By Steven Pressfield | Published: October 3, 2012
We were speaking last week about returning from a vacation and gearing up to get back in the groove. I said that my first “note to self” would be to start thinking, not in immediate go-go terms, but in longer, extended blocks of time.
My second marching order to myself is to start saying no.
The aim of these admonitions is to establish a realistic project timetable, to buckle down to a serious working rhythm, and to protect the air space around that timetable and that rhythm.
So I’ll stop saying yes to things.
First I’ll stop saying yes to things I want to do. My friend Jake, who has tickets to Springsteen on the opposite coast? Sorry, pard. Can’t waste two days at 30,000 feet.
I’ll go to Lou and Rachel’s wedding. I’ll be there for the festivities after. But I can’t stay out all night, and I won’t do anything that’ll leave me in no shape to work the next morning.
People are gonna get pissed at me.
What’s wrong with Pressfield? What’s his problem? Why is turning into such an asshole?
I’m like the Blues Brothers. I’m on a mission.
Next I’ll start saying no to deserving invitations. Yeah, I could meet that Australian novelist coming into town, or do a favor for my friend Jeanie’s nephew. But if I say yes to them, I’m saying no to the thing that’s most important to me.
I won’t do it.
Next I’ll say no all the sociopathic asks, and clueless asks, and amateur asks, from whatever quarter they appear. For some strange reason, this is the hardest for me.
It’s a character flaw. I have a demented need to think of myself as a Nice Guy. I don’t know why. Being a nice guy has never worked for me. It has screwed me up again and again.
I have had to school myself, like a spaniel, trying to break myself of this habit.
You lose friends.
You get a reputation.
I don’t care.
I know what it feels like, at the end of the day, when I’ve said yes to some bogus “opportunity” because I thought I ought to, or I didn’t want to offend someone, or because it seemed like what a Nice Guy would do.
I know what it feels like, at the end of the day, when I haven’t done my work—or slighted the Muse by doing it in some rushed or muddled manner.
I don’t want to feel like that.
I’m on a mission.
I have laid out a block of time, and in that time I have aims I want to achieve.
So things that I might have said yes to last month, I’ll say no to now.
The goal is to build a focus, to establish traction, to work not like an amateur but like a professional.
No more Mister Nice Guy.