Swearing is Fucking Great.

There are many great pleasures in life: Good friends, a beautiful sunset, a job well done — and cussing.

Ah, swearing. Some of us love it. I think I’m on solid ground by saying that for many of us, swearing is an eminently satisfying, if not authentic, mode of self-expression.

Early in my business life I was told that if i wanted to succeed I needed to do three things:

  1. Get an MBA
  2. Learn to Golf
  3. Stop Swearing

To which I said,… you guessed it — fuck that and never did any of them.

Given the alarming increase in political correctness, fake-nice-nice behavior and indirect communication in our culture, it’s good to take a momment to rejoice in the splendor of cursing.

With one strong cuss you can probably express every human emotion from love to hate precisely because swearing offers such a powerful release.

Is swearing a practice associated with under-educated, boorish, heathens? Of course it is. But that tells only part of the story. There is also something rebellious in the act which appeals to lowbrow and highbrow alike, like we’re getting away with something naughty. It also feels really fucking great.

Shit, you’ll find many of the most successful people in the world using salty descriptions to get their points across. According to U.S. News & World Report, United States Presidents have “a rich tradition of cussing.” Our sitting President is no stranger to the practice himself.

The media’s not immune. Joe Scarborough and Shepard Smith have famously dropped on-air F-Bombs. And comedian Jon Stewart came close to perfecting the art by masterfully swearing almost nightly on “The Daily Show.” — GET BACK ON AIR JON — but i digress. And of course The Donald swears like a movie version of a New York Don. So what ever side of the aisle you’re on there’s a cussing bastard for you to love.

The trick to successful swearing is to apply the fitting word to the right situation, at the right time. Imagine being stuck in traffic forever or waiting endlessly in a long line. What about trying for the seventh time to get your insurance company on the phone, or realizing all your data has disappeared after your hard drive crashes, or just about any interaction with United Airlines or Comcast — - these are tailor-made situations begging for an off-color bon mot.

The flip side is that in times of joy, cussing positively lifts hearts. Skiing down a wicked powder run, surfing a great wave, or celebrating the birth of your baby, cheering on your team as it wins the big game or sharing a great glass of scotch all qualify as occasion to trot out the proper….adjective.

Is it a mistake that so many successful people curse? I don’t think so. There is something attractive about people who communicate in clear, powerful, expressive ways. There is something attractive about having the courage to not giving a shit.

We admire leaders who don’t pull any punches. In fact, cussing has been part of business life ever since the first caveman short-paid his neighbor for a piece of meat. Over the course of my business career, almost every great executive I have worked with swore.

Some execs strut their raw side in public. Not long after taking over as Yahoo’s CEO, Carol Bartz famously dropped an F-bomb on a Wall Street conference call. Women CEOs who swear in public get extra points in my book. (Full disclosure: During a speech in front of over a thousand salespeople, I once said: “We are not participating in the fucking recession!” and the crowd roared its approval.) These are not one-off examples.

A 2007 study found that swearing at work can inspire teamwork.

The critics of cussing who say that it’s rude, inappropriate and ugly are quite right. And that’s what makes it so fucking good. Of course, there’s a time and a place for swearing. Those among the cuss-noscenti, who over-use swearing, can diminish its value. A crime I have commited.

Generally, I would not recommend swearing in front of the Queen, the Pope, or young children (been known to do that too leading mothers and fathers to utter things like, “just don’t repeat anything uncle Christopher says). Swearing too loudly in a library or place of worship is almost always ill advised. And there are times in business when swearing can backfire by making you appear weak, as if you were trying to compensate for some deficiency.

Like most things in life, common sense rules of the road apply. You won’t help your case by cussing in front of a judge, a jury, or your mom (although my mum and mother-in-law are GOOD with it). Same goes for when you’re facing a robber with a gun. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach but I’ve found that swearing works best as an expression versus an attack weapon.

Obviously, context matters. At a dinner with a couple of software executives, I told them they were fuckin, fucked and they thought it was hysterical.

Truth be told, it’s people who don’t cuss scare me. What if they have built up repressed emotion? Bottled up bad shit inside them? How long before they burst into flames?

So the next time you hear someone deploy a four letter word, don’t immediately assume the speaker is some hopeless knuckle dragger. Smile and enjoy someone who is colorfully celebrating their right to fuller self expression.

If you like what you just read, please recommend it.

Best wishes & play bigger,

Christopher

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