Professor of Computer Science. AI Safety & Cybersecurity Researcher.
“I used to brag about talks I gave; now I brag about talks I turned down.”
I always had a hard time saying NO. Every time I did, if felt like a missed opportunity. Also, it is a somewhat rude action of rejecting an offering to engage, collaborate, or help and it always left me feeling guilty and regretful. I wish I had infinite time so I could say yes to all the cool opportunities I get, but my time is most definitely not unlimited.
So, I found a way to perceive my “NOs” as accomplishments. I started to write down all the cool things I rejected into a single file.
My NO-file has items like: “Said no to a free trip to give a talk in India”, “Said no to being an editor of a journal”, “Said no to reviewing a paper written by a top scholar”, etc. I am at 4 pages now and adding to the list daily.
Most importantly, I no longer feel regret about missed opportunities. My “NOs” are contributing to my growing collection of prestigious turndowns and I am free to say YES to things that really matter. I try to get at least a dozen “NOs” for every “YES”.