“Opportunities multiply as they are seized” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War. This is my favourite quote, because we often get so caught up in our never-ending to-do list that we stress ourselves with each new item. I used to feel the same way, always needing an empty and tidy Gmail inbox and a sense of peace. But as you get older, you’ll learn about yourself and the concept of time, which seems infinite in your youth and ever more precious as you get older. So that being said, I’d like to teach you about the word NO.
When to say NO to NO
When you’re younger, you have the energy and freedom to really do anything. Many people stress out about exams, or girls, or family, but let’s be honest. No matter how busy you are, you’ve had time for happy hour, Facebook stalking and loads of Netflix and web surfing. On that same note, embrace everything that comes your way. Family member annoying you for help with a website? Do it. Your cousins want you in some annoying wedding dance? Do it. Life is really strange in the sense in that it doesn’t distinguish one opportunity from another.
When I started doing stand-up comedy in India, I was so new to the world of doing it as a profession. Early on, I was performing for a tiny bar in Bengaluru, with literally three people in the audience. Dignity aside, I marched through the show happy as at least I had finished it. A few weeks later, one of those three guys in the audience called me saying he worked for Canon Printers and they wanted to hire me for a show. If this were a Hollywood movie, I would tell you that I rocked the show and the rest of my career story is history.
But unfortunately that show was for 100 people who only spoke Tamil, and I bombed hard.But it taught me the importance of “one thing leads to another” and kept pushing me to take on as much as I could, since I would only be 25 or 26 once in my life. On that same note, as a young person, it’s okay to waste your time. But waste it sensibly. Facebook stalking might be wasting. Building an app for android that will go nowhere and fail, however, might be wasting it properly. So, cast a wide net and see what fish you catch!
When to say YES to NO
My general rule is never to blindly say no out of laziness or anger. But say no when you know that even in the best cases, this isn’t something for you. If you’re 10 shots of vodka down and somebody is saying go for 11, your body understands this is a lose-lose situation. If another company is offering you a 50 per cent hike to leave your company, but you have a deep feeling in your heart that your current boss is amazing or you’re confident in the startup, then say no.
Many years ago, I was asked to join an agency to be managed as a comedian, and as much as I wanted to, part of me simply felt “I’m doing fine on my own. I mulled over the choice for months, thinking I had made a mistake. Fast forward a few months, and Comedy Central India had approached me saying they wanted someone without a management agency to head their next national tour with Hollywood Star Russell Brand! Sometimes, saying No is a good thing. Good luck! So will you try saying No now?
(Sanjay is a stand-up comedian who performs all over India. When not performing, he is an IT geek who makes funny videos )