Learning To Say No To Myself

Even before I graduated college, I had begun repeating the following words to myself on a regular basis:

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

I was beginning to learn that my immensely useful graphic design and software development skills could be used in a seemingly never-ending variety of contexts and opportunities. The world was my oyster for all kinds of interesting (and not-so-interesting) endeavors.

I quickly picked up the skill of learning to say no to people who wanted to utilize my time, especially to those who would not fairly compensate it. I reserved my time for the people who paid well, and I reserved time for myself. I have a monopoly on my time, and I can spend it how I please. I later learned this is problematic thinking.

Time: Frivelous Spending

I thought that because I was spending time on my *own* projects, they were worthwhile because they were 100% mine and I could do whatever I wanted with them; however I want. I will acknowledge that all of these projects were great learning experiences, and if I frame it in that light, they were very much worth my time. My problem is that I hang on for them too long. I continue to try and foster them long after the learning has been completed.

A great case in point is my Altruist Online project. Two apps that I created for social good. They were invaluable learning experiences, but now they’re just sitting there. Waiting for publicity, marketing, word-of-mouth growth, viral growth, whatever. The point is, I do not (and probably will not ever) have the capacity to grow these projects past what they are because I have a roof to keep over my head (ie make money), and there are other projects that more effectively keep my brain firing on all cylinders (in a good way, like Curious Markings).

Once Burned, Twice Shy?

More like thrice burned, but at least I’ve learned my lesson. As I once said no to people who would not compensate my time appropriately, I learned that I am one of those people who cannot compensate my time appropriately. I have learned to be cautious about the amount of time I give myself on projects that have no promise of sound investment. Sometimes, I need to say no to myself.

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Photo Credit: Uroš Jovičić

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