Fuck ’em

Image: Eulalie Osgood Grover, from “Kittens and cats; a book of tales” (1911)
Image: Eulalie Osgood Grover, from “Kittens and cats; a book of tales” (1911)

Over the course of your life, folks are going to tell you what to do… over and over again. Color within the lines; avoid risk; be a good boy scout.

Some of this will be well intentioned; many think you’ll fare better if you don’t rock the boat. Others are ass-faces who find reassurance in knowing that they’re not the only ones who chose the safe path.

The plan goes like this: study hard, get good grades, attend a respected university, find a decent job, work your way up the ladder, procreate (twice), and upgrade your home every 5 – 10 years. All of which are fine, but this is just one course amongst many.

What if there’s another way?

What if you dropped out of school and walked across the country? What if you decided grades were sort of silly, and instead read all the interesting things you could find? What if you volunteered some time in a developing country and met someone who’d never spent a moment thinking about Chandler and Monica? What if you tasted every taste, saw every sight, faced the things that frightened you, and got a couple of scuffs along the way?

You have one life. Live it as you will, but perhaps take a moment to consider an alternative path. There is a wide chasm between the ways you could pass through existence and the lame-ass lives most choose. Besides, should you fail, you’ll at least have a couple of good stories to tell.

Do whatever you want. I’m not here to prescribe life decisions. At the same time, I feel it’s worth reminding you that within 100 years you, and everyone you love, will be gone. All the shit you’re stressing out about will be long forgotten.

The swarm of convention is a tsunami that absorbs all in its way. You are powerless against it. (Until you decide you are not.)


  1. Very important and good reminders. I read somewhere that “not risking anything might be the riskiest thing of all” or something to that effect. How true it is!

  2. As someone attempting to practice something like stoicism this piece rung to the heart and head. Cheers.

  3. Reminds me of one of my favorite college professor conversations, overheard by me.
    Student: My mom wants me to come home and work for the summer.
    Prof: What do you want to do?
    S: Travel. And write.
    P: Is your mother going to buy you a pony?
    S (looking confused): No.
    P: Then fuck her.

  4. I love this blog and enjoy every post. Having said that, I actually know exactly what I want to do but I recently moved to a new country and now don’t know how to go about following my passion, making it happen and making a living out of it as well……….

  5. I could not agree more! I’ve walked the path of what society seems as the path of success…it sucked! For those who live on this path, I wish the best for you….For those who stray from the path…hopefully I’ll meet you somewhere out in this world !

  6. Right on, dude!!! Middle fingers up! Damn……coffee break’s over. Gotta get back to work before my boss notices I’m late.

    Let’s start with “Lame-ass lives that most of us live”. Exactly how many of us does that include? “Most” is more than a few. 50%, 60%? or more? Does the red flag for lame-ass-ness pop up whenever you see someone driving a BMW? (sucker, lame-ass!) Woman with a Prada bag (lame-ass!) Do you go out in public with a scented hanky over your nose to protect you from all that dreary vulgarity?

    Eric, you aren’t a teenager any more. This sounds like a rant from someone living in his parent’s basement (parents are lame-ass of course for mindlessly buying into conventional lives–house, cars, summer cottage, day jobs, lame-ass posessions.)

    I knew you when you were 20. While planning a trip to Europe, most young men would be thinking about riding trains, meeting young women with accents and trying to get laid. Your preocupations–trying to find neutral, hardwearing, dirt-hiding outfits that packed well while carefully adhering to a thoughtfully considered budget. Ohhh…….
    sexy……. You were about as rebellious and adventurous as a potato. You didn’t “taste every taste” because it would have cost money.

    Twenty years later you have a job, a townhouse, a wife, two kids and a minivan. Nothing wrong with any of this, but believe me, there are plenty of young people who would look at you and think “conventional lame-ass”. The difference is, we can forgive the young for being young and narrow-minded. What’s your excuse? WALK THE TALK! Instead of preaching to us about how boring and conventional we are, show us how you are breaking the mould. Write about that reckless holiday taking your family through Morocco in a VW bus, eating food from street vendors. (I have suspicions that the risk of tummy bugs and the van’s lack of airbags would be dealbreakers)

    And stop looking down your nose at other peoples lives (they don’t care. And you have better things to do) Life is much more interesting and complex than the black and white absolutes in which you paint it. Maybe if we keep telling you that it will finally get through that thick, stubborn skull.

    Have a nice day.

    1. Adrian, you know so little of my life, yet, seem so awfully preoccupied with it. Twenty years have passed, and I seem unable to shake your messages and correspondence. This concerns me and feels unhealthy.

      You’re welcome to post here if you’d like; I’ll continue to approve your comments. You can also email your strange messages, should you wish. I do, however, wonder if it’s perhaps time to let some things go. I understand that you don’t like me, and that’s OK. Some folks just don’t get on. That’s life, right?

      Meanwhile, please remember that I’m not asking you to read this blog. Instead, I’m sharing a series of thoughts that I find personally important. Those who come here can make up their minds as to whether they see something in them. Some will find sense in what I’m exploring and grappling with. Others will decide it’s not for them. That’s part of the deal.

  7. You definitely do have only one life, but I really don’t think that if one chooses to lead a so-called “conventional” life, it is necessarily bad and unworthy. I think I have it pretty unconventional, but I find that you HAVE to get that education, HAVE to get that job…it is hard to say fuck them and fuck this if you don’t have a dime to your name to experience new things. Best things in life are free, absolutely, but traveling and standing up one day and deciding to not do things or do novel things or be able to experience the true richness of life costs. Someone as conventional as a John Doe living in the suburbs can lead a very rich life..it just depends on how one sees it. Good article though, thanks for the reminder.

  8. that’s a great reminder; nothing is as dire as it feels. really doesn’t matter in the end. guess i’m “taking the long way around” like the dixie chicks…and what’s worse is the first verse is TRUE “my friends from high school married their high school boyfriends, moved into houses in the same zip codes where their parents live…” and i’m so glad that’s not my life!

      1. finding that sertain thing or person that brings u happiness is the ultimate goal for the majority of people… But when the lucky person acquires that “ultimate goal ” they become filled with so much joy and satisfaction they are unaware of just how vulnerable they now are. For that thing bringing them such happiness as nothing else could (Pure Nirvana) ; Then also becomes the one and only thing capable of causing unhappiness…thus the center their joy becomes one with their vulnerability to unequivocal pain.

  9. Eric, I have no interest in your life. The only reason I mentioned it
    is because you can’t rant against conservative confomity when you
    drive a minivan with two baby seats in the back. It’s like Rupert
    Murdoch complaining about a lack of Journalistic ethics. The only
    interest I have is what you post online in a public sphere. I don’t
    know who sends you strange messages, but it ain’t me.

    The truth is, I find your blogs fascinating. Alternatively thoughtful
    and ridiculous, I never know what you’re going to come up with. One
    minute, you’re telling us we have no right to say we are passionate if
    we clock off at 5 to go home to our kids. The next minute you’re telling us that Steve Jobs somehow missed the boat because he worked to hard and neglected his kids. Its weirdly either/or stuff. For such a thoughtful guy you sure do jump to conclusions. Like you said, we’re all going to die. Rather than bouncing from one extreme to the other (lame-ass conformist or wild nomad) how about finding a balance? It’s what most wisdom is based on.

    1. The messages one can draw from my statements are actually quite straight-forward:
      – If you want to be good at something, work very hard.
      – If you want your kids to know you, spend time with them.
      – If you are unhappy with your life, change it.

  10. I adopted an attitude like this many years ago and have never looked back – I believe there is a prerequisite tho – reflect, and reflect hard. Evaluate yourself as a person, and when you feel your values and morals are based on decency and respect – then and only then you’ve reached the position to say fuck em, fuck em all.

  11. I actually wake up every morning with that “100 year” thought in my head. Its a brilliant life compass and priority setter

  12. I was desperately waiting for someone to tell me what to do and what to think, how to work, and if not happy, change it. And the tremendous new news that I won’t be here anymore in 100 years … how pathetic, antisocial and pseudo-posthuman is that position? Claiming is easy! It is about making a change and making it real and tangible, not just f***words on a blog.

  13. Loved this post when it first came out and still love it now. But for me it usually comes back to this – how can I pay for a life of rambling around? Maybe that’s the point, though – moving away from preconceived notions of what we think we “need.”

  14. seems to easy to say. yet here we all are on the internet, talking about raising our middle fingers to the machine all the while taking for granted how utterly reliant on that machine we have become. safe to say the people who actually live like this (“Fuck ’em!”) probably have no family or friends to speak of, because the *instant* you begin forming a community, you are building accountability for those you associate with & care for. Accountability leads to responsibility, responsibility leads to obligations, obligations lead to a life not entirely lived for yourself, but for those who give you a sense of duty.

    Walk away from a full time job that feeds your kids full healthy meals 3 times a day to put them in a situation where they don’t know when their next meal will be, and perhaps appreciation of the sights and sounds will be lower than yours. Perhaps not, but when I say “Fuck Em!” I’m taking **everything** into my own hands, and for fucks sake that seems to me it would be a lot more stressful than working for someone else every day.

  15. A couple of links for you:

    First, there are a bunch of articles out there about how to making a living on the road. This one is well-done.

    On the flip side, we also just met the authors of a new book called This Ordinary Adventure. The Jeskes were global missionaries living in places like China and Africa, and are now in a farmhouse just outside of Madison, WI. The book chronicles their return and struggle with the transition from an “amazing” life to something that looks pretty mundane and how they’ve worked to find the amazing within it.

  16. I 100% agree with this post and didn’t really see it as any kind of mandate on how to live. Some people just need to do something thing different than what they are doing.

    However, I think its all about balance. I live a very conformed life at the moment but that doesn’t mean I’m not adventurous. I trained for 3 years to be a boxer (came to my senses). I’ve climbed tall icy mountains in hail and lightening storms. I’ve looked a 6 foot long shark in the face 50 feet under the water. I’ve sailed the Caribbean on a small boat. And I could go on and on.

    But now I have a 4 year old, a golden retriever, a great wife, a nice brick home in the burbs and a small business to run. And kid #2 is on the way. Stability and peace are important at the moment.

    But sometimes I worry that I’m going to end up doing my children an injustice by keeping them in the sheltered and secure environment that my wife and I have created. My childhood was crazy. We moved around a lot. My dad was adventurous and risky in both his hobbies and businesses. He is very much a Just Do It guy. And I know the stress about killed him. But at the same time I learned so much from that experience. I wouldn’t trade it.

    So I’m personally struggling to figure out how I’m going to prepare my children for the challenges in life without actually putting them through those challenges. I hate to seem them have to fail later in order to learn the lessons I learned simply from watching my dad. Minus the outdoor adventures, I will admit that I do not care to live the life I lived as a child. I’ve been there and done that. Dad took too much risk in his business and personal life. He’s lucky to be alive and not dead in a gutter somewhere. I’ll admit that I’ll never have his guts.

    On the flip side I have friends who have lived the conformed life their entire lives and now they are unbelievably boring people. Or they are crazy unstable. And really just have no identities to speak of. But hey, at least they had 4.0s in college. My wife and I (myself with an MBA and she with a PHD) have agreed that we will consider ourselves failures as parents if our children turn out that way.

    I think at the end of the day I just hope my children learn early in life the things that will make them happy and the things that will not.

  17. I’ve been telling friends for quite a while that their lives will only start to progress when they’ve had their ‘fuck ’em’ moment.

    For me it means the moment when you quit trying to please the people around you and follow your own star.

    This can actually bring more pleasure to those around you, either because you’re not there any more, or because the quality of your contribution improves.

    It turns out that most of the people that have made big contributions to our progress did so by refusing to fit in.

    A couple of giant examples would be Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs, both able to generate widespread dismay in the process of making their unique and major contribution.

    It’s just as true of the athlete, scientist, or performer who skips the parties and the 9-5 workstyle (‘fuck ’em’) so they can excel at what they do.

    Our world _needs_ misfits. Go to it.

  18. Great advice. Live for the moment and you will wake up in your mid thirties and realize that you work at a fastfood restaurant, drive a broken down car, and have nothing to show for your life beyond maxed out credit cards, illegitimate children, and a life ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction. Get real. Happy, meaningful, and fulfilling lives require work, dedication, and sacrifice.

    1. Curiously, I know not one single person who has ended up in the situation you describe.

      I am, however, acquainted with many who have a lovely home, two cars, and great careers. Upon digging, it turns out that most of these same folks are incredibly stressed out, wondering how they ended up where they are, and are silently planning their escape.

  19. Man, you should drink some Ayuasca. You will experience with un-fucking-believable clarity what you have described in this post.

  20. So I did something similar. Dropped out of school.
    Lived in different countries, just because I wanted to. Society pressure is, let’s say, medium for these.

    Don’t have kids, probably won’t, because I don’t see the point. Even thus society pressures me into doing that.
    Don’t have a wife. Just girl friends from time to time. Even thus society pressure is very high for that too.
    Likewise again for having “a home”. The only reason I’d get one is financial gain. Not integration.

    Not doing any of the 3 above items is generally seen as “abnormal, odd person”. That’s a lot of bullshit of course.

    Never took any advice without thinking about it first. Never fully understood why the majority seems happy with following whatever, whoever, doing *what’s “right”*.

    I am well educated, earn a more than decent salary because I decided this was necessary, speak several languages, etc.

    The only difference I have with most people, is that I went to school late, when I was 6 to 7 year old. The vast majority goes to school very young, where their mind is easily formated to follow standard advices, to be integrated with the crowd. Humans are indeed easy to manipulate, and even more when they’re very young. I instead spent a lot of time either alone, or with free will, as my parents weren’t in my back all the time.

    Of course, that is probably not the only reason, but this is a strong one. You’ll notice that in poor countries, they have an equivalent situation, except they generally lack the education, or ability to educate themselves when they become teenagers.

    One would hope that the Internet will solve this. But I’m not so sure. The Internet’s games, chats, news, comment thread and blog posts (yep, including this one and my comment) often play a large role into “formatting people”.

  21. oh the irony “We’re working hard to bring you stories like this. Might you give us a “like” and help us spread the word about Deliberatism?”

    1. Not really. The post message is: don’t be confined by other’s ideas about what you should do. The slide out message is: we’d love it if you helped tell others about what we’re doing.

      The real irony is in me helping to write a blog about life balance, and then finding myself so busy in doing so that I find myself experience less balance than ever before.

  22. This blog; Is dangerous and beautiful in the same breath. Every time I read an article here, I go out and do something completely new and cool, and almost always (dangerous or illegal)

  23. A great reminder!

    and Eric: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” – Winston Churchill.

    :) Keep on kicking ass!!

  24. People are going on about money here, saying things like “well without money you cant say fuck em all. Well thats bullshit its not just about money, its about being your own person, thinking for yourself, and living a different life to the majority if thats what makes you happy. Because doing the things that make you happy is surely the most important thing in life, cos without happiness whats the point? And a hell of alot of people are perfectly happy with the 9 to 5 job, 3 kids and a wife lifestyle and feel no need to change this. For them the family life is all theyv ever wanted. So good for them. On the other hand though there are other people who for them this kind of ordinary life will just not do, they need other things, or an alternative lifesttyle to make themselves happy. So good for these people aswell. The point is about being true to yourself and doing what you know is right for you, thats all it is. The fact is there are alot of people out there who simply need to live differently to whats seen as the norm, people who struggle with everyday pressures of life. these are people who need to live differently because if they conformed they would die inside. And a different way of life and different way of thinking is not all about money, or travelling across india as some people on here seem to think. A different way of life can simply be someone who 3 or 4 times a year goes out into the countryside with there friends and drops acid or munches some shrooms opening there minds up a little bit, instead of going down the local shitty boozer having the shitty conversation youv had a million times over in your life already

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