"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

16 April 2015

Day 14 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge: N is for No

N is for No

When I was starting out on my storytelling career, I would say "Yes" to just about every request for my services. The only time I refused was when I was too ill or I'd already made other plans. I was so eager to please and get my business off the ground. I wanted to be a well-liked storyteller.

Now don't get me wrong. Saying "Yes" to a lot of things can be wonderfully liberating and I owe a lot of my story-filled life to responding in the affirmative. "Yes!" to life, I say.

But . . . there are times when you have to say "No".

Like the time I was asked to do a children's birthday party. It was a friend and she'd heard from another friend how wonderful I was at her daughter's party that she just had to have me. What I didn't tell her was that party was a nightmare. The mother didn't obey my instructions to hold off the cake and sugary drinks till after I'd told my stories. When I arrived, there was an all out Cowgirl/Cowboy war going on. The parents--delighted to see me--assumed that I was like a magic child-minder who would round up the kids, corral them into the living room, and weave my story spell over them. Fat chance.

Imagine trying to tell stories to sugar-induced attention deficit children who ended up fighting over the teddy bear I'd brought to help me tell stories. (No wonder he ran off). I swore I'd never do it again. It was not my forte. I love children but not in this context. So did I say, "No, sorry I don't do children's parties"? No, I said "Yes". And once again--despite my conditions--I encountered yet another "wild child" fiesta.

Eventually (and it didn't take too long) I learned to say "No". And, eventually, I could say "No" without feeling guilty. There are plenty of storytellers and entertainers who love doing kids' parties. But I'm not one of them.

It was an important lesson. The ability to say "No" to what you don't want to or can't do is crucial to your sanity and your longevity in the business. Don't do work you know you don't want to do. Let someone else do it.

If you have trouble saying "No", start imagining your ideal clients and start attracting them. If people get the idea that you'll work for anyone and everyone, you'll have no control over what comes your way. Don't let your insecurity sabotage you. People will respect your ability to say "No" and you'll save yourself and them a lot of heartache and disappointment in the long run.

I was recently invited to a very prestigious storytelling post but when I talked it over with the organizer and really thought about it, I realized I was not the right person for it nor was it the right post for me. I politely said "No" and recommended someone else, who I felt was perfect for the job (and they said "Yes").

So, next time someone calls you and excitedly requests your service, ask yourself, "Is this really the work I want? is this the client I want to work with?" If it is, say "Yes"; but if you know in your heart of hearts that it isn't, just say "No" (in a polite way of course).

Testimonials

"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

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Blues and Roots Radio
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Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland
I'm grateful to Creative Scotland for its support.