Positive perspectives and practices for personal growth.

I Don’t Give a F**K About Anything, Me

I had a friend at University called ‘Ed’ – I can’t remember his last name but I remember his philosophy on life very clearly. Ed used to say in a broad Lancashire accent, “I don’t give a f**k about anything, me”.

I couldn’t help but admire Ed’s philosophy on life because at the time I personally gave a f**k about everything. Gripped by the irrationality of extreme OCD, everything seemed life or death to me.

Everything I did had to be perfect – from how I washed my hands, to how I looked, to how people perceived and reacted to me, to the work I produced for my degree. I attached a potential catastrophic consequence to every slip up and every failure; all to the point where I lived a life filled with crippling anxiety.

But whilst I cared desperately about everything I did and everything I was trying to achieve, my life was a dysfunction mess. Nothing got done and I never progressed; in fact, most of the time I didn’t just stagnate, but actually regressed. I was simply unable to function.

Ed on the other hand, who simply didn’t give a f**k about anything, achieved exponentially more. He flew through assignments seemingly without a care in the world, he sailed through his degree, he had a great social life, tons of female attention, and didn’t give a f**k if he remembered to wash his hands or not. I don’t think he’d have really lost a great deal of sleep if he’d found out he had some rare terminal disease.

It used to frustrate me to the point of insanity at the time. How could someone who simply didn’t care about anything achieve so much, whilst I achieved so little despite my massive emotional investment? As far as I was concerned it just wasn’t fair.

Although it took more years than I care to admit to sink in, Ed’s philosophy on life is probably the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned. Caring about anything too much is a recipe for disaster – one that puts you under such insurmountable pressure to perform that you simply can’t…perform.

Anxiety, stress, frustration, insecurity, self-doubt, despair swamp your thoughts; and procrastination and avoidance tactics become the norm around which your life revolves.

Paradoxical though it is, we really do achieve our best when our approach to life is, “I don’t give a fuck about anything me”; and if you can say it to yourself in a broad Lancashire accent too…well then, the world really is your oyster.

Lowering the bar to care free indifference not only provides you with peace of mind, but in turn that peace of mind bestows a host of mental attributes that boost performance in every area of life – creativity, ingenuity, persistence, resilience, enthusiasm, lateral thinking; the list of positive, performance boosting virtues is almost endless.

It’s a sad quirk of the human mind that not a single one of those innate human virtues gets a look in when you give a f**k; it’s only when you’re relaxed to the point of indifference do they kick in.

Some of the things I regularly remind myself to not give a f**k about, particularly when I start to feel my anxiety levels rising include:

Performance – Walk the length of a foot wide plank of wood a few inches above the ground and you’ll finish the task without the slightest hiccup or sense of strain. Raise the same plank of wood to 100 metres and the task becomes near on impossible – even the skill of walking is likely to evade you. Yet nothing about the task has objectively altered; your ability to perform has simply been affected by the perceived significance of failure.

Just like walking that plank of wood plank, surely therefore it’s equally prudent to let go of that life or death mentality when approaching your tasks and goals. Let go of the expectation of what you want to achieve and likewise, let go of your fears of what will happen if you don’t live up to those expectations. Focus purely on the task at hand and never, ever strive for perfection.

When you say to yourself’ “I just don’t give a f**k about this, me” all that performance related baggage just melts away; you’re able to walk the plank again with next to no effort and to do so flawlessly.

People – What they think of you and the expectations they place on you, it’s liberating to let those concerns go and to simply not give a f**k.

Whilst our default setting seems to be more concerned with how we’re perceived than with what we actually do, it’s always counterproductive.

Take the classic example of a driving test. It’s not the driving that puts you under pressure; it’s the need to look as if you’re doing everything right. It’s that fixation and focus on what someone else thinks of your performance that causes the problems – that leads you to try to act too perfectly, to overreach your abilities, to attempt to cover up your flaws, to fear making mistakes and consequently and paradoxically, to make mistake after mistake after mistake.

Take away that third party scrutiny and all of a sudden, you can drive perfectly again.

Two things I’ve learned are that firstly, you can’t control what people think; and secondly, that trying to do so by any attempt to impress creates such artificiality in the way you act and think that your performance will always suffer exponentially.

Whether that’s being concerned about how other people perceive your performance at work; what they think of you as a person – whether you’re able, intelligent, likeable or whatever – it all fundamentally detracts from your ability to perform.

So just stop caring what others think of you; and again, focus exclusively on your actions. As long as you act in accordance with common standards of fairness, respect, consideration and cooperation, how your actions are ultimately construed or misconstrued by others is entirely irrelevant; as are other people’s expectations or impressions of your performance. Being preoccupied or worrying about these things will only ever hinder you, so simply let them go.

Holding On To Stuff – We all value what we have and what we’ve achieved, that’s perfectly natural. But caring too much about what we’ve acquired in life – be that our material wealth, our status, our careers, our relationships or whatever – has the potential to invoke such an all-consuming fear of loss that those very things we consider to be so precious become self-destructive crosses to bear. In so doing they hold us back from achieving all that we can and from experiencing all the joys life has to offer.

I used to be so concerned about protecting my business and the wealth that it had generated for me that I’d simply be consumed with anxiety the second I sat down to work – a bit of a problem in any industry that revolves creativity and originality. The upshot was that I run the business I so desperately wanted to protect into the ground and pretty much bankrupted myself in the process.

Had I, on the other hand, thought to myself, “I don’t give a f**k, me, about what I’ve achieved or acquired” then in all probability I’d I’ve just got on building the business without a care in the world. My natural drive and enthusiasm for life would have been more than sufficient to propel me forward; and I’m pretty sure the business would have gone from strength to strength.

The truth is that the all-consuming importance we place on whatever we value or treasure too much tends to be our undoing. It’s like the jealous, suspicious and overly possessive partner who drives away the person they love through their insecurity; the importance they place on the relationship leads to its breakdown.

Far better to let go of that over protective mindset and to simply enjoy what you have while you have it, and to proactively work to improve it rather than defensively attempt to protect it. That goes for business, relationships, the skills you possess, health, everything – don’t fear loss, always look to build and improve.


Check out my friends CJ and Tammy’s new book The End of Wishing Our Days Away on Amazon; which is sure to open up your eyes to the truth that there’s more to life than being a slave to the rat race; and will undoubtedly inspire you to escape. You can also visit CJ and Tammy’s site at The Great Jolly Hoombah for some fresh, quirky and entertaining perspectives on life.

Comments

  1. Only thing I have to say is be careful. When you follow this philosophy, make sure it’s REAL. By this, I mean don’t just say “I don’t give a ****” but in reality, you’re just pushing the feelings down.

    With a philosophy like this, you really have to believe in it 100% and really know how to either let things or go or not let it get to you. Don’t put on a fake smile and say you don’t care when you really do.
    Vincent recently posted…How to Cheer Yourself Up When Your Head is Feeding You LiesMy Profile

  2. I generally don’t give an eff about many things, what people think and stuff are pretty high on the list. Like Vincent said you still have to get a grasp of reality, the totally disconnected attitude is typical from people who are heavy on anti depressant, everything is fine, you can remove their right arm and they will still smile, but that is not what life is about either.
    Pauline recently posted…The fantasy world where money doesn’t existMy Profile

    • Thanks for your input Pauline. I think some people are far more predisposed to placing excessive importance on life and all its facets than others. I was certainly one of the innate ‘over carers’ – sounds as if you innately have the balance right.

      Disconnection from reality of course isn’t what I’m suggesting; but instead to simply let go of the fears that tend to hold us all back – to gain perspective in the grand scheme of things. The root of fear is always a heightened concern for consequence; so by letting go of that concern by putting life’s trials and tribulations in perspective, life gets a lot easier. If one genuinely adopts the “I don’t give a f**k, me” attitude, the natural human inclination to want to excel kicks in; and without all the angst, stress, strain and anxiety of caring too much, we tend to achieve a great deal more.

      Chemical stupors unfortunately deprive individuals of that innate human drive; leading like you say to a disconnection from reality. For that reason, the only positive root to care free indifference is through one’s perspective on life.

  3. Gareth!!! Is it possible to make this work of art into a mantra? Oh yes,of course, “I don’t give a f**k, me.” Today I lost 2 students, freaked out and tried to practice. I played so poorly I stopped in the middle of a piece that I know well and left to do something else. When I returned to the same piece later, after putting the whole affair into perspective, I played the piece better than I ever have. I had to tell myself that I really didn’t give a f**k in order to function again. Whether or not people like to hear that phrase, it is absolutely what needs to happen in order to be calm and focused enough to perform. It’s critical ironically, that we do not give a f**k. When we know that one day we’ll be pushing up the very geraniums that we once, and future generations of young hooligans will, demolish with a noxious mixture of beer and pizza, then how ever could we give a f**k?

    And thank you so, so much for mentioning our book and adding such kind words to describe it. We hope people can get a good chuckle from it and perhaps a useful nugget of some kind. Have dilly of day, Gareth!!!

    • Oh believe me CJ, it is my mantra; it gets me through my days. It’s one of those things some of us need to just keep consciously reminding ourselves of; and if we truly take the ethos on board, the stresses and strains of life really do melt away. I tend to feel pretty much invincible when I take the time to remind myself that in fact, nothing really is all that important in the grand scheme of things and consequently, “I really don’t give a f**k about anything, me”. I have a lot to thank Ed for teaching me that simple life philosophy. Some people may think, or at least argue, that that’s rather a nihilistic approach to life, but they’re missing the point.

      You truly are a fellow spirit because you illustrated it perfectly with your guitar tutoring anecdote. ‘I had to tell myself that I really didn’t give a f**k in order to function again’ sums the whole ethos up in one succinct sentence. It’s only when you let go of the trivialities in life – and come to appreciate that pretty much everything is a triviality – that you can function. That’s how, just as you said CJ, you regain your calm, composure and focus…the things we need to excel.

      So I will join with you in saying f**k ‘em to the lost pupils CJ :-) …their loss, no need for it let it affect your day just like you say. And you’re spot on…with absolutely no concern as to how nihilistic it may sound, the point is, nothing really matters in the long run – we’ll all be dead and buried in 100 years. That’s not depressing, it’s liberating, because with that in mind you really can say, hand on heart and with total sincerity, “I don’t give a f**k about anything, me!”

      Thanks for your e-mail CJ – I was touched and it meant a lot. All is well, the summer has arrived and that means I’m pretty much on permanent vacation until the Autumn. Hope you and Tammy are keeping well; and hope the book sales come your way. Anything I can do to help you promote it on Helpful Habits I will. One day CJ, we’ll have to have a bit of geranium wrecking fun together my friend. :-)

  4. What a marvelous reply and thank you, Gareth. So rare to see this red carpet treatment online or anywhere for that matter. Nihilistic? Nay, as you say, liberating! We are free to weave our craft, do what’s needed to make us feel content and purposeful. We are so happy to know permanent vacation is upon you. Please enjoy it and we must have a visit sometime before it is too late. It would no doubt be epic and unforgettable;)

  5. Oh, Gareth. So good to see a post from you in the Inbox. It never disappoints.

    Can I give this one a three thumbs up? I connected so well to this post for so many reasons and not just the hysterical lines like: the world really is your oyster. I, for many years, experienced the paralysis of fear and anxiety. As I have stated before, I worried what people thought to the point of not making time for myself or CJ. To most, I looked highly successful and just fine. It was complete lunacy, and I am glad that Tammy has left the building. However, I still have to work very hard to overcome personality traits bestowed upon me by my top-notch genetics. Anxiety, second-guessing decisions, procrastination based on fear….etc. A real winning ticket. Now, it is true, that most of these tendencies have been overcome with a lot of hard work and the replacing of detrimental behaviors and worn-out thought patterns with healthy habits…or helpful habits, if you will. They still creep in, so that is where Ed’s and now your saying will come in handy.

    I can attest to the fact the I don’t give a f**k approach works. CJ is really the calmest person I know. While he does get upset on the rare occasion, and it tickles me to no end, he really is as aloof as he might seem. This does not mean that he doesn’t work hard or care, but things truly roll off his back like no other I’ve seen. He, historically, gets more done than I do. He can run circles around me while I sit there lost in my own thoughts.

    Your post has me all ready for a grand discussion, yet it is almost bedtime. While I will close for now, I cannot thank you enough for this phrase. It is now on a desktop sticky note, and it will be repeated until learned well and implemented. Many thank yous for your fine, fine writing.

    We were so pleasantly surprised to see your compliments for the book and appreciate so much your reading it. When we get together to celebrate, I don’t pee in the geraniums, but I can bring my A game for a fun-filled time.

    • I will look forward to getting together with you and CJ, Tammy; hopefully as CJ put it, ‘before it’s too late’. Although, I’m sure the three of us have a fair few years left in us; probably more than most with our undoubtedly unconventional, but ultimately, laid back perspectives on life.

      Indeed, thanks to genetics, we can never fully lay to rest any innately dysfunctional personality traits that we may possess; not until of course, we’re laid to rest with them. But like you said Tammy, with a bit of hard work we can at least quarantine them like a rabid dog in a cage; even if the dog does rattle the bars of the cage now and again.
      We are both clearly sufferers of the ill-effects of that most irksome of genes – the anxiety, stress and catastrophe gene. But unlike GM food, we’ve evolved with nothing more than a little conscious intervention to overcome its limiting effects. We may not glow in the dark or stay indefinitely ripe; but we’ve achieved something far greater: an oasis of calm in a turbulent mind.

      But like you say, it does take constant conscious intervention to maintain. I, like CJ, can seem relaxed to the point of aloof indifference, but I work very hard to maintain that aloofness. CJ is indeed a lucky guy to have been blessed by the good grace of nature with the aloof gene from birth. The truth is, for me, my stress levels can peak pretty rapidly; and the antidote – which works without fail every time – is just to remind myself that nothing really matters. Not quite to the point of thinking, ‘Life is meaningless then you die’ but sufficiently so that everything is put in perspective.

      Ultimately, one realises that it’s just great to be alive – everything else is a triviality – and then when you’re dead, well there’s nothing to get stressed about then either.

      Thanks for your brilliant reply as usual Tammy; have a great day. You sure we can’t tempt you to desecrate a few geraniums as well? :-)