A self-help movement based on the phrase ‘F**k it’? Yes, it exists, as Michael Adams discovers.
Catchphrase mantras range from the socially aware to the self-absorbed. “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” said Gandhi. Career positive thinker Norman Vincent Peale reckoned, “I change my thoughts, I change my world.” Sixties acidhead Timothy Leary famously said the world needed to “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.
But for brevity and directness it’s hard to compete with the simple chant: “Fuck it.”
Repeating those two words over and over as a route to relaxation and insight sounds like something from a Hollywood satire. But over the past decade the F**K It Life, as developed and promoted by creators, John Parkin and Gaia Pollini, has taken off as a serious spiritual concern through retreats, online workshops, books and videos. 2011’s 360 included Anthony Hopkins’ character telling a group therapy session that the phrase is the “fastest, most powerful prayer in the world” – a scene that Parkin and Pollini cite as evidence their philosophy is gaining widespread popularity.
Newbies wondering about their preexisting F**k It level can do a quick questionnaire on the official website. When I do the quiz, I’m surprised that I score 68 per cent, meaning I’ve already attained a solid level of F**t-itness. Being such a natural, I wonder whether I even need an official F**k it course.
“It would increase your score,” John tells me, “and that in itself is a valid goal. Using some of the F**k It ideas that we teach tends to make people less serious, more relaxed, less goal-orientated, more spontaneous and freer.”
So what’s a 100 per cent F**k It person be like? “We usually know at least one person like that,” Parkins says. “They are naturally relaxed. They don’t seem to try too much either but good things tend to happen to them. They always land on their feet and are sometimes super-successful an others feel good just being around them.”
Surprisingly, given that gurus usually claim total enlightenment from their own teachings, getting to 100 per cent F**k It-ness isn’t one of John’s personal goals. “It’s not in my DNA,” he says. “But when I’m stressing over something too much, saying F**k It is the best thing I can do to realise things aren’t so important.”
John and Gaia instead developed a thriving niche in the billion-dollar best-self-quest industry. The couple met in the ’90s at an advertising agency in London, and shared their love of therapy and spirituality; John had practiced Qi Gong and Tai Chi since the age of 21, while Gaia had trained in counselling and breathwork. Then in 2004 they moved to Italy to set up their retreat.
“We were teaching very boringly titled ‘holistic weeks’,” John says. “but we advised some stressed-out participants to say ‘F**k It’ to various things. They reported that it was working so we decided to put in ‘The F**k It Week’ for the year after. It sold out and we expanded from there.”
The retreats attract people from 18 to 80, from social workers to rich bankers. Adherents, endearingly, are known as “fuckiteers”.
While it’s tempting to think of a F**K It retreat as a nihilistic bacchanal, the reality is less American frat house and more spiritual sabbatical.“We teach people how to relax, we do breathing exercises and physical workouts to show that the less you try the stronger you are and discuss how to use ‘F**k It’ in every aspect of our lives, including saying it.
A F**K It world, John says, would be a place where people listened more, worried less, did more of what they like and less of what they don’t. “It’d be a better place,” he says. “One where adults acted more like kids and kids were respected as the true fuckiteers.”