Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Importance of No

               If you live long enough, knowledge comes back as wisdom. Or maybe the same story comes back twice if you don't hear it the first time. As a child, I loved the "Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost which is one of the most beautiful renderings of opportunity cost I've ever seen.
              As an adult, I saw the grown-up version by a dying man on time management. Art tells the truth behind a lovely mask to keep people from realizing harsh realities, but me...I need the truth stripped away and laid bare for a 4 year old. Randy Pausch gave me the adult version. In life, we make time for the things that are important by saying no to things that are not. In business, this means turning down gigs that do not pay to make time for those which do. Because to stay in business,the number one rule is you must turn a profit each year.
              Ironically this is way harder to do for artists I think than most because many designers design not just for money, but for love. And love will make you do CRAZY things. Most people in the trades privately admit to losing or giving away a certain number of designs or ideas each year. Or getting in too deep on certain projects.
              Which might explain why most people who have been in the trades for a while tend to compensate by developing a rough persona for new clients and jobs outside the norm or equally disturbing, doing drugs. It's a dirty secret in the industry, but with my uncle's death a few months ago I'm finally realized that maybe's there's a left-over legacy from the 1980s New York cocaine fests, a secret that my family hid for decades that needs some opening of the air. An East Coast or maybe New York legacy. Our grandfather's generation who started shops, some had them run into ground by their son's drug habits. Drug users are funny, charming, and they will take every dime they and everyone around them has to feed their habit. I know, I grew up with this uncle. I watched my family to struggle to deal with him. Drug addicts will get better and worse. But at their core, the only thing they care about is how they feel, and cocaine, liquor, you name it....there's a drug out there that will make you feel anything you want to feel whenever you want it.
               Which comes to the purpose of today's post, one of the hardest lessons if you don't intend to drown yourself in drugs or bitterness is an ability to say no and mean it. And you have to say it to yourself first which can be the hardest of all.
                That ability to say no to the wrong things has to be balanced against learning to say yes to the right ones. And the wisdom to know the difference. That last part is the hardest for me and I don't always do it right the first time, or the third. Robert Frost or Randy Pausch may give you the mechanics, but it's up to you to acquire the wisdom to apply the knowledge. And that in the business is something all of us struggle with. So today, to roads both taken and not taken. What have you not yet had the courage to say no to? Or made the time to say yes to something important?

No comments:

Post a Comment