Notes From The Subtle Art of … PG Edition

On my morning run, I listened to a podcast with the author, Mark Manson, on his alternative approach to finding and living the good life. During the show, I was surprised that Amazon announced this as the most highlighted book of 2017. Not the most read. Or downloaded. Folks took the time to press their finger on the screen and use Amazon’s clunky interface to highlight a passage or two. Before listening, I hadn’t considered this a measure of a successful book.

I went back and took a look at my own notes. Yes, I jotted, or highlighted, seven full pages. Comparing my partial thoughts and glimmers from similar offerings in the genre, I realized that this is probably the most highlighted book I’ve read in years. A trend worth noting. After cleaning up my finger’s starts and stops, a few of my favorites are below.

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Note, I cleaned up the curse words a bit. I know that the language is part of the book’s charm; however, my kid glances at my site at times. So, I wanted to ensure this post gets a PG rating from the National Blogging Association. Critics hate when studios dumb down a film maker’s vision, but not every written work on the World Wide Web needs to shock these days. Sometimes, just passing along information is good enough.

Notes to Remember:

  • We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. What is wrong with me? This is why not having a care in the world (f-bomb omitted) is so key. This is why it’s going to save the world. When someone writes with this much passion, books shine. His soul jumps off the page. Mark believes what he writes.
  • Notice how sometimes when you stop having a care in the world, everything seems to fall into place? What’s with that? Well, I like to think life excels when you put yourself out there. I think that’s the tag line for my site, or something. I believe this stuff too.
  • Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others.
  • To not have a care in the world is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
  • This, in a nutshell, is what “self-improvement” is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to care about. Because when you care, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external factors.While reading this, I had to admit that the author excels in getting as many f-bombs as possible into sentences. Samuel L. Jackson should narrate portions of the audio book. Who knows, maybe he did? And if he did, I need to go buy it now.
  • “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.” 
  • We should pick our battles carefully, while simultaneously attempting to empathize a bit with the so-called enemy. We should approach the news and media with a healthy dose of skepticism and avoid painting those who disagree with us with a broad brush. We should prioritize values of being honest, fostering transparency, and welcoming doubt over the values of being right, feeling good, and getting revenge. These “democratic” values are harder to maintain … This is one of my favorite parts of the book. I often shout to my child not to be a lemming, one of my favorite games as a kid.
  • Sadism aside, the point of the experiment is to show how quickly the human mind is capable of coming up with and believing in a bunch of bullshit that isn’t real. And it turns out, we’re all really good at it. First, the brain is imperfect. We mistake things we see and hear. We forget things or misinterpret events quite easily. Second, once we create meaning for ourselves, our brains are designed to hold on to that meaning. We are biased toward the meaning our mind has made, and we don’t want to let go of it. Even if we see evidence that contradicts the meaning we created, we often ignore it and keep on believing anyway.
  • Belief always takes precedence. Until we change how we view ourselves, what we believe we are and are not, we cannot overcome our avoidance and anxiety. We cannot change. In this way, “knowing yourself” or “finding yourself” can be dangerous. It can cement you into a strict role and saddle you with unnecessary expectations. It can close you off to inner potential and outer opportunities. I say don’t find yourself. I say never know who you are. Because that’s what keeps you striving and discovering. And it forces you to remain humble in your judgments and accepting of the differences in others.
  • “Am I jealous—and if I am, then why?” “Am I angry?” “Is she right, and I’m just protecting my ego?” Questions like these need to become a mental habit.
  • If it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself. I used to have a philosophy that everyone needs a villain. Choose your own adventure with this one. Co-Worker. Boss. The neighbor who put up a fence on your property line. A bully’s parents. The list goes on. However, I think this life mantra has flaws. It doesn’t play the long game and is only good for short term gains. In corporate environments, where you’re given a new boss every eighteen month this may work. Still, beating the villain isn’t healthy on many levels.
  • Rejection is an important and crucial life skill. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship that isn’t making them happy. Nobody wants to be stuck in a business doing work they hate and don’t believe in. Nobody wants to feel that they can’t say what they really mean. Yet people choose these things. All the time. Honesty is a natural human craving. But part of having honesty in our lives is becoming comfortable with saying and hearing the word “no.” In this way, rejection actually makes our relationships better and our emotional lives healthier. I’m not great at this, always wanting folks to feel good. Sometimes, there isn’t an easy way to let someone down. Yeah, I’m still internalizing this but I think that’s ok.
  • “Look, this is my problem; you don’t have to fix it for me. Just support me while I fix it myself.” That would actually be a demonstration of love: taking responsibility for your own problems and not holding your partner responsible for them.
  • Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting. In this day and age of endless possibilities, this can plague someone. Paralysis by infinite options.
  • “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” And this is a true quote.

Looking back through these notes and snippets, I trimmed about half, really thinking through those that mattered. I think I read this six months ago, and some of these notes still scream at me. Yes, this is true. Shows that this work is worthy of Amazon’s most highlighted award. Not sure that carries weight in the literary world, but, without a doubt, this is a book worth reading. Thanks Mark, for having the courage to put pen to paper.