The billionaire Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
I don’t know what Buffett says “yes” to, and, frankly, I don’t care. I’m not influenced by billionaires. I’m shaped by those who receive and return my love in equal measures.
So, this got me thinking. What do I accept, and, more importantly, what do I reject? Here’s my list.
No to False Friends, Yes to True Friends
False friends are self-serving: those who use others to advance their wealth and prestige while escaping their burdens, all without returning the favor.
In contrast, true friends value relationships of love, reciprocity, and non-judgment. False friends plot: “What’s in it for me?” True friends celebrate: “What in it for us?”
No to Laziness, Yes to Discipline
Laziness depletes the four human dimensions of well-being: physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual (PIES).
Although often tempted, I check laziness because I know the four human dimensions of my life are systemic—each influencing the other. When I shirk physical exercise, my intellectual life atrophies. When I ignore my spiritual realm, my emotional life withers. The rigor of discipline is easier once we realize the insidious cost of sloth.
No to Narcissism, Yes to Service
The narcissist is plagued by delusions of entitlement and grandeur with little, if any, empathy toward others.
The opposite are servants (not to be confused with slaves, who are exploited against their will). Whether in the classroom, in the conference room, or from the speaker’s podium, I have always been a teacher. I’m grateful for the calling. Teachers are dedicated to service. They are servants whose mission is to nurture others by enriching their four human dimensions—their PIES.
No to Destruction, Yes to Creation
By destruction, I’m referring to death by a thousand cuts of one’s well-being. They come in the guise of slights, insults, judgments, and condemnations. They have the power to ravage the soul.
In its purest form (as opposed to nefarious exploits), creation is about honoring love, celebrating beauty, and building understanding. That’s the quest of all great artists: writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians. But artistry is not limited to the classical artists. Parenting, coaching, counseling, teaching, mentoring, and leading can be equally creative by awakening another’s potential.
I’m reminded of a quotation by Michelangelo: “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there; I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” I think of a creative parent or teacher as “sculpting” the child by subtracting the unessential chips: laziness, oblivion, arrogance, immaturity, to name a few.
No to Meta, Yes to Real
Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame announced in October 2021 that his media company would be rebranded. The new name is Meta. His plan is to create a “metaverse” that allows users to connect through a virtual 3D world. I’m saddened by the news.
Young people today already have difficulty speaking face-to-face with real human beings. In 2012, Common Sense Research surveyed a thousand teenagers and found that most of them reported their favorite way of communicating with friends was “in person.” Six years later, texting was listed as their favorite mode of connecting.
On the final day of teaching interpersonal communication at Washington State University, I asked the class what they’ll do to enhance their relationships. One student raised his hand and said, “I’m going to create greater intimacy with my friends.”
“That’s noble,” I said. “How will you do that?”
“I’ll text them more often,” he said without the slightest hint of irony.
Evidently, his mind was somewhere else during an entire quarter of lessons on real dialogue.
I will always say “yes” to face-to-face encounters. I cherish reading the emotions in their eyes, the nuances in their words, and the tells in their gestures and facial expressions. And I certainly prefer a warm hug over a text message.
The Last Word
When I consider all the pleasures I welcome—friendship, discipline, service, and creation within a real universe—I have no problem saying “no” to the users and imposters who peck at the richness of my world.
I am a man blessed by “yes” and untroubled by “no.”