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This is one of those open secrets.

If you want to be an overnight success (and who doesn’t?), usually it means working through the night… for twenty years.  We aren’t born successful, we learn it moment by moment, day by day. The secret is saying ‘No.’

Now sure, if you want to be successful you need to pour out your heart when no one’s looking, without any hope of reward. You need to devote your life to making the lives of others better. Both of these involve saying ‘Yes’ a lot, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

But just as important is No. The more times you say Yes, clearly the more people will expect you to say Yes, no matter what. And if you always say Yes, you’ll try to find time to do what matters.

If you’re always trying to find time to complete something amazing, it will never happen. Let me repeat that again:

If you’re trying to find time to do something, you never will.

Finding time implies that it’s something precious (true), that it’s hidden (also true), that it’s elusive (not quite true), and that if you just work a little harder at it, you’ll find all you need before too long (tragically false).

Our time on this Earth is a treasure, but where many people get stuck is thinking that serving others means Always saying Yes. If you’re stuck in Always, you won’t be able to find time. Always is like the house guest that never leaves. Few things last forever in this world…. except maybe our attachment to a few attractive, seductive, utterly wrong ideas.

Always saying Yes is one of those ideas. Guard against this with your life. If you want to achieve greatness, learn to say No. Only No is the key that can open the treasure of time.

Like any double-edged sword, learn how to wield Yes and No so you don’t cut yourself. No means focusing on what you need to do, at the expense of what others might want you to do. Always Yes means sacrificing what you need to do for what others think you should do, every time.

You just caught yourself saying, “I can’t find the time….!” I’m right there with you, and I still get cut when I draw that sword. But nothing great was ever created out of ‘found’ time. Great companies and great meals never emerge from great people finding time. They create time for something unexpected, something revolutionary, at the risk of everything that had come before. They did it by making time. Late night, all-night, early mornings, whatever it takes. And believe me, it takes resilience and courage… maybe even twenty years’ worth.

Make the time to do something great. The clock is ticking.

 

The first person to intentionally combine egg yolks, heavy cream, and large amounts of chocolate? Genius. They may not have gotten it right the first time, or the second, or even the thirty-fifth… But I’m so glad they made the time to perfect it. Thanks to Chow, now you and I can do the same.