It’s 7:00 a.m. in Palm Springs, California and the sound of my Dad’s voice just woke me up.
“Hey David! How is the market looking today?” He booms over the phone to one of his work friends.
I take this as my cue to get out of bed and start my day.
I don’t want to get up.
But I have no choice.
At this time every morning my bedroom morphs into Dad’s home office.
As I Zombie-walk out of bed to brush my teeth I can’t help but wonder…
How did I get here? How did this happen to me?
I’m in my thirties and expected to be living in a mansion by now, not in my parents’ spare bedroom turned office.
But it turns out that I was about to learn one of the most powerful lessons of my life. One that actually began a few months earlier and resulted from four simple words.
Four Words That Can Rob You Of Your Potential
I was one of many victims of FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.
FOMO causes us to say “yes” to projects and opportunities we don’t have time for. It causes us to go on trips we can’t afford and hang out with people we don’t like and buy things we don’t need. It makes us say “yes” to countless invitations.
FOMO even forces us to check our smartphones every ten minutes “just in case” something comes up on Facebook or other social media sites.
The list goes on and on.
Here’s how I fell down the FOMO trap door:
After reading the Four Hour Workweek a few years ago I lusted after the idea of living abroad.
I’d go to forums on the topic and feel that twinge of envy when I saw others living the “international dream” while I was living my boring life in the United States.
I was also getting jaded with my business around this time and decided to start a new one.
Eventually, I could not take it anymore.
From Living It High In Colombia To Sleeping In My Parents’ Spare Bedroom
I threw my belongings into storage, cut the lease on my apartment and booked a ticket to Medellin, Colombia, where I planned on staying for a while.
I visited Medellin before and loved it there. It has splendid weather, food, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, and beautiful people in every direction you turn.
When I got there I also signed up for Spanish lessons and promised myself that I’d still be able to maintain my business while building the new one
Medellin also has incredible nightlife so I made sure to go out at least three nights week, with hopes of finding a girlfriend.
I’m guessing you can see where this is going.
As a result of putting so much on my plate, everything I did got the short shrift. My nights out caused my work to suffer. When I got into a flowing work-state, I’d have to stop everything and head for my Spanish class.
I felt stress because I could never keep up with the things I thought I “should” be doing.
I felt like an octopus whose limbs were being pulled in eight different directions. Unfortunately, it was me doing the pulling, as I was the one who believed I could “do it all.”
The new business venture caused my main business to drop in revenue.
My waistline grew as I found myself indulging in food to cope with the stress.
It wasn’t long before my “dream” felt like a nightmare.
More than once while sitting alone in my apartment I went to Google and typed in “how to get out of a rut.”
That’s what I was in.
I moved back to the United States after three months.
But because I kept pouring more and more money into the the new business, I was in a rough financial situation.
That’s how I ended up sleeping in my Dad’s office.
The One Simple Word That Transformed My Life
Being forced to wake up every morning to my Dad’s booming voice gave me the determination to move out of my parent’s house as soon as possible.
I was forced to focus on top-tier priorities to the exclusion of everything else.
I put one-hundred percent of my energy into building the new business and also focused on diet and exercise.
I also decided I would say “no” to anything that was not a priority. This meant saying “no” to many invitations and opportunities that came my way. It took discipline to develop my “no” muscles but it was worth it.
I moved out of my parents’ house five month later. Eight months after that, I was in the best financial situation and physical shape of my life.
I was also twice a productive as I was before.
And it all started with learning how to say “no.”
3 Ways Easy Ways To Develop Your “No” Muscles
If you’re like me, then saying “no” does not come natural to you. Many of us feel like it’s rude to say “no” to people.
Here are three great ways to develop your “no” muscles today:
1. Find Freedom Through Constraints
People think that by saying “no” often it means they are restricting themselves but the opposite is true.
In his book, Steal Like an Artist author Austin Kleon writes about how constraints make us more – not less – free.
For example, earlier this year I decided I would only read biographies. In the past, always searching through Amazon to find the perfect book would stress me out.
So it was freeing when I decided that I’d only read biographies that fit three criteria: they had to be fun, inspirational and informative. If I did not sense from the reviews that the book checked all of these boxes it would be an easy “no.”
2. If It’s Not A “Hell Yeah!” It’s An Automatic “No”
I love the “Hell Yeah” framework popularized by Derek Sivers. When faced with a decision or opportunity if your answer is not a “Hell Yeah!” then it should be a “no.”
Another way to look at this is to rate reach decision you face on a scale from one to ten. If it’s not a nine or ten then it’s a zero. The ones we want to watch out for are the sevens and eights. These will distract you from what matters.
3. Look To The Extremes
It’s helpful to look to the extremes. Instead of thinking about what we’re sacrificing we should be thinking about what we want to go big on.
So what do you want to go big on?
What will be the one thing that if you focused on would have the most significant impact on your life?
Imagine if you always said “no” to the things that don’t matter and focused on that for the next three, five, even ten years of more.
What would that be like?
For all of us, there’s one thing we should want to go big on: our potential.
I invite you to go big on maximizing your potential — to become everything you’re capable of becoming.
This might mean being the best father, mother, son or daughter you can be.
It might mean becoming a world-class harmonica player or non-profit leader. Or maybe it means becoming the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.
Missing out on your potential… of being the best person you can be is what you should Fear Missing Out on. Not the latest Facebook status update or invitation from a friend that sounds “just ok.”
And saying “yes” to our potential starts with saying “no” to the things that don’t matter. I learned this the hard way when I said “yes” to too many things when I moved to Colombia.
Before I knew it, I was waking up to the sound of my Dad’s voice while I was sleeping in his home office.
I don’t want you to ever be in a similar situation.
That’s why I hope you can learn from my mistakes and be inspired to reach your full potential by flexing those “no” muscles beginning today.
Now it’s your turn. What is one thing you know you should be saying “no” to? Please let me know by commenting below.
Ron Reich is a lawyer turned entrepreneur whose mission is to help others master the game of life, accomplish their mostly deeply important goals, make sure every day is an amazing one. Download his Master Day Checklist today to find out exactly how to do this. Say hi to him on Twitter while you’re at it!
Image courtesy of frank mckenna.