During my annual NOvember campaign on LinkedIn, I challenge myself to find things I can say “no” to in an effort to liberate the time and energy to say “yes” to the things that matter. In this process, I hope to become happier, healthier, and more productive. To date, in the three years I’ve been committing to NOvember, I’ve said “no” to 89 obligations, activities, and mindsets that have become plaque restricting the blood flow in my life (I’m publishing the final “no” of 2021 tomorrow.)

Different Lenses

Yesterday, my “no” represented a fundamental shift in how I want to think and learn and grow from now on. I decided that I need to get serious about saying “no” to looking at the world through my default lenses. Here are the things that I would classify as my defaults:

  • US-centric: The books I read, the movies I watch, the academics I admire are predominantly American. Americans are amazing. There is something truly special about the country and its culture. Yet, it’s only one country and increasingly, I’m disillusioned by how Americans think about work. Time to learn from other models around the world.
  • White Anglo-Saxon: The people I engage with and learn from are mostly white and not even just white, they’re Canadian, American, British, and western European. I’m even missing huge swaths of white cultures and ideas. Anglo-Saxons are fantastic, we invented the steam engine and the telegraph, but there’s more to the world. Time to learn from more Indigenous voices, more ancient and modern Asian and South Asian wisdom, more from the African continent, heck, more from BIPOC people who live in my own city.
  • Highly educated: I have a Ph.D. My husband has a Ph.D. My brother and his wife both have PhDs. My best friend has a Ph.D. I loved getting an education at a top-rate university. But my form of education is not the only form of education. I don’t know enough people who have been educated through other means. (I do know one who traps in the far north and his intelligence in the natural world has always blown me away.) I need to learn from people who have been educated by apprenticeship, educated by elders, educated by tragedy, or educated by doing.
  • Straight and cis-gendered: I am primarily (although thankfully not exclusively) surrounded by straight and cis-gendered people. My world is decidedly heteronormative. I need to read and learn from people at all different places on the spectra of gender and sexuality.
  • Economically advantaged: I live in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, in a wealthy city, in a G7 country. My perspectives are skewed by the affluence that surrounds me. I need to learn from people who know what it’s like to live precariously. I need to learn from those who live without. I need to glimpse the world through their eyes. A visit in 2018 to the floating villages of Cambodia taught me more about this in one day than my formal education taught me in 21 years. I need more.
  • Professional services: I have worked my entire career in professional services and many, many of the people I talk to are consultants and coaches. I adore them. They mostly think like me. It’s comfortable and familiar. There are other industries that I need to learn from. I need to get back to my love of factories and industrial environments. I need to work with people in healthcare and the service industry.
  • Cerebral: I wrestle the crap out of things with my brain. That’s what I’ve been rewarded for doing—comprehending, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating. I need to get out of my head and start feeling, intuiting (is that a word?), sensing. I need to learn more about the soma and embodiment and connection.

That’s all I’ve got for the moment. It’s a pretty decent list, I think.

I’m sure you will help me add to the list because the problem with our defaults is that we don’t even recognize them. They’re the proverbial water to the fish.

This NOvember, I’m saying “no” to my defaults and making a conscious effort to tune in to a diverse chorus of global voices.  One simple LinkedIn post asking for recommendations has yielded dozens of brilliant people I’m now connected to (take a look here and follow some of these amazing people). It will take more effort to connect with the people who aren’t on LinkedIn. It will be worth it.

What are your defaults and how will you say “no” to them?


Further Reading

Want to see the most popular “no’s” from this year’s NOvember, check these out:

Say “no” to doing it right now (using these forms of “not until”)

Say “no” to micromanagement (using this technique of “I know you know”)

Say “no” to flinging facts at fights (get to the values instead)