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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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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