By Cheryl Smith; part of a series at called “Best Books for Business.” Stay tuned for more!
I currently have four books and a Kindle on my nightstand, and I’m pretty sure there’s at least one book in every room of our house. Yet I don’t consider myself an avid reader. Maybe I’m too distracted, or maybe life is just plain busy. Whatever the case, when I sit down with a book, it has to capture my attention right away, lest it remain on the nightstand collecting dust, or I plop it into the Goodwill pile.
Last week, I sorted through the nonfiction shelves in our bedroom and parted with more than a dozen books. My rule? If I hadn’t read or returned to it in a while, it was time to say goodbye.
The books that remain aren’t trendy. They’re filled with timeless wisdom that can be applied whether I’m at a board meeting, a client’s office, the neighbor’s, house or the dinner table.
One of those—a small, red paperback—is Say Yes to No: Using the Power of No to Create the Best in Life, Work, and Love by Greg Cootsona. When I first read it, I dog-eared pages, underlined sentences, and scribbled a “to do” list on the first page. I knew it was a keeper.
In his introduction, Cootsona offers a word of hope. Though he once was on the brink of job burnout, marital distress, depression, and other major health issues, he learned the power of a certain two-letter word.
The Power of No
Chapter one opens with the story of Michelangelo’s statue of David. When an admirer asked the great sculptor how he achieved such an amazing work of art, Michelangelo replied with this strikingly simple description: “First, he said, I fixed my attention on the slab of raw marble. I studied it, sketched a few simple pencil drawings on it, and then ‘chipped away at all that wasn’t David.’ ”
Has it really been six years since the mailman delivered the cardboard box with the well-timed book? Remarkably, those words are as meaningful today as they were then.
The book was published well before the proliferation of smart phones and social media, yet I’m in desperate need of the author’s advice on “Restricting Technology’s Reach.” In chapter three, he lists ten steps to loosen technology’s grip around the airways of our lives.
The words of step one hit a little too close for comfort. “Step One: Realize that technology can obscure our view of the stars.” Cootsona explains that a lantern lights our way in the dark, gives us a sense of safety, but it also obscures our view of the stars. So it is with Facebook. I can connect with friends I haven’t seen since my high school graduation nearly thirty years ago, at the exclusion of connecting with our own children down the hallway.
An Unexpected Beginning
Ironically, the section on work begins with the mention of Sabbath. Cootsona defines Sabbath as “grabbing time to rest from obligation.” One underlined section once again jumps off the page: “Edit what you have.”
Too often, I want the work of “No” to be easy; when the going gets tough, I settle for comfortable chaos. During those times, I need an expectation adjustment, and Cootsona delivers. “Editing is tough work—removing that favorite beer stein from Oktoberfest from the mantel or realizing the 1970’s brown velour love seat no longer works in the new color scheme. It feels tough to let go and even like we’re walking backward, but it’s necessary for designing an attractive home and an excellent and beautiful life.”
This weekend, I’ll cull through the rest of the books in our bedroom. I’ll practice saying “No” to the trendy editions, in favor of books with timeless principles.
Like the small, red paperback.