He was the first to sneak it into a mainstream book title and have it appear in bookstores worldwide.
That’s a mighty effort. Thanks Mark for freeing f*ck.
The story of how his book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” became so big and transformed pop culture hasn’t been told until recently.
I’m going to give you the 10,000 foot view of his story so you don’t have to listen to back-to-back 2-hour interviews. The insights will help you write online if that’s your goal (I insist it should be).
Success always starts like this
Mark has a polished brand nowadays.
Back when he began blogging in 2007 at college, he wrote about how to become a pickup artist simply because it was a popular topic. Back then that made him a low-life piece of crap.
He was dirtier than chewing gum that’s been stuck to your shoe for a month. Zero credibility, making it up as he went.
For those early years Mark said his readership was never more than a dozen people. Yet he kept writing.
As time went on he figured out you could promote affiliate links and get fat ass commissions. Or you could put ads on your site and make a whole lot of cashola. He even messed around with SEO.
90% of it was BS and didn’t make him a cent.
10% of it made him $100 a month if he was lucky. Mark self-published his first book — because no one would publish that sleazy crap — and he began selling online courses in 2010 for extra cash to splash.
Dudes who worshipped Mark like a god started asking for coaching. Now he had another income stream to fill his belly full of 2-minute noodles.
Then came lots of blogs full of stuff he knew nothing about
On the side Mark started more blogs that kept having more blog babies.
- A blog for Feng Shui
- A blog for teeth whitening strategies
- A blog for mixology and bartending
Here’s the killer line I love. Mark says he didn’t actually know stuff all about any of it. He just googled other content on the topics and rewrote it.
The slow shift toward maturity
Three years into writing online Mark rebranded.
He changed his website from “Practical Pickup” to Mark Manson. The topics shifted more towards vulnerability, honesty, and giving a damn about other people (aka maturity).
In early 2013 he realized 30% of his writing audience was female. Before then he just thought dudes that drank beer and banged chicks for kicks were his only readers.
What a shock!
In the interview with Tim Ferriss about his writing journey, it’s at this point that Tim starts to see similarities with his own writing journey.
Mark started with a narrow focus on pickup artistry. Tim started with a narrow focus on a tech audience that loved productivity.
As both Tim and Mark matured they expanded their niches — a natural progression for any writer.
How Mark Manson’s blog started to go viral
The biggest years for Mark’s blog were 2013–2015.
What’s important to mention is these are the years he didn’t just rely on SEO and web traffic. No. He started sharing his articles on Facebook (now Meta). The number of readers went from 100,000 to roughly 1.5M.
See, without social media and actively promoting your writing, ain’t nobody ever gonna read it. That’s not what writers want to hear.
They just want to write. But write and they will come is the fastest way to never have a writing career. That’s what Mark accidentally figured out.
Steal like an artist
Mark’s article “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” was one of the last articles during his viral golden years.
The title for his famous article that eventually became a book wasn’t 100% his either. A dirty little rock band called Lamb of God had a song called “The Subtle Art of Murder and Persuasion.”
Mark tried rewriting the song title as an article headline. Around the same time he also figured out if you put the word f*ck in the title Facebook would show it to 50% more people.
Finally, he came up with the headline “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.”
Mark instantly loved it. He felt as if it was one of his best titles ever. What’s missed in this story is how much time it took him to write headlines.
Mark spent a lot of time creating headlines and then just keeping them in a google doc somewhere.
I just realized the title is almost as important as the entire article itself, so I started spending hours just writing out dozens and dozens of titles.
Famous blogger, now author, James Altucher has a similar practice. He writes ten headlines a day.
Tim Ferriss also makes a similar comment in this interview with Mark. He, too, figured out headlines are everything. Either all these famous writers are stupid … or they’re on to something.
Write great headlines or die trying. Write headlines as a daily workout or forget about writing on the internet.
“On Love” ain’t gonna cut it.
A funky mood produces the best writing
Mark’s great headline with f*ck in it sat there for months.
He said he needs to feel inspired to use a headline or he doesn’t. At Christmas time that year he had a terrible holiday period.
His family pissed him off and spending time with them felt like torture. Then he got home to Austin, Texas and found out his girlfriend’s visa was all messed up. She got stranded in Brazil. No rumpy pumpy for Mark.
This whole situation put him into a funk.
During these moments he says he gets crazy sarcastic and snarky. So he sat down at his computer to write an article and blow off some steam.
And oh boy, blow off some steam he did.
Mark pulls up his badass list of headlines. He sees the one with the f-word and goes “today’s the f*cking day.”
The goal was to write an offensive and profane thing on the internet. But also to give the most helpful advice he’d ever learned. A double-edged sword. Now see if you can relate to this…
After the article was finished Mark felt it was ridiculous and stupid. There was no way he could publish this total garbage. He closed his computer and went to bed to dream about his girlfriend naked in Brazil.
The next day he sent the silly article to his editor guy for review. He told the editor he didn’t want to publish it. The editor came back in the Slack channel and said “YOU CAN FIRE ME, I’M F*CKING PUBLISHING IT!”
Days later the article blew up and went viral all over the internet. Mark had done it. You beauty mate, overnight success.
A similar experience on a smaller scale
I’m no Mark Manson but I could relate to a lot of what he and Tim Ferriss said about online writing.
I’ve had many viral articles over the last 9 years of writing on the internet. While individual articles blowing up was an accident, the eventual success I had that allowed me to make 7-figures and quit my job isn’t.
Like Mark, I threw a lot of sh*t at the wall to see what would stick. Only when I wrote under my own name, came out of the shadows, gave real advice, and racked up a huge number of published articles … did I get to see anything that resembled success.
Now one of the largest book publishers in the world wants to turn a viral article of mine into a book. Write for long enough and you get noticed.
What this all means for you
Mark Manson’s book was no accident.
He had 10+ years of silent iteration before he got his overnight success. If you stick at a goal long enough and keep reinventing yourself, eventually, you’ll find the formula that works for you.
But most people won’t. They’ll look for hacks, shortcuts or gurus to teach them, instead of just doing the hard work and figuring it out as they go.
Success is the same in all fields. Put in the work, be patient, and stick around for long enough to collect your paycheck.