Saying ‘no’

Probably one of the most important things I’ve learned recently is the power of saying ‘no’. I’ve usually been gung-ho and enthusiastic when it comes to work, and I guess you could say I’ve been eager to please in a lot of respects. Part of that may be because of self-esteem issues from when I was younger, maybe the need for validation or acceptance, or the need to be liked or loved or whatever. But now, I’m at the point in my life that I don’t feel the need to please everyone, and have started being a lot more discriminating in what I take on.

I’ve mentioned before that as a technical person, I was always the first one people came to when they had problems with their computers. Now, don’t get me wrong, I made a great career out of fixing people’s stuff, but it was mainly because I was always fixing mine and was so good at it. But after twenty years, I’ve gotten tired of the support calls and spending my time working on someone’s 5 year workstation that can’t get Outlook 2016 to work right on Windows 7 or whatever. Or someone wants to spend hours of my time trying to get the straight up cheapest laptop they can find cause they’d rather spend the extra two hundred on lotto tickets. (I’m looking at you, dad.)

As my skills have advanced to deal with larger networks, business problems and software development, I’ve come to recognize where my most unique skills are and where I can have the greatest impact. Everything else has got to go.

I recently picked up David Allen’s Getting Things Done a few weeks back and started rifling through it. He was on Tim Ferris’s podcast more recently and hearing the two of them talk was a great motivation. And then Craig Groeschel had a segment last week on ‘cutting the slack‘ that mentioned the two of them by name, with his tips. I’ve definitely been building my own ‘no’ list, things that I just won’t do anymore. And I’ve been very clear with my boss that we should not do them any more. To quote Groeschel, you “grow with your ‘nos'” .

Now that my political candidate ‘career’ is over (for the foreseeable future,) I’ve been able to focus on a lot of things that I had put on hold for several months during the campaign. I’ve spent more time with my family, caught up on house projects, and I can focus on finishing my degree. But I’ve been asked about filling a leadership position in two of my local parties. The idea appeals to me for several reasons, but I told the first one that I had to consider it, and turned down the second offer outright. My first initial thought was what it would mean to have a democratic socialist as the chair of the local Democratic party. It seems like it aligns with where I want to accomplish, but I’m still on the fence about the effectiveness of traditional electoral politics at this point. I’ll have to save this discussion for another post, but the entire state party will be reorganizing this winter, and it seems like a big opportunity for DSA types to start gaining influence.

I’ve also been working with a blockchain project that I’ve been asked to take over. It’s not really that flattering as the sole-developer and originator of the project quit, and I’m the only other person who’s looked at the code. I was asked to take over formally, and I had to say no, for a variety or reasons related to governance and technical debt — another post coming on that one as well, I’m sure. But even when I was saying no to the person asking, we were exploring the possibility of a new project built on the ashes of the old one. This new one would start fresh, with a proper governance model, and follow a more formal design and test-driven development process than the one that is in a crippled state.

In all, this is part of a broader process that I am engaging in with my wife, to streamline our lives, reduce our clutter, and focus on what’s really important in our lives. We’ve decided that we are no longer buying into the American dream, and are finding ways to exit our salaried jobs, sell our big house, get rid of the mortgage and debt, and do what we do as we see the world.

Our goal is to be FIRE: financially independent and retire early, and saying ‘no’ is how I’m going to get there.

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