How to Say "No" When It Matters Most (or "Why I'm Taking a Long 'Startup Vacation'")

Matt_9509255413_99c9a1a118_z (Photo: Michael Matti)

The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

– Lin Yutang

Discipline equals freedom.

Jocko Willink

This post will attempt to teach you how to say “no” when it matters most.

At the very least, it will share my story of getting there. It’s a doozy.

Here’s the short version:

I’m taking a long break from investing in new startups. No more advising, either. Please don’t send me any pitches or introductions, as I sadly won’t be able to respond. Until further notice, I am done. I might do the same with interviews, conferences, and much more.

Now, the longer version for those interested:

This post will attempt to explain how I think about investing, overcoming “fear of missing out” (FOMO), and otherwise reducing anxiety.

It’s also about how to kill the golden goose, when the goose is no longer serving you.

I’ll dig into one specifically hard decision — to say “no” to startup investing, which is easily the most lucrative activity in my life. Even if you don’t view yourself as an “investor”—which you are, whether you realize it or not—the process I used to get to no should be useful…

[Warning: If you’re bored by investment stuff, skip the next two bulleted lists.]

Caveat for any investing pros reading this:

  • I realize there are exceptions to every “rule” I use. Most of this post is as subjective as the fears I felt.
  • My rules might be simplistic, but they’ve provided a good ROI and the ability to sleep. Every time I’ve tried to get “sophisticated,” the universe has kicked me in the nuts.
  • Many startup investors use diametrically opposed approaches and do very well.
  • There are later-stage investments I’ve made (2-4x return deals) that run counter to some of what’s below (e.g. aiming for 10x+), but those typically involve a discount to book value, due to distressed sellers or some atypical event.
  • Many concepts are simplified to avoid confusing a lay audience.

Related announcements:

  • I will continue working closely with my current portfolio of startups. I love them and believe in them.
  • I will be returning all unallocated capital in my private Stealth Fund on AngelList. If you’re an investor in that fund, you’ll be getting your remaining money back. My public Syndicate will remain in place for later re-entry into the game.

So, why am I tapping out now and shifting gears?

Below are the key questions I asked to arrive at this cord-cutting conclusion.  I revisit these questions often, usually every month.

I hope they help you remove noise and internal conflict from your life.

The Road to No

ARE YOU DOING WHAT YOU’RE UNIQUELY CAPABLE OF, WHAT YOU FEEL PLACED HERE ON EARTH TO DO? CAN YOU BE REPLACED?

I remember a breakfast with Kamal Ravikant roughly one year ago.

Standing in a friend’s kitchen downing eggs, lox, and coffee, we spoke about our dreams, fears, obligations, and lives. Investing had become a big part of my net-worth and my identity. Listing out the options I saw for my next big moves, I asked him if I should raise a fund and become a full-time venture capitalist (VC), as I was already doing the work but trying to balance it with 5-10 other projects. He could sense my anxiety. It wasn’t a dream of mine; I simply felt I’d be stupid not to strike while the iron was hot.

He thought very carefully in silence and then said: “I’ve been at events where people come up to you crying because they’ve lost 100-plus pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet. You will never have that impact as a VC. If you don’t invest in a company, they’ll just find another VC. You’re totally replaceable.”

He paused again and ended with, “Please don’t stop writing.”

I’ve thought about that conversation every day since.

For some people, being a VC is their calling and they are the Michael Jordan-like MVPs of that world. They should cultivate that gift. But if I stop investing, no one will miss it. In 2015, that much is clear. There have never been more startup investors, and–right along with them–founders basing “fit” on highest valuation and previously unheard of terms. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s crowded. If I exit through the side door, the startup party will roll on uninterrupted.

Now, I’m certainly not the best writer in the world. I have no delusions otherwise. People like John McPhee and Michael Lewis make me want to cry into my pillow and brand “Poser” on my forehead.

BUT… if I stop writing, perhaps I’m squandering the biggest opportunity I have—created through much luck—to have a lasting impact on the greatest number of people. This feeling of urgency has been multiplied 100-fold in the last two months, as several close friends have died in accidents no one saw coming. Life is fucking short. Put another way: a long life is far from guaranteed. Nearly everyone dies before they’re ready.

I’m tired of being interchangeable, no matter how lucrative the game. Even if I’m wrong about the writing, I’d curse myself if I didn’t give it a shot.

Are you squandering your unique abilities? Or the chance to find them in the first place?

HOW OFTEN ARE YOU SAYING “HELL, YEAH!”? 

Philosopher-programmer Derek Sivers is one of my favorite people.

His incisive thinking has always impressed me, and his “hell, yeah!” or “no” essay has become one of my favorite rules of thumb. From his blog:

Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying: If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then I say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no. When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

To become “successful,” you have to say “yes” to a lot of experiments.  To learn what you’re best at, or what you’re most passionate about, you have to throw a lot against the wall.

Once your life shifts from pitching outbound to defending against inbound, however, you have to ruthlessly say “no” as your default. Instead of throwing spears, you’re holding the shield.

From 2007-2009 and again from 2012-2013, I said yes to way too many “cool” things. Would I like to go to a conference in South America? Write a time-consuming guest article for a well-known magazine? Invest in a start-up that five of my friends were in? “Sure, that sounds kinda cool,” I’d say, dropping it in the calendar. Later, I’d pay the price of massive distraction and overwhelm. My agenda became a list of everyone else’s agendas.

Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-player, even if you have A-player skills. To develop your edge initially, you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others.

Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in 7-out-of-10 “cool” commitments that will sink the ship.

These days, I find myself saying “Hell, yes!” less and less with new startups. That’s my cue to exit stage left, especially when I can do work I love (e.g. writing) with 1/10th the energy expenditure.

I need to stop sowing the seeds of my own destruction.

HOW MUCH OF YOUR LIFE IS MAKING VERSUS MANAGING? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SPLIT?

One of my favorite time-management essays is “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” by Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame. Give it a read.

As Brad Feld and many others have observed, great creative work isn’t possible if you’re trying to piece together 30 minutes here and 45 minutes there. Large, uninterrupted block of time — 3-5 hours minimum — create the space needed to find and connect the dots. And one block per week isn’t enough.  There has to be enough slack in the system for multi-day CPU-intensive synthesis. For me, this means at least 3-4 mornings per week where I am in “maker” mode until at least 1pm.

If I’m in reactive mode, maker mode is all but impossible. Email and texts of “We’re overcommitted but might be able to squeeze you in for $25K. Closing tomorrow. Interested?” are creative kryptonite.

I miss writing, creating, and working on bigger projects. YES to that means NO to any games of whack-a-mole.

WHAT BLESSINGS IN EXCESS HAVE BECOME A CURSE? WHERE DO YOU HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

In excess, most things take on the characteristics of their opposite. Thus:

Pacifists become militants.

Freedom fighters become tyrants.

Blessings become curses.

Help becomes hinderance.

More becomes less.

To explore this concept more, read up on Aristotle’s golden mean.

In my first 1-2 years of angel investing, 90%+ of my bets were in a tiny sub-set of startups. The criteria were simple:

  • Consumer-facing products or services
  • Products I could be a dedicated “power user” of, products that scratched a personal itch
  • Initial target demographic of 25-40-year old tech-savvy males in big US cities like SF, NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. (allowed me to accelerate growth/scaling with my audience)
  • <$10M pre-money valuation
  • Demonstrated traction and consistent growth (not doctored with paid acquisition).
  • No “party rounds”—crowded financing rounds with no clear lead investor. Party rounds often lead to poor due diligence and few people with enough skin in the game to really care.

Checking these boxes allowed me to add a lot of value quickly, even as relatively cheap labor (i.e. I took a tiny stake in the company). Shopify is a great example, which you can read about here (scroll down).

My ability to help spread via word of mouth, and I got what I wanted: great “deal flow.” Deals started flowing in en masse from other founders and investors.

Fast forward to 2015, and great deal flow is now paralyzing the rest of my life.  I’m drowning in inbound.

Instead of making great things possible in my life, it’s preventing great things from happening.

I’m excited to go back to basics, and this requires cauterizing blessings that have become burdens.

WHY ARE YOU INVESTING, ANYWAY?

For me, the goal of “investing” has always been simple: to allocate resources (e.g. money, time, energy) to improve quality of life. This is a personal definition, as yours likely will be.

Some words are so overused as to have become meaningless.  If you find yourself using nebulous terms like “success,” “happiness,” or “investing,” it pays to explicitly define them or stop using them. “What would it look like if I had (or won at) ___ ?” helps. Life favors the specific ask and punishes the vague wish.

So, here: to allocate resources (e.g. money, time, energy) to improve quality of life.

This applies to both the future and the present. I am willing to accept a mild and temporary 10% decrease in current quality of life (based on morale in journaling) for a high-probability 10x return, whether the ROI comes in the form of cash, time, energy, or otherwise. That could be a separate blog post, but conversely:

An investment that produces a massive financial ROI but makes me a complete nervous mess, or causes insomnia and temper tantrums for a long period of time, is NOT a good investment.

I don’t typically invest in public stocks for this reason, even when I know I’m leaving cash on the table. My stomach can’t take the ups and downs, but—like drivers rubbernecking to look at a wreck—I seem incapable of not looking. I will compulsively check Google News and Google Finance, despite knowing it’s self-sabotage. I become Benjamin Graham’s Mr. Market. As counter-examples, friends like Kevin Rose and Chris Sacca have different programming and are comfortable playing in that sandbox. They can be rational instead of reactive.

Suffice to say — For me, a large guaranteed decrease in present quality of life doesn’t justify a large speculative return.

One could argue that I should work on my reactivity instead of avoiding stocks. I’d agree on tempering reactivity, but I’d disagree on fixing weaknesses as a primary investment (or life) strategy.

All of my biggest wins have come from leveraging strengths instead of fixing weaknesses. Investing is hard enough without having to change your core behaviors. Don’t push a boulder up a hill just because you can.

Public market sharks will eat me alive in their world, but I’ll beat 99% of them in my little early-stage startup sandbox. I live in the middle of the informational switch box and know the operators.

From 2007 until recently, I paradoxically found start-up investing very low-stress. Ditto with some options trading. Though high-risk, I do well with binary decisions. In other words, I do a ton of homework and commit to an investment that I cannot reverse. That “what’s done is done” aspect allows me to sleep well at night, as there is no buy-sell choice for the foreseeable future. I’m protected from my lesser, flip-flopping self. That has produced more than a few 10-100x investments.

In the last two years, however, my quality of life has suffered.

As fair-weather investors and founders have flooded the “hot” tech scene, it’s become a deluge of noise. Where there were once a handful of micro VCs, for instance, there are now hundreds. Private equity firms and hedge funds are betting earlier and earlier. It’s become a crowded playing field. Here’s what that has meant for me personally:

  • I get 50-100 pitches per week. This creates an inbox problem, but it gets worse, as…
  • Many of these are unsolicited “cold intros,” where other investors will email me and CC 2-4 founders with “I’d love for you to meet A, B, and C” without asking if they can share my e-mail address
  • Those founders then “loop in” other people, and it cascades horribly from there. Before I know it 20-50 people I don’t know are emailing me questions and requests.
  • As a result, I’ve had to declare email bankruptcy twice in the last six months. It’s totally untenable.

Is there a tech bubble? That question is beyond my pay grade, and it’s also beside the point.

Even if I were guaranteed there would be no implosion for 3-5 years, I’d still exit now. Largely due to communication overload, I’ve lost my love for the game.  On top of that, the marginal minute now matters more to me than the marginal dollar.

But why not cut back 50%, or even 90%, and be more selective?  Good question. That’s next…

ARE YOU FOOLING YOURSELF WITH A PLAN FOR MODERATION?

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

– Richard P. Feynman

Where in your life are you good at moderation? Where are you an all-or-nothing type? Where do you lack a shut-off switch? It pays to know thyself.

The Slow-Carb Diet succeeds where other diets fail for many reasons, but the biggest is this: It accepts default human behaviors versus trying to fix them. Rather than say “don’t cheat” or “you can no longer eat X,” we plan weekly “cheat days” (usually Saturdays) in advance. People on diets will cheat regardless, so we mitigate the damage by pre-scheduling it and limiting it to 24 hours.

Outside of cheat days, slow carbers keep “domino foods” out of their homes. What are domino foods? Foods that could be acceptable if humans had strict portion control, but that are disallowed because practically none of us do. Common domino foods include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Peanut butter
  • Salted cashews
  • Alcohol

Domino triggers aren’t limited to food. For some people, if they play 15 minutes of World of Warcraft, they’ll play 15 hours. It’s zero or 15 hours.

For me, startups are a domino food.

In theory, “I’ll only do one deal a month” or “I’ll only do two deals a quarter” sound great, but I’ve literally NEVER seen it work for myself or any of my VC or angel friends. Sure, there are ways to winnow down the pitches. Yes, you can ask “Is this one of the top 1-2 entrepreneurs you know?” to any VC who intro’s a deal and reject any “no”s. But what if you commit to two deals a quarter and see two great ones the first week? What then? If you invest in those two, will you be able to ignore every incoming pitch for the next 10 weeks?

Not likely.

For me, it’s all or nothing. I can’t be half pregnant with startup investing.  Whether choosing 2 or 20 startups per year, you have to filter them from the total incoming pool.

If I let even one startup through, another 50 seem to magically fill up my time (or at least my inbox). I don’t want to hire staff for vetting, so I’ve concluded I must ignore all new startup pitches and intros.

Know where you can moderate and where you can’t.

YOU SAY “HEALTH IS #1″…BUT IS IT REALLY?

After contracting Lyme disease and operating at ~10% capacity for nine months, I made health #1. Prior to Lyme, I’d worked out and eaten well, but when push came to shove, “health #1” was negotiable. Now, it’s literally #1. What does this mean?

If I sleep poorly and have an early morning meeting, I’ll cancel the meeting last-minute if needed and catch up on sleep. If I’ve missed a workout and have a con-call coming up in 30 minutes? Same. Late-night birthday party with a close friend? Not unless I can sleep in the next morning. In practice, strictly making health #1 has real social and business ramifications. That’s a price I’ve realized I MUST be fine paying, or I could lose weeks or months to sickness or fatigue.

Making health #1 50% of the time doesn’t work. It’s absolute — all or nothing. If it’s #1 50% of the time, you’ll compromise precisely when it’s most important.

The artificial urgency common to startups makes mental and physical health even more challenging. I’m tired of unwarranted last-minute “hurry up and sign” emergencies and related fire drills. It’s a culture of cortisol.

ARE YOU OVER-CORRELATED?

[NOTE: Two investors friends found this bullet slow, as they’re immersed in similar subjects. Feel free to skip if it drags on, but I think there are a few important novice concepts in here.]

“Correlated” means that investments tend to move up or down in value at the same time.

As legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio told Tony Robbins: “It’s almost certain that whatever you’re going to put your money in, there will come a day when you will lose 50 percent to 70 percent.” It pays to remember that if you lose 50%, you need a subsequent 100% return to get back to where you started. That math is tough.

So, how to de-risk your portfolio?

Many investors “rebalance” across asset classes to maintain certain ratios (e.g. X% in bonds, Y% in stocks, Z% in commodities, etc.). If one asset class jumps, they liquidate a part of it a buy more of lower performing classes. There are pros and cons to this, but it’s common practice.

From 2007-2009, during the “real-world MBA” that taught me to angel invest, <15% of my liquid assets were in startups. I was taking a barbell approach to investing. But most startups are illiquid. I commonly can’t sell shares until 7-12 years after I invest, at least for my big winners to date. What does that mean? In 2015, startups comprise more than 80% of my assets. Yikes!

Since I can’t sell, the simplest first step for lowering stress is to stop investing in illiquid assets.

I’ve sold large portions of liquid stocks—mostly early start-up investments in China–to help get me to “sleep at night” levels, even if they are lower than historical highs of the last 6-12 months. Beware of anchoring to former high prices (e.g. “I’ll sell when it gets back to X price per share…”). I only have 1-2 stock holdings remaining.

Some of you might suggest hedging with short positions, and I’d love to, but it’s not my forte. If you have ideas for doing so without huge exposure or getting into legal gray areas, please let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, the venture capital model is mostly a bull market business. Not much shorting opportunity. The best approximation I’ve seen is investing in businesses like Uber, which A) have a lot of international exposure (like US blue chips), and B) could be considered macro-economically counter-cyclical. For instance, it’s conceivable a stock market correction or crash could simultaneously lead fewer people to buy cars and/or more people to sign up as Uber drivers to supplement or replace their jobs. Ditto with Airbnb and others that have more variable than fixed costs compared to incumbents (e.g. Hilton).

WHAT’S THE RUSH? CAN YOU “RETIRE” AND COME BACK?

I’m in startups for the long game. In some capacity, I plan to be doing this 20+ years from now.

The reality: If you’re spending your own money, or otherwise not banking on management fees, you can wait for the perfect pitches, even if it takes years. It might not be the “best” approach, but it’s enough. To get rich beyond your wildest dreams in startup investing, it isn’t remotely necessary to bet on a Facebook or Airbnb every year. If you get a decent bet on ONE of those non-illusory, real-business unicorns every 10 years, or if you get 2-3 investments that turn $25K into $2.5M, you can retire and have a wonderful quality of life. Many would argue that you need to invest in 50-100 startups to find that one lottery ticket. Maybe. I think it’s possible to narrow the odds quite a bit more, and a lot of it is predicated on maintaining stringent criteria; ensuring you have an informational, analytical, or behavioral advantage; and TIMING.

Most of my best investments were made during the “Dot-com Depression” of 2008-2009 (e.g. Uber, Shopify, Twitter, etc.), when only the hardcore remained standing on a battlefield littered with startup bodies. In lean times, when startups no longer grace magazine covers, founders are those who cannot help but build a company. LinkedIn in 2002 is another example.

HOWEVER… This doesn’t mean there aren’t great deals out there.  There are. Great companies are still built during every “frothy” period.

The froth just makes my job and detective work 10x harder, and the margin of safety becomes much narrower.

[Tim: Skip this boxed text if the concept of “margin of safety” is old news to you.]

Think of the “margin of safety” as wiggle room.

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful investors of the 20th century and a self-described “value investor.” He aims to buy stocks at a discount (below intrinsic value) so that even with a worst-case scenario, he can do well. This discount is referred to as the “margin of safety,” and it’s the bedrock principle of some of the brightest minds in the investing world (e.g., Seth Klarman). It doesn’t guarantee a good investment, but it allows room for error.  Back in the startup world…

I want each of my investments, if successful, to have the ability to return my “entire fund,” which is how much capital I’ve earmarked for startups over two years, for instance. This usually means potential for a minimum 10X return. That 10X minimum is an important part of my recipe that allows margin for screw ups.

For the fund-justifying ROI to have a snowball’s chance in hell of happening, I must A) know basic algebra to ensure my investment amounts (check sizes) permit it, and B) avoid companies that seem overpriced, where the 10x price is something the world has never seen before (i.e. no even indirect comparables, or tenable extrapolations from even an expanded market size).

If you throw low-due-diligence Hail Mary’s everywhere and justify it with “they could be the next Uber!”, you will almost certainly be killed by 1,000 slow-bleeding $25K paper cuts. Despite current euphoria, applying something like Pascal’s Wager to startups is a great way to go broke.

Good startup investors who suggest being “promiscuous” are still methodical.

It’s popular in startup land to talk about “moonshots”—the impossibly ambitious startups that will either change the world or incinerate themselves into star dust.

I’m a fan of funding ballsy founders (which includes women), and I want many moonshots to be funded, but here’s the reality of my portfolio: as I’ve signed the investment docs for every big success I’ve had, I’ve always thought, “I will never lose money on this deal.”

The “this will be a home run or nothing” deals usually end up at nothing. I’m not saying such deals can’t work, but I try not to specialize in them.

These days, the real unicorns aren’t the media darlings with billion-dollar valuations. Those have become terrifyingly passé. The unicorns are the high-growth startups with a reasonable margin of safety.

Fortunately, I’m not in a rush, and I can wait for the tide to shift.

If you simply wait for blood in the streets, for when true believers are the only ones left, you can ensure come-hell-or-high-water founders are at least half of your meetings.

It might be morbid, but it’s practical.

My Last Deals For A While

It’s still a great time to invest in companies… but only if you’re able to A) filter the signal from the noise, B) say no to a lot of great companies whose investors are accepting insane terms, and C) follow your own rules. Doing all three of these requires a fuck-ton of effort, discipline, and systems. I prefer games with better odds.

There are a few deals you’ll see in the upcoming months, which I committed to long ago. These are not new deals.

They are current companies in which I’m filling my pro-rata, or companies postponing funding announcements until they’re most helpful (e.g. launching publicly). Separately, I work closely with the Expa startup lab and will continue to do so. They are largely able to insulate themselves from madness, while using and refining an excellent playbook.

Are You Having a Breakdown or a Breakthrough? A Short How-To Guide

“Make your peace with the fact that saying ‘no’ often requires trading popularity for respect.”

– Greg McKeown, Essentialism

If you’re suffering from a feeling of overwhelm, it might be useful to ask yourself two questions:

– In the midst of overwhelm, is life not showing me exactly what I should subtract?

– Am I having a breakdown or a breakthrough?

As Marcus Aurelius and Ryan Holiday would say, “The obstacle is the way.” This doesn’t mean seeing problems, accepting them, and leaving them to fester. Nor does it mean rationalizing problems into good things. To me, it means using pain to find clarity. Pain–if examined and not ignored–can show you what to excise from your life.

For me, step one is always the same: write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions.

My step two is doing a “fear-setting” exercise on paper, in which I ask and answer “What is really the worst that could happen if I did what I’m considering? And so what? How could I undo any damage?”

Below is a real-world example: the journal page that convinced me to write this post and kickstart an extended startup vacation.

The questions were “What is really the worst that could happen if I stopped angel investing for a minimum of 6-12 months? Do those worse-case scenarios really matter? How could I undo any potential damage? Could I do a two-week test?”

As you’ll notice, I made lists of the guaranteed upsides versus speculative downsides. If we define “risk” as I like to—the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome—we can see how stupid (and unnecessarily painful) all my fretting and procrastination was. All I needed to do was put it on paper.

Below is a scan of the actual page.  Click here for an enlarged version.

Further below is a transcribed version (slightly shorter and edited). For a full explanation of how and why I use journaling, see this post.  In the meantime, this will get the point across:

Journal_Startup_Vacation

Transcription:

“The anxiety is mostly related to email and startups: new pitches, new intros, etc.

Do a 2-week test where “no” to ALL cold intros and pitches?

Why am I hesitant? For saying “no” to all:

PROS:

– 100% guaranteed anxiety reduction

– Feeling of freedom

– Less indecision, less deliberation, so far more bandwidth for CREATING, for READING, for PHYSICAL [TRAINING], for EXPERIMENTS.

CONS (i.e. why not?):

– Might find the next Uber (<10% chance) — Who cares? Wouldn’t materialize for 7-9 years. If Uber pops (IPO), it won’t matter.

– Not get more deals. But who cares?

* Dinner with 5 friends fixes it.

* One blog post fixes it. [Here’s an example from 2013 that helped me find Shyp and co-lead their first round]

* NONE of my best deals (Shyp, Shopify, Uber, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Alibaba, etc.) came from cold intros from acquaintances.

If try 2 weeks, how to ensure successful:

– I don’t even see interview or [new] startup emails

– No con-calls. [Cite] “con call vacation” –> push to email or EOD [end-of-day review with assistant]

– Offer [additional] “office hours” on Fridays [for existing portfolio]?

I ultimately realized: If I set up policies to avoid new startups for two weeks, the systems will persist. I might as well make it semi-permanent and take a real “startup vacation.”

What do you need a vacation from?

My Challenge To You: Write Down The “What If”s

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

– Mark Twain

“He who suffers before it is necessary suffers more than is necessary.”

– Seneca

Tonight or tomorrow morning, take a decision you’ve been putting off, and challenge the fuzzy “what if”s holding you hostage.

If not now, when? If left at the status quo, what will your life and stress look like in six months? In one year? In three years? Who around you will also suffer?

I hope you find the strength to say no when it matters most. I’m striving for the same, and only time will tell if I pull it off.

What will I spend my time on next? More crazy experiments and creative projects, of course.  To hear about them first, sign up for my infrequent newsletter. Things are going to get nuts.

But more important — how could you use a new lease on life?

To surf, like this attorney who quit the rat race? To travel with your family around the world for 1,000+ days, like this?  To learn languages or work remotely in 20+ countries while building a massive business? It’s all possible. The options are limitless…

So start by writing them down. Sometimes, it takes just a piece of paper and a few questions to create a breakthrough.

I look forward to hearing about your adventures.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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297 Replies to “How to Say "No" When It Matters Most (or "Why I'm Taking a Long 'Startup Vacation'")”

  1. Good on you for having the courage to choose Tim!

    Better that you are the one making an active choice (whether good or bad) than not doing so and hoping things work out. The latter is really just making a passive choice to cede control of your life.

  2. Tim!! I’m so excited you’re going to be doing more writing! I love your writing and have noticed you haven’t been doing as much, and I’ve missed it. Parts of this post could not have come at a better time for me. I need to decide on a new business/career. This has helped me remember what’s important. Thanks.

  3. Great post. Funny story, we were selling our business when I ran into “The 4 Hour Workweek”, changed our mind, figured we weren’t doing it right, needed to delegate and outsource.

    Didn’t work out as planned LOL Economy tanked, outsourcing sounded better than it was in reality, Tried the general manager route but it doesn’t really work because they aren’t the “owner” like you are, they want to do things “their own way” and then they quit anyway so you’d better hope you didn’t give them too much leeway to screw up the company!

    So half-way as a business owner didn’t work for us. It was fine because in the next 5 years we made a lot more money, sold the company for more, invested in commercial real estate, and now never have to work. But sometimes it’s better to be “in” or “out” and not “halfway.”.

  4. Tim- congratulations on your decision- truly shows that you are willing to do what it takes to be on top of your game and that you continue to define your game in a very broad sense. I’m now considering something similar for myself.

    I’ve thought a lot about how you invest and where you might gain peace of mind while keeping your huge overweight on early-stage tech.

    Through your observations and network, you must have incredible (and completely legal) insight on many likely losers in the economy who could be hurt by some of the winners where you’ve invested or even others where you’ve passed but believe in the market. You also likely wish to limit your losses on any one idea to a small portion of your worth, while sleeping easy.

    You should look into long-term out of the money puts with small portions of your worth in areas that will ultimately be smaller niches or go away. In the past, this was newspapers, yellow pages, and record companies; today it might be taxi medallion companies and other challenged operators. You can “set it and forget it,” use your existing knowledge base, allocate some bets that resonate with your value system (while staying out of the crazy day-to-day of deals), and solidify your investing acumen. Let me know if this sounds interesting; I’d love to join some of your next adventures.

  5. Thank you for this Tim. I’ve spent a few years highly anxious about the success or failure of my start-up. This was mostly because I had an unquestioned bias toward the culture and environment that perpetuates this trade model. But I now know that don’t have the temperament to make effective use of this model and I’ve come to terms with that now. I have come to understand that this is but one means to a desired end. This post has reassured me of my decision to leave the start-up game and allocate my focus toward creative and strategic value-adding efforts. All thanks to your content.

  6. Outstanding. thanks for sharing and taking the time to write. This is inspirational for 9-5 office workers like me to just realise that successful people get anxiety too.

  7. Thanks for the great post Tim. Not sure if you have kids, but being a father was the best start up I ever began. 100% guaranteed to evolve your perspective, whatever your circumstances, lol ;), where would it take you?

  8. Tim,

    Listen to this weeks podcast by Tara Brach. Oct 31-Nov 2 timeframe. Very fitting concerning this blog post.

    Go where you need to. I’ve always got your back. Just keep moving forward.

    -Jason

  9. Tim, your blog really inspired me. I love that comment, if you can be replaced…really good point to doublecheck if you are really focused on a passion area. Some people would never understand your decision, but it hit me straight on and gave me a push to do what I’ve been thinking about. Thanks! Ann

  10. Tim

    As you know one of your biggest risks at this point is liquidity risk so taking the barbell approach (liquidate everything else to cash) is the right first step.

    Regarding hedging the 80% of your portfolio in startups…

    There are not many terribly good options. The ETF market does provide the ability to selectively hedge based on the sector concentration in your portfolio (tech, healthcare etc…). These inverse ETFs, for the most part, provide 2X exposure so you’re getting $2 in short exposure for every $1 in you invest in the ETF. This is good and bad. It’s good from the perspective that it’s cash efficient and doesn’t require active management (like you would need with an option hedge program). The bad news is that the ETF typically carry a 95bps fee and they can be subject to volatility “chop”. Given that they have to rebalance every day they will not perfectly track the performance of the underlying. There are also broader market ETFs (NASDAQ 100) that take a 3X short approach.

    Long story short (pun NOT intended), if you are looking for an relatively easy and passive way of taking some market beta off the table, you could use a combination of 2x short sector ETFs and 3x short broad market ETFs to partially hedge your VC book. Costs would be about 95bps on the cash invested, less if you want to think about it in terms of the “notional” exposure covered.

    Not perfect by any stretch…but something if you’re getting nervous.

    Jim

  11. Howdy Tim!

    Thank you for sharing this, very powerful!

    Could you please share some ideas on being an early employee of a startup? I am currently working for a startup, but don’t know if the stress is worth it!-) Also, I don’t know how/what to ask for concerning wage, shares, etc.

    A podcast episode or blog post would be awesome on the subject!

  12. Tim, I’ve been listening to your podcasts and following you for a while; currently I’m living in Bariloche, Argentina, but will be returning to the states in under a month… I never comment under posts, in fact, I think I’ve only done it once on the web and that was simply to give Ray Kurzweil props for his incredible insights in “The Singularity Is Near,” but man, you truly are an inspiration. I’ve read countless book recommendations of yours, listened to the bulk of your podcasts and in envisioning who I’d like to model my life by of all the people in the world it is you. That may sound cheesy and a bit weird and by no means do I intend it as such, nor am I even sure if you’ll actually read this comment, but brother, keep doing what you’re doing. I don’t necessarily agree with all the things you say or do, but in every respect I’m inspired by you, in fact this morning I’ve been learning about blogging on Lynda.com in hopes of creating my own outlet even if it provides zero monetary gain, just simply to hopefully provide some of the same (and different insights) you’ve provided to those near to me back home in Louisiana. You’re an absolute rock star who truly embraces a living a full life. Thanks for the continued great content

  13. These are fantastic news, Tim. Time for you to change the world!!! Seriously.

    For some reason I just remembered the beautiful words from Tim Berners-Lee when Aaron Swartz died…

    “Aaron is dead.

    Wanderers in this crazy world,

    we have lost a mentor, a wise elder.

    Hackers for right, we are one down,

    we have lost one of our own.

    Nurtures, careers, listeners, feeders,

    parents all,

    we have lost a child.

    Let us all weep.

    timbl”

    I believe that could be you, Tim. A mentor (for humankind, not a startup), a wise elder.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a BIG fan… But here in this planet, we’ll do just fine with one less startup or one less lifestyle hack, right?

    Aim high Tim… Fix education, democracy, corruption, poverty, health system… I’m not kidding. You can do it!

    1. Everything we do is prosocial – from senior care apps to roofie tests (first that will work). It feels good to get up everyday with a team of prosocial soldiers and say yes, this change will happen, because we will it to be so.

  14. Tim,

    I can’t begin to thank you enough for sharing your journey. Your journaling has inspired me as well as your podcasts. I truly feel like through all that you have done that I am truly a part of something.

    I look forward to your new adventures and sharing in the journey. Sending good vibes your way.

  15. Tim, I don’t recall you ever making comments or sharing thoughts regarding marijuana ? Was just curious if you are a user and/ or if you feel it is a negative thing.

  16. I’m glad Kamal told you that. I love your writing. Also, perfect description regarding Derek. I see you too as a x-philosopher. You can take on x and be thoroughly engaging as you write about your experiences and thoughts with x.

  17. Also worth noting… The top 5 years in the last 20 ranked by capital deployed to US startups (all stages) According to MatterMark Research, Crunchbase and AngelList:

    1. 2000 – @110 bil

    2. 2015 (proj) – @$80 bil

    3. 2014 – >$60 bil

    4. 1999 – <$60 bil

    5. 2013 – @$40 bil

  18. Thanks Tim. I love your podcasts, but I didn’t realize how much I enjoy your long, well-thought out blog posts. Please write more. You are inspiring me to follow my heart, no matter what the conventional path may be.

    I came across your work in March this year, after a big slump sophomore year in college. I am now feeling so much more in tune with myself and the world (currently taking time off). And a large portion of this change has been your work.

    I wrote a mock-Facebook post the other day celebrating my birthday, writing down all the things I do now because of your work. Here it goes.

    “Inspired by my dear friend Morgan, I have decided to unravel things that mean a lot to me. And there have been a quite a few turning points in the past year, but none has been as pivotal as discovering Tim Ferriss. Reading his work was like Trump visiting Moscow. It couldn’t be more natural and fascinating at the same time. Why would meeting an online self-help falsely-promising guru be such a big deal? Let me explain.

    The following are things I did or currently do, because of Tim Ferriss:

    Wim Hof Method

    Low-Info Diet

    Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator

    Dvorak (Typing in it right now!)

    Occam’s Protocol and Gallon of Milk a Day

    Pareto’s Law, or the 80/20 Principle

    Protecting Time

    Be a Jack of all trades, but don’t multitask

    Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    Vagabonding by Rolf Potts

    Meditation and Spiritual Experiences

    Momentum

    Reading Fiction to Sleep (Rediscovering Ayn Rand)

    Chess

    Writing

    Handwriting with my left

    Challenge Notions about Relationships (NSFW, please no reverse ad hominem attacks)

    Obsessive Notetaking

    The following are personalities I follow because of Tim Ferriss:

    Rolf Potts

    Scott Adams

    Neil Strauss (reintroduced)

    Wim Hof

    Josh Waitzkin

    Of course, I am eternally grateful to my kindred spirit Sung who introduced me to Tim Ferriss. So I am really grateful to JY who introduced me to Sung. Then I thank Ana for inspiring me to take Chinese. Then everything was possible because some guy inspired Ana to take that Arabic class. So I thank that guy too.

    We are all connected, as a piece of paper is not without a cumulonimbus. I am simply eternally grateful to be part of the process.”

    Thanks for keeping it real and having the courage to question it all. Nowadays I search “Tim Ferriss” and another term I want to learn, because your method has proven to be reliable. I have been interested in competitive video gaming (SSBM) as a means of self-actualization (obsessed with Maslow at the moment), so I wonder if you have done any experiments regarding reaction time. My current solution is the Wim Hof Method, using oxygen as a steroid.

  19. Great stuff. I’ve been wanting to dial back for a long time, it just gets very hard to choose which activities to cut sometimes. I can’t imagine the pressure at your level. Although, yes your stakes are much higher, but I guess it’s still the same questions for everyone. What is/isn’t truly nourishing my soul? What is/isn’t a worthy use of my extremely limited time here on Earth? Etc.

  20. Onya Tim for communicating your decision with thought and respect for your global audience. Hope you can visit Australia soon.

  21. Warren Buffet lives in Omaha for the very reason of not getting distracted with all the noise / hype of being in Wall Street. Being in Silicon Valley doesn’t help your cause.

    How will your life change if you go from having (say) 15M to 100M? More cash will only let your arrive at your adventures in more style and quicker with a few anxiety attacks along the way 😉

    Tim – go find your Omaha.

  22. Tim,

    I am not sure what finally made you make this decision but I think its one of your smartest for long term happiness. It took my 7 year old daughter getting in my face and having the come to Jesus talk about practicing what I preach about life, happiness and core values, of which I have been to busy with business to focus on. Well I am focused on her now and I hope you find true pleasure in what you decide to focus on next. Thanks for all the great advice and I wish you the best! Jason

  23. Tim,

    Great article. I’m a bit ADD with reading, but it captured my interest and gave me something to relate. I’ve been struggling with the idea of quitting my 6 figure job to experiment with alternative life styles and businesses. I plan to put your fear-setting exercise into practice and hope it’ll give me the courage.

  24. Tim

    Exiting news. I know it has been profitable but the world has enough suits. It isn’t you man. Be 25 again and excite the rest of us.

    David

  25. EXACTLY what I have been living for 2 years with bitcoin and crypto-currencies. I invested just before the 2013 bubble, earnt enough, left my job and became trader. In the beginning, I only have to check 2-3 signals during first 15 minutes of the day, and plenty of time. Now I have thousands of signals, currencies and alerts to check, nights included. I can’t moderate anymore, I will not succeed in moderating anyway, every try to ban charts or websites was a failure. I need a break.

    Thank you Tim

  26. This sounds like a great move! Sounds like you need the break, and your friends and family will appreciate having you more time with you.

    I have used many of your techniques in my personal and business life, from slow carb to Occam’s razor to Pareto principal and more.

    I’m finishing my degree at night in addition to my day job and running the business and the family. So I definitely understand the feeling of being overbooked.

    I am trying to sell the business, but haven’t been able to get the valuation I need. Any book recommendations for valuing a small business?

    Keep it up, I will be looking forward to your next creative release!

    PS on a technical note – you might consider adding functionality into WP to enable notifications to replies of comments (rather than just notifications of new comments). Check out http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-notify-users-only-on-replies-to-their-wordpress-comments/ for an example.

  27. Tim, I wanted to let you know that in the future you should avoid blurring things with mosaics. The data is still vulnerable as you can brute force the blurring algorithm to retrieve data. However, just putting black over the data instead (I know so uncool :/) will save you a lot of headache if someone manages to undo it.

  28. I see you not only as a teacher but also as a practical philosopher. And what I like about your thoughts and actions so much is that you teach best what you need most. And that you are open, humble and also show your vulnerable side. That makes it so authentic and valuable and clear.

    Besides I am having the same struggles and thoughts in my current life stage and I get a lot of inspiration and energy from your interviews and writing. Thank you Tim

  29. A great epiphany of when to realize a need to stop! Thank you for making me questioning my own situation, that it is okay to say “NO” and what questions one needs to ask them self. Funny. I think you just saved my ass from making a very bad business decision. Thank you!

  30. Tim, I’ve been following you off and on for the past 5+ years. Your skill is in learning how to ask absolutely amazing questions. Great content follows naturally regardless of whether it’s you or your interviewee. Thanks for pushing the limits on what can and should be asked because it pushes the limits on what we as readers think about.

  31. Hello Tim

    I have been listening to your podcasts for the past twelve months and think you have a great out look on life.Thanks for your efforts to introduce a variety of interesting humans to the wider world.

    Unfortunately for myself I came across this blog post two weeks too late as I’ve just signed up to a large mortgage on a house that requires a lot of work , more importantly my time spent on it. I’m sure a financial gain is possible however similar to your situation I’m second guessing the ROI vs stress for my family.

    A point I would like to make to anyone reading this comment is to step back from the POTENTIAL situation , hit the pause button and assess the real value proposition with a clear mind.

    Many things will become apparent .

    You may find many people within the deal don’t have your best interest in mind even though you are paying them for a service.

    It may also become clear that material items can never provide the satisfaction of spending real time with friends and family.

    Saying No can be difficult , but more often than not it will be a much more rewarding investment long term.

  32. You have one of the best podcasts, you write like a modern Shakespeare (but about nowadays things) and it feels that the way you do it (i.e. when interviewing someone) makes you happy and you really enjoying talking to all of them interesting people. I have no idea if all this, the blog and the podcast, gives you enough money to have the quality of life you desire, but if it does, hell yeah you should f0ck the investments off and just to this, because since i started listening to you, my life has changed, you’re the best, please to this forever. Big thanks from south brazil!!!!

  33. Thanks Tim and good one, glad to hear you are prioritizing your life. I can imagine if and when you have kids this would be huge time savings.

    I saw you at UPWLA, can I guess that some of this came out if that work? Will you be writing about your experiences there? Onwards and hope to bump into you some day in the Bay!

    Jrad

    PS- live the Hells Yeah or No #hellsyeahorNo

  34. Tim my friend,

    I was watching something about the sun earlier and decided to have a look on wikipedia, this is what i found:

    The Sun today is roughly halfway through the most stable part of its life. It has not changed dramatically for four billion[b] years, and will remain fairly stable for four billion more.

    Life is too short and the sun will still shine for long after, you have taught me a lot with your podcast, books and blog and I could only thank you for that.

    When you are back on the game you will be like the red giant.

    Good on you man, will be here to witness the next chapters.

  35. Man, as always extremely inspiring and thought provoking! Thank you for sharing your journey and thought processes.

    I myself have been trying to say no to anything that isn’t a HELL YEAH, like Derek says, and I’ve found that it is easier than I thought.

    Sure, every now and then you piss someone off, but that’s a minor price to pay for owning your experiences and agenda for that matter.

    It takes a certain level of self-awareness to pull this off, and I suggest everyone trying to implement this into their lives to come up with a very polite, all-purpose one-liner that could help others understand why you are saying no – it helps a lot!

    Thanks again Tim, enjoy your well deserved vacation.

  36. Nassim Taleb has a relationship with Universa Investments. They have a great strategy where you ask them to protect against the tail risk on a certain-sized portfolio. Based on the methodology, you don’t need to match the portfolio dollar for dollar. Hope that is helpful.

  37. Short position reco: Tim, Love the post. My recommendation for taking a little risk off the table would be to protect the value of your wealth against a loss of value in dollar terms. You need a basic inflation/currency hedge. A small allocation to gold may be a good idea. A lot of the “froth” you talk about is coming from the wealth effect created by easy monetary policy in the US and abroad. Protect against tightening credit policies globally or their counterpart; currency devaluation. Any losses suffered in your closely held businesses should be mitigated. FWIW, I’m not a pro in these areas and if you don’t have a pro on your personal payroll, find one. I’m all for a robo-advisor on your personal stock and bond investments, but once you hit a certain level of net worth you need to develop a bigger macro hedge against the dollar. Good luck, and enjoy the start-up vacation.

  38. When I read your writings, I find myself saying “hell yeah” often. Thanks. I totally get it.

    Next month, I will buy a boat, per my dreamlining action plan. I’m thinking about naming it “Hell Yeah”, but I’m still leaning towards “Tranquilo”. It’s a sailboat, after all.

  39. Thanks for sharing this and being so open here Tim. I am really sorry to hear about the friends you have lost. This line especially resonated with me: “Life is fucking short. Put another way: a long life is far from guaranteed. Nearly everyone dies before they’re ready.”

    Veterans Day is always a tough one for me, it reminds me of all my buddies I have lost to war, suicide, drugs, cancer, etc. But in those moments I remind myself that since I am still around, let me do something meaningful with my place here on this earth. As you can clearly relate, becoming more aware of our mortality is a great way to stay focused on what really matters in our lives.

    You are a master at your art Tim and a great teacher who has impacted the lives of millions, including mine – your work has helped me run ultras (despite having flat feet, bad knees, scoliosis and a blood disorder that 2 doctors said would kill me in USMC boot camp – thankfully it did not 🙂 ), start and build a business that allows me to work from anywhere and return from the verge of suicide after Iraq (Your post on suicide was incredible), among other things.

    So thank you for all that you do and all that you are. It is great to read that you are returning to your art with a renewed focus and commitment. Really looking forward to seeing what is next for you Tim.

    To you and your continued success!

  40. Tim,

    Thank you for this post … I’ve been wondering what’s been eating you for awhile – it was apparent probably for a lot of us who have been following your journey since the beginning. 😉

    Take a breather.

    And, remember the story of the Mexican Fisherman … for years it has been one of my biggest takeaways from your writing. Don’t forget it yourself. 😉

    Peace.

    D

  41. Tim, I applaud you for sharing this, for deciding to change course and not let the fear of missing out sway your decision. Not only Hell Yeah should motivate us, but poison gas. We should seek those things out in life that tear us up, put that lump in our throat and stop us dead in our tracks.

    The sad thing about almost dying is not the fear, the sudden shock of realizing your life will end, it is the empty awareness–looking over and noticing you forgot to put your shirt in the hamper.

    I was in a motorcycle accident in 2003. Spent a few weeks in the hospitol. Brain was bleeding, broke multiple bones and was nearly run over by an 18 wheeler truck. It was on I-5 in Weed, Ca. Hit essentially a curb doing 85 mph. They graded the left lane and the warning signs were not visible to me and as I flew through the air my only thought was–

    “I am going to die.”

    Time was scattered snapshots tossed in the air. Moments briefly glimpsed.

    My buddy was wise enough to make sure to stop in the middle of the road and wave off the truck. At that time of night it had been just the three of us weaving between the semis and the crisp air and scent of pines.

    I often see the last 22 years as a gift. As time I easily could have lost. For 99% of us we will awake that morning of our last day alive feeling as immortal as we have most of our lives. That dull shock, the empty awareness will be something most never could have imagined would happen then. . .as if death comes at convenient times.

    I visit that memory. Force myself to recognize that I would not have been given a flash of my life, not the sudden fear I would never see my family again. No, my last thoughts would have been a simple notation–then the void would have swallowed me.

    “Suns may set and rise again, but for us, once the short light has once set, remains to be slept the sleep of one unbroken night.”

    –Catullus

  42. Tim,

    Powerful post. It really hit home and has given me some introspective work to do. Your ability to shoot straight and write with vulnerability resonates.

    Please keep writing!!!

    Jeff

  43. Tim,

    So much good stuff here I don’t even know where to begin. Maybe with sincere thanks and gratitude for all you have given me over the last few years. Between your blog, books and podcasts I’m humbled by the amount of information. You have inspired me to become a better version of myself, or maybe just become more like myself.

    When I read this article a month and a half ago I was struck by the emotion and honesty behind the words. I actually stopped several times while reading just to pause and think about these ideas. You are right, anyone can invest in a start-up, but what you create is uniquely yours. How can you put a price on that? How could you NOT do it. Sometimes the most obvious truths come to us when we just stop and listen. This post was one nudge which finally got me writing.

    You have a gift for writing, and a gift for interviewing. Please keep doing what you are doing.

    And thank you.

  44. Tim, I love reading anything you put together! I’m excited to see what you put out when you really focus on your writing. I try to sell everyone on the Slow Carb diet and 4-hour work week. I’m currently a senior in the Entrepreneurship program at the University of Utah and although I haven’t gotten to the point when I need to say “no” to a lot of things, this line really stuck out:

    To become “successful,” you have to say “yes” to a lot of experiments. To learn what you’re best at, or what you’re most passionate about, you have to throw a lot against the wall.

    So thank you for that! Couple of quick questions– 1. What are you doing to treat your Lyme Disease? I’m sure you have some great insights. 2. If you’re ever traveling through Utah, I’d love to take you out skiing. Cheers!

  45. Tim

    You have a unique ability to motivate people to change their lives for the better, and to provide the information they require to do it.

    That is your true calling.

    Chasing tens of millions is pointless surely. I’m reminded of one of the first lines of the 4HWW – I am not a millionaire and don’t particularly want to be. You filled your time with learning and amazing adventures instead.

    I’d like to see more of that guy, and still have faith that the logic is sound, and that we aren’t foolish to be doing the same rather than chasing tens of millions as you have been.

    Welcome back

  46. This is a great read, and the length is totally worth it. It’s many months’ old but thanks for sharing it again in today’s email.

    And that quote from Greg McKeown is one of my all time favorites. It’s a game changer for anyone suffering from overwhelm.

  47. Tim I saw your interview with Dr Patrick where you discussed Lyme Disease. You are right – health is the number 1 priority. My sister was misdiagnosed, and was not a lucky as you have been as she now permanent damage to the nerves around her heart, and needs a, pace maker to remain alive. She went from a marathon runner to a husk of what she once was. Sadly she cannot rid her system of the Lyme, as after 3 years she still test positive.

    She and I found great interview with Dr. Patrick, and I think you’re capacity for communication is your greatest gift, and when you distill your experiments, results and conversations with other subject matter experts, you are helping so many others. Communicating, sharing and passing on information has way more impact than what you may realize.

  48. Einstein took a similar path at one point; Walter Isaacson, writing about Albert Einstein: “In December 1930, Einstein visited America for the second time, originally intended as a two-month working visit as a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. After the national attention he received during his first trip to the U.S., he and his arrangers aimed to protect his privacy. Although swamped with telegrams and invitations to receive awards or speak publicly, he declined them all.[63]”

  49. Hello all you beautiful people. Tim, thank you for all you do. I have been listening to your podcast a lot lately and it has been a great help to me. This post is great. I have been learning to say no in the right places and times in not only business but in every area of life.

    I the primary reason for my reply is because I need a little guidance. I have been writing and testing some ideas for a few years. I think I need help with putting a business plan together as well as where to go and how to get funding. Where do you suggest should I go/look? I felt that if I asked here that if you weren’t able to respond I might be pointed in a better direction than just trying to find something on my own. Thank you.

    I pray you prosper and be in health.

  50. I teared up ready this Tim. Thank you. I get serious anxiety sometimes and reading this was a great reminder in not saying yes to everything. I realize its time to clear out my mental space again and focus on Hell yes’s! The blogger Leo Babauta of Zen Habits is a master of saying no and I would love to hear a podcast of you too.

  51. Tim, thanks for the thoughtful self analysis in public. Very helpful. Have you thought of taking a page out of the 4HWW, and outsourcing what you’d rather not do? Get it down to 4 hours a week?

  52. Tim, this article was fantastic. I too am suffering from anxiety due to taking on too much lately. As always there is a ton of practical advice and lessons I can put to use in my own life, coming just at the right time on the weekend where I sit down to review my next quarter goals and priorities. Thank you Tim

  53. Looks like I came a bit late to this party, but I’m still taking away something useful. Looks like “what ifs” and “fear-setting” are on my schedule this afternoon after PT.

    This post reminded me of a comic by the Oatmeal on FOMO, and a recent book by Sara Knight on “The life-changing magic of not giving a f*ck”, for those of you who want or need more motivation or an extended framework.

  54. You are following a natural transition from ‘quantitative’ to ‘qualitative’, from ‘more’ to ‘better’. Maslow mapped this path. Caring about your qualitative legacy will be next. Few people make this transition…well done.

  55. Thank you! This inspired post is the only post written by anyone, anywhere, that I have actually read from start to finish in a long time (….eveer?). That is mainly because I am always over committed and don’t think I have the time!

    I hope I can take just a little bit of something from it and put it in to play.

    Thank you!

  56. If this just isn’t who owns the studio, insist on addressing the individual that’ll be there around the day.

    A lot of travel is linked to shooting nature photos

    for any kind of magazine or periodical. Sealing and protecting the inner workings of one’s camera takes special and expensive material.

  57. Santa Maria Novella (Piazza Santa Maria Novella), one among

    Florence’s most stunning churches, that includes plenty of essential artworks, including a nativity scene by Botticelli,

    a crucifix by Brunelleschi, and a Madonna by Vasari (who was additionally the architect for the church’s renovation in the mid-16th century).

  58. Regarding your “can you be replaced?” and “please don’t stop writing” passage: In publishing today it’s beaten into us that writing alone isn’t enough. We have to have a gimmick or an edge or we’re not marketable. If someone were to tell me to forget all the rest and JUST WRITE and that I didn’t need a gimmick that would be the biggest compliment I’d ever received.

  59. Loved the part about health being #1. It has to be, since you can always make more money but you can never make more time. Time and health are priceless and saying no is a precious skill to preserve both.

    Regarding time and global health- I wonder if we may actually be heading into global cooling due to a grand solar minimum (cycles of the sun) and food will be the big global challenge due to climate shifts in the next few years. A podcast called Adapt2030 goes into this at depth and I found it eye-opening to say the least. Definitely worth a look…

    Take care and be well

    Warren

  60. Absolutely the best advice ever. Please keep on doing what you do best — communicating what is most important on the road of life.