New Book from Talia Argondezzi Encourages People—Especially Women—to Do Less
More humor than self-help, Lean the F*ck Out: How to Aim Lower, Get Less Done, and Find Your Happiness is the first book by Director of the Center for Writing and Speaking Talia Argondezzi.
The book is “a satirical push-back against runaway hustle culture … that is meant to make people laugh in a way that leads them to recognize the ways that they’ve been too hard on themselves,” said Argondezzi.
“I have a lot of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who work themselves really hard—and not just in the workplace, but in every aspect of their lives. This is true across genders, but I think it’s most true for women. It seems like you have to work extra hard at work to prove yourself, but then when work is over, there are still all these domestic duties, and you’re expected to be the quarterback in the household too. We live in this culture that emphasizes hustle and equates labor with virtue. I wanted to write a humorous response to that, like a deconstruction of a self-help book.”
Although Lean the F*ck Out: How to Aim Lower, Get Less Done, and Find Your Happiness is the antithesis of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Argondezzi can appreciate the 2013 bestseller—to a point.
“It’s inspiring in a lot of ways. It’s a good book in the sense that it tells women to put themselves out there and not hesitate to assert themselves in the workplace, but it just completely ignores all the structural barriers in the way of women’s success. It recognizes that sexism is a problem in our society, but it proposes to solve it by women working harder. And that’s very frustrating to me, as a woman.”
A frequent humor contributor to outlets including McSweeney’s, The New Yorker Daily Shouts, Slackjaw, and The Weekly Humorist, Argondezzi first tried her hand at comedy writing during the pandemic. Fast-forward two years and a creative content studio reached out and invited her to write a book.
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult that they saw what I wrote and thought that I’d be good at writing a book about being bad at things. It could be more of an insult, but I’m okay with it because it did result in me getting a book contract.”
Argondezzi, who typically is concerned with writing to please only the editor and readers of the publication she is targeting, found the biggest adjustment was writing content to serve a wider audience. “My satirical voice is pretty acerbic. It’s a little dark humor usually,” she said. “My editor helped me to get out of my more sardonic voice and develop this breezy, encouraging ‘We’re all in it together’ kind of voice.”
Trying to evaluate her own productivity one summer, when days can feel less structured, she spent a few days writing down everything she did. “I realized that a lot of the ways I spend time have value even if it’s not capitalistically productive value or achievement-oriented value. A lot of times, it’s things that you’re just not valuing enough. Maybe you were on the phone with somebody, and that took up a lot of your time, but that’s really valuable. Yes, it’s not an ‘accomplishment’—I didn’t write anything or clean anything, there’s no product at the end of it—but I’m maintaining a relationship,” she said.
“My idea is to step away from needing to feel like you accomplished something every day. Maybe some days are not for achievement, and some days are just for enjoyment or existence, and that’s okay.”