The Basis for No

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown writes:

Many capable people are kept from getting to the next level of contribution because they can’t let go of the belief that everything is important.

We’re in the middle of residency interview season, but for many students, the CV-padding season started in high school and never ended. We have a “meritocratic” system where people are rewarded for doing things and accumulating line-items.

I’ve had a lot of meaningful hobbies in my life, but most of the things I’ve done for other people were useless for my development and for the world. While you have to do enough to figure out what you like and what you could become good at, we could all move the needle more by saying no to more “opportunities” (if only getting to the next stage of the process didn’t require so much box-checking).

Time is finite, so every “yes” for something you don’t care about is a “no” to the things you do.

And that applies to the types of productive procrastination we often employ (like me writing this brief post instead of doing the harder work of finishing the draft of my next book). The discipline to focus on the impactful and meaningful 20% from the 80/20 rule is hard.

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