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  • Writer's pictureMatt Gordon

I Swear

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

By: Matt Gordon

This week I attended a team training on Speed of Trust. It was a disaster. The company trainers leading it weren’t the problem—they were delightful and informative. The team I joined through this training are those with whom I do life and work—wonderful in so many ways. The problem was the author of the content, one Mr. Stephen MR Covey. His tone is good; his messaging, spot on. It is hard to argue with his model, and the content is easy to apply. But—and I swear I am not exaggerating here—there wasn’t one mother-effing cuss word! In the whole book! A morally upright Mormon, Covey’s favorite four-letter word is probably Utah. In the entirety of his work he doesn’t give a S*&t. Not a single one. No D’s or F’s or GD’s. What a massive letdown!

See the newish trend in the realm of leadership and self-help and parenting is to basically present the same content that every leadership and self-help and parenting book does, but with a torrent of obscenity that would make Carlin blush.

Since I can’t really go all-in on the swears in this medium, and since all this mid-word punctuation is putting that little helpful paperclip who lives in my word processor on overdrive, I’ll use the curse words of the church or my wife from henceforth.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Flip. Go the Fizz Asleep. Unfrick Your Habitat. Stop Doing that Shiz. Why Men Marry Botches. Oh and Ms. Sweeney’s innovative work: Zen as Fudge: A Journal for Practicing the Mindful Art of Not Giving a Squash. One can find these books all over the internet because they are bestsellers—just flying off the gosh darn shelves. Mostly they are popular because, I think, they swear. Usually the sales blurb reads something like this:

Think you know about leadership? ____________ will make you think again. Hard. Flubbing hard. With radical audacity and straight-forward street talk, you’ll finally nail that interview, land that plane, and close that deal, all while feeling like the master of your own destiny. This isn’t your mother’s self-help book. This is raw. This is power. This is straight-talk. This swears. A lot.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I get chills thinking of all those swears—all that power.

I’ve read excerpts from some of these books. The content is fine, just as most leadership, self-help, have-all-the-answers books content is fine. Most folks will read one of these books, it will carry them along for a year or two spurring on some change in their lives, and then they’ll forget it, having latched on to the next revolutionary new, old idea. But as I’ve read this new ilk of rough-and-tumble wisdom, I pause at each well-wrought obscenity, knowing by its inclusion that it could have been taken out. It creates a double-edged sword for me. Is it still hardcore genuineness when that genuineness is left in knowing its intentional impact?

“Oh,” says the editor excitedly, “that use of mother fluffer there really adds gravitas!”

“You don’t think it is too much, do you?” says the latte-sipping, straight-shooting author.

“No, no. Of course not. It is raw. It is power. It is straight-talk. But I was wondering if we add a hole to the use of s&^t on page 19? I don’t know, just seems like it could be even more powerful. Rawer. Straighter.”

“I could add the hole. You want me to add the hole? I’ll add the stinking hole.”

And the hole is added. A whole bunch of them holes.

Which brings me back to Covey. If he were just to lose the gentlemanly façade, could his trust speed to more possible devotees? What I would propose—were I his publisher—would be to lay out his manuscript out on a gym floor. Then, put a whole bunch of dangs and hecks and ticks and gosh-darns and holy sugars in a bag, shake the bag up, and from the rafters just upturn the bag, letting all the shoots fall where they may. Sprinkle those fricks into the pages of the manuscript with liberal generosity.

But why stop with Covey? If a few curse words take a work of non-fiction from helpful to revolutionary, what could it do to the fast food industry? A McGriddle is great, but a Mother Father McGriddle? That would be powerful and raw.

How about traffic signs?

Yield, Applehole

Bridge May Be Mother Freezin’ Icy

B, Stop

News articles, legislation, report cards—couldn’t they be infused with power? Couldn’t they stand to be a bit raw? Can’t we start really talking straight by saying swears? Think of how much more motivational I could be as a parent if some slurs and curses found their way into my children’s bedtime prayers or pleadings for them to eat their geez-Louise vegetables?

I swear I can do better. These books, if they’ve shown me nothing else, have imprinted that on me. I swear I can, and, thanks to these bold trailblazers, you can swear it too.


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