Warren Buffett once said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”
The idea behind this philosophy is that if you don’t prioritise your time over others’ and have a habit of saying “yes” to everything, you’ll find your productivity will suffer, resentment will mount, and stress will hold you back.
While some people argue that saying “yes” more often opens you up to seizing more opportunities, Lena Dunham writes on LinkedIn that she has joined the camp of saying “no” and explains how it’s done wonders for her personal life and career.
Dunham says she didn’t always say “no” enough.
“A delightful cocktail of self-doubt blended with the need for constant approval had me convinced that ‘yes’ was the key to my like-ability,” she writes. “Without ‘yes’ what did I have to offer? And so I sprinkled it liberally, and as my obligations built up, so did my resentments, so did my feelings of inadequacy.”
In her work as creator, writer, and star of the HBO series “Girls,” Dunham says it had become her “mission” at work to answer every email, agree to every added task, and generally give in to the pressure to seem really “on the ball.”
“But we can only pull off a high wire act for so long before gravity does its job,” Dunham writes.
She explains that her personal relationships and work began to suffer: “A part of my job involves being creative, dipping deep into the well of experience, leaving time to dream. That had been replaced with a busy iPhone and a to-do list that never ceased to multiply.”
Reality struck one night during the third season of “Girls” when Dunham was on deadline finishing a script. She had surrendered to her exhaustion and called “Girls” executive producer, Jenni Konner, to say she’d send the script the next day when Konner responded, “I knew tonight wasn’t a realistic goal.”
After getting defensive and listing the reasons she had to call it quits, Konner cut her off, saying, “I just wanted you to listen so you could enjoy your night, not place this pressure on yourself. I just want you to be realistic about what you can do and save yourself this stress.”
In that moment Dunham says she realised “that life didn’t have to be an endless jog to accommodate all the ‘Yes’s.'”
By saying “no” more Dunham learned that the pressure to always be on the ball is often self-made, and people usually understand when you have limitations.
“People respond well to honesty, to reality. They understand. And so with those ‘no’s’, ‘YES’ sprung back up everywhere. Funny how that works,” she writes.
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