Over the course of my life, I have been offered innumerable opportunities to be a podcast guest, serve on a board or participate as a panelist for a think tank for my company. In years past, I would have jumped at each and every opportunity. After all, isn’t it a badge of honor to be the busiest person around?

As part of my maturation process as a man with the same 168 hours available each week as everyone else, I had to spend time reconciling the fact that I have the right to turn these opportunities down. Yes, I have the right to say no. You do, too.

Saying no can be difficult. We don’t want to let the asking party down, or maybe we believe (as I did) that I am superhuman and can do everything. I possess a very high energy level, yet that doesn’t translate into effectiveness when I take on too much. Through brutal self-examination, I learned I can capably handle two major projects and five minor endeavors at one time. Anything beyond that and I am about 80% effective.

By saying no to certain opportunities, I am free of the burden of trying to please everyone. The process I go through when a new opportunity is presented to me, I ask myself one question: Is my heart fully in it? And I must be willing to be honest with myself when I answer the question. The answer isn’t always immediately present. I take time to think about it. The opportunity might be something I believe in and support, but I don’t feel compelled to go all-in and commit. Commitment is key. Something that touches your heartstrings will keep you going when things get difficult, and they will get difficult.

I encourage the reader to take time to review how you are expending your energy. If you feel like the hamster on the wheel, it might be time to learn how to say no…


  • John Harrell

    Life is to be lived, not merely existed through.

    John Harrell manages a successful business, writes a daily inspirational blog, and regularly engages in public speaking. His audiences include corporations, trade associations, college students and incarcerated children - truly a “captive” audience. In 2018, Harrell published his first book, “Killing My Father Then Finding Him” which became a number-one bestseller the first day of publication on Amazon.   John is a fortunate survivor of childhood physical and emotional abuse. Because of his upbringing, Harrell is able to connect with struggling children, offering hope to kids in sometimes hopeless situations. Our futures are not limited by our circumstances. Everyone has the power to break the generational malady of abuse, and live a meaningful and full life.   Harrell serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for Rachel’s Challenge, the largest program in the world which focuses on kindness and compassion. Named for Rachel Joy Scott, the first child killed at Columbine High School, Rachel’s Challenge transforms the lives of almost 2 million people per year in across the globe. John lives in Austin, Texas, and is the proud father of two sons.