The Power of No

Aug 25, 2023

Last week I mentioned that when you surround yourself with smart people and they give you advice, you should listen. This past weekend my wife and I were able to have a triple date with some friends that I hold in high esteem. The topic of my calendar and the fact it gets so full came up. We talked about it, and they recommended making improvements to it as the topic of this week’s thoughts. Full disclosure, I do see the irony of listening to a recommendation while talking about the power of saying no, but we’re going to travel this road anyway. So, without further delay, here are this week’s thoughts on the power of no.

I have a problem with managing my schedule that I’m trying to conquer. The problem stems from two overarching issues. First, I am extremely driven to succeed, and my two main gifts are creating and discernment. Using those gifts fills me with energy as I identify opportunities, gather information, and create potential solutions for success. The second issue is that I don’t like letting people down and that issue comes in a couple of forms. One form is laying too much on members of my team (or family). I take on a rather large amount of work to do everything I can to keep my team from being overloaded. I routinely worry that I’m heaping too much on them and while I know they are extremely talented, I don’t want to overload them to the point of losing joy in their work. The other form is that I know that people want a piece of my time and I feel obligated to give as much of my time as possible. When I’m unavailable to provide that time, I feel bad that I couldn’t fulfill their request. Basically, I don’t say no to any opportunity that I think I can be usefully involved in.

The result is a calendar that is filled to the brim with meetings and travel that routinely requires me to start by 6 a.m. and work past 8 p.m. multiple days per week. Then to catch up on other requests I put in time nearly every Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. I also want to ensure that I give time to my family and be a supportive husband to Michelle and a good role model for our children by sharing in the house tasks (mowing, laundry, cleaning, dishes, etc.). Finally, I believe that you should contribute to your community, so I serve in church and with various committees and community events. The good news is that I love all of it. The bad news is that I end up bringing myself to the point of exhaustion.

By exhaustion, I don’t mean being tired. I mean that there are times in which I have constant pain from working to keep my eyes open and focused. I completely run out of patience and lose the ability to show grace to anyone for anything. My ability to create and see the angles disappears. My tank becomes completely empty, my body ends up breaking down, and I get sick. It knocks me down for a week and I sleep and recover for several days. I recharge and I start the process all over again. As I write this, I realize how dumb it is that I’ve done this process over and over again, but it’s time to stop.

The honest truth is that I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors by continually pushing that hard. I’m more valuable to my family when I’m not exhausted so I have the energy to always say yes when my son wants to play catch, to focus when my daughter is willing to tell me what’s going on in her life, and to ensure my wife knows how hot and brilliant I think she is as I pursue her both mentally and physically. I’m better for my team when I trust them to manage their workload, to communicate when their plate is full, and to focus on helping them improve processes to achieve a better work/life balance (just like I’m working to do), and I’m better for my church and community when I have the energy to bring joy into the people I work to serve.

I always give you a challenge and this week I’m giving myself one as well. I’m challenging myself to utilize the power of no. I’m going to say no to some meeting requests. I work with an extremely talented team, and I don’t need to be in every meeting. I’m going to say no to some travel. I know that some of you prefer an in-person meeting, but we’ll have to make the virtual version work if it means removing 4 hours of travel from my schedule. I’m going to limit the number of emails and projects I work on over the weekend. Please note I’m not going to fully stop doing any of these things because I do enjoy them, but I am going to be more disciplined in their management.

That leads me to this week’s challenge to you… Be better than I’ve been and tap into the power of no. Do your job, serve your family, and contribute to your church and community, but be disciplined in keeping a healthy balance of each. Leave enough in your tank to bring focused energy and joy into your activities. You and your family deserve it.

I’m thankful that you were willing to go to work today, that you took the time to read this, and for being a part of what makes this world amazing.