This popped up as a suggestion, based on my recent YouTube views and I’m sure glad it did, because the contents of the talk were utterly enlightening.
I’ve never heard of Sarah Knight before but I was drawn in by her sheer magnetism- as a speaker, she’s so alluring and engaging with her informal style. I imagine that there must be some pretty laborious talks scheduled during TED conferences. I can imagine disinterested audience members slipping into sedentary and catatonic states, wishing they’d worn tinted glasses to mask their fluttering on-the-verge-of-sleep eyelids. Yet Knight stole the attention back and roused the audience, even managing to incite some laughter and chuckles.
Knight directly addresses the audience and is very candid about her personal experiences, instantly opening up and disarming the initial awkwardness that any public speaker, no matter how accomplished, must face when commanding the stage. She begins her talk with a brief reflection on a period of her life in which she was conventionally successful- that is to say she was financially stable with a “dream job” and had a roof over her head. However, she adds that despite all of her achievements, she didn’t feel gratified by her existence and suffered quite badly with depression.
It’s hard to imagine this confident and exuberant speaker being so vulnerable, yet she draws upon the distinction of a life before and after this period of depression. Knight says the foundation to this change was a perspective shift: her dissatisfaction with life eventually led her to take some time out of employment and this subsequently helped her to take the next step and make a life-changing choice. She resigned. She packed up all of her stuff and left behind all that was familiar, abandoning her office and also simultaneously her home, in favour of a new start, doing something that truly made her happy.
She bought a property on a beach-front and decided to pursue her secret dream of becoming self-employed. Fortune favours the brave and, evidently, Sarah Knight is one brave lady. She cut her losses, namely any people/situations/material possessions that no longer served her joy. The cleansing ritual, inspired by Marie Kondo, was a long-awaited shot at restarting life and learning to say no to all of the commitments we agree to, even as our stomachs churn in rebellion.
Knight breaks down her very accessible theory with a series of analogies: there’s the constant (and comical) referral to topic-specific terminology such as “fuck-bucks” (a currency that must be dispersed among all projects and activities you participate in). What makes Knight so entertaining is her ability to call out the falsities of her audience- she makes a valid jab at our tendency to mask our true intentions and play out niceties in our daily exchanges. Knight argues that we’re all used to committing to things we don’t really want to do and then find ourselves either participating for the sake of it or worrying about disappointing people with a “sorry I can’t make it” text.
My favourite point about her ideology is that she argues strongly for the notion that “giving fucks” is not synonymous with being an asshole. In fact, when practiced appropriately, it’s the exact opposite. Being conscientious of what you want and assigning some conviction to it is empowering.
The actual procedure of putting her theory into practice doesn’t seem that challenging to me, as I think I’ve sort of embarked on a similar path over the last two years. I’ve been abandoning toxic friendships and saying no to events that no longer serve me, in a bid to reclaim time with myself and find that elusive thing they all talk about- happiness. That being said, it really isn’t an overnight transformation and active work is required to get the philosophy to stick. I think any people-pleaser would benefit from giving this relatively short video a little watch- it’ll spark some interesting thoughts of rebellion…
**Just a note to say that, since I wrote this video review, I have also read the book. Slightly less convinced by the extended text but an easy read and perhaps a truly life-changing revelation for some readers.**