for it because I know I will be back and most days won't be like today. 

Try this. Do something for 15 minutes towards your goal every day.  What if it still doesn't work or solve my problem or accomplish anything? What if I fail? I am glad you ask.

Fear of Failure

You probably will fail and you will probably fail many times. Again, if it were easy, you would already be doing it. If you aren't willing to fail, then you aren't willing to succeed.  So do your 15 minutes everyday to practice failing and to build your anti-procrastination muscle until one day you aren't failing any longer.

Lesson 4: You Are Not Special

This one is my favorite. At first I was like, "What? I'm special. We are all special in our own way." But if we are all special, then no one is special, right? 

Think about this for a minute. How much time and effort do we waste trying to prove we are special? We photoshop the crap out of our social media photos and post the highlights of our lives so people can witness the specialness that is us. We buy the "right clothes", go to the "right" places, and our children are so gifted and talented and special, that they are not allowed to mess up anymore. 

But.....Remember, no failing, no mistakes = no learning, unless it is to learn that something is wrong with you if you aren't happy and special. Wonder why anxiety in children and adults is at an all time high?

So if you aren't special, then you must be ordinary, and that doesn't sound so great.

However, there is power in ordinary. Being ordinary is awesome! I can screw up! I can finally learn to paint without fear of being terrible because I am not specially gifted. I am ordinary. I can volunteer to lead this group. I'll do my best, but at the end of the day I'm just an ordinary person doing her best.

I don't need to have the perfect husband, the perfect children, and have perfect hair, makeup, and a manicure for my perfect photos on my perfect vacation. I am free to be ordinary. I can have an ordinary vacation, sipping ordinary margaritas and not shave my legs or wear a bra all week. Hell, I don't even have to post a picture of it because I chose bigger problems to worry about than what other people think about me posting or not posting and filtering my selfies.

Even more importantly, Manson points out, than being free from looking and being special (or more honestly faking it), is being free to appreciate the extraordinary in every day things. Like a quiet evening at home with the hubs sipping wine while our kids watch the original Star Wars for the first time and realizing that the next generation is hooked on something you love too. This is a real, ordinary moment that I treasure, and it didn't even make it onto Facebook.  

You don't have to be CEO of a company. You don't have to find a cure to cancer. You don't have to make it to the Olympics. It's great that there are people out there who strive to do great things, and if that is what is most important to you, if that is the problem you picked worthy of your time, that's awesome. However, if your ordinary family, friends and soap making hobby is what lights a fire in you, and your ordinary low stress job and frugal lifestyle support it, that is wonderful too.

So stop worrying about being special because lucky you, you aren't.

Summary of the Summary

You can be ordinary and be happy if you don't expect to be happy all the time, don't run from things that make you unhappy, choose the right problems based on the right values and let the rest go, take action around those problems and lastly, embrace and be proud of being ordinary.

Here is a bonus tip that works for me when I find myself getting sucked into drama not really worth my time, "Not my circus, not my monkeys."

So today...
1) Forget about chasing happiness and....
2) Figure out what your values are and choose how to focus it, and ignore all the other bullshit.
3) Take action on that problem (even if it's for 15 minutes a day)
4)  Realize you aren't special and go enjoy the crap out of your ordinary life.
5) Then go buy this book so you can read more about the how, and as a reminder when you start to give too many f*cks about things that don't deserve your time.

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