Evan Genest's Learning Log

These are notes to myself. If you discover them and find them useful I would love to hear from you. Most of these are related to travel I did, books I read, or tech notes for Matomo and the LAMP stack.

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Booknotes - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F; A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
By Mark Manson

Manson is writing about having a good life. Five of his points really landed with me.

Don't stay positive

Problems add a sense of meaning and importance to our life. To max out your agency, don't try to eliminate bad things. Rather, choose which bad things you want to take on. They should be aligned with what you value. It's hard to have clarity on what you value. Work on that.
If you somehow managed to duck all your problems, you would have a pleasant, meaningless existence.

Being wrong

Mark Manson says he was wrong, so very wrong when young. He hopes he is wrong now and that he will be wrong in the future. And he hopes that each time he will move to smarter and smarter levels of being wrong. Mark is all about that Delta (he doesn't use the phrase but this is Growth Mindset).

Be humble about whether you're right. Our brains are Meaning Machines. Unfortunately they are great at making bullshit up.

He describes a funny experiment where people had to go into a room, and figure out a pattern to how they could make a light come on. People "figured out" weird things: stand on a chair, clap your hands in prime numbers, whatever. After they wrote down their observation the doctors revealed that the light was on a random timer. That is all of us. In our real life. (I think it's also a lot of pundits and business forecasters.)

Poker hands analogy

The Greek concept: your task is to be the most excellent you. You have been dealt, and will continue to be dealt poker hands in life. The good life is the good playing of these hands.

Positive experiences

Weird thought: we don't know what is a positive experience. Many pleasant ones were distracting, or de-motivating.

Today we have an epidemic of trying to recreate positive experiences we saw an actor have in an advertisement, or our friends in their social posting. And a deeper problem, we have an epidemic of thinking it's not okay when things suck. This book (Mark Manson's book) is a guide to suffering and pain. He aims to replace "what happiness do you want?" with "what pain do you want?"

Telling us to seek pain is typical of Mark's counter-cliche way of phrasing things. He gives lots of great tales. Also lots of not-a-cliche language. Using the F word in the title sets the stage there.

You die

If you are having trouble with thinking that life is pain, you're really going to have trouble learning about death.

The solution is to accept things that suck, starting with everyone you know dying. Then choose active engagement with that suckiness.

I think you can tell in life, which people you meet the who have accepted their death. They're wise and kind.

The Title

When my mom started referencing it as "your Fuck book", I switched to calling it the orange book. Title aside, the contents are very good.