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For me, saying no is an accomplishment

For me, saying no is an accomplishment

I used to brag about talks I gave; now I brag about talks I turned down.

I always had a hard time saying NO. Every time I did, it felt like a missed opportunity. Also, it is a somewhat rude action of rejecting an offering to engage, collaborate, or help, and it always left me feeling guilty and regretful. I wish I had infinite time so I could say yes to all the cool opportunities I get, but my time is most definitely not unlimited. So, I found a way to perceive my “NOs” as accomplishments.

I started to write down all the cool things I rejected into a single file. My NO-file has items like: “Said no to a free trip to give a talk in India,” “Said no to being an editor of a journal,” “Said no to reviewing a paper written by a top scholar,” etc. I am at 4 pages now and adding to the list daily. Most importantly, I no longer feel regret about missed opportunities. My “NOs” are contributing to my growing collection of prestigious turndowns and I am free to say YES to things that really matter. I try to get at least a dozen “NOs” for every “YES.”


Dr. Roman Yampolskiy (@romanyam) is an Associate Professor at the Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville. This story was published on March 31, 2019, on Dr. Yampolskiy’s Medium blog (available here), and has been republished here with his permission.

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