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Why “The Complete Guide to Not Giving a F**k” is Bulls**t

February 20, 2014
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middle finger Why The Complete Guide to Not Giving a F**k is Bulls**t

Warning: cuss words ahead

One of my favorite pieces ever penned on the web is called The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck by Julien Smith, first published on his personal blog and recently republished on Medium. The piece is well written and argues a point that is so rarely argued effectively – constant worrying about what others think is a prison and you should regain your self-respect by putting less emphasis on every single person in the world’s opinion.

The theory is well founded and is totally true, but the Guide has been shared for years on the web as an excuse to be an asshole, so I’m calling bullshit on the entire Guide. Not on Smith’s words (they’re right and I have emailed them to over 50 people over the years), but on how non-readers are taking it. People skim the story, share it, tag me because I like cuss words and have thick skin, and move on, thinking that Smith meant to tell everyone that they should never care what others think.

First of all, if you’re here, you’re most likely a business professional, right? If so, you typically can’t just puff your chest in this world and act like a dick. Sure, there are people that have made lucrative careers out of being hated, but they work very hard to appeal to other haters and attract like minds, which isn’t exactly not giving a fuck about what others think – that’s the dirty secret of today’s villains, particularly online.



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Smith’s point was that developing a thick skin is freeing. And he’s right. But, it’s a process that takes time, and must be carefully choreographed. Constantly lobbing grenades because you’re now a badass who doesn’t care what others think is self-destructive and misses the point.

There is a substantial difference between “not giving a fuck” and letting irrelevant commentary and judgment roll off of your back. Guess what? Not all commentary is irrelevant. Your boss tells you that you suck at something? Better not give her the middle finger or you’re unemployed. A client calls and you’re hostile with them because you don’t have to take their shit? Bye bye, customer. A now unemployed former Sprint kiosk sales guy comments on your blog that you’re wrong and stupid? Sure, let that roll off of your back. But not the rest. Don’t “not give a fuck” for the sake of not giving a fuck. Don’t be a moron.

Here’s the part where I disagree

So far, I’ve agreed with Smith, but over the years, and particularly since his editorial was republished, I’ve put a lot of personal thought into why the piece rubs me the wrong way, and I’ve finally figured it out.

I have thick skin. For the most part, people like me. I don’t know why, but people like me – I’m told often that I’m likeable. That’s cool. I am also well respected in my industry and by my peers. Also cool. Therefore, my not giving a fuck is a luxury. I’ve already built a personal brand and helped build extremely large communities online and off, so I get to have thick skin because I somehow magically earned it. If some kid signs up for a Twitter account and starts throwing grenades, they’re blown off as a punk turd. If I take to my own airwaves to attack an idea, people listen because I’ve earned an audience. Do you see the difference?

I get asked a lot how I developed such a thick skin, and the truth is that it took many years and a natural maturation process to realize that not everyone will adore me, and that I can be wrong. A lot. I was able to develop a thick skin because I had a huge army of supporters should I need it, and so I am not often attacked (but when I am, guess what happens??). Let’s be honest, I also have the advantage of being a younger woman, so I get to be a little more brash than my counterparts, and people like that – but that isn’t me not giving a fuck, that’s me being silly for the most part.

I disagree with Smith on his guide, because some people don’t have the luxury of not giving a fuck. It is freeing and something everyone should try, but it does not apply to all situations at all times, and the bizarre truth is that it has to be earned in most situations.

AGBeat Chief Operating Officer: Lani, named 100 Most Influential, as well as 12 Most Influential Women in Blogging, Bashh Founder, Out and about in Austin A Lister, is a business and tech writer and startup consultant hailing from the great state of Texas in the city of Austin. As a digital native, Lani is immersed not only in advanced technologies and new media, but is also a stats nerd often buried in piles of reports. Lani is a proven leader, thoughtful speaker, and vested partner at AGBeat.



Weigh in...

  • http://www.hmtatlanta.com/ Hank Miller

    Well Lani, once again I find myself in line with an article of yours. Once someone realizes that you really only have a small influence on things and most of it is out of your control, you either adapt (thick skin) or die (wallow in mediocrity). I’ve had elephant skin for many years, DILIGAF has been integral to sucess and once you figure things out, it’s liberating. Good job.

  • http://realsummerlin.com/ chrisshouse

    I love this article and you did a great job with it!! I am not especially teaching my granddaughter to throw grenades but am teaching her ..”Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff And It’s All Small Stuff” We went to the beach last weekend and she said (she 11) I don’t want these people to see me in my bathing suit. I said sweetheart why would you care? You will never see these people again! With that off came the top and she had a ball playing the Pacific!