FULL TRANSCRIPT – SEASON 3, EPISODE 19
No F*cks Given with Sarah Knight
Jessica: If you are ever wondering whether or not you should be giving a fuck, or if whether or not you should be giving a fuck or growing the fuck up are coming up as anything that you’re thinking about with regards to your divorce, then today is your lucky day. We have a guest we are so excited about, whose messaging is all about growing the fuck up and whether or not you should actually be giving a fuck. That’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about in today’s episode of the Divorce etc… podcast. We are the exEXPERTS, Jessica and T.H. We help you focus on navigating your divorce and successfully moving on with your life. Please follow us on all social media at exEXPERTS. Check out www.exexperts.com for tons of free divorce related resources. Let’s bring in today’s guest.
T.H.: I am a super fan. Jessica is a super fan. By the way, this might be her favorite podcast to record because she loves to swear. And so now she has the perfect excuse to say fuck, the F word, mouth it, whisper it, whatever, the entire time. Just be ready everybody.
Jessica: But in the right context. It’s all about context.
T.H.: I know. But she says it anyway, even if we’re in like a more wholesome type of recording. Anyway, welcome Sarah Knight, the author of Grow the Fuck Up, but the author of many other books that I do own, like Calm the Fuck Down, Get Your Shit Together. I do have a “page a day” calendar from her, and I have heard her TED Talk of The Magic of Not Giving a Fuck. With all of that, we’re super excited for the release of her new book on April 4th, and it will be linked on our exRATED section on www.exexperts.com. Without further ado, welcome Sarah.
Sarah: Hi, thank you both so much for having me today.
Jessica: Part of the reason we are so excited to have you, as I was saying earlier, when we first connected, just your messaging resonates so deeply, as I’m sure you know from all of the people subscribing to your newsletter, all of the people buying your books, your calendars, and everything. But I feel we just have to ask where did this all come from? What gave you the balls when you originally started to put it out there that way? Because I feel now I think some people are piggybacking and trying to do the same sort of a thing, but you were like one of the OGs.
Sarah: Well, thank you for noting that, because I have been at this for quite a while. For me, to be perfectly honest, it was a matter of desperation. I was 35 years old, I had been working in my career in New York City for 15 years as a book editor, climbing my way up the ladder, publishing big best selling books, and everything seemed like it was great on paper. I owned an apartment, like all settled in and ready to take the next 40 years straight to the top and then retire off into the sunset. I was just really unhappy. Panic attacks, I was depressed, I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning and commute to my job. It wasn’t that I didn’t really love my career. I loved working with writers, collaborating with them, discovering new voices. I’ve been a huge reader since I was a little kid, so the excitement about a new book coming into the world is programmed into me. But as I said, I was having a really hard time with my mental health, including a panic attack in my high rise Manhattan office building in front of my coworkers. I had to really think about what was going on and what was it that I could maybe change in my life. I settled on the fact that I really wanted to work for myself, that it was not so much the job I had, but being in a corporate environment and having to sublimate. I mean, talk about not being able to say fuck in the office, having to just put a sheen on myself for eight to 10 hours a day, and not really get to be quite as authentic as I wanted to be, and also not have as much autonomy as I wanted to be. I’ve always been willing to take risks, take credit for my achievements, but also take responsibility for my mistakes. A lot of the times when you’re working within a setup, a corporate setup like that, you just can’t do everything you want to do. It all has to go through approvals and superiors and all this stuff, and it just felt kind of watered down. I decided to quit my job. That was terrifying and felt very risky, and felt like I was stripping my identity away. I imagined this is much like deciding to get a divorce, realizing that this thing that you thought you were going to do forever and that you’ve been working towards for however long is suddenly not working for you. You want to get out of it, but that’s a whole new set of challenges and fear and in strategizing and acceptance. And so I spent about a year saving up money to know that I would have a cushion while I started a freelance business, psyching myself up psychologically to I quit my job, which was, as I said, very scary. Then when I did, there was — shocker — an enormous influx of energy. My creative brain switched on. I think I had been using 110% of its resources for other people’s benefit for the last 15 years. Suddenly, I had some time of my own to think. I just had the idea for my first book, The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck. As I’m sure your listeners will get, it was originally intended to be a parody of Marie Kondo’s Japanese decluttering bible, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which was a big bestseller back in 2014/2015. I’d had a copy of it sitting around for a while, and I was going to send it to my mother, because she kind of needs to tidy up. But I didn’t because that seemed passive aggressive. But now I tell the story all the time, which is also passive aggressive. So I’m so sorry, Mom, if you’re listening. But I read it myself because it was just sitting there, and so I flipped through it. I thought, you know, I’ve been doing for my brain and my interior life, all of these things that Marie Kondo tells you to do for your sock drawer, and your garage, and your kids’ playroom, and whatever, just getting rid of stuff that doesn’t serve me, stuff that doesn’t make me happy, that doesn’t make me feel good. She talks about holding on to joy, I talk about getting rid of annoy. And so, like I said, it started out as it was supposed to be this funny parody. I tell my own stories about everything I just told you guys and stuff. Then it just took on a life of its own. That was the beginning of sweary self help. Jen Sincero had been out for a couple of years with her, You Are a Badass. But then Mark Manson and some others came a year or two after I started publishing. The first book did so well that my publishers wanted to do another one. I said, well, I don’t really want to keep parodying other people, but I have some things to say. If people are that excited about taking my advice, then I would like to tell people how to get their shit together, because that’s the book I was born to write. It went on from there. Then somewhere in the middle of all that, my husband and I left Brooklyn because I was no longer tethered to New York for my publishing job, and we moved to the Dominican Republic, which is where I’m speaking to you from today.
Jessica: I mean, you literally, that whole idea in its own way of not giving a fuck, completely upended and changed your entire life—
Sarah: It sure did.
Jessica: —which is what so many people are wishing they can do, whether they’re reading your book or not. Can you imagine if I could just pick up and go, and quit, and do these things? I loved the analogy that you used about when people are getting divorced and making those kinds of decisions. It really just all ties in together so beautifully. It’s such an inspirational inspiring message.
Sarah: Thank you.
T.H.: I second all of that. But everything you’re saying about just being overwhelmed, not being heard, and subject to other people’s rules, I mean, I was trapped in a marriage like that. I stayed in that marriage for four years that I’m aware of, probably longer, because of guilt, because of fear. Not for myself, I was ready to be free, but I had three little kids. But I think that I wasn’t really ready to be free. I think that I was waiting for someone to just push me out the door. I got a phone call that pushed me out the door. It was a hallelujah day for me. But the turmoil and the mental stress that you’re talking about going through is definitely happening to people in bad marriages and bad relationships. What if I can’t afford to leave this marriage? Well, now it’s like financially paralyzed. Now you’re staying for financial reasons, but you’re miserable. To make that big leap that you did is really inspiring for so many people. You can do it. You talk about, I don’t want to get it wrong, but you talk about make believe, like almost manifesting something that can happen for yourself. Can you talk about that a little bit? Is that in the new book?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s actually a tip from Grow the Fuck Up. I wrote this book, and it’s about how to be an adult and how to get treated like an adult. Because we all want to live in a world full of responsible, mature accountable adults, don’t we? It’s just, be the adult you want to see in the world. And so in the chapter on being resourceful, which, I think you really do have to be if you are deciding to leave a career or leave a relationship, you do have to summon all of the resources at your disposal to make it happen for yourself when it’s a difficult thing to do. And so the exercise is called “make believe and make it happen”, because I’m trying to make adulting fun and go back to your childlike roots and pretend—you know, you used to pretend you were an astronaut, a scientist, a dogged reporter, a private investigator, and think what would these people do? Would Ronan Farrow be like, “Well, I guess we’ll never know.”? No, he wouldn’t give up. He would dig. He would ask questions. He would ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask. Would Ernest Shackleton leave his men behind? No, he didn’t. He figured out a way. And so you don’t necessarily have to, nor will you triumph at the level of a Nobel Prize winning scientist or Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. But if you can put yourself in the mindset of like, instead of thinking that’s just poor me, and I can’t do this, and there’s too many negatives, there’s too many reasons not to, just think about somebody that you admire. What would they do in this situation? Really pretend for a moment that you’re them. Sometimes I think that’s just a little bit easier for people to take themselves out of their emotional walls over their own very personal life, and just put a layer of distance, and be like, what would somebody else do in my position? Another thing I often tell people is, well, what would you advise? If your best friend was going through this, what would you tell them to do? You’re probably giving really good advice that you could take yourself.
T.H.: Absolutely. I mean, when you don’t want to do something, you’re the queen and king of excuses. You forget that you actually have a choice. You have a choice. It may be a hard choice, it may be riddled with a bunch of complications, but you still have a choice to make a change.
Sarah: Yeah, I like to tell people that these things are simple. They’re not necessarily easy, but they’re simple. They’re these binaries: am I going to stay, or am I going to go? Do I want to do this in an angry way, or do I want to do this in an amicable way? Then you get into layers of degrees of difficulty in terms of whether it’s financially difficult for you to do it, or emotionally difficult for you to do it. But it doesn’t have to seem so overcomplicated, these big life decisions.
T.H.: And it’s all doable. It’s a matter of educating yourself. That’s what we do with exEXPERTS. We educate you so that you can make your choice, and you can move, and you can move on with your life if it’s just not working out, whether it’s a job or relationship, or you’re just in a bad place. Just get your shit together.
T.H.: We’re going to pause quick here. Because we know it’s hard to get honest and reliable information about your divorce and everything afterwards, so we’ve done the work for you. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get exEXPERTS in your inbox. Join our events where you can ask questions to top experts live, and us, and you can work with us in private sessions so you can move forward and thrive, and not give a fuck. You can get all this information at www.exexperts.com, and whatever else you need. We’ve lived it, so we get it. Let’s get back to the show.
Jessica: I have to ask, I mean, again, I just get excited about the titles of all of your calendars, all of the books, but for your newest book, Grow the Fuck Up, can you give us a brief sort of summary? How is it different than the other books? What is really the clear messaging that you’re putting out with that one?
Sarah: Yeah, so thank you so much for asking. Grow the Fuck Up, I think might be my most universally applicable book yet. I started out wanting to write something for younger people, because just with the advent of TiKTok, a lot of younger people started finding my books. And so I started getting a lot of messages from people, a 16 year old, a 19 year old, a 22 year old, and that was a new thing for me. They were just saying, “I love your advice. I loved the straight talk. I’m so glad I got this now.” I thought, well, maybe I should write a book about preparing yourself to adult wisely and well. Then when I started working on it, my editor started reading early snippets, we thought, I think everybody needs this. This isn’t just for young people. The book encompasses what I refer to as the three pillars of adulting, which is: being mature, being responsible, and being accountable. Maturity is behavior oriented stuff. It’s having self control. It’s being self aware. Responsibility is more about action. It’s doing what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. Accountability ties those things in together because you are taking responsibility for what you have done. You are admitting fault, and you are saying you’re sorry, and you are cleaning up your mess. You’re taking responsible action toward that end. If that sounds a little bit, I don’t know, dry or boring to people who are listening, rest assured that what I do is I take those three concepts throughout the book and I walk you through exercises and strategies and tips and funny methods and flowcharts to really get to the heart of what it means to be all of those things that I just said, to practice self awareness, to practice self control, to be more self sufficient. I suspect that probably some relationships that your listeners have been in and out of in the past have suffered because one or more of the, theoretically, adult parties in these relationships were not, in fact, practicing all of those skills and behaviors in tandem. Hopefully, this will help people of all ages. One thing I wanted to say, kind of the tip that starts everything off, is called “remember your ABCs”. It’s just another way of me telling you that it’s really simple to act like an adult and therefore get treated like an adult, if you can remember your actions and behavior have consequences. Those are the ABCs. You are in control of your actions. You are in control of your behavior. You know or you can have a pretty good idea what the consequences are going to be. The same way you knew that if you talk back to your mother when you were 15 years old, you were going to get punished. The same way you knew that if you didn’t study for that test, you were going to fail it. We understand consequences innately. We’ve been taught this since we were little kids. So many adults forget what they innately know. If you can take responsibility for your actions and behavior, the consequences can be good. You can avoid bad ones, and you can engender good ones. This all ties back into one of my very favorite nuggets of info from my very first book about not giving a fuck, which is you have to stop giving a fuck about what other people think. Because you can’t control what other people think. You can only control your own actions and behavior. If you know that you’re doing the right thing, the right thing for you, the right thing morally or ethically, if you feel good about your decision and the actions that you take, then that is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself. Because I’m sure you’ve been in situations with people where you did the right thing, and still they were mad at you, they didn’t like you, they didn’t understand it. You can’t control that. If you can just kind of mumble to yourself whenever you’re in a big decision making mode, “ABCs…ABCs…my actions and behavior have consequences. Okay, how am I going to work this?” That’s really kind of the keys to the kingdom right there.
T.H.: I think that also plays into a lot for our community, as far as co parenting especially.
Jessica: For sure.
T.H.: You know that when you ask for things in a certain tone of voice, that you’re going to get some kind of answer. You know that when you explode, you’re going to get some kind of answer like, “See? She’s fucking crazy. See?”
Sarah: Mm-hmm, absolutely. There’s a whole chapter in the new book called Don’t You Take that Tone With Me.
T.H.: Yes, I saw that! So really, what you put out there is what you get back. Also, we know being in any kind of relationship, you’re going to get certain responses that don’t work for you. Then you just have to move on from those people if you can. Otherwise, you need to have a sit down with them. But I want to say overall about Sarah’s stuff is these are all simple lessons. But like she said at the beginning, it doesn’t mean they’re easy to pursue. But the way Sarah presents it makes it fun. At least you can laugh a little and laugh at yourself. We do stupid shit all the time. We are not perfect. We screw up. If you could just be light about the things that can be light, it makes it easier to digest it and actually put it into play. And so she has an “am I acting like a fucking adult?” flowchart in her new book. I cannot wait. Jessica and I are seriously going to figure out where we fall on that. We’re going to talk about it once we get the book. But that is a perfect example. This is your time to grow up, take responsibility for yourself, and lead your best life according to your rules.
Jessica: But you know what I also love about it, especially what you’re talking about in terms of the premise of the new book, between T.H. and I, we have five kids. My youngest is 16, T.H.’s oldest is 22.
Jessica: Is Samantha 23? We have a group of young adults. I feel like it’s a book that all of them need to read, but also, and exactly what you’re doing, Sarah, life lessons for them, but life lessons for them that I think also they’ll be able to apply and think back to and resonate with in terms of what they’ve gone through with regards to the divorces that we’ve had with their dads, our relationships with their dads, how we’ve navigated do things. I feel they’ll be able to see the examples come to life. But also the whole your actions and behaviors have consequences, I mean, we’ve had so many conversations over the years about that exact thing and how that manifests itself, and what that looks like in the end. I’m excited. I feel like it’s for the young people, but also, whatever, I can read that book and learn lessons for my future relationships and as things go down. I still am like, what do I want to be when I grow up?
T.H.: I think it’s also good for us. We should just give it to our kids and then talk about it with our kids.
Sarah: Book club. I smell a book club.
T.H.: Because it’d be interesting to hear their perspective and our perspective from the same chapter. They’re going to be like, “See, Mom, I told you. Sarah said whatever.” Then we can give it back too.
Sarah: I would be fascinated to hear how that goes down. That sounds like a follow up podcast.
T.H.: We will 100% do that.
T.H.: And they’ll have fun reading it. Sometimes I was worried about giving my daughter Calm the Fuck Down, was that the one? Because I didn’t want her to think that I thought she was totally out of control. I didn’t give her that one. But I will give it to my 23 year old because I think she can process it differently. So the other books, just read everything first. But I’m excited for this one, for us to share it with our kids, for sure.
Jessica: I want to know what comes next after this. I mean I feel like the whole product line that you’re creating, which we’re obviously so excited about, where is it going?
Sarah: That is a very good question. What I really want to make sure I’m doing, and this is partly just my own level of integrity, and creative integrity, and also because I worked in book publishing for so long, I want to make sure that whatever I put out in book form is worthy and worthwhile. I want to make sure that I have enough to say about any particular topic, and enough useful and practical advice to give, that it creates a product that I feel absolutely great about asking people to go out and spend $22 on. It took a little while after the previous book that came out, it was called Fuck No. It’s all about saying no, and how to say no, and 750 different various specific situations, a great book. But it came out in January of 2020. Then we all know what happened in 2020 and 2021. I kind of took a break from writing because I was a little bit—I was lot—I was a lot bit just not right in the head during that time. I instead launched a podcast. I did a whole season of a podcast. It did really well, but it was really a ton of work. Then I had a new idea for a new book, and I had to stop the podcast and focus on the book. I’m not totally clear what’s going to come next. I do have another book under contract, which is not a No Fucks Given guide, but I’m not ready to say too much about that yet. I also just renewed the option for the movie rights for the first book. The studio has had a couple of scripts come through, they’re not quite ready to move forward on them yet, but they want to keep going with the project. That was something that we just organized over the last two weeks. That’s an exciting new thing that’s happening that isn’t necessarily me doing the writing, but it’s me being able to participate in the process. I’m a little bit waiting to see exactly where that goes in the next few months before I decide what I’m up to.
Jessica: Totally, and seeing where your messaging, like the big broad audience of where else it can go.
T.H.: I want everyone to rewind and listen to what Sarah just said and really listen to this podcast, because she made a bold move to change her life. Whether it’s fucks given or not, she made the move. It’s people like Sarah, and people like Jessica, and people like me, who are shining examples of what is possible for you. Nothing is impossible if you want it. If you want it, then you’re going to figure out how to get it, in the right way. And so I just, like you were saying, how younger people are resonating with your messaging and so on and so forth, this is universal. I think your whole product line is universal for people to just take a second, take inventory, and now gather up and proceed in the right way. I want to thank you so much for joining our podcast today. We’ll be excited to talk to our kids about this.
Sarah: Excellent. Excellent. Thanks again for having me. I really appreciate it. Great conversation.
Jessica: Thank you Sarah. For everyone listening, if you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Divorce etc… podcast, then please help us out. When you subscribe, rate, and review, it helps us get the word out so we can support more people like you going through divorce and beyond. Check out the show notes for more info on Sarah Knight and all of her No Fucks Given books and calendars and products. Of course, share this with anyone you know who can benefit from listening. Have a great day.