Sarah Knight: The Magic of Not Giving a F*** at TEDxCoconutGrove (Transcript)

Sarah Knight at TEDxCoconutGrove

Here is the full transcript of freelance writer Sarah Knight’s TEDx Talk presentation: The Magic of Not Giving a F*** at TEDxCoconutGrove conference. She is the author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: The Magic of Not Giving a F— by Sarah Knight at TEDxCoconutGrove conference


Sarah Knight – Freelance writer

We’re living in a post-tidying society. Everyone, including me, has a story about de-cluttering their home. Gathering all of their possessions into the middle of the floor, deciding what brings joy, and then bidding farewell to a set of spatulas in pursuit of a calmer, happier life.

But what if we could gather up all of the other stuff: tasks, events, obligations relationships — and drop it at the kerb without a single regret? And by doing so, be free to focus our time, energy, and money on the stuff that really makes us happy?

Well, I figured out how to do it. It is great, and I call it, “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck.” I hope you’ll excuse my language because there is more where that came from.

So before I can teach you how to stop giving a fuck, we have to talk about what it means to give one in the first place. ‘Giving a fuck’ means you care, right? So when I say, “I don’t give a fuck about ‘Game of Thrones,'” I mean, “I don’t care about ‘Game of Thrones.'”

Now, let’s take the concept a step further. And let’s define your ‘fucks’ as your time, energy, and money. So if you don’t care about something, you should stop giving your fucks to it. I don’t care about ‘Game of Thrones’ so I don’t spend time watching it; I don’t spend energy wondering where the next season is going; and I don’t spend my money on the books, or merchandise, or anything Westeros related. ‘Game of Thrones’ does not get any of my fucks. Make sense?

By making these calculated decisions, you wind up with more time, energy, and money to spend on the things you really do care about. And I call that “making a fuck budget.”

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I’ll get back to fuck budgets in a minute, but first, I want to tell you a little bit about how the life-changing magic of not giving a fuck happened to me.

Two and a half years ago, I was a senior editor at a major New York publishing house. I had spent 15 years clawing my way up the corporate ladder, I had a roster of best-selling authors, and everything I always thought I wanted from my career was coming to pass.

But I was really, really unhappy. The kind of unhappy that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning; the kind of unhappy that makes it hard to commute 45 minutes on the New York City subway; and hard to spend 8 to 10 hours at your desk before turning around, going home, and doing it all over again. So, I quit.

And making that decision was also really hard. A lot of red wine, a lot of tears. But what came after I quit was nothing short of life-changing. Once I removed myself from the culture and lifestyle of a job that had been making me so unhappy, I was free to focus my time and energy on what would make me happy, including working, but just in a different way, and eventually, on moving from Brooklyn to a tropical island.

I stopped giving my fucks to working for a corporation, wearing pants, and taking those long subway commutes. And I started giving my fucks to working for myself, wearing bikinis, and taking long walks on the beach. I’m telling you, life changing.

But none of that change happened because I had tidied up my apartment. It happened because I cleared out my mind. Let me try and explain.

Imagine your mind is a barn, and inside it are all of the things that bring you joy, but also, all of the stuff that annoys you. The potential for a happy life is there, but you have to clear out the annoy to make room for the joy. This is mental de-cluttering, and it is magical. I did it by accident when I quit my job, but it was so amazing that I developed a way for you to do it on purpose. I call it “The Not Sorry Method.”

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The Not Sorry Method

It has two steps. Step one: Decide what you don’t give a fuck about. Step two: Don’t give a fuck about those things. Simple, right?

But I know what you’re thinking: ‘This sounds like a recipe for turning into an asshole’. It’s OK, I get that a lot. But that’s where the “not sorry” part comes in.

See, my method is all about not giving a fuck using honesty and politeness. So in the end, you don’t have to feel guilty. You are on your best behavior, and you have nothing to apologize for. You are quite literally not sorry. You’re also not an asshole.

So how might The Not Sorry Method work for you? Well, let’s say, you love ‘Game of Thrones’ and you’ve been invited to a Sunday night dinner party that interferes with watching your favorite show. You feel bad about turning down the invite, but you really love ‘Game of Thrones,’ and you don’t want to record it to watch later because… spoilers.

Well, you only have so much time, energy, and money to spend on Sunday night. So, you need to consult your fuck budget.

Fuck Budget

Decide which activity brings more joy and allocate your fuck bucks accordingly. And I’m telling you, if you respond in a timely fashion, “No thanks, can’t make it to that dinner party,” you’ve done nothing wrong. You were honest, you were polite, and you don’t have to be sorry about it. And that’s just the tip of the fuck-berg.

You can apply the “not sorry” method to anything: tasks, events, obligations, even people. You start by making a list of everything that’s cluttering up your mental barn; all of the impositions on your time, energy, and money; the fucks you’re being asked to give.

To keep it manageable, I go by category. So for example, work is one category, and five fucks on your list might be mandatory meetings, conference calls, your coworkers charity half-marathon, a going away party for a coworker you don’t even like, and doing your actual job.

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So once you’ve listed them all out, you perform the “not sorry” method.

Step one: Decide what annoys you. Non-essential stuff you don’t care about. Step two: Stop giving your fucks in the form of time, energy, and money to those things. Then cross them off your list with a big black marker. It feels good, just go with it.

What I’m saying is, yes, you may have to get up and go to work every day, and you may have to attend some mandatory meetings. But you do not have to attend a going away party for a colleague you don’t even like. But if you are still having trouble not giving that fuck? I recommend a visualization exercise.

Visualization Exercise

Picture how you’re going to feel when you walk into that party: annoyed or full of joy? It’s been a long day, your feet hurt, you don’t love socializing with your colleagues at the office, let alone at a shitty bar. You really don’t love pitchers of warm Coors Light. So, what should you do? RSVP ‘No’ of course.

Why would you spend your fuck bucks or your actual bucks on this party? I’ll tell you why. You do it because you feel obligated and guilty. You are psyching yourself out of a perfectly fine response, “No,” before you even try it. Most people just don’t think this stuff through. They say “Yes” to things like this right away, and then wind up wasting time, energy, and money on an annoying, unenjoyable night out.

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