Robert Jesenik-The Subtle Art of Not Giving a “F”

Author of Book: Mark Mason
Date Read: January 31, 2024

Book Report

Title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a “F”
Chapter 1- Don’t Try

Author: Mark Mason

Date: January 31, 2024

I’m choosing to review this specific chapter as it is foundational to the overall book, and concisely lays out “what one should give an “F” about”.

Like so many of us on the outside of prison, life can be so busy, almost overwhelming at times. Between work, kids, spouses/sig others, sports, the gerbil wheel spins almost out of control. Throw in the unexpected, Holidays, illness, and it sometimes does.

Mason summarizes” The world is constantly telling you a path to a better life is more, more, more. Buy more, own more, make more, “F” more, be more. Give a “F” about everything all the time. The problem is that giving too many “F’s” is bad for your mental health. It causes you to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a “F” about more, it’s giving a “F” about less, about only what is true, immediate, and important.”

I think every working or contributing citizen can relate to this paragraph above. In addition, I would add “Do more”.Many of those I know work hard, play hard, do more, and just don’t get much downtime. Time for reflection is really hard to come by in the ” more, more” world. As I look back at my own life, I see plenty of “more, more” combined with all kinds of giveback activities- non-profit dinners, board meetings mentoring, etc… Ironically this just adds to the “do more” cycle on top of the ” more, more” cycle.

This chapter goes on to discuss “Hey my life is cooler than yours” on social media, “breeding a whole new generation of people who believe having negative experiences, anxiety, fear, guilt is totally not ok. Especially if you believe Facebook, IG, everyone is having a “F’in” grand old time. So we feel bad, and then feel bad about feeling bad, posits Mason. That’s why not giving an “F” is so key. If we can, then we begin to accept the world is totally “F’d” up and that’s ok, it’s always been that way and always will be.”

Most of us can see this in the younger generation, labeling them snowflakes or not, this helps explain their hurt feelings and sensitivity. Unfortunately, it also limits their ability to benefit from one of Mason’s principles. He goes on to say-” The desire for more positive experiences is itself a negative experience. And the acceptance of one’s negative experiences is itself a positive experience. Simply put, suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”

Reading this book/chapter on my third day in prison, these passages hit me right between the eyes. Rather than self-pity/being a snowflake in a prison environment, these concepts will be foundational for my mindset going forward, period. “To try and avoid suffering is to give too many “F’s” about pain and suffering. If you’re able to not give an “F”, you become unstoppable.” That’s’ been my approach to life, but going to prison caused a blockage, and now this passage helped me with my attitude reset.

So what exactly does not giving a “F” mean? Per Mason ” To stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action. This struck me as very encouraging, given I just started a potentially long prison sentence. Mason goes on to cite a couple of rules to follow:

#1. Not giving a “F” does not mean being indifferent, it means being comfortable with different. What is admirable is the willingness to stare failure in the face and shove your middle finger back at it. The people who don’t give a “F” about adversity, or failure, or embarrassing themselves. In summary, they say “F it”, not to everything in their life, but to everything unimportantant in their life. Faith, Friends, family, purpose is what’s important.

Mason carries on discussing that no matter where you go there’s adversity and failure in life. And that’s what one thing I gave an “F” about, dealing with it head-on.

#2. To not give a “F” about adversity, you must first give a “F” about something unimportant. “It then follows that finding something more important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most productive use of your time and energy.” This totally resonates with me. Friends, Family. Faith, purpose.

In summary, Mason states “The idea of not giving a “F” is a single way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is/isn’t important. Developing this ability is practical enlightenment- comfortable with the idea some suffering is always inevitable- no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.”

“This book will teach you to take inventory of your life and scrub out all but the most important items”.

Not only do these principles apply in a slow-paced prison environment, but they especially do in the outside world of hustle and bustle. Whenever I get out, you can bet these areas will continue to be top of mind, like never before!