"It’s one thing to say no. It’s another thing to have the Power of No."
The essence of James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher’s The Power of No is that by saying “no” to certain things in our lives, we open ourselves to new possibilities and impactful, meaningful “yeses”. The book has a definite spiritual focus, but one can appreciate the wisdom and perspective without looking through that lens.
According to our authors, self-professed students themselves, there are seven levels of “NO”. These seven levels can be amalgamated into three distinct themes:
Everyday No’s – areas where we get stuck in our relationships, jobs or physical well-being.
Inside No’s – societal norms that govern our thoughts about “should”.
Deep Inside No’s – barriers that prevent us from saying “yes” from a balanced heart.
As you move through the book, the content shifts focus from those elements that are external to the reader to elements that are internal and closer to our core.
The Big Idea
Where’s my parachute?
"It’s not that all life should be fun. It’s that all life should be fearless"
Embarking on a journey to reaching your full potential requires a little bit of courage and it should feel a little scary. One of the aspects that resonated with me the most was the inclusion of exercises at the end of certain chapters. I was less concerned with the content of the exercises, but more about the fact that each exercise encouraged me to operate just a little outside my comfort zone. Read on for two of them.
It’s a brave new world
"Start by being an explorer"
To reach that state of fulfillment, it helps to begin by looking at things from a “what’s possible” perspective. One of the ways to do this is to exercise your idea muscle. There is a great exercise in the book and it goes like this: Write down 10 ideas that will add value for your job. Now take it one step further – write down the 10 next steps that follow those ideas. Now, do it again – write down 10 people you need to share these ideas with… then do it! The worst that can happen is that they will say “no”. Anything else is pure upside.
Giving gratitude a workout
"When you are grateful in place of negativity, suddenly you see the subtleties in everything around you… Suddenly you appreciate the empty spaces that magically appear in a once all-too-crowded world."
There is a second exercise in this book that resonated with me because of its simplicity and practicality.
Step 1: List all the current problems or negative situations in your life. Acknowledge them as problems and own up to the fact that they really bother you.
Step 2: List all the good things in your life. You don’t want to take these things for granted.
Step 3: Pick one day, and spend that day (the entire day) being grateful for everything you encounter during your day – even the small things.
Step 4: For the next 10 days, when you wake up in the morning, fill your first thoughts with 10 things you are grateful for.
The goal of this exercise is to release the hold the negative situations have over you by being grateful for the things in your life that are really good. It’s not important to ignore the bad things in our lives, but it is important to spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on the things we can be grateful for. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in her book The How of Happiness, gratitude is “a kind of meta-strategy for achieving happiness” and who wouldn’t want to wake up with that mindset every day.
Once I finished the book, I found it helpful to return to the beginning and refresh my memory of the introductory guidelines:
- Reading the book is good
- Thinking about it afterwards is 100 times better
- Practicing what it says is 100,000 times better
The HR person in me found that approach very appealing. Understanding the Power of No is definitely a journey and while some of the actions may be outside my comfort zone, the idea of “buying 500 books” with a focus to read and learn a little bit every day is a powerful place to start. See you at the book store!