What if you didn’t need money or attention?
You know that feeling you have after a big meal? When you are so full that you don’t want anything more?
Ever wonder what that would feel like in other parts of your life?
We do so many things for attention, to feel important or praised. But what if you had so much attention and so much praise that you couldn’t possibly want any more? What would you do then? What would you stop doing?
We do so many things for the money, whether we need it or not. But what if you had so much money that you couldn’t possibly want any more? What would you do then? What would you stop doing?
And then if you stopped doing all these things you’re doing just for the money or the attention, what would be left? Who would you be if you didn’t do these things? If you were completely satiated, then what? After an understandable period of relaxing, what would you pursue?
Don’t say “sit around and do nothing,” because that’s still just relaxing. I mean after that, when you’re ready to be useful to others again.
What would you do then, if you didn’t need the money and didn’t need the attention?
The passage above (and the title of this post) is from Hell Yeah or No by Derek Sivers. The only thing I’d add to the “didn’t need” argument would be what if you didn’t need others’ approval either. For, we don’t just do things we don’t want to do because we need money or attention, sometimes we do it for their approval. And at times, we do things against our wishes or preferences because we care about the other person. Regardless of the underlying reason or intention, whenever we do anything with our thoughts, speech and words, it costs us two things: time and energy. There are ways to replenish lost energy but there exists no method to regain lost time. And that’s pretty much what this post is about: using your time wisely.
The skill required to master your time begins with a simple question: Why am I doing whatever it is that I am doing in the first place? The “why” has to be important to you. In fact, not only it has to be just important but it has to be the most important thing to you. It has to be more important than all the other things you could be doing with your time right now. According to me, “why” is the litmus test to ascertain if you should be devoting your time to something.
During the pandemic, we respectfully turned down over 600 speaking invitations. It felt like everyone was doing an online event in 2020 and 2021. Admittedly, some invites from global associations and organizations were good and meaningful. But it was a question of time. It was also the time when I had been extremely busy working on the sadhana app and other endeavors. (These days, it’s much better. From 300+ invites a year, we are down to a hundred. I couldn’t be happier about that.)
It’s not that I couldn’t have taken time out, say thirty minutes, but thirty minutes here and twenty there, five here and ten there, they all add up. And they add up real fast. To put things in perspective, someone whose body has lived through 43 years (that’d be yours truly) has already burnt through 22.6 million minutes. Think of your time as the depleting wealth that you can either invest meaningfully (and hopefully protect it from the attention of short-sellers) or spend recklessly and squander it all away. Amazing things happen when you strike a balance between spending and investing your time capital.
Just skim through the pages of history and examine the lives of successful people. Not just materially successful, but great scientists, teachers, inventors, artists, and certainly great CEOs and entrepreneurs too, you will find that they were almost obsessed with devoting their entire life to what they were passionate about. Everything else was a “No”. If you truly want to say yes to life, you’ve got to learn to say no. The more courage you develop to say no to things that take you away from the “why” of your existence, the greater freedom you will have to unleash your potential.
As they say, saying no to others is like a superpower, it gives you the power to control your own time and energy. Imagine all the time you’ll have at your disposal to spend on the things you love, like binging Netflix, devouring pizzas and burgers, or just napping in the afternoon while your colleagues are thinking you are working hard. No more being dragged into endless meetings, pointless projects or awkward family gatherings.
Humor aside, when we talk about focus, essentially what we are saying is that we must have the mindfulness to say no to everything else in that moment. As Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And you cannot build “the new” unless you are completely devoted to building the new. Every Yes you say will cost you time and energy. Every Yes will take you away from what you ought to be doing.
If you really want to lead a life you are proud of, a life where your reality is better than your dreams, you must learn to stand up for yourself. No one else can do that for you, certainly not all the time. And quite often, all it takes to stand up for yourself is to utter a simple No.
Have you ever seen how a cow drives away the insects sitting on its face while it’s busy enjoying a peaceful and meditative session of rumination? It shakes its head. It’s a clear no. The insects fly away and the cow goes back to its mulling with the same nonchalance. See what I mean? Even a cow knows that you’ve got to shake your head if you want to get rid of the flies and all (particularly considering, we can’t flap our ears or slap others’. The former is impossible, the latter improper). Just say no.
Saying no isn’t easy. You will be judged, even banished at times. But here’s something worth remembering (paraphrasing Paulo Coelho): every time you say yes to others against your will, you are saying no to yourself.
Go on, don’t be a puppy. Don’t nod to everything. Say no.
A GOOD STORY
There were four members in a household. Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. A bill was overdue. Everybody thought Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.Don't leave empty-handed, consider contributing.
It's a good thing to do today.