Say No.


When you know your destination, you can say “No” to the detours.

Last week, I had a nice Skype call with a reader who was seeking my advice on becoming an author and speaker, and I gave him some pointers. I normally don’t schedule calls with random people asking for a favor, but this time I made an exception. I had a good reason.

The advice I gave to this reader was similar to the thoughts I shared this weekend with a good friend who is considering to quit his job. And I’m handing down the same advice to anyone who doesn’t know where to go with his or her career.

Paint a mental picture of one week in your life five to ten years from now. Where will you be? What will you be doing? How will you be earning a living?

For me, the answer is this:

Ten years from now, I will be earning my living writing books, full-time, in a quiet, cosy home, away from busy cities; and I will only be traveling when I feel like it. There will be a cat on my lap, and I might take some breaks to walk the dog in the forest just behind our house.

The picture changes sometimes, but that’s the one I have right now.

If you cannot paint such a mental picture for yourself, of what your life looks like in five to ten years time, try lots of things and run many experiments until you do. When you know where you want to end up, you can pick the roads that are most likely to get you there. And you can say “No” to all the others.

No, no, no.

No, I will not have two social dinners, one lunch, a happy hour drink and some evening entertainment before and after just one conference. I can only become a full-time writer by writing a lot, not by chatting a lot. (But I gladly schedule one valuable get-together to get inspiration for my writing.)

No, I will not review your book, article, blog post, video or software tool. Sadly, I cannot spend my days giving all my contacts feedback on their work. I want to be a full-time writer, not a full-time reviewer. (But I will happily think more deeply about the products I actually use, from the perspective of a writer.)

No, I will not do a series of in-house workshops with your company. I’ve done more than 100 workshops worldwide. Doing the same workshop for the 200th time doesn’t get me any closer to my goal. I’m a writer, not a trainer. (But if you want, I can pass on the opportunity to a respectable business partner.)

Say it.

You see? Saying “No” is quite easy for me. When you know your destination, you can say “No” to the detours. Of course, detours are fine when it’s your intention to enjoy the temporary distractions or to invite serendipity. As long as you value them for what they are: welcome diversions on your path.

That’s why I scheduled that Skype call with the reader asking for my advice on his career. I felt that this was something I had to write about. A small but useful diversion, and another small step closer to my goal.

photo credit: (c) 2013 gags9999, Creative Commons 2.0

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