• Stuart Sheldon

No Is the New Yes

Best Books Ever Written – new piece installed yesterday for Art Basel.


Last week, I pulled up to the pickup area to grab my boys after school. As I stopped and rolled down my window, a mom standing next to my car arched her brows and said, “You’re not wearing a shirt!”

Not one for flashing my body at the elementary school, I glanced down at my sparsely-haired chest and, slightly embarrassed, said, “I was in my studio and realized at the last minute … Oh no, I need to pick up the kids … So I rushed over. Guess I forgot to put it on.”

I used to be a notorious “accepter” of every invitation to do just about anything: classes, parties, meals, charities, boards-of-directors. I spread myself so thin you could see right through me. The net effect of too much YES was constant scurrying around, stress, sub-par performance and dissatisfaction with even the things I truly cared about. The proverbial “headache” when, at the end of a long day, it’s time to make love.

Is it just me or, in our hyper-connected universe, is it harder to concentrate now more than ever?

image courtesy coldsummerdays.deviantart.com


Where was I … Oh yeah, distractions. I know, success is all about being a positive team player.

But it’s time to SAY NO!!!

As Seth Godin says, “If you believe that you must keep your promises, overdeliver and treat every commitment as though it’s an opportunity for a transformation, the only way you can do this is to turn down most opportunities.” Don’t worry about offending the person asking. They’ll be just fine. A bit of “selfishness” is not only OK but required.

We need to say NO not only to others but to OURSELVES.

I’m far too often slave to focus deficit (read laziness) – checking email, scrolling Facebook, snacking. The primary loser in this game is me, especially since I have large legacy-building projects at hand. The painting above demanded the better part of three labor-intensive weeks holed up in my studio alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the process. But I absolutely had to overcome my acute distractibility and shut the world out to get the end result that was important to me and my career. 



Most of us are good at a few things and very good at even fewer. Up your game in the areas that matter to YOU by steering clear of the areas that matter most to others … but NOT to you.

“No, I can’t help you move Saturday. No I can’t meet with you, no I can’t sell it to you at this price, no I can’t come to your party, no I can’t advise your company, no I can’t help you. I’m sorry, but no, I can’t. Not if I want to do the very things that people value me most for.”

This is not about a totally self-serving disregard for those who need you. Quite the opposite. Your community benefits more profoundly if you find a balance that serves YOU … so that you can most effectively serve that community.

image courtesy www.lifehack.org


We’d all give the shirts off our backs to activate our superpowers and make our dreams comes true. Don’t waste YOUR time. Or you’ll end up wasting everyone’s.

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©2020 Stuart Sheldon.