The Linchpin of ALL Success—Invoking the NO!

One major advantage of being older is the blessing of perspective. Us “older folk” have lived enough years to have gained decades of experiences, failures, mistakes, victories, setbacks, trials, and tests. This means we have the benefit of context. Many of us also have a clearer picture of what “success” really looks like. What is important and what’s worth our time and what is not.

Stuff we freaked out over and that was world-ending as a teen? We laugh at now when we see that same drama in our own kids or the children of others.

We may even shake out heads and think, “I wish I would have known this when I was younger.”

Of all the lessons I’ve learned, there’s one that surpasses them all—a linchpin to any kind of meaningful life, love, success, peace or prosperity. Good news is the lesson is simple. Bad news, it’s far from easy.

I challenge you to…INVOKE THE NO!

The Power of NO!!!!

Yes, invoke the NO. NO to the wrong stuff makes room for the YES for the right stuff.

Seriously, give yourself a quota of Nos. Start with 5 and work from there. No to yourself, no to others. The word NO is the key. Yeah, this song below is about pickup-lines in clubs and is cute and I bought it and work out to it and recommend it. It doesn’t specifically apply to our NO lesson, but the chorus is actually highly useful as an ear worm.

Just retool it for your specific needs.

Kristen’s version?

My name is…NO.

My sign is…NO.

My email is…NO.

My best day to bake cookies is…NO.

I gotta let you go. My answer still is no.

Setting Boundaries Using the NO

I could and probably will write a whole book on this one day but trust me when I tell you it is impossible to enjoy any kind of success, meaning, joy, peace or prosperity unless we become masters at setting firm boundaries, which again means invoking the NO.

TIME is a treasure, the most valuable possession we have.

Every minute a gold coin, every hour a jewel, every week a necklace, every year a crown. We are given this treasure at birth (though we never are aware of the treasure’s actual size). We take time for granted, thus too often fail to guard it with the NO. We give into the easy “yes” which steals our treasure one coin, one jewel at a time.

Then we are clueless as to why we are emotionally bankrupt and have nothing to show for all this work. Truth is there is a HUGE difference between being busy and being productive and that difference is two letters long.


We Can’t Have It All

Why is saying NO so tough? Because, we are flawed humans who have a tendency to get greedy (including me). We don’t want to believe we really cannot have it all.

Blunt truth time…

“Having it all” is a marketing LIE used to sell us stuff we won’t use, don’t need, can’t afford and frequently cannot even FIND. “Having it ALL” is a tactic to rook us into spending time instead of investing time 😉 .


Anyone who tells us we can say “yes” to everything is a) a fool or b) playing us for the fool. Yet part of growing and learning and maturing is we too often DO fall for the delusion we can have it all and this makes us, for lack of a better word…a dumb@$$.

This dumb@$$ery is usually most visibly witnessed January 2nd of every year.

Even I’ve had stupid ideas/life plans like:

I’m going to have a bikini body, build up the home business into a multi-billion-dollar franchise, have an immaculate home, an organic vegetable garden, romantic getaways with Hubby, write ten novels, bake gluten-free nut-free vegan paleo cookies for Spawn’s school bake sale, and volunteer rescuing homeless baby pygmy goats, which I will then crochet onesies for—obviously made from yarn I will spin myself.

*hair flip*

Imagine my shock when, at the gym, I realized Spin Class had all these bicycles that were only producing pain and sadness…and NOT yarn for my pygmy goat onesies.

Boundaries INCREASE FOCUS—Use Your NO Lens

NO is a lens that focuses energy and amplifies our actions. By the power of NO, we accomplish more with less. When we say no to all but that which is a priority, our energy transforms from diffused white light to a laser that can cut through diamonds.

We’re working smarter, not harder.

Boundaries on OURSELVES

Again NO.

Earlier I said the secret to everything is boundaries. It IS simple. If I set a priority (finished novel) I must then place boundaries around that priority starting with myself by invoking the NO.

Two hours on Instagram watching makeup tutorials….NO.

Binging on HBO series….NO.

Joining in on FB drama…NO.

Volunteering to beta read everyone who asks me…NO.

Boundaries set in place by the Power of NO makes the right YESes easier to spot and harness.

Dedicate two hours working on novel…YES.

Boundaries on OTHERS—N to the No to the No, No, No

Actually takers never WILL.

Placing boundaries on others (family, friends, social media pals, kids, etc.) is the really tough part that requires probably even more training (especially for women who are taught to be “nice”).

Train your NO.

Invoking the NO has power, and the more we use it the stronger it gets.

In many females, our NO is a withered, forgotten muscle. At first when we invoke the NO, it will be painful, uncomfortable and weird. But that’s temporary. It will pass (perhaps like a kidney stone but it will pass).

If we have friends or family who never remember our number until they need money or help moving or free therapy or a place they can unload all their toxic waste (drama) on us?


Learn to ignore the call (or block the number/unfriend).

When I’m working (writing), I put my phone in Airplane Mode so no one can call or text me. There is the added benefit of silencing the siren’s song of FB pings that could distract me.

I invoke the NO using my Settings. My iPhone is strong so I don’t need to be 😀 .

We also—wait for it—do NOT need to constantly check emails. There’s no law that states we must instantly reply to all messages. We merely must respond in a reasonable amount of time because it is polite.

Anyone who gets pissy because they don’t get “instant” response can get over it. They want instant, they can buy some Sanka.

We have no Make You Happy Meals for sale. So…N to the No to the NO, NO, NO!

Yes, today I have my Sassy Pants on, but I really wish I would’ve understood this simple yet vital lesson in my 20s or 30s or even…four weeks ago.

I love helping and serving and nurturing but there’s only so much of ME (or YOU) to go around. When we focus on US by invoking the NO, we get stronger, and when we are stronger we serve better.

We have more energy, more resources (I.e. great books sales), and more discernment. YES is not always a good thing. If that person who feels the need to vent all over you suddenly can’t reach you to get all the answers spoon fed to them?

Then maybe they will have to grow up, suck it up buttercup and FIGURE IT OUT like adults DO. No is just as good for others as it is for us.

Many emerging writers want to complete NaNoWriMo. My advice? INVOKE THE NO. Want to trim down, lose some fluff? INVOKE THE NO. Want stronger finances, to be debt-free? INVOKE THE NO. Want to finish a novel? INVOKE THE NO.

Y’all get the gist 😉 .


What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with invoking the NO? I’m getting better but, until very recently, I’d failed to make NO a deliberate plan and strategy. I’d failed to see I needed to make it stronger.

Which is why I am now paying my STUPID TAX honoring commitments I didn’t say no to but should have.

Like I tell my son:

When the mind is stupid, the body suffers.

Applies to me, too. Sigh. Anyway…

Do you have a hard time saying no to Facebook? Family? School bake sales? Making your kid a sandwich instead of letting him/her figure it out? No to the BIG CLEARANCE SALE? Are you getting better at saying no? What have you said NO to that you are super proud about? Share your victory and inspire us!

Do you think you could invoke the no 5 times a day? Ready to take the INVOKE THE NO CHALLENGE?

Are you an older person who now has wisdom you wish you’d have had when you were young? What do you wish you would have learned earlier in life? Share your stories OH WISE ONES!


What do you WIN? For the month of September, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

We are in the process of moving classes around due to the two MONSTER hurricanes so a fresh class list will be available next post. You can also dash over to W.A.N.A. International to check out what’s coming up and get your spot!


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    • DJ Austin on September 20, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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    • Randy Brown on September 20, 2017 at 3:33 pm
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    YES! I am an old person. What do I know now that I wish I knew as a young person? The very thing I was told as a young person that I ignored.
    Eat a balanced diet.
    Exercise regularly.
    Get enough sleep.
    If you can’t drink moderately, get help.
    The things I was not told about; you can’t change another person, if you can’t love with your heart, don’t bother, and the big one, don’t give up on yourself.

  1. Now that I’m in my mid-forties, I’m getting much better at invoking the No. In fact, I’m getting a little drunk on it. It’s not an inner bitch, more like an inner goddess. Where has she been all my life?

    1. YES! Getting drunk on it … ha! That cracked me up. 🙂

  2. oh wow…. absolutely — what you allow will continue…
    [stares into distance-meaning the backdeck]

    Yes, I did do a no — a bit NO — just recently. My ex of 6 (count’em) years and in another state and has a girl friend, called me to bemoan his latest suicide attempt and how he just needed to talk to me-e-e-e-e-e….[gaggaggag] and I said: NO. Not now, not again, not ever — NOOOO! And hung up.

    Yesterday, the old man neighbor, who glommed onto me when I moved in 4 years ago and cannot speak without uttering endless filthy words (I’m older and have heard them all, but, y’know?), started his usual trash talk and I said, NO – gotta go! And today, this morning, when he opened his mouth (yes, he’s allllllways outside), I said NO! and turned my back.

    ahhhhhhhhhh and then your post came — and it was good. It was very good…

    [birds tweet, puppy stretches, tongue & toes maxed out]

    Thanks, Kristen. :o)))

    1. crap…that’s sposed to be a ‘big’ NO….sheesh

    • A.C. Spark on September 20, 2017 at 3:51 pm
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    YAASSSS! Preach. I needed to read this today. I’m learning the value of invoking the NO to myself.

    • Raidon T. Phoenix on September 20, 2017 at 4:00 pm
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    No to leaving a comment! ?

    Actually, no to myself and no to others’ needs are the hardest forms of NO for me. I’m getting better, though.

  3. This is a post that cried to be written. I am so pleased you did it. I laughed out loud at the paragraph before *hair flip*
    As an indie writer, a full time printshop manager, a caregiver to my 91 year old dad, and an editor of other author’s work, I have to say no on occasion. Last year around Christmas I was floundering in social media. I was trying to be everywhere for everyone. Any author who asked me to join a group to help push their book, and mine, I accepted. I sat back and reevaluated social media. Did I have to be on Tsu? Were my posts on Wattpad and iAuthor getting me anywhere? Did a group of authors who pushed romance (which I don’t write) really need me hocking their books? What was I doing other than running myself ragged? I scaled back… in a major way. I said no to rejoining groups that kept me tied to social media and deadlines, but yielded no results. I stayed active on only three social platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I limit this interaction to an hour and a half in the morning and an hour in the evening. I try to generally thank those who support my author efforts and I talk to any who personally address me. Long chains of shouts outs get a favorite and I move on. The NO had to be seriously invoked. I have been much more relaxed in 2017. I have published three books and have five more in first draft. I also have helped 7 authors polish their work. I feel empowered. I turned 65 this year. As for advice from the old fart… I would say never give up your dream, or put it on a back burner. You say, I dream too big? I say, you think to small!

  4. I’ve definitely embraced the power of NO in this second quarter of my life. I learned if it’s not a hell yes, then it’s gotta be a no. During one of those light bulb-style moments recently I realized I have but one obligation: I have to die someday. That’s it. Literally everything else is a choice. Pay taxes? Choice. Be nice to people? Choice. Sure, not paying taxes will have consequences. That’s the cost of living in a civil society. But, if I choose not to pay them, then I’m also choosing the consequences–or moving to a non-extradition country. My point is, it’s very freeing to embrace a life of choice rather than feeling like a leaf in the wind buffetted by obligation and manipulation. Thanks for the insightful post, Kristen! And for letting me share my little light bulbs.

  5. Sanka. Ha! That one cracked me up, because you know what? They CAN and SHOULD get over it. It drives crazy how people get upset about not responding to a message right away, if it was an emergency they should have called. I LOVE this post. I am all for the no. I use it all the time when the Mafia Moms of the PTA try to wrangle me up in extra, extra services and meeting. The guilt or shame they try to impart is not cool. I particularly enjoyed the images of starving your distractions and feeding your focus. That one does apply to me and I need to start starving those distractions and setting boundaries with family and people that drain you. What you allow will continue to happen. YES! THANK YOU for that light bulb moment. I need to get on it with time and putting some of me first. I lose time during the day, if I don’t schedule things properly I feel so unproductive. But this post was a GREAT reminder to get ONNNNNNNNNNN it! THANKS SOOOOOOOO much for posting. The universe is conspiring to get me back on track.

    • Laurie Wood on September 20, 2017 at 4:57 pm
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    I’m just re-learning the power of the NO and how unpopular it makes you with everyone including your hubby – apparently NO is for everyone else. But it is freeing not to be an ATM, a taxi, a therapist, and an inner angry screaming-meemie which was all my own fault from not saying NO. So here’s to a life without the vampire-people sucking the life out of you and your time!

  6. I am old enough to know better and I’m rubbish at saying no. I accept the challenge to say no 5 times. Wish me luck.

  7. ha ha … such timing! I’m in the middle of Brene Brown’s Rising Strong, and she tells a great story about invoking the no (your term, not hers and I love it!), and the life-changing importance of boundaries!
    The older I get, the better I am at it, but yeah, still learning 🙂

  8. So I’m having a meta moment…my email inbox had the notice/link for this post just below an email from someone asking me to talk at Career Day. While a worthy endeavor, the last time I did it was a big time-suck for me. And no matter how memorable they say I was, they still called me Ms. Bowen instead of Ms. Owen. (And it’s Dr., actually, LOL).

    Thanks for reducing the guilt pangs a bit as I said “no.”

  9. Givers have to set boundaries because takers never do!!!! So true. I’m going to remember that one.

  10. Of course I am guilty of this!

    I have two kids and a spouse. It’s really easy to let them encroach on my precious writing time, especially when we’re doing “family stuff” even if that stuff is just hanging out together and watching mind-numbing children’s television.

    I really need to take this to heart and start protecting my writing time better. Would be easier if our second child hadn’t usurped my office. A door with a lock can be a very effective deterrent!

    Still, it’s up to me to find a way. And to deal with the guilt. Because there is guilt. I work full time as well, so I have to factor that in, too.

    There’s a reason why there are so many things telling moms to take time for themselves. Because it’s hard. And even when you do, you still face guilt.

    1. Guilt is a lie. When we cater to everything our children want and make no space for ourselves, we are teaching by example that when they grow up their time is not valuable either. That people pleasing and killing yourself catering to the whims of everyone else is SOP.

      The only way children will learn to later set and respect boundaries is if we as parents lead the way. They can’t be what they can’t SEE.

      When we compromise writing time for cartoons, we are giving into what is easy instead of what is best (for us and our children). Our children are better off letting Mommy write for two hours and then she has dedicated focused MEANINGFUL time with them instead of mindless empty calories of affection.

      We must rise to this challenge because our primary goal as a parent is to train these adorable sticky things covered in Cheerios into being kind, loving and respectful adults who value themselves and others. If we let “guilt” lie to us and we cave, all we are training in our children is one of two types adults—users or doormats.

      So when you put a boundary on your child, ease the guilt by knowing you are setting the example for them later in life. Kids won’t pay attention to what we say, but will ALWAYS pay attention to what we DO 😉 .

  11. I need to invoke the NO more often. Not so much on what others ask of me, but more on what I expect of myself. I know there’s places in my recent life where a well placed No would have saved me a world of hurt. This was a great read! The humor in your writing is bloody awesome!! Thanks for that.

  12. Okay, Kristen, I’ve learned, “No”. How long will it take to lose the guilt? Since I’ve been practicing this (about a year now), I’ve become very unpopular.

    1. Popularity with users is a formula for burnout, namely because by you setting boundaries it’s forcing them to do for themselves instead of handing you their To Dos. If you do their adulting for them, they have more free time.

      People who love, honor and respect you won’t balk at a kind but firm no. As for the guilt, this is a conundrum women seem to experience at a higher percentage than men. I.e. Men do NOT feel guilty if they cannot be part of the PTA….run the PTA.

      How do to tame the guilt? Get busy. When ur hustling there’s no time for second-guessing and people pleasing. Also, whenever we pursue something outside of the norm, something remarkable, we are turning up the heat and this increase in temperature will make users bubble to the surface—users we didn’t see before we made our goals a priority. Those we’ve allowed to run roughshod all over us won’t like the change because it doesn’t benefit THEM.

      They can get over it.

      Either these folks will mend their ways, or they won’t. If they won’t change and respect you, they’ve revealed themselves as a toxic relationship so prune them. Buh BYE.

      It is better to have no friends than the wrong ones. Same with family. Learn to be unavailable. Then surround yourself with those who will be your cheerleader. Hang out on WANATribe (a NING I created for writers to gather). We sprint there every day (It’s 9:00 at night and I am sprinting now). We are there M-F from about 7:30 am CST to at least 1:00 PM. Often I am there all day. We have been sprinting five days a week every week for 2 years.

      In the end, ditch bad friends, replace with better ones. For those you can’t ditch (I.e. family) learn to be unreachable. It’s tough, but anything worth having usually is. ((HUGS))

  13. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  14. Yes, yes, yes to saying no. It gets way easier the older I get because I have less energy. Still, I have to admit when it comes to babysitting the grandkids (the three that still live near us), it’s hard to say no because they don’t ask very often. Babysit the two-year-old overnight? A definite no since she wakes up all through the night and this ragged a$$ grammy needs her sleep.

    The two-year-old has the right idea about no, though. (Most two-year-olds do.) No is her favorite word. Ask her what she wants and she tells us, “I want no!” Cracks me up every time. And so does the pygmy goat onesies! And “They want instant, they can buy some Sanka.” Lots of fun lines in this post.

    I have to admit that I’m terrible at getting on FB and responding or even reading all my emails. I guess I’m not polite anymore. Just overwhelmed so saying no becomes way easier. I have hundreds of blog posts in my “Blogs” folder still waiting for me to read them and interact with my blogger friends. You always make me laugh. I need to read your posts as soon as they come in. Fun pics, too.

    1. Honey, you have been fighting life-and-death battles LITERALLY so forget polite. Polite can wait for another time. You keep fighting for that wonderful husband. HE needs you MOST. Keep fighting for your family and focusing on them. THEY are the PRIORITY. We are all here supporting you and loving you and praying for you. We are in the wings when you need us to serve in any way we can.

      No guilt there. Not ONE BIT. Just correcting you on ONE thing. Remember that it is okay to ask for help. I am learning that hard lesson. We also gain joy by serving, so you doing it all alone is a lie. You have a W.A.N.A. family who loves you and we experience tremendous joy serving and helping so LET US. (((HUGS))

      1. Just now read your reply. You made me cry. I love you, WANA Mama! You’re the best!

    • Emily Walzer on September 21, 2017 at 1:07 am
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    Hi Kristen, bring on the hurricanes! Your “Power of No” post is rivalled only by your “Why Texas will Survive”. Storms become you (better than me, I hope). Anyway, What I Wish I’d Known Sooner is: where I am is where I want to be. Huh? But I wanna be thinner! Indeed, but I obviously want Death by Chocolate more. I want to live somewhere sunny,but moving is sooooo much work….you get it. Where I am is the sum of my choices. Where I am is where I want to be, though maybe not where I’d rather be.

  15. I am a member of the older and wiser club. I’ve learned to invoke the no, although I don’t always do a good job of it. LOL! Everything gets better with practice though, right?

    1. It IS tough. Trust me, I really wanted to beta read your work again and see what you’d done with the work we put in. But there is simply TOO MUCH on my plate, more than should have been because I hadn’t yet understood I needed to also learn to invoke the NO. Once I clear things off , maybe then/ But saying yes to everything and I say yes to nothing. Lots of love!

      1. Right back at you, Kristen! I’ve got my fingers crossed on this MS. 🙂

  16. Yes! I’ve been in the process of learning the magic of “no” and it always is this balancing act. Say no until I have a bunch of free time, then realize I can say yes to something else, then overcommit and have to start saying no again lol.

    I created this award for us who invoke the “no”, as a reminder its worth doing 🙂

    1. NICE! We totally need t-shirts. Just saying.

      1. Oh and totally stealing/sharing this for a follow-up post! YES, we DO need awards for Invoking the NO! *does cabbage patch dance*

  17. “The road to success leads away from the dead ends. Hopefully not through backing out.”

    • Margaret on September 21, 2017 at 10:35 am
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    But if I say NO, then I will no longer be a Good Girl. So hard to let go of the Good Girl.

    • KD Rose on September 21, 2017 at 11:15 am
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    Great Post as always!

    • Suzanne Lucero on September 21, 2017 at 5:07 pm
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    *dances around* I know where this one came from 😉 Seriously, though, it’s something we “yes” people have to have drilled into our heads. Thank you, Kristen, for giving us a lesson with a lauggh.

  18. I work parttime at a grocery store. Managers under-schedule, and co-workers call in sick. Daily. I really, really, value my time. I need time to write, exercise and prepare healthy meals. Saying no to working more is necessary for my mental and physical health. And still, it’s hard. I’ve learned to gauge when they really need me and say yes on those occasions, but mostly it’s no. Time is what we have. It’s our life.

  19. If only I had said “no” in my 20s, 30s, and most of my 40s. Kristen, you are 100% right. While I was editing other people’s books, mine weren’t getting written. While I was bleaching and washing my now-ex-husband’s tidy-whities, life was passing me by. There are no do-overs, people, no time you can ever get back. So don’t waste time, pass time, kill time. Seize it and squeeze it and use up every drop consciously and mindfully. 🙂 And keep reading Kristen because she knows what she’s talking about.

  20. I’ve evolved from a shy, oldest child who was expected to do everything to a self-assured woman who’s not afraid of NO. I believe we should teach our children the value of saying NO. Happiness does not come from trying to please everyone all the time. It comes from within. Age and experience helps us discover what our happiness centers on, but why make the journey longer by giving attention to that which does not serve us?

    • Erin Moira O'Hara on September 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm
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    Hi Kristen. Thank you for pointing out what I do all the time. I love the word NO, and am determined to actually use it. Time for me, time for my writing, time for my fitness. Starting today, I am going to invoke it. Thanks

  21. You always seem to know exactly what I need to hear! How do you do that? Great post! I just invoked the NO with offspring and plan on doing it in a work situation momentarily. Thank so much!

    • Kat Kent on October 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm
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    Thank you for a great post on learning to say ‘no’, Kristen. I’ve said “no” to sooo many things lately that its beginning to feel alot like all work and no play. In fact, I’ve said no so much to social media that I have literally ignorned it for months. But seriously, if you want to finish your book, you must stay focused and write. Like I tell my family, I’m so sorry but I can’t be in two places at one time: my desk writing or where they wish I would be going for stuff and doing thangs. And its hard, I love spending time with the fam. But if you have any hope of finishing your goals, you must invoke ‘no’. I set little rewards for myself when I reach goals, coffee and Hot Topic with my daughter, gardening with hubby (and weeding), talking for an hour with sis (who lives in New York). It’s quality not quantity…All the best, Kat.

    • Rachel C. Thompson on October 7, 2017 at 5:24 pm
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    I like No so much I killed my face book. In fact, after painting water colors for 40 years, I killed that too. Two hours a day on line is it for me. The only thing my phone can do is answer or make a call, no text, no pictures. If I put in a good day, like 5 hours of writing, only then will I pick up my guitar, but really a book is better. With books you learn as you enjoy.

    • robintvale (Jessica) on April 19, 2019 at 3:23 pm
    • Reply

    This month it’s NO to making his breakfast. “YUou can do it.”

    He throws a massive temper tantrum.

    I play on my phone ignoring him.

    He tries again.


    Another temper tantrum.

    I send him upstairs as he’s making my ears crackle.

    Son comes down and tries again. (I don’t’ want cereal, there’s nothing to eatttttttt. All I hear is “I can’t.”

    I say “You can do it.” then ignore him again.

    Another tantrum. Then I go outside have a smoke. He comes out with a corn dog (breakfast? Oh well!) and eats it happily.

    We both win, he just doesn’t know it yet.

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