***I'm sure you can guess from the book title that there will be a few F's flying around on this post. Please shield the eyes of those underage. ***
Thank you Mark Manson!! I loath introductions to books. They are almost always one of two things - either an explanation of the book that should have been done on the jacket/back but was stuck here because the author didn't view what was said in those two locations as sufficient or it's a shameless endorsement from some name-drop-worthy person that may help sell books. In either case, I tend to skip them without any thought that I'm missing vital information that will play a role later in the book. Seeing that Manson chose to forgo the pressured formality of an intro gave his book bonus points on my fictional score card right along with the bonus points awarded for hugely eye catching title and book color.
This unapologetically blunt book was recommended to me by a doctor friend of mine with a particularly awesome sense of ironic humor. The title had me hooked right from the moment she mentioned it and her description had me adding it to my Amazon cart by the end of the day. Manson covers a whole lot of ground in The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck which, in my opinion, all ties nicely together back to two broad topics - maturity and values. (Guess what the next blog post is going to be titled.) So, let's dive on in by taking a trip back to middle school lunch break.
There you are in a solid back and forth battle of "I know you are but what am I" sprinkled with a few "your mom" jokes for good measure when your slightly older, but certainly losing, opponent throws the ultimate end-of-game flag with "Oh grow up would you" and huffs off. You reach to high five a supportive on looker but end up with your hand poised statue like in the air without a reciprocated celebratory hand slap. Your posse disperses and you're alone on the bench wondering what just happened and what the heck does that mean anyway!?
The opponent didn't mean literally gain inches as those of us who had a similar lunch experience discovered after asking parents for advice. The adult undoubtedly said that the other kid meant for you to mature faster to which you asked "what does that mean" and the parent proceeded to hem and haw around some seemingly existential explanation about aging and actions....and of course you stopped listening because you were in middle school! More often than not the parent missed a huge topic during their explanation that may have actually resonated with a middle schooler but Manson nails it. As we age, "we become more selective about the fucks we're willing to give. This is something called maturity. It's nice; you should try it sometime" (pg. 19).
Mind blown. Yes! That is exactly what that means. "What I'm talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively" (pg. 13). Your mom jokes and "I know you are but what am I" is so elementary school to your lunch room sparing partner and, in their eyes, you should find something new to master. "Finding something important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most productive use of your time and energy" (pg. 18). Middle school may not be the age when everyone starts seeking this deeper meaning but, at some point, most everyone does begin to zero in on what gets them out of bed in the morning and keeps them coming back.
This process doesn't happen over night. It takes years of dedicated time and failure. Yep, failure. "Adversity and failure are actually useful and even necessary for developing strong-minded and successful adults" (pg. 44). This is usually where I would dramatically hop on my soap box and start shouting about how insanely bad it is that there are 12th place trophies for everything these days but I'll stow that box back under my desk and let your imagination run with it. The point is being average at anything you attempt has become akin to massive failure when the truth of the matter is that not everyone can be a 6' 8" basketball wizard *LeBron James* or a swimming savant with a 6'7" wingspan *Michael Phelps*. The vast majority of us are going to be average at 99% of the things we pursue and "the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgement or lofty expectations" (pg. 62).
Maturity is two-fold: choosing the things to give a fuck about and taking responsibility for all aspects of giving a fuck about them including your emotional response. Failure sucks. While "we don't always control what happens to us...we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond" (pg. 94). Own that response and emotion! "A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility for their problems because they believe that to be responsible for your problems is to also be at fault for your problems" (pg. 97). This is not always the case. People can be dirt bags and create a problem for you for which your only fault in the situation is knowing the dirt bag! "We are responsible for experiances that aren't our fault all of the time" but "fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense" (pg. 98) and you control your present situation so own it. "Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is every responsible for your unhappiness but you" (pg. 99).
"Giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction" (pg. 5). By knowing what you deeply care about, and taking responsibility for all aspects of that, you start to actively create happiness in your life by avoiding/eliminating those parts of it which don't align with your values. You create your happiness by the actions you take to establish solid boundaries around your priorities and then sticking to them. "Happiness is therefore a form of action; it's an activity. Not something that is passively bestowed upon you" (pg. 32) and recognizing this is a part of maturing.
So, should the day come, when you are confronted with a crying middle schooler who was just told to "Grow up!" tell them, using appropriate language, to start searching their hearts for what matters most. Or if the same hypothetical middle school seems concerned with being deemed average, give them a big hug and welcome them to the club because odds are (news flash) you are too and there is freedom in that. Come on back on February 1st and we'll be discussing what Manson has to say on values which may help you prep for these tough parenting, or more likely "friending," conversations.