I am a Yes-Man to a fault. It’s so bad that I don’t even have to be asked to do something, I seem to just find myself getting involved. Sure it comes across as me helping, volunteering, or working hard. Makes me look good. But let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just my attention-needy ego. I don’t want to let people down by saying “No,” and I enjoy the occasional adoration by saying “Yes.” Being a Yes-Man will blow up in your face at some point. My time peaked around spring of 2014. I had a Full-time job, church drama, chamber of commerce, neighborhood association, a kid, kid’s school, wife, social media manager, foster care, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Semi-Finalist for World Championship of Public Speaking, and running for City Council. I list those things not to gloat (see narcissism above), but to show just how ridiculous I was in thinking I could actually do all those things well. I would advise you to not live your life in a similar fashion. In a culture where we’re deceived into thinking more is better, this is not the case, and here are a few reasons:
First, you will fail in all categories to a degree. There are 24 hours in the day. Mathematically there is only so much you can do. It is impossible to do everything you want to do; or in my case, everything I agreed to doing. To compensate, I tried to keep all the plates spinning in the air at the same time. Five minutes here, 20 minutes there. Never giving my full attention to any of the categories.
(I just indirectly called my wife a “category.” These accidents tend to happen when you over do it.)
As a result, you end up neglecting one of the items. I would try to squeeze everything in, or do double-duty. I’d practice my speech while knocking on doors for the council race. My mind was constantly on the race while at work. I would spend my after-work hours campaigning instead of being home. Then the next day I’d feel guilty for being away, and stay at home when I really should be out shaking hands and kissing babies. In the end, I lost the race but at least my wife’s happy, so draw your own conclusions. (Side note: my go-to joke while running was that I was out “kissing hands and shaking babies.” Yeah, don’t say anything, I know…)
Another risk is that you might lose respect or credibility. I don’t think I did with anyone, but I was on the verge. Sounds like the plot of a sitcom, where the main character tries to manage two dates simultaneously, hilarity ensues, but he ends up hurting both women. At any point someone might call your bluff, or at least demand the full amount promised. If that happened to me, I would have come up short. My forgiving wife was the only one to know how under water I really was.
Lastly, you’re not focused on what you really want to do. I can look at that list see that I should have dropped at least four of those things. I need a job, I love my family, after that…. what do I really want to do? If I removed the obligations, the social pressure, the ego, if I really could just do one of the things and do it well, which would it be?
To say “No” can be selfless. If you really can’t live up to the expectations or just don’t want to, be honest and allow the person asking to find someone who can. I was asked to be an officer for our local Toastmasters club, this was as my son was about to be born, so I said No. The current leadership is doing great and over the past few months I’ve realized how I can help the club in other ways. Participation in regular meetings is always a struggle and that’s totally something I can do. I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue getting a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster accreditation) instead as part of my steps toward Public Speaking. Look! I said “No” and everything is OK! No one hates me, and we’re all better for it.
I suppose I ended up answering the “which would it be?” question for myself. It took buying a new house in a different county which forced me out of neighborhood roles, and having a baby gave me an excuse to slow everything else down. So here I am, testing the waters on public speaking. And loving every success and stumble (I stumbled today, more on that next time….)