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My takeaway

Life is constantly throwing you new problems. The trick is to choose the problems you find worthy to solve and disregard the rest. What kind of pain do you want in your life and what would you be willing to struggle for?

My notes

These are my informal notes from The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It contains a mix of key highlights as well as my own thoughts and lessons.

  • Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
  • The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more—buy more, own more, make more, be more.
  • Our society today, through the wonders of consumer culture and hey-look-my-life-is-cooler-than-yours social media, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences—anxiety, fear, guilt, etc.—is totally not okay.
  • Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to care about anymore.
  • Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.
  • 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.
  • The more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.
  • The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering.
  • I see practical enlightenment as becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.
  • Life itself is a form of suffering. The rich suffer because of their riches. The poor suffer because of their poverty.
  • Create your guide to suffering and how to do it better, more meaningfully, with more compassion and more humility.
  • We are wired to become dissatisfied with whatever we have and satisfied by only what we do not have.
  • Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded.
  • Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.
  • Happiness is a form of action—it’s an activity.
  • True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
  • Emotions are merely signposts, suggestions that our neurobiology gives us, not commandments. Therefore, we shouldn’t always trust our own emotions. We should make a habit of questioning them.
  • A fixation on happiness inevitably amounts to a never-ending pursuit of “something else”—a new house, a new relationship, another child, another pay raise.
  • “What pain do you want in your life? What are you willing to struggle for?” Who you are is defined by what you’re willing to struggle for.
  • People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness.
  • People who are entitled delude themselves into whatever feeds their sense of superiority.
  • The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.
  • It’s strange that in an age when we are more connected than ever, entitlement seems to be at an all-time high.
  • This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average most of the time, the deluge of exceptional information drives us to feel pretty damn insecure and desperate, because clearly we are somehow not good enough.
  • Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems.
  • It has become an accepted part of our culture today to believe that we are all destined to do something truly extraordinary.
  • Being “average” has become the new standard of failure.
  • If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not “How do I stop suffering?” but “Why am I suffering—for what purpose?”
  • Our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.