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A Fucking Guest Post: Julien Smith, the New York Times best-selling author of Trust Agents

Some weeks back I noticed the blog of Julien Smith; the young, NYT best-selling author of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. I noticed because, to ring in the New Year, he posted about how to lose 20+ pounds in January and it was quite Paleo oriented. I commented in reply to one of his readers making fun of his audacity to post about something on which he’s not a recognized "expert." Julien replied, indicating he’d often read my blog and extended me welcome.

And so began a dialog between us. Julien addresses some of the things we have in common in his guest post, below, so I won’t jump the gun. I don’t hardly ever do guest posts, there may be two others. I have guests posts when I find something I want on my blog — not because someone else thinks they have something I need on my blog (I get a lot of emails with guest post requests – most of which are absolutely ludicrous and don’t even get a response). So, simply, I began not only reading his blog but also began to read some of his recent posts. How To Recognize an Idiot signaled to me that I was indeed in the right place. And Stop being a fucking pussy told me to immediately book a guest post by this young, brash genius.

Everything I’ve ever had, I got through "fucking"

I really wish I was kidding. Sadly, I’m not.

I am a New York Times bestselling author. I run my own company. I have no degree, and no special skills. There is nothing particularly amazing about me at all.

The only thing I seem to have done, the thing that really differentiates me, is that I say what I think. That happens to include swearing. A lot of it.

I am not deliberately provocative. I don’t do it for attention– it’s just kind of who I am. So much so that, even now, I am known online as "the guy that swears." It’s weird, because I don’t feel that’s what I’m "about," but it has stuck.

It’s how my internet radio show was noticed in 2004. I made friends who said it was some of the best podcasting they’d ever heard, which led to me being of the first professional podcasters in the world. It led me to run my own company. I was 25.

My point, and I do have one

Richard and I met recently because we have a lot in common. We’re both paleo, we’ve both done MovNat with Erwan le Corre, and we both work with Martin Berkhan. So we chatted. We had read each other’s blogs, and we got along.

Turns out we both swear a lot too. That’s what led to this post.

There are a lot of hypocrisies and double-standards in this world. All of us have known them and see them — in fact, we can make a game of naming some in the comments if you want, I’m game.

Swearing is one of them– but it’s actually indicative of more. It’s a marker for a two-faced society– puritanical yet obsessed with sex, or struggling to find authenticity yet content with superficiality and shopping.

These are actually normal human traits. We want one, we get it and find out it’s not great, so we seek out the other. Or, we use one method, it stops working, we use the opposite method. Like carb cycling, maybe, or cross-training, I dunno.

So here’s the thing. I know a lot of people won’t tweet out this blog post. I know they won’t post it on Facebook. It’s polarizing. That’s the point. But those that refuse to share it are more than compensated for by the rest of the population, those who are not scared by a word children learn when they are five and many have actually seen on the internet by twice that age.

This is also, by the way, letting the most backwards part of our population control us through their collective delusion. Did you know this? We are ok with eating paleo, which basically means that we support evolution as a "theory," yet we bow to the people who protest Marilyn Manson concerts. Why?

Some posts have often been tweeted out with the message "Sorry about the cussing but this needs to be heard" by these people. As if the anyone actually cares– as if swearing will prevent them from clicking through, or the sender’s reputation will be tainted by sending out a link. Ridiculous.

Here, I’ll prove it. Tweet this out, feel free to @#$% out the cuss words if you’re that kind of person, and see how often it’s clicked on. If you leave the swearing in, you’ll see what I mean. It’s horrible.

How this world actually works

Here’s the Superbowl "slow motion" playback of how it happens. People see the words "fucking awesome." They go, "wow, what is that?" And then they click. This leads to almost 2000 Facebook likes, a hundred comments, and 700+ tweets being sent out within one week. With no difference in content.

If you think swearing is offensive, you should try writing for an audience in a "normal" way, then watching traffic skyrocket when you swear, despite the posts not being as good.

Watching your well thought-out content vanish in the tides of the internet is what’s actually offensive. Seeing what people click on is offensive, like watching Fergie try to look cool next to Slash, a fucking rock god. Jesus.

Anyway, here’s the thing. It’s not even about swearing. It’s about a strong editorial voice (a strong differentiator) and great content. The cussing is just window dressing.

It’s a cheap trick… except not really. Because it shows people you’re serious, and that you mean what you say. It tells people that this isn’t just another thing for them to read. It polarizes people, which means they’re likely to either love or hate what you write– rather than remain indifferent, which is death.

In a world where people sit on the fence so often it’s almost a profession, saying "I don’t give a fuck" does amazing things. It wins converts. Passion wins zealots.

In the past, I’ve written posts about how to differentiate yourself. It’s a big part of the book we published last year, too. You can use any method you want, but the larger point, the most important one is larger than blogs. It’s about life.

You must do what others will not. You must do things differently than what is in fashion. Not just to get noticed, but to find truth, to make a company profitable. You must search in places where others have not.

This seems evident, but it isn’t. We are emotional. We follow crowds. We convince ourselves despite little evidence.

Half of the readers here, you can tell me which group you’re in, believe in the paleo diet without having done the reading or seen the science. Why? Because humans need to simplify in order to make decisions. It seems convincing, so we’re convinced. This is the same reason people believe Bill O’Reilly, even though he doesn’t think Mars has any moons.

But it’s also replacing one god over another. Oh I see, so Zeus doesn’t make the lightning, Yahweh does. I get it.

Going along with other people leads to the same result they have. Most results are mediocre. Ask yourself what you want.

Is it hard decisions, lots of research and uncertainty, moments of doubt to help you go against the grain? Or is it easy decisions that others have made for you– some will be right, some will be wrong — leading to wherever they, not you, decide?

I have been producing content online now for seven years. I swore at first. Then, later, I fought it. The protesters got to me. I retreated. No more.

Maybe you are having a similar struggle. Who do I want to be, how do I want to write? What is important to me? Will I be judged or accepted? Etc.

Sorry for the long rant. Here is the lesson.

Search. Experiment. Fail. Improve. Learn. Grow.

All these things are essential and good.

But never retreat. Never.

~~~

Alright, since this fucking guest post has the word "fuck" in it, certainly don’t Tweet it out and don’t share it on Facebook using the buttons provided at top; and if you are actually foolish enough to do so against my strong admonishment, at least have the decency to apologize in advance for the foul language.

And if you’re a fan of Julien Smith as am I, you can find out how to follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his blog or email feed over at his blog.

Thank you Julien for a thought provoking, polarizing, call to action post. Who do you want to be, folks? As for me, I shall choose to be myself.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

48 Comments

  1. Jason Sandeman on February 7, 2011 at 11:22

    Fuck Yah! I am known for swearing up a storm myself. I have to watch it, I have even been known for swearing at a job interview. LOL
    I think it is important to talk in your voice. If that includes swearing, fuck it.

  2. Jess on February 7, 2011 at 11:33

    Awesome. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m truly serious when swearing.
    Great post!

  3. Rob on February 7, 2011 at 11:02

    I fucking love Julien! My favorite recent post is The Short and Sweet Guide to Being Fucking Awesome. http://inoveryourhead.net/the-short-and-sweet-guide-to-being-fucking-awesome/

    Somehow I also end up with a handful of curse words in my blog and on Twitter every single day. I don’t see why people are so scared to curse, but I like the reaction I get when I do.

  4. julianne on February 7, 2011 at 12:18

    “Search. Experiment. Fail. Improve. Learn. Grow.

    All these things are essential and good.

    But never retreat. Never.”

    Thanks – I needed that!

  5. Travis on February 7, 2011 at 12:21

    “But never retreat. Never.”

    Fuck yeah!

  6. gregorylent on February 7, 2011 at 12:39

    boring post

  7. Karen McGrane on February 7, 2011 at 12:41

    Fuck yeah, but you know I swear all the time anyway.

    Being offensive is “working” for Groupon too, at least as far as search is concerned.

    Success, for you, probably means more than just hits or searches or RTs or likes. Remains to be seen if Groupon’s search surge results in more customers.

  8. Greg on February 7, 2011 at 12:50

    Let’s see, swear like a truck driver, fight the urge, fail and start swearing again to make up for lost time. Where o’ where have we seen that movie before?

    Excellent content, though it really needs some acronym work- SEFILG doesn’t roll off the tongue too well and would look silly on a t-shirt.

  9. rob on February 7, 2011 at 15:39

    The lack of Fucking Awesomeness is why the “Everything In Moderation” people drive me nuts.

    Thanks just the same, I tried Everything In Moderation, it didn’t work out, it turned me into a Giant Sloth, now get the fuck out of my way while I spend a couple of decades pursuing Fucking Awesomeness.

    • Jason on February 7, 2011 at 18:28

      Exactly. Normal, moderate behavior got me lazy, fat, and anxious. Now, nearing 40 I figure I’ve got three decades to pursue fucking awesome or explode trying. And when I explode? Improve. Learn. Grow. Move the hell on.

  10. Tennet on February 7, 2011 at 16:51

    Pointless. This guy is boring, his rants lack testosterone and his style is nada. He is weak, wears gay earrings, asks visitors to subscribe to his bullshit all the time and I doubt he got ripped, even paying the sweddish leangains dude. Leangains is the real deal but it won’t work for crossfit pussies.

    • Trish on February 7, 2011 at 17:35

      What the fuck happened to men who look like MEN?! Richard? Looks like a man. This guy? Looks like the fucking hipster douchebag who works at the local “health foods” market and asks me politely if I want my chicken put in a paper bag to protect my reusable bag from OMFG FUCKING GROSS MEAT JUICES.

      I am forty-four years old. I am from New Jersey. AND I CAN FUCKING CURSE YOU UNDER THE FUCKING TABLE WITHOUT BREAKING A FUCKING SWEAT YOU DUMBASS HIPSTER PUSSY.

      /bows

      Carry on.

  11. james mooney on February 7, 2011 at 17:56

    Great post Richard. . . . that dude has a great fucking blog, thanks for sharing!

    • Richard Nikoley on February 7, 2011 at 18:00

      Watch out, James. Julien apparently wears an ear ring and doesn’t sport an Incrdible Hulk physique. There are important prerequisites for a good blog.

  12. Jessi on February 7, 2011 at 18:07

    I fucking love this guy.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 7, 2011 at 18:20

      Well Jessi, so far no one seems indifferent. 🙂

  13. CPorter on February 7, 2011 at 19:07

    Ok, resident backward part of the population chiming in:

    Dude, if you are bowing to those Fred Phelps goons that protest Ozzy concerts, YOU are the one with the problem.

    Also, you can call a meat based diet Paleo all you want, but in my opinion, you are eating just like the Bible tells people to eat. Eat meat and fast on occasion.

    And it’s more akin to a shepherd daily diet than some supposed “neanderthal,” “Paleo” diet.

    If you were trying to live like some kind of hunter and gatherer, you be just as dead as Chris McCandless is now, rotting away on Bus No. 142.

  14. CPorter on February 7, 2011 at 19:09

    Totally agree with V.

    It’s sort of like the ill bred sitting on the porch picking their nose, scratching their testicles and laughing about the dog licking his.

  15. Jake on February 7, 2011 at 19:10

    Using fuck in your sentences is a lazy way of writing and probably is due to a lazy way of thinking.

    Rather than showing your passion by thinking of the right combination of words, you throw in the word fuck. You have now written a sentence no one will remember and no one will quote.

    Also people in their minds deduct 30 points from the IQ of a swearer when forming an impression of them.

    So if you want to be known as a dumb lazy fucker, then keep pouring on the swear words.

    • Tim Morales on February 8, 2011 at 10:14

      When I was a prof, it was accepted that the brilliant ones swore like bandits; the pedestrian ones clung to middle-class notions of “proper” language.

      James Joyce uses the word “cunt” many times in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake; DH Lawrence uses it many, many times in Lady Chatterley’s Lover; Henry Miller sets the world record for its use in Tropic of Cancer.

      I suppose, as writers, they were just a bunch of dumb lazy fuckers?

      Unlike the ones in Oprah’s Book Club…

      • Richard Nikoley on February 8, 2011 at 10:27

        Ha, Tim. Do you mean to say that the regurgitators of convensional civil discourse are “not well read.”

        Ha! Why would they be, when they learned everything they needed to know by who washed out their mouths with soap. But more than that, being deathly afraid to say, in front of 100,000 readers (that they don’t have but I do) some foul language just advances the bogus notion that one must play a role as a writer blogger. I play no role.



    • Richard Nikoley on February 7, 2011 at 19:21

      Jake:

      Am I known as a dumb lazy fucker?

      https://freetheanimal.com/2011/02/a-year-of-free-the-animal-visitor-statistics-in-review.html

      And you know what? Do you imagine for one second that I’m fooled, that what you say above is somehow represented by thoughtful, deliberative thought on your part (or the facile regurgitation of some crap momma bird fed you before your started regurgitating for yourself)?

      Worst of all, you display an embarrassing inability to draw critical distinctions, as though I or Julien don’t know how to behave at a funeral — or our parents’ 25th wedding anniversary.

      This post is about writing with distinction.

      Now, kindly point me to your vault of popular word-smithing. You know where mine is.

      • CPorter on February 7, 2011 at 19:56

        Richard, you consistently write meaningful and/or interesting content while throwing out an F bomb here and there. That is why your stats are high. Not because you throw F bombs.

        If using the work fucking is some sort of badge of good writing then I need to sign up at the content farm.



      • Richard Nikoley on February 7, 2011 at 20:57

        No, it is indeed not about indiscriminate use.



      • Jake on February 7, 2011 at 22:15

        If this reply is the best you can do, you are right and I was wrong.

        You should keep up your swearing.



  16. William on February 7, 2011 at 23:31

    Well fuck me dead! More folks after my own heart. Being a former Navy man, and having been raised by agnostic parents, I am absolutely fluent in swearing, or as some might call, “sailorese.” No church going during this salty ol’ bastard’s youth! And you can bet your sweet ass, if I ever start my own blog, cussin’ will be plentiful. Sort of a Fred Reed meets P.J. O’Rourke meets Hunter S. Thompson, as said by a Master Chief Petty Officer.

    Fuckafiably yours,
    William

  17. Simon on February 8, 2011 at 01:21

    Hi: Not really relating to this article but interested in hearing what anyone has to say about this video. I found it interesting.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/christopher_mcdougall_are_we_born_to_run.html

  18. J. Stanton - gnolls.org on February 8, 2011 at 05:36

    Yet another confirmation that selling pickaxes to the miners is far more profitable than joining the Gold Rush.

  19. Neill on February 8, 2011 at 06:06

    Wait as second.

    Yes I jumped on the paleo bandwagon without reading (much) or seeing much of the scientific evidence.

    Not because I like jumping on bandwagons, but because it instantly makes sense in terms of my (all be it basic) understanding of evolution. It was a huge ‘duh!’ moment.

    There’s a difference in jumping on the paleo bandwagon because you have a lay-mans understanding of physics, chemistry, biology and history and jumping on another trend because everyone else is.

  20. Phocion Timon on February 8, 2011 at 06:57

    The problem I have with swearing, cussin’, etc., is that constant usage promotes laziness. The late, great William F. Buckley, Jr., a master of our language, lamented that obviously intelligent people too often avoid finding a more advantageous word. (The essence of wit is brevity.)

    I have nothing against cussin’ per se. I work in the oil fields of west Texas and eastern New Mexico and the word “fuck,” in all its forms, is as much of a converstation as “and” and “the.” Mr. Smith’s denial of the usage as a cheap trick notwithstanding, requiring such words to draw crowds does not speak well of an author’s followers or of the author.

  21. Roman on February 8, 2011 at 07:05

    This post has a bit of an auto-tune feel to it.

    1. Let’s increase traffic to a site
    2. We’ll write a post with swear word in it
    3. Then talk about it on Twitter

    I guess it’s part of the process:

    Search. Experiment. Fail. Improve. Learn. Grow.

  22. Gabriele on February 8, 2011 at 07:10

    I guess i’m old-school, but the constant swearing is a big turn off for me. I swear in my private life, i’m no prude. But when i’m researching information or trying to learn something, it totally detracts from an otherwise intelligent message, seeing swearing all over the place just for the sake of it. It’s not even relevant! To me it looks immature and reckless. Your loyal followers may love it, but to the stumbler coming in here trying to learn something, it looks unprofessional.

    • rob on February 8, 2011 at 07:53

      What is it that you are trying to learn?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 8, 2011 at 08:42

      Gabriel:

      Seems to me that info resources without swearing, meeting every jot & tittle of civil discourse are abundant. I don’t see the problem. My style and the guest post (written basically to my own specifications — it’s what I wanted) represent a way of doing things a bit different. Yes, I get that this post may not have come off as intended, as I suppose there is a difference between a few foul words as part of a righteous rant I do and a post almost exclusively about using foul language.

      But it is just one post. Nothing changes. It’s just a means of making some sense about why I do what I do and it’s about being who I really am in person than anything else.

      • Justice~! on February 8, 2011 at 11:06

        Wow, 1700 replies to ever post that even hints they are turned off by constant swearing. Let’s ease up on the defensiveness there buddy.



      • Richard Nikoley on February 8, 2011 at 11:23

        1700 replies? May I ask what the fuck you are talking about?

        Btw, I never do defensive. I typically just write another blog. You must have not been around, long.



    • Richard Nikoley on February 8, 2011 at 11:30

      Gabrielle, dear:

      And aftertHought but much of mynlife Hess been spent undoing what was taught to me “old school.” I should probably start calling it ignorant school, or old ignorant school to gard the ignorant reference, ie, old as a good in itself. Pretty much, old is only good where humans had no say in the matter, ie, genetic expression.

      Or, I’d love if Hot Pockets were health food.

  23. Justice~! on February 8, 2011 at 11:06

    *every*, sorry for the typo.

  24. pfw on February 8, 2011 at 11:39

    Maybe I’m too much a child of the internet, but “fucking” as a curse is like soft baby chatter compared to what you routinely hear over public voice chat in games or see even in random comment threads. This makes me wonder at what point Julien’s penchant for f-bombs will stop being effective at driving traffic. Obviously if everyone is trying to be provocative via the staple swears, it’s not going to work anymore, nor will it work if your audience is used to the endless output of combinatorial offensiveness that typifies internet interaction.

    For example, a post with “fuck” in the title will never compete in shock value with the angry insanity of a ten year old playing Halo in the middle of a ragequit. And soon that ten year old is going to be between 18-35 and thus be considered the most valuable advertising demographic; you’re going to have to get really creative with your curses, slurs and barely coherent rage to get HIS attention.

    I guess there will always be some soft underbelly of society that cringes when you curse, though. They may counterbalance the forces of a generation raised on anonymous shitcockery (http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/). Let’s raise a steak to the easily offended, who ensure that the low hanging obscenities will remain forever effective!

    • Richard Nikoley on February 8, 2011 at 12:13

      I love that comment, pfw. A thoughtful coment deserves no response.

  25. Nigel Kinbrum on February 8, 2011 at 16:14

    Stephen Fry is more eloquent than I am http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_osQvkeNRM

  26. Walter on February 9, 2011 at 00:42

    I’m listening to your interview with Jimmy Moore. I was expecting you to say when he asked “What makes you different?” Fbombs! 🙂

  27. Aaron Curl on February 9, 2011 at 03:23

    “This is also, by the way, letting the most backwards part of our population control us through their collective delusion.”
    Collective delusion is religion, yes? Religion is the only one thing I’m sure is holding society back at this point in time. Religions keep a blindfold on societies eyes.

  28. Jennifer on February 10, 2011 at 15:52

    I honestly don’t see the sense of this: If your complaint is you will not let your language be run by a certain segment of society, you have to also recognize that it’s only because of that segment of society that there’s any shock value to the words you want to use. So why complain about them? I can see complaining about them for just about everything else, but this is the one thing for which they are useful, giving us a more colorful language. You should be thanking them.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 10, 2011 at 19:35

      Not following, Jennifer. Pushing back is simply a good in itself, as I see it. If nothing else, to make people sure about what they think, including the language they use.

  29. TrailGrrl on February 10, 2011 at 17:38

    Fuck Yeah!

  30. The Book: The Flinch | Free The Animal on December 29, 2011 at 08:48

    […] First, the punchline: the book is free. It's called The Flinch. It's part of Seth Godin's The Domino Project with Amazon. The Author is Julien Smith, NYT best-selling author of Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. Julien & I connected when he did MovNat last year, and then also began doing Leangains consulting with Martin Berkhan. And then, he contributed a "fucking" guest post here. […]

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