The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Documentary Review and Teachings

Mark teaches that we all worry too much about too many meaningless things. He guides us to care less about more and to care more about less.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck Documentary Review and Teachings
Mark Manson reading a copy of his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Source: Universal Pictures.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a 2023 documentary that is based on Mark Manson's book of the same name. The documentary explores Mark's life and how he came to the realization and dogma of not giving a f*ck.

Mark's 13-Year-Old Criminal Self

Mark Manson is arrested at 13 years old after being found with drugs in his backpack in school. He loses all sense of self and the confidence he thought he had and ends up feeling like a helpless young boy. This experience traumatizes him but also draws him into the helpless nature of life and how our minds can cheat us about what's right and what is not.

The Tumult in Mark's Childhood

Three months after Mark is arrested, his parents go through a divorce. Mark realizes that he's not special and that the world is just going to be painful. He faces the hard truth of a life full of suffering and how that is the nature of living and the human condition. In reply to his situation, he overcompensates.

The Hard Truth: We are Not Special

Mark says that the experience taught him that he's not special and that most of us just tell that to ourselves to make us feel better. Our brain feeds on this as it is its "junk food" and we love such notions of being unique and special because they make us feel better. They are, however, bile and do nothing to help us to become better.

A Trail of Failed Relationships

Once Mark's parents got divorced, this left an indelible mark on him and the belief that relationships are inherently dysfunctional. As such, Mark knew and thought that dysfunctional relationships were the norm and overcompensated in his twenties, ending up with a trail of failed relationships.

Escaping Commitment and Reality by Traveling the World

Mark then went on to escape commitment to any single place and any single person, and the reality that we all need to be committed somehow, by traveling the world. He made sure not to say in any single place too long as a way to avoid getting attached to anything or any one place, only to later realize that there was nowhere else to run. In the end, he realized that there is a diminishing return to new experiences and despite how terrifying this was, it forced him to face commitment.

Placing the Wrong Goals and Goalposts for Ourselves

Mark gives the example of the Metal band Megadeth's Dave Mustaine who after being kicked out of Metallica, a band he helped form, was very angry and decided to set his measure for success as being better than Metallica.

Dave Mustaine in his heydays wearing a Gang Green shirt
Dave Mustaine in his heydays wearing a Gang Green shirt. Source: Reddit.

Dave Mustaine's Dissatisfaction Out of His Beef with Metallica

The mistake of doing this was that even after selling millions of records and filling stadiums during concerts, he still felt dissatisfaction as he'd pegged his success on beating Metallica. Despite his success, his setting of the wrong goal and 'goalposts' deprived him of satisfaction similar to what any other person would have felt if they'd achieved what he had achieved.

The Need for Disappointment Panda

Mark further denotes the need for his superhero of choice: Disappointment Panda. He tells us that disappointment in life is good because it tells us what is not important in our lives. When something disappoints us, we realize that we were giving too many f*cks about it while it may not be very important and worth giving a f*ck about.

The Dangers of Certainty

Mark Manson then goes on to narrate the story of World War II Japanese general Hiroo Onoda who was a wartime army intelligence officer for the Japanese Imperial Army, who did not surrender after the war ended in August 1945. Onoda was sent to the island Lubang in the Philippines and was instructed to not relent and fight the Americans there till the bitter end. He became so certain of how things were that even when the war ended he could not believe it.

Hiroo Onoda's Refusal to End Hostilities in Lubang

Onoda continued fighting despite numerous huge campaigns to inform him that the war had ended and that he could end hostilities. Onoda kept fighting 30 years after the war and even ignored his brother's call to stop hostilities and come home. All this while, he was so certain that he believed all the messaging that came his way was a ploy by the Americans to flush him out.

Hiroo Onoda alongside Norio Suzuki, an official and being followed by journalists after he was convinced to stop fighting
Hiroo Onoda showed great grit to keep on fighting in Lubang. This photo was taken after he was persuaded that the war is finally over. Behind him on the left is Norio Suzuki who found him. Hiroo Onoda died at 91 years old back in 2014. Source: Getty Images.

Onoda finally came out of his hiding and ended hostilities in 1974. He was found by Norio Suzuki who was an adventurer who had sought to find him. Similar to Onoda, being too sure of ourselves or what we think we know could keep us fighting unnecessarily and not really achieving anything.

The Good Results of Trauma?

Mark then goes on to say that there is a weird thing that happens after one undergoes trauma. He cites research in post-war Warsaw, Poland where a researcher found that those who had experienced the war and even the holocaust expressed it as being a strangely beneficial experience to them. This is because seeing the terrible side of war and death gave them more gratitude for living and compassion toward others. They felt that there were very lucky to be alive and did all they could to lead meaningful and impactful lives.


Mark then goes on to speak about loss and how the loss of his friend Josh changed his life forever. Mark lost a dear friend in Josh and this huge loss made him realize that life is too short and that only a few things really matter in this world. Mark says that he saw Josh in a dream who asked "Why do you care that I am dead if you're scared to live?" Mark is dumbfounded.

You Have to Give a F*ck But You Can Choose What F*cks to Give

In the end, Mark Manson realizes that you have to give a f*ck. We all have to care about something, or else our lives will be empty and distraught. However and perhaps most importantly, we can choose what to give a f*ck about. As Mark puts it, we should all find something to care about and endorse the struggle of seeing it through. We should all choose what to spend our few f*cks on and accept the suffering and struggle that is the result of doing so.

Less is More

Mark also decries how society teaches us that we need to have more to be happy. We are taught that we need a bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger cheque, etc to be happy and when we get it, realize that we need something more, or something else. This race to nowhere, Mark says, is what is fundamentally wrong with all of us. Mark instead encourages us to recognize that less is more and that we are better off being content.

How Facing Death Could be the Key to Living

Mark describes his experiences walking up to cliffs and how that moment of facing death makes him realize that very few things really matter in this life. Mark denotes how our bodies go into alert mode when we face mortal danger and this, he says, makes him feel that only being alive is enough for one to be happy and whole. Mark says that we do not need anything beyond being alive to feel whole and content. Additionally, when we face death and think about it, that is when we unlock the key to living as everything else but our lives, we realize, is meaningless.

Our Rating

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck  is a highly thought-provoking documentary that entails narrations by Mark Manson of what his book 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' is all about. Mark teaches that we all worry too much about too many meaningless things. He guides us to care less about more and to care more about less. The documentary is a worthwhile watch and we rate it 6/10. Enjoy.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: The Book

The book 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' is what the documentary is based on. It is an international bestseller and very much a must-read.

The front cover of Mark Manson's book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Mark Manson's book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Source: Amazon.

The book is highly rated and has a lot of positive reviews that praise its high degree of thoughtfulness and a perspective of less is more. You should definitely read the book and you can get it on Amazon using the button below.

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