September 11

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The Courage to Say No

Most of the stressful and troublesome times in my life can be traced to one common problem. I was afraid to say, "No."

As a doctoral student, I said yes to way too many students who needed an accompanist. Sure, I made a lot of extra money during jury and recital season.

But, it was busy, stressful, and my solo practicing suffered.

When friends would ask me to go out to dinner when I knew I had studying to do, I didn't want to say no. I afraid of missing out on a good time.

When I first started teaching, I would say yes to too many students and parents who asked to reschedule. To the point where I would double book myself often.

In fact, I was so afraid to say no, I would know I was double booking myself, and figured I'd come up with an excuse to get out of it later.

Yeah...it was that bad.

And as one who grew up in poverty, I've had a tendency to say yes to every paying opportunity over the years. Even if the pay wasn't that great. 

Once again, plenty of money, but it was at the cost of exhaustion, overwhelm, and fatigue.

I found that when I started saying no, things changed. The world didn't end, as I used to think.

In fact, saying no has given me room to breathe. Room to decide what I want to focus on with my time. And room to work on the projects that are most important to me.

If you're overwhelmed, have the courage to say no to some projects. Even the ones you've already started working on. Even if you disappoint someone from time to time.

If you're an overwhelmed parent with lots of after-school activities to run to, have the courage to say no to some (except for piano, of course!).

Yes, the kids may be a little disappointed. 

But you'll get to make up for it by bragging to your friends how much quality time you got to have instead.

Whenever you say no, it gives you the ability to say yes to something else.

Not just anything. But the most important things.

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About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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