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Why Everyone Should Learn About the Power of Saying No from the Singer-actor-investor Jared Leto

Why Everyone Should Learn About the Power of Saying No from the Singer-actor-investor Jared Leto

No. No. NO. Does hearing that word make you flinch? You needn’t, and here’s why.

In a society where saying yes is encouraged, and often even deemed essential to get ahead in life, it can seem counter-intuitive to accept that no—a term generally associated with negativity and refusal—has a very definite power and can even be harnessed as a positive force for change and advancement. Yet, the number of people embracing the power of no is on the rise, and with good reason: indeed, in the words of singer-actor-investor Jared Leto, while yes holds “opportunity, with the power of no comes focus and engagement“; and in today’s world of endless distractions and fierce competition (a dangerous combination, to be sure), being able to focus and engage with the task at hand becomes not only useful, but vital in order to stay ahead.

The Power of No

Let’s look at Jared Leto’s example to go a little deeper with this concept: as a talented musician, bona fide Hollywood actor and investor in tech start-ups (he’s recently lent a hand to Airbnb and Spotify, to name but a few), it’s fair to say that Leto lives a very full life, with many demands on his precious time. In fact, at his level of business, it’s simply impossible to do it all without sacrificing quality, and that is something he isn’t prepared to do: “I never wanted to make the most movies, to make the most albums,” he explains in Fast Company. Instead of aiming for a high output, then, he prefers to concentrate his efforts on the things he has a “deep interest and desire and passion” for; things that “add to the quality of people’s lives”.

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Simply put, Leto’s strategy consists in selecting his projects according to his core values—desire and passion and deep interest—and declining all the others. The end result? A plate less full with more time and energy to devote to each task, ensuring a better end product and less stress in the process. In other words, the power of no helps our favourite superstar stay focused on what matters the most to him—this allows him to concentrate his efforts on producing high quality work that he has a deep connection to, all the while taking the frustration of doing uninteresting busywork (that doesn’t necessarily benefit him in any way) out of the equation. Genius.

Here is why you should emulate Jared Leto in your personal and professional life.

1. Jared Leto is a well-loved and well-respected multi-millionaire.

Chances are he’s doing something right, and I have a feeling that his love of the power of no has something to do with it! All kidding aside…

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2. Saying no gives you more time to spend on what is important.

Consider this: the number of hours in a day is finite. There’s no way around it. Wouldn’t you rather spend what precious little time you have on something you really want to do? Whether you believe your time is better spent on getting your sweat on in the gym, working on your big project or spending quality time with your kids, being a better custodian of that time by saying no to those who would partake of it is a surefire way to do what really matters to you. Your time is important. Treat it as such.

Over to you: which activity close to your heart would you have more time for if you said no

3. Saying no protects your values.

I love this example in Psychology Today’s article on “the Power of No“: a man named Jack always prided himself on being there for his friends; on “having their back”, no matter what. One day, one of Jack’s buddies asked to use his holiday home as a rendezvous place for his clandestine love affair. Now, Jack loved his pal, but he valued his integrity more and he didn’t want to have a part in this most morally jarring situation. Using the power of no to stand up for what he believed in, he turned his friend down. Sure, he may have “violated an unspoken male code” in doing so, but Jack was more into liking himself than having others like him for saying yes to something that he was uncomfortable with.

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Over to you: could saying no help you out of a situation that doesn’t gel with your values?

4. Saying no helps you achieve your goals.

Carrying on from our item in this list, harnessing the power of no can be a highly efficient way of getting to where you want—faster. Much like our dear Mr. Leto, anyone can benefit from selecting a handful of projects that vibrate with their core values and politely decline taking on any work that doesn’t fit that mould. Don’t be afraid to lose friends over this: true friends will value your time, and potential business partners will respect your desire to focus all your attention on your most important work.

Over to you: which of your current projects don’t resonate with your values? Can you cull them now?

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5. Saying no prevents others from taking advantage of you.

We’ve all been there: we’ve said yes to lending our favorite items of clothing to an untrustworthy friend (yes, totally burned), we’ve accepted to lend the loveable class slacker our painstakingly taken notes, we’ve felt the rising resentment in us as we agreed again and again to do something we weren’t totally comfortable with to ingratiate ourselves with others. It happens. It’s time to change, though: in accepting to let others take advantage of our kindness, we’re accepting to give away our personal power, and for what? Saying no in these situations is a way to take back what is ours, regaining our respect for ourselves and quelling that resentment at its source.

Over to you: what uncomfortable situation in which you’re being taken advantage of could you put an end to by saying no?

Saying no is a difficult task, especially when we’ve been in the habit of saying yes all our lives. After all, we have been conditioned to accept the open-hearted, risk-taking and courageous yes as the only answer to the questions in this world; how could it possibly be easy to embrace this other alternative? By indulging in a little self-reflection, of course! Consider this: how different would your life be if you wandered off the beaten path and said no, once in a while? What if you decided to put yourself first, instead of accepting to play second fiddle to someone else’s dreams? What if you had all the time in the world to concentrate on what mattered the most to you? What if…?

Take a risk this week: say no. See how it changes you. Try again. How freeing does it feel?

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

Why Work Life Balance Doesn’t Exist (And How to Stay Sane)

If you’ve ever felt like work-life balance isn’t really possible, you may be right.

Actually, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a rising star in the corporate world, work is always going to overflow from your 9 to 5 into your personal life. And if you have ambitions of becoming successful in just about any capacity, you’re going to have to make sacrifices.

Which is why, instead of striving for the unrealistic goal of “work-life balance,” I use a combination of rituals, tools, and coping mechanisms that allows me to thrive on a day-to-day basis.

Of course, moments still arise when I may feel overloaded with work and a bit out of balance, but with these daily rituals in place, I am able to feel grounded instead of feeling like I’m losing my mind.

Here are five daily practices I use to stay focused and balanced despite a jam-packed work schedule:

1. Pause (Frequently!) to Remember That You Chose This Path

Regardless of which path you take in life, it’s important to remind yourself that you are the one who chose the path you’re on.

For example, one of the joys of being an entrepreneur is that you experience a significant amount of freedom. Unfortunately, in moments of stress, it’s easy to forget that choice goes both ways: you chose to go your own way, and you chose the obstacles that come with that journey.

Remember: tomorrow, you could choose to leave your job, shut down your company, and go move to a farm in the middle of nowhere. The choice is yours.

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Whenever I catch myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I simply remember, “Oh, wait. I chose this.” And if I want to, I can choose another option. But at this moment, I own it because I chose it.

That simple mental shift can help me move from feeling out of control to in control. It’s empowering.

2. Use ‘Rocks’ to Prioritize Your Tasks

Sometimes having a to-do list is more overwhelming than it is helpful.

The daily tasks of anyone in a high-stakes, high-responsibility role are never-ending. Literally. No matter how many items you check off your list, each day adds just as many new ones, and even after a full day it can often feel like you haven’t accomplished anything.

So instead, I use “rocks”—a strategy I learned from performance coach Bill Nelson.

Say you have a glass container and a variety of rocks, divided into groups of large, mid-sized, and small rocks, and then some sand. If you put the small rocks in first, you’re not going to be able to fit everything in your container. But if you put the big rocks in first, then the mid-sized, and, finally, the small, they’ll all fit. And at the end, the sand fills the extra space.

The point of this strategy is to designate a handful of your biggest priorities for the week—let’s say five tasks—as the things you absolutely have to get done that week. Write them down somewhere.

Then, even if you accomplish nothing else but those five things, you’re going to feel better, since you completed the important tasks. You’ve made progress!

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Identifying your “rocks” is a better way of tracking progress and ensuring that you focus on the most critical things. You can create rocks on a weekly or even daily basis.

Some days, when I’m feeling the most frenzied, I say to myself, “You know what? Let’s boil it down. If I accomplish nothing else today and I just do these three things, it will be a good day.”

3. The PEW12 Method

Of all the daily practices I follow, Purge Emotional Writing (PEW12), which I learned from Dr. Habib Sadeghi, is my favorite.[1]

Here’s how it works:

Pick a topic, set a timer for 12 minutes, and just write.

You may be dealing with a specific issue you need to vent about, or you may be free-writing as emotions surface. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or what your handwriting looks like, because you’re never going to re-read it.

At the end, burn the pages.

As the paper burns, you will feel all of those emotions you’ve just poured out either being reduced or dissipating completely. Both the writing process—which is literally unloading all of your unnecessary stuff—and the burning of the pages feel incredibly cathartic.

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And you can do PEW12 as frequently or infrequently as you feel you need it—once, twice, or multiple times a day.  

The reason I find this exercise so helpful is because, sometimes, I get in my head about a difficult issue or troubling interaction with someone, even when I know there is nothing to be done about it.

But as soon as I do my PEW12, I feel a sense of relief. I have more clarity. And I stop circling and circling the issue in my head. It makes things feel resolved. Just try it.

4. Set Sacred Time (Like a 20-Minute Walk or Evening Bath)

Outside of work, you have to try to protect some time for restoration and quiet. I call this sacred time.

For example, every single night I take a bath. This is a chance to literally wash off the day and any of the energy from the people, interactions, or experiences that I don’t want to take to bed with me.

I actually remodeled a bathroom in my house solely for this purpose. The bath ritual—which includes Himalayan bath salts, essential oils, and a five-minute meditation—is the ultimate “me time” and allows me to go to bed feeling peaceful and relaxed.

And while sacred time to end the day is crucial, I like to start the day with these types of practices, too.

In the mornings, I take my dog Bernard for a walk—and I use those 20 minutes to set my intention for the day. I don’t take my phone with me. I don’t think about the endless to-do list. I just enjoy listening to the birds and breathing in the sunshine, while Bernard stops to say hi to the neighbors and their dogs.

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These might seem like ordinary daily activities, but it’s the commitment to doing them day after day that makes all the difference.

5. Forgive Yourself When You Fail to Use the Tools

Sometimes our intention to follow “daily” practices falls flat. When this happens to me, I try not to beat myself up about it. After all, these things are tools to make me feel good. If they just become another chore, what is the point?

At the end of the day, my daily practices don’t belong in my jar of rocks or on my to-do list or in my daily planner. They are there to serve me.

If, for some reason, life happens and I can’t do my practices, I won’t feel as good. It’s possible I won’t sleep as well that night, or I’ll feel a little guilty that I didn’t walk Bernard.

But that’s okay. It’s also a good practice to acknowledge my limits and let go of the need to do everything all the time.

The Bottom Line

For most people, accepting that work-life balance simply isn’t possible is the first step to feeling more grounded and in control of your life.

Don’t waste your energy trying to achieve something that doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on how you’re feeling when things are out of balance and find a way to address those feelings.

You’ll have a toolkit for feeling better when life feels crazy, and, on the off chance things feel calm and happy, your rituals will make you feel absolutely amazing!

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Featured photo credit: Dries De Schepper via unsplash.com

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