Maybe You’re Giving Too Many F*cks: A Q&A With Author Mark Manson

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Tim doesn't give a fuck. Image/Mark Manson
This makes me laugh every time I see it. You go, Tim. (Image/

There are bad words in this post.

More than usual. I used to publish many bad words here, but have cut back, probably because I worry too much about what other people think. Which is bad.

That’s what Mark Manson’s new book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is mostly about (along with Mark’s original blog post which inspired it).

We all spend a lot of time and energy on trying to be who and what we think other people want us to be. And it leaves us feeling a little dirty and dissatisfied because it’s inauthentic and bullshitty.

Our mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being is affected by a variety of meaningful and important things. Some people think profanity is meaningful and important. Some people want to use only nice words and feel comfortable all the time.

But sometimes, I think we MUST feel uncomfortable, because that’s when we figure out what really matters and what doesn’t.

I don’t intentionally cuss in front of children (or my grandma), and I value politeness and respecting others’ opinions.

But once in a while, boats need rocked, beliefs need challenged, and taking a counterintuitive approach is what’s needed to live well.

You might not like it. I’m fairly certain my mom doesn’t.

But for this post, at least? I just don’t give a fuck.

F-bombing the book title is a bold choice. The word “Shitty” will live in mine.

Mark Manson is one of my favorite writers, possibly my very favorite.

He’s smart. He’s funny. And many of the things he writes hit me in that place where your mind, heart and body go: Ohhh. That feels uncomfortably true.

Other than me being a big fan and admirer of his work, Mark and I don’t know each other. I’m not pimping Mark’s new book for any other reason than I believe his writing has the ability to help certain people have better lives.

I truly believe that Mark’s work helps humans flourish. And that matters.

I think you should read his book. It would be awesome of you to buy a copy. By the time you read this, my pre-ordered copy should be sitting atop my book stack. Which is awesome.

A Q&A With Mark Manson

Matt: I’ve read a lot of your work and have been majorly influenced by a handful of your ideas. I value your opinions. What is so important to you about this specific concept that made it meaningful enough to dedicate an entire book to it?

Mark: I wanted to write a book about the importance of pain — that pain is often a good and necessary thing in life. It’s something that’s not said often and I feel like in our overly-consumer culture these days with social media and everything, it’s more important than ever for people to allow life to suck sometimes. They need to learn how to stop giving a fuck about everything all the time. In a sense, you could say it’s an approach to personal growth not through pursuing and achieving more, but rather by pursuing and achieving less.

Matt: I mostly write about relationships (the dating/marriage kind). How can learning how to give fewer fucks help someone or couples experience greater relationship success?

Mark: Not giving a fuck is essentially about choosing what to care about: choosing your priorities, your values. Most people who struggle in the dating/relationship area struggle because they’re giving too many fucks about the wrong things — being admired or receiving validation, avoiding rejection, or pumping up their own ego. For a relationship to function and flourish, one needs to get clear about what truly matters to them and what does not, and then develop the ability to sort and screen through potential partners to find someone who shares those values.

Mark Manson
That’s Mark. (Image/Forbes)

Matt: It was you who introduced me to David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech which you shared in your post “This is Water.” It had the same chemistry-shifting impact on me as I believe it did on you. (So, thanks.) How do we balance in healthy ways critical concepts like Awareness and Empathy with the self-preservation techniques of fuckage withholdment?

Mark: One of the subtleties to not giving a fuck is that it’s not about being indifferent, it’s about being comfortable with being different. Many people see not giving a fuck as this armor of indifference — by learning to not care about anything, they’ll protect themselves from being hurt. But the truth is that indifference is just another way of giving too many fucks. To truly not give a fuck about what does not matter, we must first discover those things in our life that matter the most.

Matt: If you had to pick just one of your articles, which would you choose that hit on one of those life-altering moments for you, in an effort to help others see the world as you believe it is?

Mark: It’s funny, the articles I love the most are often not the articles that readers get the most out of and vice-versa. For me though, the biggest ones would probably be “Being Special Isn’t So Special,” “Love is Not Enough” and “The Four Stages of Life.”

Matt: One of the great lessons of adulthood for me has been learning about Hedonic Adaptation. It is, in my estimation, the root cause of human dissatisfaction across the board, from how we always grow tired of our shiny new toys, adjust to pay increases, and perhaps most importantly, take for granted our romantic partners. What besides Mindfulness would you recommend to people (especially guys) for combating that psychological condition on behalf of their marriages and families?

Mark: The hedonic treadmill usually only applies to superficial, worldly pursuits — earning more money, buying nicer cars, banging more women, etc. This is why these things are generally considered superficial values and poor things to pursue (or to put another way, poor places to invest your fucks). As humans, we need a sense of progress in order to feel happy, therefore it’s important to choose goals and values that have no definitive end to them — becoming a great musician, being a good father, having a pleasant social life, etc. These are things that can always be worked on and improved upon.

Matt: The No. 1 question I get is: “How can I get my husband to understand what you’ve written here? He never listens to me any time I say anything he perceives as critical.” I care about helping others, and I believe husbands actively listening to their wives (hearing her, I mean; not following her directives) would dramatically improve relationships/marriage. What advice would you give women on how to communicate concerns or dissatisfaction in ways men are more likely to truly listen to?

Mark: Questions like this are hard because they’re so person-dependent. It’s hard to say with certainty without knowing the couple. After all, maybe there’s something in the wife’s communication style that is preventing him from hearing her. Maybe the husband has some deep insecurity that is causing him to avoid dealing with the issue. It could be a million things.

But in general, the short answer, is that whenever someone in a relationship has problems with their partner, it always needs to be communicated in such a way that responsibility or blame for each person’s emotions are not shifted to the other. For instance, many people naturally approach their partner by saying something like, “You don’t care about me and make me feel horrible because all you want to do is X.” Because this is said in such a way that puts all of the responsibility on the partner, they will naturally become defensive or seek a way to avoid dealing with it. After all, I can’t control how my wife feels 24/7!

A much better way to communicate it is something like, “When you do X, it often causes me to think/feel badly because I feel unloved. Maybe that’s my own insecurity, but is there something we can do to make it better?” In this example, the person approaching their partner with the problem is owning their responsibility for their own feelings and reactions, and are looking to find some solution. There’s no blame or guilt-tripping going on. This is far more likely to be successful.

Then again, a lot of men are raised and socialized to be emotionally shut down and distant from pretty much everyone (but especially women), so it can be a much more long-term issue that may actually have little to do with the wife herself.

Thanks, Mark

A big thank-you to Mark for making time for our tiny corner of the internet.

If you think as highly of Mark’s work as I do, perhaps you’ll give his new book a read and share it with anyone in your life who might benefit from it.

This sort of thing is good for everybody.

Because we mostly give too many fucks about the wrong things. And it makes us feel bad as we invest in other people’s opinions of us, or chasing things that ultimately leave us feeling empty.

Remember: Fuckage withholdment isn’t about being indifferent. It’s about being comfortable with being different.

We can participate in bullshit group-think and try to blend in.

Or we can be like Tim in the image up top. Each of us gets to decide.

Now, where did I leave those red balloons?

21 thoughts on “Maybe You’re Giving Too Many F*cks: A Q&A With Author Mark Manson”

    1. Thank you! It was a treat for me to have the opportunity to digitally chat with Mark about this stuff.

      I appreciate you checking it out.

    1. Anyone who can avoid getting hung up on the language (and understanding its true artistic/psychological purpose) would like it, I think!

      The man is good at words.

      Thank you, Alice.

    1. Yes. You just did. Your comment is legally binding, obviously.

      Thank you a million times. It’s awesome of you to take the time to read through this.

    1. I’ve had a couple super-short email exchanges with him over the past couple of years. He’s a pretty accessible writer.

      This new book may or may not change that for him. We’ll see.

      But, yes. To have him not think it was a waste of his time to contribute here meant a lot to me.

  1. I counted 18 fucks, including the two in the pictures. Not bad, not bad!
    Seriously, though, the book’s title is provocative, and it sounds like an interesting read!

    1. I just read chapter 1. It’s awesome. People will inevitably get hung up on the language. While they are unquestionably the people in most desperate need of ingenuity swimming amongst the language, they’ll just have to learn this stuff the other way.

      For everyone else, it’s full of wisdom in an unconventional package.

      Which is precisely how I like it.

      1. Matt, I am just curious- what do you think Mark’s purpose for the language is?

        Or is that something we should figure out on our own?

        1. I think it’s a natural filtration process.

          I think an inability to look past words which were arbitrarily chosen in the past however many decades or centuries as “bad,” demonstrates the sort of uprightness and energy devotion to things that don’t matter that Mark is talking about.

          I avoid gratuitous F-bombs for politeness’ sake. But it’s stupid and arbitrary.

          Wearing shoes in people’s homes and taking photographs inside houses of worship in Japan are major breaches of etiquette.

          In the United States, we don’t even think about it.

          I believe Mark’s point is that people invest a lot of energy in things that don’t matter, are well outside their control, and ultimately contribute to human unhappiness.

          I think he’s saying we don’t have our priorities straight.

          And I’d say he’s right.

          Without fail, the friends I know who are the most religious are the ones most troubled by profanity.

          Perhaps there’s Bible language somewhere to back that up and I just don’t know about it.

          But, honestly.

          We’re going to lose our collective shit over reading, or hearing someone say words that didn’t even exist in the time of Christ and assume that God gets super-smart everytime we, or someone, says them?


          Forgive me Lord for my failings and assumptions, but for the life of me, I can’t fathom the all-knowing creator of the universe giving even an ounce of shit about words arbitrarily chosen as off-color. (Clarification: If they are NOT being used to hurt others. But you can just as easily do that with words deemed “okay” in a different context.)

          Mark knows a ton about human psychology. Mark has worked with people for a while. And I think he’s come to the conclusion that many people care about stupid things, and their lives are worse for it.

          Read Facebook comments under ANY politics-related post or video.

          By the THOUSANDS, people just keep proving Mark right.

          Ironically, many use profanity and shit on other people while doing so!

          1. Matt,
            Cool.(Nodding head)
            I can agree that in the scheme of things, it is really asinine to worry so much about the appearance of uprightness when we are so cock-eyed stupid about things of real importance.

            I remember something a friend of mine shared with me a few years ago. It was addressed to religious folks, and it cited statistics of some pretty horrendous things going on…somewhere (or maybe all the way through it- I don’t remember) there was/were a cuss word(s). At the end, it said something to the effect that it is likely that people were more shocked and offended by the cuss word than by the statistics.

            I do have at least 1 reason that I dont think they are necessarily “arbitrary”, though.

            That is, they tend to be a way to express and emphatic feeling- either of frustration, or anger or even victory/achievement at times.

            So they are “full spririted” ,and they may even be a really valid way of releasing anger and frustration, as long as it isn’t directed at someone else.

            I mean the words themselves could be very arbitrary. ie S-h-*-t (sorry, I am a prude…sometimes…) is just four letters that fit together per English rules.
            In that way they are arbitrary, but our use of them tends to signify some kind of emotion, so in that way I dont think they are arbitrary at all.

            But, if I am understanding, I dont think his point is that we need to use them all the time in everyday language- as if they were really arbitrary. More to the point is that we shouldn’t be so offended by them when there are a hell of a lot more things we should be offended by, but aren’t…or maybe just not be so offended, period.

            I think that is what you were saying. (correct me if I am wrong, and/or if it is worth correcting 🙂

            Thank you for responding back!

          2. First I want to apologize for me reference to “cock-eyed stupid.” That is a phrase I grew up with, and I sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone who has a strabismus. I certainly don’t want to attribute stupidity to strabismus. (I’ve known doctors with a strabismus- he was both smart and attractive, so, that saying is stupid…)

            But, that did make me think about the idea of taking offense.

            And, my answer at present is that we SHOULD take at offense- at the right things.
            At the things that hurt people, and hurt relationships.

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  3. It’s not about being indifferent, it’s about being comfortable with being different.

    Duuuuuuude that line is AWESOME. Definitely believe in that and so glad it’s clarified that way because some people totally confuse the two. Very well said. Good post! I will definitely check him out. Thanks.

    1. That line is all Mark.

      Well, I suppose if I commit it to memory, it could eventually become something I say.

      Mark Manson is a pretty brilliant guy, in my estimation.

      And I think maybe a bunch of people are missing the point of him using the language he has.

      Because the lesson and point is, indeed, subtle.

      I don’t think most people get it. And that’s okay.

  4. “it’s not about being indifferent, it’s about being comfortable with being different.” – Well, moreso what he says later, really….”To truly not give a fuck about what does not matter, we must first discover those things in our life that matter the most.”

    We as a social species waste entirely too much energy on things that truly do not matter. And since we only have a finite amount of energy…we should spend it like cash, not like a credit card with a larger limit than we can ever hope to repay.

    When we understand the limits of our emotional resources, we invest them in what is truly valuable to us.

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