If you're working a lot of stuff, you'll come across it sooner or later -- "learn to say no."
It's true. You need to learn to say no. There's a limited number of labor hours you've got, and a limited number of calendar days you've got, and a limited amount of mental bandwidth, and a limited amount of scarce resources. Every hour, day, thought, and dollar you deploy in one area is not deployed in another area. Not only should you not attempt to do everything, you should recognize that trying would be crazy.
I know. I empathize. When you're chaining a run of successes together and everything is going smoothly, it's oh-so-tempting to layer more and more on.
So, learn to say no?
Yes, you should learn to say no. But it's more than that.
I'd go as far as to say it's a skill. A skill of 'Passing.'
Passing would be the ability to gracefully say no, to set boundaries and not take on commitments, and to elegantly disengage from bad engagements, not throwing good money after bad money and good time after bad time.
But more than that, it's a skill related to having a base of experience of knowing when you should pass. There's some fast-completion campaigns that are most likely duds, but have a small chance of being huge gems. If they're really fast-completion (and not masquerading as fast-completion with hidden pitfalls), it can make sense to bet on one of those duds. A number of the stupider, crazier, whackier-seemingly ideas you dare to take a flyer will pan out to be huge wins. Being right alone isn't enough to win big, it's usually necessary to be right against the grain and capitalize on that position.
That means 'passing' is harder than it looks. The natural inclination is pass on eccentric-looking stuff, which is perhaps entirely right for preserving cash and capital, but entirely wrong to not deploy a bit of time here and there and seem if you can make a counter-cultural breakthrough.
Passing is probably most important to deploy on things that a half-assed commitment would produce minimal results. There's a number of pursuits that are incredibly worthy when studied carefully, like picking your own stocks. You can do very well with it if you study it careful and fully understand the difference between speculating and investing (principle protection and safety), understand fully a margin of safety, understand dividend yields, learn to understand why some sectors become sexy and some sectors become unsexy (and buy the latter), and especially crucially -- learn investor psychology so that you can keep your head when there's blood in the streets... and even buy more...
Well, it would be good. But if you don't have the discipline to start with Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor (Warren Buffet called it the best book on finance ever written), and then carefully apply Graham's principles to financial statement after financial statement after financial statement...
...then you'd be better off to stay out of that game.
Learning how to buy stocks correctly, and all the relevant principles, takes a lot of time. If you'd want to do it casually, don't bother.
And many things fit in that category. There's a number of fields and disciplines where you can make tremendous gains with a highly focused effort of between 7 and 60 highly dedicated, high-quality hours per week. But, if you engage in those fields sporadically, you get not a dang thing done.
There's 10,000 other considerations. Some one-off projects have people that are cooperative, encouraging, inventive, and responsible. Some projects might pay more for seemingly less time, but become a huge mental drain.
Some secondary projects, hobbies, and initiatives harmonize incredibly well with what you're currently doing, and lead to insights and innovations in your core pursuit. Others suck up your mental time while giving no great payoffs in material gain. And some of those aren't even very rewarding emotionally!
So, sure, learn to say no. But that's probably the easy part. The hard part is knowing what to pass on.
It can be challenging to say no "gracefully" - any tips for that?
Just a quick thought. Your website has so many visitors, and I bet you could make a lot of money putting some ads on it. But I kind of admire that you don't. I understand people putting ads on their websites, because it is business and an easy way to make money can be quite nice. However, I can't help but feel that people not putting ads are more... how should I put it... I often view them as superior in an intangible sense. I'm struggling to grasp in which. Attitude, pride, standards, noble? Hmm.
With your websites and ads, I wondered why you don't put up any. You don't need the money? Or is it from some kind of internal stance, and you wouldn't put any in either way? By the way, reading your website feels, to me, nice independent of content cause no ads are there to annoy me. These days it seems you can't read many good blogs without drowning in ads.
My blog doesn't generate enough constant traffic to make me consider adding any, but... I wonder, would I? I don't know. It's like the pride matter, though not the same.
Ps. I liked your absurdity post
Recently I told my flatmate what I thought of the word ‘crazy’ in the context of mental illness. Soon after, he told me that he doesn’t say it anymore, and when he hears it, he challenges its use. And now his friend doesn’t use it either. And this gave me an idea.
I’m giving this whole blogging thing a go.
“Apparently artistic people are more likely to go crazy”, said a very caring and good friend of mine, genuinely intrigued by this statement. I told her I didn’t know what she meant, and I think she thought I was being unnecessarily critical and pedantic. Another friend of mine argued that “everyone knows what it means, it’s just a useful way of communicating”. Personally, I find this worrying as I believe that the term ‘crazy’ doesn’t have a behavioural referent. Seeing it as a useful communicator perpetuates a stereotypical and incorrect image of those suffering from mental health conditions.
Firstly, it groups every mental health problem into one category. As with physical health problems, there is a wide variety of symptoms and severity within mental disorder. Secondly, the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘crazy’ – ‘mad, especially as manifested in wild or aggressive behaviour' is so unapt that it would be comical if it wasn’t so damaging. This description is so far from the fatigued nature of depression, to the social withdrawal often exhibited in schizophrenia, to the internal struggle that characterises so many disorders - eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder to name a few. Many people do not understand mental disorders, or know who around them is mentally ill, partly because the struggle is so often within the person. Yet, many people still maintain that ‘crazy’, defined by ‘wild and aggressive behaviour’ is in fact a suitable word. To me, this is nonsensical.
“But people who are mentally ill refer to themselves as crazy so they can’t mind that much” said another friend, who seems so often to play devil’s advocate. But the point is that people suffering, perhaps struggling with the demands of everyday life, shouldn’t feel as if they have to label themselves as ‘crazy’. Not only is it hurtful and possibly damaging to recovery, it is incorrect. It is not their word, it is society’s.