I recently heard Tim Ferris offer his answer to the following question: “What’s the one problem you have yet to solve that eats at you the most?”
Tim’s answer was that he needs to improve his ability to say “no.” That answer alone wasn’t very interesting. Lots of people say that. What was interesting was his observation that he already says “no” 99/100 times. He’s already very good at rejecting many offers and opportunities that come his way even if he knows people may misunderstand his intentions.
His claim that he needs to improve in this area may sound like false modesty at first, but he explained why. He made it clear that the process of saying “no” can often be very time consuming. For instance, the very act of saying “no” implies an acknowledgement of the request. That is, in order to turn down an offer, you have to communicate with the party that makes the offer and let them know you’re going to decline. Some offers, however, don’t warrant acknowledgement. Some offers are inconsiderate. Some offers are a waste of time. Tim Ferris thinks he needs to get better at delineating the conditions that make offers and requests worth responding to. When he looks at a lot of the top performers he admires, he sees that they’re much better than him at this skill.
What makes Tim’s answer and explanation so impressive is that he has very specific reasons for believing that he can still improve his performance in an area where he already outperforms most people. This attitude is critical to all forms of progress. The biggest enemy of personal development isn’t being uninformed, or poor, or out of shape. The biggest enemy is being so content with what you think you already know that you lose your ability to imagine new ways of competing with yourself.
It doesn’t matter how much better you are than everyone else. It only matters how much better you are than your own resistance.