The Subtle Art of Giving a F*
Mark Manson’s popular book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” is marketed as a “A dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today”, it doesn’t literally mean to not give any F*’s, it’s just a ballsy way of repeating other self help books like “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.
A caveat before we get started, I know that neither of these books is about shortcuts, in fact they’re about helping people see the big picture, and understanding what is important, and what isn’t. They’re also about living your best life, your authentic self, and generally being true to yourself. These are all good things.
The scary part about messages like that is that some people have taken this to mean that you can just do a surface level skim coat and call it “good enough”. If I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, why do you care that the thumbnail for your news story grabs the right part of the image?
Sometimes we need to give a F***, sometimes we need to give all of the F***’s, and borrow a cup of F***’s from a neighbour to add some extra F***’s to your awesome sauce, otherwise you’ll just end up with a big lump of “adequate sauce”.
Hey, maybe adequate sauce is exactly what you need on your Corporate Chain Pizza of life.
Then again, maybe you need to give a f***.
What is the “Subtle art of giving a F***”?
The Subtle Art of Giving a F*** is more than just “sweating the small stuff” and in fact it’s a lot about big picture thinking, and how small details add up to the big picture.
Let’s start with a website. You can tell within 30 seconds of looking at a website how the company is going to treat you.
- How does it look? Is the site old and tired, or is it fairly modern?
- Does the navigation make sense?
- Is it obvious what you should do? Is it simple to find the thing you’re looking for?
- Is it easy to get in touch with them?
- When you want to get in touch with them, do they require a whole bunch of seemingly irrelevant information?
Sometimes it’s the little things. Maybe they have a really intricate logo, but the thing is so small that it loses all context – it was likely designed for print, not for a 300px phone screen, where 87% of your potential customers initiate their first contact. Maybe it’s the fact that a captcha form takes seven attempts to get through.
You can tell very quickly when thought hasn’t been given to who is using the website, and what they’re doing with it.
When the basics are taken care of, then the difference is in how an experience can delight you. The little things can take something from 90% or “good enough” to 125% – “Wow, this is great”
Sometimes it’s about doing something that only you will care about.
The other day I spent over an hour on a single image for a blog post. The post itself probably took me another hour. I doubt anyone will even notice the difference between my picture and the default. The post was – How to Survive the Retail Paradigm Shift over on my Manage Comics blog.
For those of you wondering, I went in and added actual comic books to the book covers, so that the picture was actually reflective of the source material. This may not seem like a huge deal, but it felt important to me at the time. It was fun, I flexed some Photoshop muscles I don’t normally use, and it lends some extra context to the post.
It’s also the kind of thing that a detail oriented person might notice, and since this particular post was going in front of hundreds of thousands of eyes that’s the kind of detail that matters.
For that post I also recorded a video, it took me 14 minutes to record the video, and another three revisions of the thumbnail image to make sure it was exactly right.
In the first version, I realized that at certain screen sizes, the sides were being cut off, so I resized the caption and moved the logo a bit. However reading it I realized that the title needed some juice to make it more relevant, so I revised it again. Each revision only took a few minutes, but they were important.
In short, I did sweat the small stuff, and I gave a F***.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees
The little things gave me a sense of accomplishment. However, I worked on the things that I thought would make an impact, I did things quickly and efficiently, and I only worked on these little things after I had the big picture covered.
The video I did was recorded quickly, and without fuss. The idea behind the videos I am making right now is that I want to do things that have a low barrier to entry, that don’t take me a ton of time, but that can hit an adjacent audience to the text.
I recorded the video twice, the first time I hemmed and hawed quite a bit, but the second time I managed to get through the entire thing with only one minor screw up (I couldn’t remember the name “Geek Easy” no matter how hard I tried). Now I could have done a quick edit and fixed that up, but after watching it, I liked the raw energy of the unedited video.
What was important was that I got it up, that it enhanced the original post, and that it didn’t take a whole ton of time to do.
I’m a big fan of the term “Appropriate Effort”, meaning that you don’t spend a ton of time on things you know very few people will ever see, but you do put a lot of effort into the details on things that many people would see. I can’t imagine myself spending an hour on a graphic for a blog post just for Manage Comics, but when I’m going to draw in a much bigger audience, it makes a ton of sense.
- Cover the big picture, make sure your message is consistent.
- Don’t kill yourself over the little details that aren’t important.
- Work fast, work well, do things you enjoy.
- Give a F***, and make it matter.