Skip to main content
The Works

My deep fear about saying No

By November 14, 2023No Comments

Tens only

Removing the 9.9s

One of my big things for next year is to begin working on a new book.

What! Another book?!

I know, I know, I know.

And anyway, it feels impossible right now.

My calendar is full. My to-do is well in the red.

I’m overwhelmed, and I haven’t even started yet.

So once again, I return to the question of what I must say No to. (You didn’t think I was writing this newsletter for you, did you? Oh no. This is me working on my own stuff.)

My friend Rich Litvin (remember him?) suggested something bold and helpful the other day (bold and helpful is very much his style).


What if you only said Yes to the 10s?

10s only.

Implication: You have to say No to anything that’s 9.9 or lower.

I have to disrupt my routine, break some promises, and be disloyal.

But that’s not what’s the hardest thing.


I’m afraid of the space

I fill my days, I fill my calendar, I fill my to-do list.

I do a pretty good job at filling it with stuff that is 8s or 9s and even the occasional 10. It’s rare I’m doing anything that’s a 7 or lower.

But … 10s only?

That means a lot of waiting. Wondering.

A full calendar makes me a little anxious, but I know I’ll get through it.

An empty calendar … which is what I want and what I need to write this next book … makes me very nervous indeed.

Does that mean I’m not useful? Valued? Rusted out? Used up?


Seems I might have to take my own medicine.

What must I say No to so I can say a wholehearted Yes to the next book?

The belief that a life well lived is a life overscheduled.

Let’s see how that goes. Check back with me in six months and see how I’m doing.

Want The Works in your inbox?
Sign up (free) here
Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.