In Chapter 15, Who Has the Helm, the main character learns about the childish tactics that persist into adulthood and sometimes take control of our actions. His wife also shares the counterintuitive response that takes away their power over us.
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We live in America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” yet we meekly surrender our freedom at work. I know, “We call it ‘work’ because ‘play’ means something else.” But we give up so much so easily! Employers dictate whether we wear our hair: long or short, covered or uncovered, coifed, clipped, combed, or corn-rowed. Whether we are allowed to wind down after work with alcohol, nicotine, or cannabis. Or, whether we wind down at all, with texts, emails, and travel at all hours of any day. We let them record our phone calls, read our emails, count our keystrokes, search our pockets, and time our bathroom breaks. We must not discuss our pay or take a job less than …_X_ miles away, then get fired anyway over a Tweet or a bumper sticker. There are even worse examples, but…
You don’t need more evidence that too many jobs are intrusive and demeaning. You know … You know it! I can tell. You may even know that inventing and enforcing these rules wastes money and reduces profits. I’m not here to prove that this is a problem. I’m here with the solution. I have the answer! … The answer… is, “No.”… “Just …say, …’No!'”
My friend took a job on the Hubble Space Telescope, where programmers had not delivered a single finished program in three years. When he heard his first deadline, he said, “No! I need more time.” His boss shrugged. My friend delivered working code “late” -but on the exact date he promised.
He got another assignment with another impossible due date. Again, …he delivered on the date he promised. He didn’t get a third program to code. He got three programmers to manage. His team delivered quality code on the dates they promised. So, they put him in charge of all the programmers. Not because he was a coding savant. Not because he was a charismatic leader. No, just because he had demonstrated the awesome power of, “No.”
Our reluctance to say, “No,” comes from fear. Fear that you are your job. Fear that your income is your value. That is not who you are. You get to say who you are.
You get to say, “No,” anytime, anywhere, to anyone. Because we live in America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Here is a simple yet powerful tool to establish habits, learn a skill, or complete a project. I used it to reinforce my daily meditation practice and to write two books.
The method is as old as procrastination but has been attributed recently to billionaire comedian Jerry Seinfeld, as in this frequently cited LifeHacker article, where it is called Don’t Break the Chain. I prefer positive instructions, so let’s name it Link-a-Day.
Buy or make a simple, clean one-year calendar. Do not just print your Outlook or Google calendar; those have too many distracting details for this purpose. You can start your own on any date and fit 365 days on one sheet by downloading my template here in Excel format or use the Google Sheets version here.
Print your calendar and place it in the physical world rather than hide it in a computer or app where it can be too easily ignored. Hang it where you will see it every day. I put mine on the wall right next to my computer monitor.
After you complete the promised activity for the day, mark it complete. When you miss a day or two, start again. No regrets, no excuses. Just start again. You can play games with Link-a-Day by playing for a longer unbroken chain or a shorter gap than last time.
That’s it. As Aristotle observed, a person is what she consistently does. Use this to start doing something you will be proud to be.