The Elegance of “No”
Overcommittment in the Rear View Mirror
by Ashley Perkins
It is a good thing that no one has ever paid me to do things small. I love to take on big projects with big outcomes and more than once I have taken on one too many. I am a recovering over-committer and struggle with the word, “no!”
I can recall specifically working on the Downtown in December event in the very early years of its existence. Along with the amazing Mark Funke, a small group of volunteers put in the first skating rink downtown and grew a holiday parade into a multi-site, multi-week event. We were all working long hours.
My youngest son, then five years old, was at after-school care and had to be picked up at 6 pm or the school would begin charging me some horrific amount per minute. I sped into the parking lot at Mach 3 with my air on fire and found him standing by the door with his little backpack on and his scowl matching the one on the teacher’s face. He said not a word. He climbed into the car; buckled up his booster seat; and crossed his arms across his chest. I looked in the rearview mirror and he stared right back at me.
As I started to pull out of the parking lot he said, “Mom, you can do Christmas for the whole city, but you can’t even get our Christmas tree up!”
I spent all night putting up the Christmas tree.
We are all leaders. We are all committed to our community and to many non-profits, churches, and other local and civic activities. There is no doubt that leaders like you are in short supply.
I encourage you, however, to show up as your best you. Are you over-committing and under-delivering? Has the post-pandemic shortage of volunteers and board members pressured you to say “yes” to a few more things than you can perform with excellence? Are you passionate about the mission and the outcomes?
In truth, our non-profits need every one of us but, they need us at our very best, enthusiastic, and 110% committed. Check your commitment. The other resource our non-profits and events need is new and future leaders. Is there an opportunity for you to give a junior member of your organization a leadership opportunity? Can you mentor someone else into these organizations that will need the next generation of bright and talented leaders?
As the year ends, do an inventory on your commitments and your focus. Are you shorting something important for something that you are less passionate about? Work to find great alternatives for these commitments that give you space and provide a future for our community and your future leaders.
The word “no” is really “not me or not now” and can elegantly be changed to “I’d love to be supportive, and I have an idea how to accomplish that for you!”
Thanks for sharing Ashley!
Thank you for sharing your great words of wisdom!! I needed to read that today.
Now that’s “Reflecting!”I know you better and glad you’re a Rotarian.
Would like to have one more admonition to place the kids out front, but powerful reminder.
In my early days of Rotary, I asked why we didn’t do more hands on projects? I was told “Rotary is for top leaders; we employ the people who sell lightbulbs!”
Thanks for women Rotarians! Ha!