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Every ‘Yes’ You Say Is a ‘No’ to Something Else

It is with some pride that I can think of some “big” things I have passed on doing.

Tickets to the Super Bowl.

A trip to Necker Island.

More than a few different book deals.

I’m not proud because I think I am better than those things, it was just that I had better things to do with that time, at that time. Sometimes it was family, sometimes it was cooler work opportunities, sometimes it was just because I was exhausted and I needed to rest.

Just because you’re offered something that might be good for your career, that would definitely feel good to your ego, that most people would have said yes to, doesn’t mean you have to listen to your ego and accept the offer. You can say NO.

It’s easy to forget that, especially with peer pressure and FOMO, but it’s true.

I didn’t need it. I had competing interests. I could say “No,” so I did.

That’s a rich feeling, that’s only tangentially related to money.

Yet if I am being honest, like most people, it’s not one I indulge myself in enough.

In the last year, as the pandemic radically reoriented so many parts of everybody’s lives, I was reminded painfully of what economists call opportunity costs. I’ve always been productive and disciplined, so I was under the impression that even with all my traveling and various projects, I wasn’t suffering much for it.

I was producing books, after all. I spent lots of time with my kids. I was exercising. I was writing my daily emails for Daily Stoic and Daily Dad, my Reading List email each month, and my newsletter. Obviously there was no problem with the things I had been accepting to that point. But in having so much suddenly taken away, I was given the gift of seeing what all the busyness was actually costing me.

The last twelve months have been the most creatively fulfilling and productive months of my life. It turns out (surprise!) that being home for bath and dinner every single night had a massive impact on my relationship with my young children, their behavior and my marriage.

Obviously the costs of this had been there all along, I just wasn’t aware of them — or I was denying them. Even if you’re aware that you’re, say, 80% as effective while on the road as you are when you’re at home, in your routine, it’s easy to miss the simple math: Four days of traveling is the equivalent of taking a full day off…without the benefits of, you know, a day off.

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