A reflection on saying “yes” for optimal results. By: Christopher Pascale
John Hodgman used to be on TV. Really, he still is, but only here and there. Why?
According to his own account in his very good book, Medallion Status, he stopped saying yes.
Hodgman got his start on TV in 2006 as the stodgy old PC in the Mac vs. PC ads, where a cool, hip Apple computer portrayed by Jimmy Fallon makes fodder of the lame, impotent PC for 3 terrific money-making years. During that same time he was in 3 major motion pictures and began a 9-year stint on “The Daily Show.”
Things were going so well that he was offered a part on “Breaking Bad.”
This was where he said no.
During this time, Hodgman was a supporting actor on a show, had parts in movies and other shows, and voiced a character for “Minecraft.” Additionally, his wife and children were in New York, and he was already spending so much time in California that the thought of being in New Mexico seemed a bit much.
And that is where his career began to descend.
One can argue that Hodgman optimized his life, to which I would agree, but in terms of building upon his career as a performer, saying no was akin to announcing a funeral.
What Happens When You Say “Yes”
Truly, some terrible things can happen when you say yes, like when Ritchie Valens agreed to travel by air to expand his singing career – he died.
But the alternative to saying yes is to guarantee going nowhere, which is not the option we seek; otherwise, why are you reading this?
So, I’ll give you two examples of times I said yes, and what it led to. And one time that I said no that you can make of what you will.
A Simple Book Review
Eric Milton wrote a book called The Stock Market Is for Everyone. It’s a self-published eBook, and I like it. As is common, no one knew he wrote it, so he asked some people if they would read/review. I was one of them.
For the year prior to this, I had been trying with great failure to publish a short piece about my daughter starting her Roth IRA. No one would take it, and then Eric, my new best friend who could see I had excellent taste in literature, did. Since then, I have contributed pieces to Eric’s site, and they have stood as a good reference for other sites that have since published my work.
Saying yes to a simple Amazon book review may have been the very key that opened the door to what is now a substantial portfolio of published work in personal finance.
An Inconvenient Trip to Washington, DC
Last summer, a thread was started on an online forum about my book, War Poems. In it, a small group of people who hadn’t read it were discussing its [de]merits, saying that my account of my own life may have been invalid. And then they tagged Doug Nordman, AKA Nords, a retired Naval officer who runs a fantastic site called The Military Guide. Nords wrote a very detailed summary of his take on the whole matter, aided by a link to a piece I wrote for I Hate the USMC. Given his resources, Nords was not complimentary.
Taking it all in, I composed what I hoped to be a thoughtful response, and Nords, who was going to be at a conference in Washington, DC, responded with an offer to meet him there.
Going to DC the week my kids started school was not convenient. On top of that, my home in NC was still not finished, and would not be sold for another 5 months, but I did want this opportunity and would not be in Hawaii (where Nords lives) in the foreseeable future.
From that one trip came the following results:
- A piece about solar leasing was published on ADPI.com
- I had a phone conversation with Ellie Kay, who advised me on how to enhance my speaking career
- Guest lectured at The US Coast Guard Academy with the help of Rob Shaye
That is what saying yes can do. At the cost of waking up early on a Sunday, and the expense of driving from NY to DC, doors I didn’t even know existed were suddenly open.
A Time I Said “No”
Sitting at an airport bar on my way to Holland, a woman strikes up a conversation with me. Minutes into it, she says that when I’m in London I should connect with her via WhatsApp, and could even stay with her.
“I hope you have room for six,” I quipped, letting her know I’m married with children. She said she did, and that the offer was unchanged.
“You know,” she said, “you’d be great on television. You have a really nice way about you.”
“I’ve been told that,” I truthfully replied. “But I really just like to write.”
“Okay, ‘Saturday Night Live,’ then. If you want a meeting, call me.”
And I didn’t.
Granted, the conversation was moving at Ludicrous-Speed from an invitation for me to show where I’d place her in a game of “Kiss, Marry, Kill,” to me being guaranteed fame and fortune all due to sitting down and being polite in public, so the idea that this was really real just didn’t seem real at all.
But what would it have cost me to have sent the following message on WhatsApp:
“Hi, SweetButPsycho, it was very nice talking to you. While I won’t be in London very soon, please let me know when you’ll be in NY. After all, if I do meet with the people at NBC, it would be nice to have a friend in the room.”
It would have cost me nothing, because WhatsApp is free.
But not sending it may have cost me so much more.