A short guide to not giving a flying $@#%!

By Kim Knight

Kim Knight discovers how to successfully swear your way to self-fulfillment.
Follow Knight's instructions and, she promises, you will no longer spend time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like. Photo / iStock
Follow Knight's instructions and, she promises, you will no longer spend time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like. Photo / iStock

Maybe belting The Piano Man at Friday night karaoke with Hailey from accounts is the highlight of your week. Maybe your sister-in-law's nail decal party in a suburb where white jeans are tres sophistique is your definition of a really good time. Maybe you like baby showers.

This story is not for you.

It's possible you find personal fulfilment in company mission statements. That dress codes, breakfast meetings and the opportunity to crowdfund your colleague's daughter's charity mission to Mozambique actually inspire you to go to work.

This story is not for you.

But what if you don't give a damn? A toss? A hoot? Or any other flying four-letter word starting with, say, F?

Then you should read Sarah Knight's new book. Because it's for anybody who ever wanted to say: "I don't give a (insert the you-know-what word here)".

It's problematic, isn't it, this overuse of profanity in a family publication? Turn the page, gentle reader, because Sarah Knight doesn't give a f**k.

Last time the author checked, she'd used the word 731 times in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k.

"I just wanted to use it so many times, in so many different ways . . . so it would desensitise the reader and they would realise how silly it is to even think of that word in the context of this book as anything other than a playful word for things you care about."

Plus, the New York-based writer is an English major with a Harvard University education and 15 years' experience editing authors like Gillian Flynn and James Lee Burke.

"I don't think I'm in danger of taking the average IQ in a room down just because I use the F-word periodically."

Self-help for swearers. Personal growth for the blasphemously inclined. A step-by-step guide to giving the fingers, or, as the Americans might say, "flipping the bird". Follow Knight's instructions and, she promises, you will no longer spend time you don't have doing things you don't want to do with people you don't like.

In brief: Set boundaries. Say no. Develop personal policies against things you personally hate (potluck dinners, movies with subtitles, poetry slams, children you are not related to).

Start - don't say you haven't been warned about the language - by making a f**k budget.

Next time you find yourself giving a you-know-what, ask yourself if it's really worth it.

If the answer is no, proceed in an honest and polite fashion towards what Knight calls the "NotSorry" Method. Step one, decide what you don't care about. Step two, stop caring about them. (We're paraphrasing. Knight, obviously, uses stronger language).

She was, for example, able to stop caring about Greek yoghurt, "glamping", the Pope's latest opinion and the threat of a nuclear Iran. Controversially, her budget also identified napkin rings, football and taking Facebook quizzes as things she could afford to stop giving a word that rhymes with duck about.

The gains were incredible. Suddenly, Knight found time to give a duck about climate change, all of the humans, laser hair removal and excusing herself to get more wine.

"Some of the things on my list," she writes, "might seem overly simplistic or shallow, but I assure you they represent a very clear and quantifiable allocation of my time, energy and/or money."

Yes, the book is a parody. It openly acknowledges its source material - Maria Kondo's spectacularly best-selling decluttering manifesto, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. But, says Knight, there is a serious f**king intent here.

"Give fewer, better f**ks and be more present for the things in your life you care about. Have more energy, time and money to devote to them, and get rid of the extraneous stuff that doesn't make you happy. If you can follow this to the letter, I'd go so far as to guarantee you'll be a happier person at the end of it."

Your mother wants you to visit her in Palmerston North at Easter when flights cost the equivalent of a trip to Papeete? Tell her you don't give a . . . Oh. Wait.

"I don't actually believe everybody is interested in or capable of living this way," says Knight.

"But you can say, 'I don't want to go to that meeting' because somebody else will do it. There is somebody else out there who hasn't figured it out, who isn't enlightened. Or, maybe, they want to give a f**k. And that's the thing. My f**ks are different than yours, that are different from my husband's, that are different to my co-workers. There really is room for everybody to do their own thing."

Except, perhaps, avoid Palmerston North. Sometimes, says Knight, you have to give a little.

"But don't agree to spend five days at your parents' house, when you could spend three."

Start with the small ducks. It's easier to not give a duck about a thing (say, calculus) than it is a person (your child).

Some keys to getting rid of the ducks in your life include considering opinions separate to feelings, learning to say no, learning not to say sorry, and learning to stop caring about what other people think. And if you're worried that might turn you into a selfish (insert name of body part starting with "A" here). Knight has a special bullet-point on this. "Don't be an asshole."

But, also, "I think altruism is a little bit overrated in the decision-making rubric. I think that selfish is a four-letter word in our society and I don't think it should be.

"If you make decisions that are based on your own happiness and maintaining your sanity and keeping yourself from getting underwater financially, or scheduling-wise, then you are going to be a nicer, more productive, more fun person to be around.

"You're going to a better boss, colleague and spouse, because you don't feel besieged all the time."

Knight prepared for her book with an anonymous survey that asked people around the world to name the things they didn't actually care about, across four categories: things; work; friends, acquaintances and strangers; and family.

"I was both surprised and not surprised that all the responses overlapped just so overwhelmingly. So for family, for example, that meant things like enforced togetherness.

"If we all hate that so much, and we just said so, then we wouldn't have to do it."

Another major bugbear: Weddings. "Not every invitation that is issued must be accepted. Socio-economic backgrounds dictate a lot of what is supposed to happen at a wedding. All of that stuff is made up! Somebody made that up, probably to make money."

A little like, perhaps, the self-help publishing industry? Maybe this book is not for you. Maybe you're thinking you don't give a duck about this book. See how it works? Enlightenment. One flipping bird at a time.

- Canvas

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