On the cost of what matters most

Recently I joined a webinar with Michael Bungay Stanier (MBS to his friends) on the one question that unlocks everything.

What was it?

“If I say YES to this, what must I say NO to?”

MBS has an extraordinary skill in capturing crucial ideas so simply that you can’t ignore them.

This phrase has deeply embedded into my consciousness, and the beautiful insights from Oliver Burkeman in 4000 Weeks are adding profound and illuminating layers.

This question isn’t just about what I am pursuing, but what I must consciously name and walk away from if what matters most to me is going to be realised.

MBS breaks this challenge into three:

  • What TASKS am I going to say no to? That’s relatively easy.
  • What PEOPLE am I going to say no to? That’s emotionally more challenging.
  • What within my SELF am I going to say no to? And that’s hard.

It’s where my fears might be my comfort blanket. And where I currently gain from the way things are. Or where my fantasies about who I am and what I can do help me avoid my finitude.

This is where the real cost lies.

As I delve into this ‘no’, I see how big it is. And how we need others who can accompany us into the unknown if we are to pursue what matters most with the time we have left.

~ This was a one-off webinar for those on MBS’s mailing list. However, I understand that much of it is contained in his new book ‘How to Begin: Start Something that Matters’.