How The Power of NO Saved My Life


The first girl I dated after separating from my wife asked me what my net worth was on our first date.

I was honest and I told her. She said, “that’s not enough.”

I asked her what her ex was worth but she said, “why do people always ask that.”

Her ex was well known, 20 years older than her (maybe 30), and probably worth over $100 million according to the newspaper.

But there’s a saying (it’s a saying because one person has told it to me but I repeat it everywhere as if I had made it up): “You never know what someone is worth until they declare bankruptcy.”

I felt bad about not having enough so I told her some things I was working on.

“None of that stuff ever works out,” she said.

And she was right. None of that particular stuff worked out. But I didn’t know it then. I wouldn’t know it for years.

Another time I asked her, “how come you never introduce me to your friends?”

And she said, “Because you’re too crazy.”

Which made a lot of sense. I do NOT introduce my crazy friends to my normal friends. One of her friends was running for Senate or Governor or something. That would’ve created a lot of problems if he was seen hanging out with a crazy person. But I could’ve maybe offered to be Vice-President if he ever made it that far.

I don’t know.

Sometimes you give a carrot but they take the whole stick.

One time she said to me, “my people can destroy your people.”

Which I doubt. My people at that time were largely zombies. In the movies you often see the Governor or the Head of the Joint Chiefs totally powerless against the Zombie army.

But I couldn’t tell her that and reveal my true identity.

I said, “Maybe.” We were in a Mexican restaurant, which I considered neutral territory considering as how my DNA tests showed I have some Canadian blood in me.

We broke up. I’d like to think I broke up with her if it wasn’t for that one conversation where she called me and said, “I’m not ready for you. I need time. Maybe A LOT of time.”

And then I broke up with her.

I was in a Borders bookstore at that moment and she was at President Obama’s first inauguration, and I still had a Blackberry.

Those big buttons that required the slightest of pushes. We were texting. I remember typing out, “b…r…e..k” and then backspacing. You know the drill. I miss my Blackberry.

How things have changed.

Back then just a smidgen of Chinese food could cause enlightenment. People were having orgasms over politics and the country was heading towards the Apocalypse.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days when nothing semeed to matter except being lonely, eating hot dogs for breakfast, being scared of going broke, being forced to move rooms every 29 days by NYC law since I lived in a since shut-down hotel, and wandering around bookstores looking for women to hit on.

But then I gave up.

I started saying “No” to people who weren’t right for me. I started saying “No” to everything I didn’t want to do.

I started saying “No” to mindless meetings, mindless events, mindless people who were bad for me, mindless food or alcohol, mindless anger and regret. Mindless TV and news.

I started saying “No” to colonoscopies and other things related to painful medical experiments. I listed all the things I could say “No” to and I still do.

When you have a tiny tiny piece of shit in the soup it doesn’t matter how much more water you pour in and how many more spices you put on top. There’s shit in the soup.

I had been saying YES to the wrong things for 20 years.

Within six months my life was completely different. I met Claudia. I moved out of hotels. I was working on ideas that actually made money. And I needed fewer and fewer things to make me happy. That’s the Power of No. That’s true minimalism.

Every six months since then my life has changed. Even in the past few days, remarkable things have happened.

When you start just saying “No” to the bad things, the “Yes” compounds every day. It compounds automatically, the way interest does in a non-US bank.

When she asked me what my net worth was I could’ve just said, “No” and got up and not wasted three months of my life. But as easy as that sounds, I didn’t know how to do it.

Now I do. Now I’m free. I dumped the old soup. Now I can finally drink from the soup I just cooked.