top of page

a subtle art

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

Hi there ~ Nice to see you again.

You know when two completely different lenses end up really not being that much different after all?

Cognitive dissonance means trying to hold two opposing ideas in your brain simultaneously. This pretty much sums up the last two books I read.

I read these books around my recent 34th birthday – one of those not-particularly-momentous years that still feels somehow significant. It's that last year of “I’m still a full-on grown up, but with a hint of young pizzazz.” Right? Or something like that.

Anyway, both of these books left me with lovely little tidbits to pocket. Both of them served as poignant reminders of not sweating the small stuff while creating space for what really matters. And both of them were chock full of opportunities to pause and think deep thoughts like, “Huh. That sounds nice.”

Last time, I unwrapped What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style. It was perhaps one of the most delicious books I’ve ever read. Timeless elegance, thoughtful with an air of splendid playfulness...and resonating like a deft and perceptive bow richly playing the strings of my heart.

But the book I read just before that was called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

First of all, this is a constant challenge. Many people have a constant buzz in their heads, or in a need to release physical energy. I have a constant buzz to get shit done – and I think it’s getting worse. It's pretty constant, and it can feel never-ending and overwhelming.

Well, first of all, that’s life. There’s always shit to do, so just let it go, Jamie. It’s fine.

Secondly, on those rare occasions when I have nothing that needs doing I often find myself looking for a new project – because I thrive on getting shit done.

But, still, I need to hone the subtle art of not giving a f*ck about many of the things I give a f*ck about, so that I can 1) Focus my time and energy on the important f*cks, and 2) Chill the f*ck out.

Here are a few take-homes from this rather fantastic little book:

  1. Don’t try. Our culture is obsessed with bettering ourselves, which just constantly reminds us of what we lack and/or should have been but failed to be. Don’t be indifferent, but be comfortable with being different. Let more things go, and focus on what’s most important.

  2. Emotions are overrated. You want to be happy? Well, happiness comes from solving problems. So stop aiming for happiness like it’s an end-result, because you’ll never get there. Instead, decide what you want to struggle for – because everyone struggles. That’s life in all its beauty.

  3. Stop thinking you’re so special. Social media and marketing screws up expectations. “Exceptional” people don’t think they’re special: They think they’re mediocre.

  4. Suffering is important, but a lot of suffering comes from screwed up metrics of success and bad values: “Problems may be inevitable, but the meaning of each problem is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we choose to measure them.”

  5. Responsibility is a good thing – and it’s the first step to solving problems. Choosing your problems empowers you.

  6. Strive for doubt, because being wrong opens you up to the possibility of change and growth.

  7. Act first, and fail your way forward.

  8. Say no more often: “We all must give a f*ck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something.”

In a lot of ways, Audrey Hepburn knew the subtle art of not giving a f*ck. And that’s what motivated her to do what she did.

She focused on the most important things. She didn’t think she was special. She chose the right metrics. She was tough and didn’t play the victim. She let herself suffer, and then she moved on. She kept the faith. And she gave a f*ck about the somethings that mattered most.

In the end, these two books are, kind of and sort of, the same book – just dressed differently. And, together, they provide a rather thought-provoking kick in the pants to live a meaningful life.

Funny enough, I just found this passage I wrote down from the What Would Audrey Do?...:

“Modest. Extremely talented. Strong willed. Shy. Beautiful. Disciplined. Hidden. Audrey was all of these things and more. ‘The test of a first rate intelligence,’ wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.’ ”

So, there you go: Audrey was, herself, an example of cognitive dissonance at its finest.

Thanks for stopping by. And keep sharing your stories, because someone wants to hear them.


bottom of page