I love swearing. Obviously, I know it can be inappropriate, but a well-timed curse can be an icebreaker, tension release or just plain funny. That’s why I loved Sarah Knight’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A Fuck, and the way it stuck two fingers up at all the other self-help books, making them look oh so serious. And, when I speak to Knight on Skype, I love the way she uses the word “fuck” as lightly in speech as she does in the book.
I’m asking her what she – known as the anti-guru – gives a fuck about and whether we should, too. “I don’t want to be known as being someone who just says, ‘Fuck this, fuck that, nobody else is important.’ It’s really about being able to figure out how to have the life you want without hurting anybody else,” she says.
Knight is currently at home in the Dominican Republic. Moving there from New York, building the house with husband Judd, leaving a 15-year career in publishing to write, was all part of the no-fucks life she started two and a half years ago.
Last year, Knight brought out a second sweary volume, Get Your Shit Together, about taking everything that’s important or you have to do and doing it efficiently, to bring you the most happiness and success. And in her new book, You Do You, Knight shoots down in flames all the stuff you think you need to care about, giving you permission to rid yourself of all outside influences, obligation and expectations that you don’t care about.
Now, I’m much more focused on just living in the way I want and being the kind of person that I’m happy and proud of being – without worrying so much about what it looks like on the outside
So, as the queen of what to discard, dump, of giving no fucks, what does she really give a fuck about?
1) Time and energy for loved ones
“My fuck budget is pretty much largely allocated towards my husband and our marriage and really having a great time together and having time to spend with each other,” she says. You might know, or guess, that a fuck budget is making a list of what you care about, then dumping the rest. A lot of her fuck budget also goes on friends. “That was the hardest part about leaving New York,” she says. But not all of her friends, it turns out. Knight, in line with her life philosophy, has dumped two friends she doesn’t care for. She’d kept them up because they’d always been in her friend group, but says they “came up short for reasons of being relatively incompatible”. So she began politely turning down their invites. “They didn’t try to push it from their end either, which leads me to believe that those people may have felt similarly about me from the beginning. It only proves my theory that it’s a waste of your time and energy and money to be doing things that you don’t want to do with people you don’t want to do them with.”
2) Work and personal reputation
She qualifies this immediately: “This is not to be confused with giving a fuck about what other people think.” Rather, it’s about what you think about you.
“I’ve really been able to focus on getting rid of the aspects of ambition and success, as perceived by other people, that used to define me. Now, I’m much more focused on just living in the way I want and being the kind of person that I’m happy and proud of being – without worrying so much about what it looks like on the outside.”
In You Do You, Knight writes about learning to be authentic: “People really are seeing themselves in that message. I’m giving them permission to say, ‘You know what? However I want to do it, that makes me happy – it doesn’t have to be the way that everybody else thinks I should.’” That includes embracing any life decisions that don’t fit the norm. For Knight, it was giving up her career in publishing and not having children. She describes the latter as “a really easy decision to make even if it puzzles a lot of other people”.
You doing you also involves letting other people do themselves, too: “Not being quite so judgy, so quick to condemn other people and make fun of them.” So, you get nicer while you do what you care about – win-win.
3) Choosing life by thinking about death
Knight tells me people in her life are beginning to die – she’s 39 – both unexpectedly young and friends’ parents, too: “That has made me think a lot about the fact that time is very limited and you’re never really know when it’s going to run out, so why not live the life you want to live?” Why not, indeed?