Sensational Living®

Spring 2006
© 2006 by Bret S. Beall

Just Say NO!

As I write this column, I'm more than a little aware that it's a "few" months late. It was originally intended to be my January column on New Year resolutions. When I knew it wasn't going to happen at a traditional time to discuss resolutions, I decided it would be appropriate to present it anyway, because we all need encouragement to either continue with our resolutions, or to try again to achieve them. However, I realized that I was responding to my situation more in keeping with my 2005 resolution to "go with the Flow," rather than my 2006 resolution to "Just say NO!"

"Just say NO!" was originally a slogan for the anti-drug abuse campaign. I'm not using it in that specific context, though a future column this year will address drugs and other addictions. No, this is about saying "No" to anything that doesn't enhance my life and make me better.

To what was I saying, "No"? In this case, it was external influences (or were they internal influences? We'll have to revisit that later). In particular, the external influences were two clients. Though the bulk of my clientele hire me for my cooking, entertaining, decor, travel planning and general lifestyle skills, I also do a lot of business consulting and event planning. Last May I was fortunate to obtain two huge clients that were a great boon to me financially. Sadly, they were a bane to me in other ways.

From the start, the situation just "felt" wrong. These people were reactive rather than being proactive. They were non-communicative. They were toxic to themselves and others (I occasionally described the situation as "soul-sucking" rather than "life-enhancing."). They discouraged others rather than encouraging. They often were incompetent and clueless, being more motivated by a CYA philosophy than by good business practices. Worst of all, they often displayed dubious ethics.

I saw the signs, but chose to ignore them. I was so concerned about delivering my typically wonderful services that I didn't allow myself to accept the obvious. Nevertheless, I noticed enough "stuff" that I felt the need to resolve to "Just say NO!"

1. My physical space at these clients' facility was restrictive and uninspired, even a bit grim and dim. Ordinarily, I would have used my decorating skills to enhance the space, but my "little voice" kept saying, "don't waste your time." I was always amused by that, but not too concerned.

2. The leadership were often verbally abusive and attempted to be intimidating; being the compassionate individual that I am, I saw their emotional pain, and just ignored the abuse (in other words, I "enabled" them to continue their psychotic behavior ... shame on me!).

3. Even my initial interviews with these clients raised red flags, but I tend to see the glass as half full rather than half empty, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Yet, I did mention their micromanagerial approach to my friends. A business colleague was taken aback that they required three interviews with me (beyond several phone conversations) representing a total of about four hours of interview time, not including commuting. Communication was clearly a problem, as they had not communicated among themselves between my various interviews, and this later manifested when I discovered that knowledge and information that could have helped me accomplish my work had been withheld repeatedly. ARGH!

4. I was taken aback to see that some of the leadership actually felt threatened by me. A couple of them took innocuous things I had said and twisted them into falsehoods in order to make me look bad. Again, I just ignored them, because I saw their emotional pain and insecurity.

At some point, I asked myself, "What is wrong with this picture? Why am I tolerating this behavior? Is it at all salvageable?" Being the rational, analytical and really positive guy that I am, I couldn't help but see the upside of my experiences with these clients:

1. I met some interesting and fun colleagues.

2. I had been hired because my background was similar to these clients' areas of expertise; in the future, I may be submitting abstracts to at least one of them to offer my services as a speaker.

3. I was able to travel to Toronto (which I described in my December newsletter) ... what a great trip!

4. I did some amazing travel research for Florida adventures.

5. I learned some new software and gained additional knowledge.

6. I have an absolutely amazing, unparalleled, "you can't make this stuff up" collection of anecdotes for my writings, consultations and presentations.

So what happened? With one client, I worked with the team to get their annual meeting finalized with huge success, and afterwards, we parted company and everything was handled very professionally. I'm still in contact with some of those people.

The other client was a bit stranger. I quickly saw that they were in WAY over their heads. The team was a mixed bag: some extraordinary people, and others that were so toxic that I avoided them (it is unlike me to avoid anyone, so this just emphasizes the toxicity). I believed in their cause, so I allowed myself to fall into that trap of donating time. Over the course of ten months, I donated hundreds of hours to this group, and I knew I would be donating dozens more when I planned their annual conference in Tampa (I also knew I'd have lots of fun traveling to Miami, Coral Gables and Key Largo afterwards, without paying for airfare, so I saw it as a reasonable tradeoff!).

I had actually considered parting ways with them several months earlier, but I eventually realized that we were getting too close to their annual conference, and it would be unethical to abandon them prior to this important money-making event for them. I was man enough to endure their toxicity! Well, I had already mentioned their dubious ethics, so I wasn't "too" surprised when they told me one week before we were due to leave for the event that I was being "let go"! This is a prime example of incompetence on their part.

I had already said "No" to them, and had started setting up new clients after their scheduled annual conference. I knew I had to "just say NO" to their nastiness and toxicity. I know that I took the high road 100% of the way. I know that my ethics and competence outshine those of my client. I know that I am much better off being apart from them. In fact, within 24 hours of departing their premises, knowing I would never return, my muscles relaxed, my breathing deepened, my mind cleared and my thoughts became more creative ... hence my ability to write this column ... FINALLY! I have more time for myself, for my cats, for my friends. I'm catching up on research. New clients seem to be coming out of nowhere. I am so grateful.

This presents a wonderful example of how merely anticipating "just saying NO" can ease all sorts of transitions. It's a matter of psyching oneself up for a change. In future Sensational Livingâ columns, we will explore different types of transitions, and how embracing the "Just say NO" philosophy can make life so much easier and rewarding.

If you have anecdotes of how you've "just said NO" that you'd care to share, please do so by emailing me at bret@god-dess.com ... if you'd prefer to talk, you can reach me at773.508.9208 or email me.