Recently I hit a pretty big wall. I’m talking wall of china big.
I believe in the power of yes. I saw the movie YES MAN when I was a young lad, which left an impression on me. If you’re open to the world, the world opens up for you. Saying yes has changed my life for the better, and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it.
Okay, but at some point, you have to say no. There are just not enough cups of coffee, not enough hours in the day, and not enough personal drive to keep you engaged and standing. You have to learn when to say no.
You have to say yes so often to get to the point where you can set up your boundaries and say no, I’m not able (or wanting) to do that.
It’s hard for me to admit that I can’t do everything that comes my way. I’m always afraid that it’s not gonna come back around, that I’ll never get the chance again, that this time it’ll be a huge break for me. But it NEVER is, and I always get another shot. It’s okay to push things back, it’s okay to say no to something, and even though that fear that this is my one shot hasn’t left me, it still is an irrational fear.
Well, where does this fear come from? It’s not going away any time soon. How do I learn to live with the fear that I might miss out if I say no?
Something that has been a great comfort to me realizes how much is going on in the world. How many opportunities actually exist every moment of existence. I mean, it’s astronomical! Hundreds of venues around you (most likely) looking for an artist to fill in spots every weekend (sometimes weekdays). What if you bomb a show? Well, it will happen someday, but just because you have a bad night doesn’t mean you won’t get another shot ever again. Sure we want to Carpe the shit out of a Diem, but that’s not how life works. It’s a lot of pain and growth. You only respect the person because they climbed that mountain. They were not born on the summit. If they were, well, who the hell cares then?
We often think of our lives as some special narrative epic, over the span of decades, with this incredibly rich chapter. The truth is far more boring. Most of the book is filled with hums and haws. Nothing really seems to happen, and so many times we miss that game-winning home run… simply to return home and NOT DIE, wake up the next morning and play the next game where we play nine innings with average batting.
The Power of Yes
Maybe you don’t have a problem saying no, and your boundaries are set in place. I admire your dedication to yourself. Within the confines of reason, I say it’s always a good idea to say yes the first time, to be open to some opportunity. After you have tried it out, you can judge if this is something you would like to continue with in the future. Sometimes that private event where you’re making a little less than you want to be making and playing Jimmy Buffet covers can lead to opportunities down the road. I have developed meaningful relationships playing gigs that I had no desire to play at first. Saying yes has changed my life.
Yes or Nah?
Once you have said yes, can you, should you say no? I believe that once you have committed to something, you should follow through with your obligation. Yes is a powerful word! It opens the world to you, it also can make you feel stuck. So before we blindly say YES to everything that could happen. A perfectly acceptable answer is, “I am very interested! I need to check my schedule and make sure that it’s plausible. I’ll get back to you shortly!” If someone pushes you to answer immediately, it probably has an issue you don’t want to involve yourself in. Respond promptly once you’ve weighed your decision and move forward.
How to say no to a friend
We’re often asked to do something we don’t want to do as a favor for a friend. “Hey, will you help me with blah blah blah” This can be tricky because we feel responsibility through loyalty, love, or pity (maybe all three at once)? How can you turn that person away when they need help? You can do it gracefully and with a fair amount of tact. There are a few different ways you can do this.
The first option is making up an excuse. This will work the first time you are asked to help out, but chances are this person will ask you again, and before you know it, you’ve spun a web of lies that would make Peter Parker tilt his head in admiration.
The second option is being extremely honest with that person. Telling them why you’re not interested in working with them. I have seen this work! It can also be messy! In a perfect world, people take loving-criticism well and respect your honesty. In my experience, this isn’t a perfect world, and even though your music community is big, it usually isn’t big enough to tear through someone.
Honesty is never rude. I spent a lot of time with a family who felt that honesty was a carte Blanche to be a dick. That’s not honesty. You need to work on tact and being a better person in the world. I believe that REAL honesty comes from a place of love. And I’ve heard every excuse under the sun to be rude to someone, but I’ve never heard a true reason, and I think I never will.
Option three is somewhere in-between, honesty, but not a detailed list of your schedule or reasons for not wanting to work with that person again. If we take a microscope to this logic, we’re really not helping that other person grow, but we are sparing feelings. Option two helps the other person grow by pointing out shortcomings that need to be fixed. Sometimes shortcomings are subjective. Sometimes they’re objective, and I think that really determines which route you should take. Not wanting to work with someone because you don’t enjoy playing behind/with them. I say, option three! Not wanting to perform with them because you don’t feel they treat you fairly for *fill in the blank* then option two seems appropriate.
“I want to spend time working on my own stuff, and I can’t put the creative energy or time behind your project and mine.”
There isn’t a person in this world that will get upset about this answer. It’s true, and it’ll get keep you out of anything you don’t want to be involved in. Thank them for thinking of you and trusting you to be involved in their work, be human, be compassionate! Then don’t bring it up again and move on with your life.
Still, feeling guilty, consider this? If you’re playing drums in a band you don’t want to be in, you’re just taking up space for someone who DOES WANT TO BE THERE! Ultimately you’re hurting the person by going along when you don’t want to be there.
I’m not saying you have to want to be there all the time to stay in a project. I think we all know the difference between helping someone out because you’re loyal and doing what you want to be doing because you’re getting something out of it.
There is a beautifully seductive intrinsic power in saying no. Remember that yes can open doors, and no can only give you power after you’ve said yes many, many times.
Sometimes you just gotta say no to the dress, you know?