James Altucher’s second-most-recent publication, The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness gets deeper than I would’ve anticipated. Seemingly, the book would touch upon ways that saying no can help you achieve the things you truly want to do and how we please people all the time when we know we shouldn’t. It does go into nearly all of these points but there are other aspects to this idea I would’ve never considered.
Saying no can keep you from dying
That’s right. The text starts off pretty morbidly when Altucher compares saying yes to smoking, drinking, and other things that can easily kill you. The idea is that by saying yes to people when you don’t really want to kills you slightly inside in more ways than one. When you have a big deadline in just a few days but your longtime buddy asks to help them paint the garage, some may please the friend when the obvious choice is to help yourself first and get some work done. People pleasers may not take themselves into consideration here, cramp up, and agree to help with the daunting task.
Speaking of your longtime buddy who seeks help painting, you also have to ask yourself if this friend of yours truly provides enough value in your life. The text forces you to think about people who really make you feel productive, good, and proud.
Consider these same friends when you ask them to paint your garage. Are they truly enjoying being there helping you, or do they feel forced because they were afraid to say no leaving you feeling guilty because you realize they don’t truly want to be there? The text does a great job of not only making you more comfortable saying no but also understanding how to not force others to say yes.
“What lies in our power to do, lies in our power not to do” ~ Aristotle
Don’t please others
This heading is slightly negative. You can be a decent human and please others but you shouldn’t please others before yourself nor should you please them so much that it becomes pandering.
On Kevin Rose’s podcast, Ryan Holiday says,
"How much of this decision is motivated by not wanting to disappoint someone and what would you say about it in eighty years?"
This is a really great quote to play back in your mind whenever someone tries to take some of your time. Firstly, knowing that what you’re agreeing to is actually pleasing the other person and disappointing yourself is the most basic test that every decision should pass. Secondly, it makes you think even harder when you consider how you’d think about it eighty years from now. Are you going to remember the relationship you cultivated with the neighbor helping them paint more than you will help your on-and-off friend with the groceries?
Instead of simply thinking about it in the sense of saving time for things you really want to be doing, you can also think of it as a personal fulfillment hindrance when you say yes. If you’re sitting at the office being barked at to complete these reports you really don’t have any passion for, saying yes to that task is keeping you from being yourself. The real you doesn’t want to be an accountant but instead wants to be a programmer. Saying no to a task that helps you climb the wrong ladder could be very beneficial.
How to say no - blaming others
Deciding on how to say no and mustering up the courage to possibly disappoint is a difficult thing to overcome. Accountability is the one thing people can’t argue. No one is going to question you if you say you have to go to the office on a weekday afternoon - it’s perfectly reasonable office-hours and they’d be crazy to suggest quitting your job for the sake of getting lunch with them instead. In this case, you’re off the hook and welcome to say no to other things because your priorities are clearly set on something else that is extremely socially acceptable.
Making people have that same understanding regarding other things isn’t as easy but certainly possible. If you hold yourself accountable to your personal task manager, todo list, and/or calendar, you can easily blame that. You’re technically still blaming yourself and your schedule, but by saying your past-self allocated this time for something and you can’t upset your plan helps them put their request in perspective in regards to your goals and things you’re trying to accomplish.
A great example of manufactured anxiety the book explains deals with traveling and flying. If you’re going on a plane in a few hours but have a desire to watch this popular documentary about plane crashes, you’re creating anxiety for yourself if you can’t handle the themes of the movie so close to a flight. Saying no to that film and watching SpongeBob instead might be extremely necessary for your wellbeing.
Saying no to distractions is another way to possibly feel more joy than you’re used to. By neglecting to check your texts and Twitter while wondering the streets and running errands and saying no to social media, it’s entirely possible to find excitement in the real world. It also forces you to give more attention to the things you may not normally. Giving the cashier your undivided attention and being pleasant can really brighten someone’s day - the look of a lonely person feeling noticed for the first time in a day is one you won’t forget!
Getting the most of the Power of No requires you to get in touch with your four bodies: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I have no doubt that to truly becoming enlightened in all of these areas may take half a lifetime, but it’s something to keep in mind and to constantly consider with most, if not all, of your daily decisions - most of which you’ll (hopefully) say no to.
When to say no
It’s important to know the balance here. We all know some people who just say no to everything because they’re recluses, depressed, or just have no drive to anything. Don’t say no to everything to the point where it becomes a problem and people start worrying about you. Similarly, don’t neglect the people who are important to you. Think back to the garage painting friend, if they’re in that handful of friends that you consider your inner circle and that make you a better person, give them the time of day.
There truly is a lot of power to the word no and utilizing it correctly can help you accomplish the things you want to accomplish while misusing it can ruin your goals.