The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Care — A Summary

Raheel Yawar
7 min readJul 3


That’s not what the title of the book by Mark Manson exactly is, but I rather not use curse words. What follows is a condensation of all the important points made in the book. I primarily want to document them so I can revisit them from time to time to jog my memory and relearn them. Hopefully, other people can benefit from my notes as well.

Dont Try

  • 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.
  • Everything worthwhile in 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.
  • To try to avoid pain is to give too many cares about pain.
  • Not giving a care does not mean being indifferent. It means not caring about adversity in the face of goals.

Happiness is a Problem

  • Pain and loss are inevitable and we should let go of trying to resist them.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems.
  • Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/ or upgraded.
  • The secret sauce is in the solving of the problems, not in not having problems in the first place.

People mess up in two ways:

  1. 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.
  2. Victim Mentality. Some choose to believe that there is nothing they can do to solve their problems. Victims seek to blame others for their problems or blame outside circumstances.
  • What determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?”

I was in love with not the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.

You Are Not Special

  • A lot of people are afraid to accept mediocrity because they believe that if they accept it, they’ll never achieve anything, never improve and that their life won’t matter.
  • The rare people who do become truly exceptional at something do so not because they believe they’re exceptional. On the contrary, they become amazing because they’re obsessed with improvement. And that obsession with improvement stems from an unerring belief that they are, in fact, not that great at all.
  • People who become great at something because they understand that they’re not already great — they are mediocre, they are average — and that they could be so much better.

The Value of Suffering

  • Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.
  • If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/ or how you measure failure/ success.
  • As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly, so if your metric for life success is to be right — well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the nonsense to yourself.
  • Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems. All emotions are a natural part of life.
  • Self-improvement is really about prioritizing better values and choosing better things to care about. Because when you care about better things, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.

You Are Always Choosing

  • We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.
  • With great responsibility comes great power. The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.

Victimhood Chic

  • Right now, anyone is offended about anything.
  • It feels as though they’re being oppressed in some way and therefore deserve to be outraged and to have a certain amount of attention.

You’re Wrong About Everything (But So Am I)

  • Our brains are meaning machines.
  • Our minds are constantly generating more and more associations to help us understand and control the environment around us.

But there are two problems with that.

  1. We mistake things we see and hear. We forget things or misinterpret events quite easily.
  2. Once we create meaning for ourselves, our brains are designed to hold on to that meaning.
  • The more we admit to not knowing, the more opportunities we gain to learn.

The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.

  • Anything that shakes up that comfort — even if it could potentially make your life better — is inherently scary.
  • Buddhism urges that your idea of who “you” are is an arbitrary mental construction and that you should let go of the idea that “you” exist at all. The arbitrary metrics by which you define yourself actually trap you.
  • There is little that is unique or special about your problems.
  • If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really you versus yourself.

Failure Is the Way Forward

  • Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something.
  • Better values are process-oriented. A metric for such a value is never completely finished. For example, trying to be honest.
  • Just as one must suffer physical pain to build stronger bone and muscle, one must suffer emotional pain to develop greater emotional resilience, a stronger sense of self, increased compassion, and a generally happier life.
  • Pain is part of the process. It’s important to feel it. Because if you just chase after highs to cover up the pain, if you continue to indulge in entitlement and delusional positive thinking, if you continue to overindulge in various substances or activities, then you’ll never generate the requisite motivation to actually change.
  • When you choose a new value, you are choosing to introduce a new form of pain into your life. Relish it. Savour it. Welcome it with open arms. Then act despite it.

If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t sit there and think about it; start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.

  • Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it. Action is needed to inspire the motivation to keep going.
  • If simply doing something is your only metric for success, then even failure pushes you forward.

The Importance of Saying No

  • The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement.
  • Honesty is a natural human craving. But part of having honesty in our lives is becoming comfortable with saying and hearing the word “no.”
  • Entitled people who blame others for their own emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they constantly paint themselves as victims, eventually someone will come along and save them, and they will receive the love they’ve always wanted.
  • Entitled people who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner and save him or her, they will receive the love and appreciation they’ve always wanted.
  • People with strong boundaries understand that it’s unreasonable to expect two people to accommodate each other 100 per cent and fulfil every need the other has. They might hurt someone’s feelings sometimes. A healthy relationship is about each partner supporting the other in their individual growth and in solving their own problems.
  • Without conflict, there can be no trust. Conflict exists to show us who is there for us unconditionally and who is just there for the benefits. No one trusts a yes-man.
  • More is not always better. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from what psychologists refer to as the paradox of choice.
  • If you aim to keep your options open as long as possible, you avoid commitment. Commitment gives you freedom because you’re no longer distracted by the unimportant and frivolous. It hones your attention and focus, makes decision-making easier and removes any fear of missing out.

… And Then You Die

Ernest Becker, in his book The Denial of Death, essentially makes two points.

  1. Humans are unique in that we’re the only animals that can conceptualize and think about ourselves abstractly.
  2. We have two selves, physical and conceptual. On some level, we know that our physical self will eventually die so we try to create a conceptual self that will live forever.

Becker called these immortality projects. All the meaning in our life is shaped by this innate desire to never truly die. Our immortality projects are our values.

Immortality projects are actually the problem, not the solution. Rather than attempting to implement, often through lethal force, their conceptual self across the world, people should question their conceptual self and become more comfortable with the reality of their own death. Becker called this “the bitter antidote.”

  • Without acknowledging the ever-present gaze of death, the superficial will appear important and the important will appear superficial.
  • Happiness comes from caring about something greater than yourself, believing that you are a contributing component in some much larger entity.



Raheel Yawar

I am a Game Engineer. I write about programming, game development and ML/AI.