Derek Sivers

from the book “”:

Saying no to everything else


Steven Pressfield called himself an author for years, but he’d never actually finished a book. He went through life feeling smug, feeling better than those regular schmucks because he thought of himself as an author.

But the psychological pain of not producing kept building until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He decided to finally beat the devil he calls “The Resistance”.

He created a situation with no escape. He rented a cabin with only a typewriter and shut off all other options.

He said, “I had a book in mind and I had decided I would finish it or kill myself. I could not run away again, or let people down again, or let myself down again. This was it, do or die.”

“I didn’t talk to anybody during that year. I didn’t hang out. I had no TV, no radio, no music. No sex, no sports. I didn’t read the newspaper. I just worked.”

After an incredibly difficult year of wrestling with those inner demons and avoiding all temptations, he did it. He finished his first book. It wasn’t a success, but it didn’t matter. He had finally beat The Resistance. He went on to write many successful novels.

He told this story in the great book “Turning Pro”, the third in his series of little books about the creative struggle, including “The War of Art” and “Do the Work”. Read all three.

When I read it, my own psychological pain of not producing had built up to an unbearable level. I had announced my next business but never finished building it. I started many times, but each time decided to chase some other distraction that didn’t put my ass on the line. There are always more emails to answer, more things to learn, and more people wanting my time for their needs — each one swearing they need just a few minutes.

To make it worse, I was living in Singapore, distracted by so many interesting people.

So I decided to do my version of the cabin. I moved to New Zealand. I shut off all other options. Time to finish what I started.

I still answer my email, but I say no to all requests. It’s not the nicest mantra, saying no, no, no all day, but it strengthens my mission.

Hell yeah or no” is a filter to decide, each time, what’s worth doing. But this is simpler and more serious. This is a decision to stop deciding. It’s one decision, in advance, that the answer to all future things is “no”, until you finish what you started. It’s saying yes to one thing, and no to absolutely everything else.