Peak 137: I am prioritising 100 hard Noes

I have now made a plan for the final push of the year. Now I just need courage, non-distractification and the energy beans…

And ‘ease’.

Ah yes. Well, I can tell you, I’m not at ease today. So…. I didn’t go on too much about it here (because it took a lot of quiet focus just to keep to it), but I did Dry January right up to the end of November (23rd Nov to be precise) as planned, so as now to do a jolly ‘Damp December’ (my term, it’s not a thing, and I try to avoid a ‘Drenched December’…) Whoop whoop! Two freaking delicious ciders last night, and…. I’ve been awake with ‘the fear’ and an incipient hangover since 4am. :-/

I want to say something. It’s about my brain. And working within it’s natural parameters.

I think living and working with ‘high-functioning autism’ is akin to running a marathon a week. Or walking round the world with a heavy suitcase with no wheels. UNLESS and UNTIL we get into the autism-friendly mode. IN WHICH CASE, it is bliss, it is deep-diving, it is swimming in detail and richness, it is empathy, compassion, passion, pure connectedness… So, bring me up to speed on my autism-friendly mode again…

Sure. Let’s read.

-74- When the people do not fear death, of what use is it to threaten them with death? If the people were always afraid of death and if those who did wrong would always be arrested and put to death, who would do wrong? There is always a Lord of Execution whose duty it is to kill. If you try to fill that function it is like trying to hew wood in place of a master carpenter. You will probably injure your own hands. (The Tao Te Ching 74)

Woah! I appreciate the peace-mongering, but it’s a bit full on. For a slightly softer translation, here’s Stenudd’s version:


If people are not afraid of dying,

Why threaten them with death?

If people live in constant fear of death,

And if breaking the law is punished by death,

Then who would dare?

There is one appointed supreme executioner.

Truly, trying to take the place of the supreme executioner

Is like trying to carve wood like a master carpenter.

Of those who try to carve wood like a master carpenter,

There are few who do not injure their hands.

Ok, so maybe I’ll run with ‘Of those who try to carve wood like a master carpenter,/ There are few who do not injure their hands.‘  I feel sometimes, when I run against my brain’s natural parameters – whether from drinking poisons or over-working – I injure my own sweet self.

Mweep. Ayudame.

Dear sweet soul of light. You are really doing so beautifully in life. Remember that, especially at times of exhaustion. You set out on a mission at the beginning of the year – to reach peace and teach peace. We see you happier than ever (and yes, your relationship with your beautiful G is most certainly a source and an anchor of that joy) and we see you out in the world, contributing your knowledge and skills in promoting wellbeing and peace e v e r y day. Did you want something different? 

Not to be so tired or frazzled. To be a little more zen. To reach peace in my daily life, truly.

Reaching peace is an inside job. It’s about realigning, reforming and relearning how we think, breathe, move and make decisions. The ultimate fuel for inner peace is actually the power to say ‘No’. You’ve thought about that a little bit recently. Well here’s some more to contemplate: that notion above of ‘injuring your own hands‘ has a direct correlation to ‘saying yes when we mean no’. 

Oh, man… I struggle with this.

And that’s ok! It’s advanced level work! Why? Because it comes down to working really closely with your body. And connecting your mind to your body is an act of will and of faith. 

Please give me a short cut…

Be prepared to say “No” 100 times before it feels comfortable. 

Set up a list on your phone, and note down your first 100 hard Noes. 

Ok! And I’ll start with a difficult No yesterday…. which actually had me a bit plumptony (ticcy) and sleepless…. :-/

Screenshot of My first 100 hard Noes
My first 100 hard Noes

It’s not easy – but as time goes on, you’ll see that the Soft Yes is the biggest energy drain there is. 

I don’t want to become dogged and rigid and negative about this. I could play this game a bit hard ball…

Let’s define some parameters. A good Hard No is a very compassionate moment. It’s precisely about noticing that dissonance between a) wanting to please, reassure, value or honour the person by saying Yes, and b) hearing your inside voice saying quietly ‘No thank you’. Having noticed the dissonance, it’s then about stopping – even back tracking if you’ve already said Yes – and openly, gently, tenderly, firmly extending your No. 

I can start to think of other Noes – largely to stuff I’ve set for myself. But also to things floating about in my headspace that I haven’t purged out promptly… Admin / financials etc – a good Hard No would get them done and out the door.

Exactly this. ‘No, I do not want to be thinking about this matter any more’ is a perfect use of the Hard No. It doesn’t mean you then block it or ignore it, but precisely the opposite – it means instead you deal with it firmly, speedily, with ‘ruthless efficiency’. You get stuff back on the other side of your personal, mental boundary wall. 

Powerful. Here are some more Noes to be working with…

  • No to worrying about Christmas presents
  • No to feeling guilty about not thanking people for their amazing birthday love
  • No to shuffling around my finances / tax / debt / invoices / pension…

Just did some research on Saying No. This video of Mina Radhakrishnan, a tech product manager (recently of Uber), was recommended:

Key takeaways from Mina’s talk on The Art of Saying No:

  • Note your everyday transactional Noes (“Milk?” “No thanks.”) vs Noes in the relationships you care about or want to build…
  • Why we say no? PRIORITISATION: ‘If you chase two rabbits, you will lose both of them.’ (Proverb)
    • Can you articulate the whys of what is on your Prioritisation List and what is on your Backlog List? (this is Agile language)
    • Avoid prioritising by effort alone – ie. Avoid saying, “Yes, it’s not toooo much effort, I suppose I can say ‘Yes’ to it.”
    • Instead set up: goals, success metrics, timeframes and potential solutions.
      • So my Quarterly Goals are ideal for this – ‘use Google-style OKRs’ – Objectives x3-5  & Key Results x3 per objective:
  • Find common ground – the intersection of our goals
    • Agree on common goals – and have respect for every person involved
    • Listen, listen, listen – like a therapist (as a PM) – take in what the person is saying – understand the problem
    • ‘Here’s what I’m working on and why.’
  • Find alternative solutions to the problem
    • Relate back to common goals and check on that
    • Put in on the roadmap

So in sum: saying a Hard No is about really knowing and owning one’s priorities. That’s an art in itself.

I need a nap before I start doing my Hard Noes.

Rest well, dear soul! And use this phrase internally for a while:No, that is not my priority.” 


I am prioritising 100 hard Noes




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