But the truth is: I’m still not very good at saying “no.”
It’s hard to turn down work — especially when it involves projects I’m excited about. It’s hard to turn down revenue for the business. It’s hard to say “no” to people I’d love to work with.
I know that saying “no” is often the right move for me. But it’s still hard to do.
Right now, I’m reading “Eat a Peach,” the memoir from chef David Chang, and he talks often about the pressure of working as a chef — one whose success opened up all sorts of exciting new opportunities for him: Opening new restaurants, writing books, even TV. He writes that at times, he felt like he needed to hit rock bottom before he would be willing to change the way he worked.
“The paradox for the workaholic,” he writes, “is that rock bottom is the top of whatever profession they’re in.”
That line’s stuck with me the past few days. I’m not a celebrity chef, but I’ve been lucky to have had some success — and to have gotten a little publicity — the past few years. I’ve gotten all sorts of interesting new opportunities as my business has grown.
And I’m starting to understand what Chang might have experienced himself. I love to do this work, and if I could say “yes” to every potential client, I would.
But that’s not an option.
So I need to keep getting better at saying “no.” I need to do it for my family, for my friends, for my business, for my industry — and for myself. Saying “no” is what I need to do make sure I’m prepared to say “yes” to the right opportunities going forward.
That photo of a beautiful stop sign in Portugal comes via Kristaps Grundsteins and Unsplash.