The Universe Is Made Of No

Several different threads of thought were moving around my brain this morning.

1) A new idea called Rejection Therapy. A person actively seeks out rejection in order to get over the fear of it. This reminded me somewhat of something I read back in the 1970s: “Feel the fear, but do it anyway.” But it’s better than reading a sentence, because it entails actual experience. And I don’t care how much you might know from reading, it’s only actual experience that matters, because life is unpredictable and surprising and there’s no single book that can ever encompass all of its variables.

2) My first sort-of job was due to triage. I needed money fast. I saw a guy on a Manhattan street corner handing out fliers for a topless bar and asked him what he was being paid. He said some amount that sounded good at that time. But what nailed it was that he was being paid in cash, daily. So, I went and asked for a job at the place he was working at and was hired on the spot. This would not have been my free-will choice of work, but I needed cash money as soon as possible at that time. So despite, back then, being really shy and — as they call it today — socially-avoidant, there I was out on the street, in freakin public, passing out pieces of paper for a place I would have never ventured into otherwise. But it turned out I was damn good at the job because I was able to get people to take the mildly-salacious flier. I had a sort of trick (which I won’t reveal; get your own trick) which nearly made people take it. One night, someone took the paper, looked at it, became enraged, tore it up, and threw it in my face. In another time and place, I would have been mortified to have insulted someone like that. But I’d been at that job for at least a week by then, so it didn’t bother me. And that shows you how actual experience triumphs “book learning.”

3) The word most people will hear in their life is the word No. When you apply for jobs, you will get No more than Yes. When you submit a manuscript to an agent, you will get No more than Yes. When you seek a love partner, you will get No more than Yes. When you ask for a raise, you will get No more than Yes. Your life, if you stop to think about it, will be a long string of No No No No No No No. Which is why when someone says Yes, it’s a very special moment.

4) The word most people will say in their life is also No. How many TV channels do you zip by before settling on one to watch? Each channel you pass by is a No by you. How many blog posts do you begin reading but never complete? Each incomplete is a No by you. Did you ever say No to someone who asked you out? Of course you did. Did you ever quit smoking? That was another No. Your life puts out No without end. Try to count them during the day. You’ll lose track (and that’s another No right there!).

So with all the Nos we give out in a day, why should a No given to us by someone else be such a shock?

I used a key phrase up there that most of you passed by too quickly: “if you stop to think about it.”

Most people don’t stop to think about their life, to reflect on their experiences and draw some conclusions from them. That’s what I was doing this morning, trying to also tie together what Zig Ziglar said, and came up with this conclusion:

The Universe is made of No.

Consider all of the celestial bodies out there. How many do we know of that could support our life? You weren’t reading: I didn’t ask for that statistical math trick about how many possibilities there were. I wrote how many do we know of. We know of none. Let’s say that’s actually what it is too. That makes the entire Universe one big damn No!

And maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m stupid or slow, but that was a revelation to me.

Because, at this age in my life, I’ve survived probably millions of Nos. But I’m not dead, I didn’t kill myself, and I’m not filled with an overwhelming despair.

In fact, now that I understand that No overwhelms Yes in life, that this is normal, I finally don’t have to ever fear No. No becomes something like light and weather and gravity: a fact of life that is just there.

So what is there to fear, if No is normal? There is nothing to fear. Accept that No will be there, as gravity is there when you drop something. When gravity pulls something away from you, it’s nothing personal. And even when that person who you want in your life says No, that’s nothing personal too. Sometimes things and people don’t fit. It happens. The reasons why don’t matter and even if you could know the reasons, it often wouldn’t help or be satisfying.

So don’t be afraid of No. Just keep fighting for the Yes.

In a universe made of No, victory is a Yes.


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8 responses to “The Universe Is Made Of No

  1. Bob Mayer

    The world is full of no outside of us. If we believe it. The key is if someone internalizes no. Then the NO becomes real. Most no’s start from within. Then we hear it echoed around us.
    So YES starts from within.

  2. What Bob said. My parents were scared of every damn thing in the world. It’s taken me decades to pry my soul loose from the fucking NO. Still filling in the old grooves in my brain & making new (“yes!”) ones. All related to love (or lack of it).

    Great post. Especially about actual experience w/ facing fear, etc. Dat’s how da new grooves get dug. Onward, by God.

  3. Great post, Mike!

    My very first book — back in the ’80’s in fact — was a motivational program called, “Just Say Yes!” (This was in the height of the “Just Say No” drug campaign.)

    The basic idea was that you cannot “no” your way to what you want. At some point, you have to affirm — and believe in — something.

    When I was researching for that book, I ran across an amazing statistic that the average person hears “no” about sixteen times for every yes. I don’t know the validity of the study, but I believe in the trend it suggests — and one you powerfully illuminate here.

    Getting a “yes” is a victory — giving a “yes” is a step towards achievement.

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  7. great post Mike well thought out.


  8. This really made me think and I found it to be really startling in a Zen Buddist slapping you in the face kind of way.
    On the one hand, you can get bummed out by this, but on the other you can use it to not be hurt by the No’s you do encounter.

    Thanks so much for sharing

    L. Blanchard

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