Academic Reads: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
With uplifting chapters entitled “Emotions are Overrated”, “Victimhood Chic” and “Don’t Try” Mark Manson’s advice on life and career is anything but subtle. Think of it like taking advice from former Jet Blue employee Steven Slater who ended his 28 year flight attendant career by grabbing two beers, deploying the emergency slight and departing a plane full of passengers on the tarmac. It’s funny in principle but jarring, juvenile and an excellent way to get yourself in big trouble if you try it in real life. Why on Earth would you want to read a book like this?
It’s hilarious. Like, ‘you are going to pee yourself slightly’ funny. And, unlike Slater, the book gives readers a lot of leeway on how to implement life changes. This irreverent read crams in a lot of reality checking in a book you can easily finish into an evening with a cocktail.
Far from being a ‘don’t care about anything’ manifesto, Manson argues you need to care passionately. And selectively. “To not give a fuck is stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.” At times, action is moving towards a challenge and at other times, it’s running away full tilt. But Manson believes your decisions need to be made consciously in the relentless pursuit of the few things you value.
Manson peppers this swear addled version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with real life examples of folks who seem to give all the wrong fucks, and helps readers understand why people are so invested in life’s minutia. In one chapter, he presents the case of the the ill-tempered, irrational older woman fighting it out with a cashier over if her coupon should be doubled or tripled. This woman is throwing down all her fucks and having a full blown hissy fit that is slowing everyone in the store down simply because coupons are the only thing she has in life. She clips, curates and organizes them with aplomb and a some 16 year old cashier is not going to come between her and an extra 45 cents off her Sanka. To question her coupon is to question the meaning she has given her life.
Chapters on teenagers who seem to give a fuck about everything and have hissy fits to spare are simply using this as a means to figure out what is important to them. Early in life (and career), “Everything is new and exciting and everything seems to matter so much. Therefore, we give tons of fucks.” If you’re a junior faculty member without delicate sensiblities, there are some pearls of wisdom to be had. Not everything matters equally. The student who has’t prepared and wants to falter thru a presentation ‘first run’ with you gets fewer ducks than the grant you are writing. “We get selective about the fucks we’re willing to give” Mason says, “This is something called maturity.”
This book is worth buying for your library, folks.
Footnote: Steven Slater served a year of probation and was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to Jet Blue.