Over the last few +1s, we’ve been hanging out with Seth Godin and enjoying some wisdom from his book The Practice.
We talked about the fact that the magic of the process of optimizing our lives and actualizing our potential is that THERE IS NO MAGIC.
Today we’re going to continue our exploration of Seth’s wisdom as we talk about the best reason to say, “NO!”
(Can you guess what it is?)
Here’s how Seth puts it…
“Writer Justine Musk reminds us that in order to say no with consistency and generosity’s we need to have some thing to say ‘yes’ to. Our commitment to the practice is the source of that yes.
The world expects that its requests will be accepted. That assignments, launch dates, new projects, even favors will get a yes. It’s just a small ask, the person thinks.
The problem is obvious—if you spend all day hitting the ball back, you’ll never end up serving.
Responding or reacting to incoming asks becomes the narration of your days, instead of the generous work of making your own contribution.”
Seth continues by saying…
“Should you check your email or work on your book?
Deciding to answer the email counts as a yes. But it might be a yes to the wrong thing. It might be the most generous thing to do is to disappoint someone in the short run.
Inbox zero is a virtuous habit, though an exhausting one. Like all forms of responsiveness, it favors the short term over the long, the urgent over the important. And it comes with a juicy deniability, a way to spend an hour or two without having to own too much.”
YES and NO.
Those are two of the most important words in any language. Let’s take a tour through our library of Notes for some parallel wisdom.
Here’s how Stephen Covey puts it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good.’”
Here’s how The 4 Disciplines of Execution guys put it in their great book: “The first discipline is to focus your finest efforts on the one or two goals that will make all the difference, instead of giving mediocre effort to dozens of goals. Execution starts with focus. Without it, the other three disciplines won’t be able to help you. ... Simply put, Discipline 1 is about applying more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns is as real as the law of gravity.”
Cal Newport references them and David Brooks in his great book Deep Work where he tells us: “As the authors of The 4 Disciplines of Execution explain, ‘The more you try to do, the less you actually accomplish.’ They elaborate that execution should be aimed at a small number of ‘wildly important goals.’ This simplicity will help focus an organization’s energy to a sufficient intensity to ignite real results.”
He continues by saying: “For an individual focused on deep work, the implication is that you should identify a small number of ambitious outcomes to pursue with your deep work hours. The general exhortation to ‘spend more time working deeply’ doesn’t spark a lot of enthusiasm. In a 2014 column titled, ‘The Art of Focus,’ David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: ‘If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasborg; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.’”
I could go on but I’ll leave it at that and bring it back to Seth’s wisdom and the importance of THE PRACTICE.
Question: What’s YOUR *ultimate* target?
Mine is simple: I want to show up as the best, most Heroic version of myself.
I have, to use David Brooks’ phrase, a “terrifying longing” to connect with and express that best version of myself. When I say, “YES!!!” to THAT wildly important goal, it becomes a LOT easier to say “NO!!!” to all the trivial distractions of life.
Let’s remember to say YES to the ultimate game so we can say NO to the seductive distractions.
Here’s to moving from Theory to PRACTICE to Mastery Together TODAY, Hero.