Saying no has been one of my self-care basics for a long time. But some no’s are harder to give than others.
Earlier this year I discovered a saying that’s been attributed to Warren Buffett: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Now I’m pretty sure that Buffett and I have different ideas of success, but the statement still connects with me.
The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.Warren Buffett
Even though I think I say no a lot, I haven’t been saying it enough. I mean, I thought I was being judicious by prioritizing requests that are central to my sense of personal mission and that come from people I know and respect. The problem is that I know a lot of people who are doing fantastic things: writing books, hosting podcasts, producing films, and leading ministries that are life-giving and revolutionary. I want to be supportive. Plus, I’m a pleaser and overachiever who feels guilty about saying no. So when they ask me to speak or preach or write, I say yes.
It’s as if I have a subconscious cap on the allotment of no’s that I can give. I don’t even know what the cap is. Maybe it’s 10 percent. All I know is that saying no to one request makes me likely to say yes to the next one.
Unfortunately, every yes I give to someone else’s dream is a “no” (or at best, a “not yet”) to my own projects. The constant crush of deadlines means that I keep pushing off things that I feel uniquely called and equipped to do.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been revisiting Buffett’s quote, recognizing that it’s no longer enough for me to say no to some things or even lots of things. I need to say no to almost everything.
And that’s hard. Like the vibrantly colored doors in the photo below, each invitation beckons me to a delightful destination on the other side. But every door I enter takes me away from the work that I have to do on this side. So I’m closing a lot of doors from this point forward.
Maybe if I get an invitation at the precise moment that I need to take a break I’ll do that. For now, though, “Thanks, but no.”