A Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Review

The Value Crisis in Modern Society

17 May, 2022

The main topic of the book revolves around values.

Manson gives some examples of shitty values that modern society holds on such as “constantly wanting to feel good”, “romantic love”, “popularity” & “entitlement”…

He explains what a good value looks like: something you can control and can have progress on. For example, popularity is a bad value because it relies on others, you cannot have full control over it. Buying a car is a bad value, because once you already buy the car, there’s no progress can be done. A good value could be “being more confident” because you have full control over it and it can have continuous progress.

What strikes me is that Manson argues that people should be adaptive to their values. He says, people can never be absolute right. We can only improve from wrong to less wrong. He in fact thinks that we should always think ourselves wrong. That gives us space to grow with more accepting mindset. Same applies to values, he argues there’s not absolutely right values that’s universally always correct. People should keep adapting its values, with open minds that is willing to accept their flaws all the time.

Manson also argues a lot how difficult things are important things in life. Negative feelings are crucial experience. Difficult conversation are important conversations, etc.

Manson also mentions to always take full responsibility or what happens to your life, even if you did not cause it, this can avoid denial and victimhood. Even though something happened to you out of your control (e.g. death of your child), you can have full control over how you choose to respond to it.

"Difficult things are important things in life. Negative feelings are crucial experience. Difficult conversations are important conversations."

Mark Manson, author

Choose A Good Problem

In the earlier chapters, Manson talks about problems and sufferings in life. He thinks sufferings are inevitable because it is how humans are biologically wired to it (we will be always unsatisfied even if we’re perfectly living in the best conditions). He argues that although there are many problems in life, it is important to choose a “good” problem. A “good” problem is based on a good “metric”. He gives a very simple example in the book.

He mentions he was sad for his relationship with his brother because his brother always took very long to reply his message. The problem is: his bad relationship with his brother. The thing is this problem arises from a poor metric, which is: his brother did not reply to his message. Often, people live in miserable state is due to the “bad” metric one uses. The actual problem may not be significant.

Adaptive Values

“You are always wrong,” Manson wrote. Stemming from not being able to be adaptive to your values can be very dangerous. Manson emphasises how being morally righteous all the time and feeling entitled can be self-destructive. He gives a good example in the book. Truly evil people, who murder people, are evil not because they have low self-esteem. In fact, it was the opposite. Worst criminals feel too good about themselves. They feel they are morally righteous and special and that give them a sense of justification in spite of the reality. Suicide bombing and mass murder are conducted by people who generally think they are righteous and that gives them justification for doing it.

In other words, they are certain that they’re right in their own beliefs and deservedness. Hence, he argues that certainty is unattainable, and pursuit of certainty breeds more insecurity. To assume that our values are perfect and complete is a dangerous mindset that breeds entitlement and avoids responsibility.

Holding on a value is dangerous. Thinking you’re right is dangerous. No value is universally applicable at all times and one must be acceptive to new values in life. He mentions we must first become uncertain of our current values to avoid bias and prejudice.


Manson, Mark. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. , 2016.