Good morning, Wednesday. I believe I owe you a post on print dresses but I got distracted by a bit of an epiphany I had during my latest sore throat induced insomnia bout.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the art of saying no. For years, I had no idea how to even use the word. Specifically when it comes to work but that also spilled over into other areas of my life.
When I was at a different point in my career way back when, I worked at a notorious ad agency. Notorious for creativity. Notorious for being subversive and disruptive. And notorious for working all of us to the bone- which many of us did not have a problem with. It was a wonderful time. And it was a culture of "yes". Meaning- if you said no to a great idea because of timing, money, or lazy thinking, you'd be shown the door. Or they'd at the very least let you know that "no" was not an option. And that was a wonderful learning opportunity for so many of us, and of course for me.
But that culture of yes did a bit of a number on me.
Because for years, I said yes to things I didn't want to do. Yes to parties I didn't want to attend. Yes to projects as a freelancer that spread me too thin but I was too afraid to say no. Yes to friendships that were toxic to my well being. I thought that saying no was a sign of defeat. A weakness. An inability to say yes.
And I recently saw a post on Instagram by John Jay, a maker in the truest sense who cut his teeth in advertising and became an icon for what creativity at work can be. He's someone I admire tremendously- a life well lived and spent with passion and curiosity. Here's what the post said, accompanied by an image of two bobbleheads:"THE GIFT OF YES. It’s going on to 2 am and I am still working in the studio. I think it’s been a month since I have a chance to take day off. Every night is a late night but these are extraordinary times for me. Putting in the effort is merely an investment when the rewards are so enormous. Enabling positive change which will lead the lives of those around you towards a more inspired creative existence is the ultimate example of creative direction. This is work worth working. The nodding couple here are the much maligned Yes Man and Yes Girl...long chastised as angels of the weak, management icons of the status-quo. However, time teaches you that it takes strength and conviction to say yes to bold and revolutionary ideas. It takes little courage to say no to everything, not to dare, to conveniently let others take the risk. I cherish the visionary leaders who fight against their own bureaucracy and industry to say yes to all of us as creators who depend on their support. Saying yes in these polarized and challenging times takes more courage than ever. God bless the Yes".
Insightful beyond belief. This is what I believed for a very long time, and I still believe it for the most part. Because saying yes to things that can feel scary, overwhelming, or challenging is a a great idea. But saying yes now comes with a healthy dose of discernment, at least it does for me. And when I say yes to things I should really be saying no to, it doesn't end well.
And on the other side of the fence is my insomniac stroll through the internet at 2 am last night. A friend of mine reposted a video from none other than Russell Brand, he of furry walls fame and beyond. Russell is a frenetic person whose energy always just seemed on the verge of shorting out. He's a survivor who's been through it- addiction, a marriage to Katy Perry, etc. Whether you love him or love to hate him, the guy's smart. And in this vid, he's talking about burnout, something many of us can relate to. Here's a link
to the video. He's looking very sage like these days, ps. The general gist of this video is the following:
According to him, we used to live in a culture of yes. Be positive and say yes. But now? There's a great joy in saying no. We are afraid of missing out so we yes ourselves to the point of burnout. But saying no implies that you are fine just as you are. He talks about how hard he used to work- all the time to obsession. And now? He's enjoying a simpler life- a more pastoral life spent "mucking about" with his children.
The most interesting point? He makes a point of saying he's in a place where he no longer wishes to be defined by what he does in the outside world. And that he no longer truly cares what people think of him. He acknowledges how hard it is to just stay home and be quiet and enjoy the nothing. Because we assign moral judgement to such behavior, that somehow working all the time is more valuable than not doing anything for a few minutes/months/however long. The biggest insight he gave? That by saying no to stuff you truly open yourself up to life as you wish to live it. That a quieter, less exciting life may have great to your nourishment as a human than the frenzied, manic dane of work/life and back again.
I know what you're thinking.
Russell Brand is a celebrity who makes a lot of money. Or has made a lot of money so his pastoral lifestyle does not apply to me because i have to work my butt off to survive. But I think you're missing the point if that's what you're thinking.
He's not saying to hide in your house. He's simply saying that by saying no, you're giving yourself some much needed space and quiet. And that's exactly where I am right now. I'm not depressed. I'm not becoming a hoarder. In fact, I'm getting rid of stuff that no longer holds value for me. And I'm saying yes to things that make me happy. But no is more front and center for me because I'm absolutely in a more quiet, peaceful place at the moment where chaos just doesn't work for me at present. I'm a strong no on chaos and stuff that doesn't bring me joy or at least an opportunity for growth. I love this video so much I've watched it about ten times.
And though my recent past looks a lot more like John Jay's post, my present and distant future feels a lot more like Mr. Brand's.
So my point is- there are times in your life when you are a strong yes. And then there are times where you're more like, sorry, but no. And ps not really that sorry. Just no. I find saying no very difficult ps. It's not in my nature but I'm learning to love it.
Life is an amazing journey. And whether you're in a yes place or a no place, be confident you're in the right place. Don't say yes when you really want to say no. And don't say no because you're too scared to say yes. That's my big takeaway, and as usual, I felt the need to share. Be true to your yes and your no. Oh and no room for maybe here. Sorry.
So are you team no or team yes right now? The key is having empathy for yourself and wherever you need to be right here, right now. Either hell to the yes or hell to the no. It's all good. Y'all know which side of the fence I'm on these days. We really need to stop looking at saying no as a negative. Truly.
Cause that's what's up this team no kind of Wednesday in the best city on Earth. Yours, in yes and no questions. XO