Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading Creativity, Inc. again. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I love both learning the lessons from Pixar’s early days as well as hearing the story of how Pixar became the household name that we know and love. And one thing that I didn’t know until I first read Creativity, Inc., is that Steve Jobs bought Pixar when all they did was produce animation hardware. Obviously, Pixar has evolved since, but in the early days, Ed Catmull, the author of Creativity, Inc. and Pixar’s founder, and Steve Jobs would go head-to-head. And as I’m sure you’ve heard or read, going head-to-head with Steve Jobs was not for the faint of heart. However, Catmull found that whenever he and Jobs would disagree, he had three options. They’d argue until he realized that Jobs was right. They’d go their separate ways; Catmull would see a new perspective and pitch his idea differently, causing Jobs to agree. Or the two wouldn’t find a conclusion, at which time Catmull amusingly says that he just went and did whatever he wanted anyways.
The thing that stuck with me through this story though was that Catmull openly admitted that he frequently would accept that Jobs was right — that his idea was better. Often times, Catmull would be told no, and then he’d move on to figure out a new and better solution.
This made me think of myself and my millennial generation. Being an only child and a millennial, I have two strikes against me as far as the internet is concerned. And to no one’s surprise, I don’t like being told no. However, to be fair, I think that’s true for everyone. The internet may love to go on and on about how millennials are never told no and how we don’t deal with it well, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t averse to being told no.
And I get it. We want what we want, and we want it now. We live in 2018. Amazon Prime Now can bring me pretty much anything I want in the time it takes me to watch another episode of The Office on Netflix while Uber Eats delivers dinner from the Chipotle that’s less than a mile away from my house. But my dog’s snuggled up next to me, and I wouldn’t want to disturb him. I can have it all. Except the world isn’t only Uber Eats and Prime Now and Netflix, is it?
And that world tells us “no” fairly frequently. Relationships end with a “no.” Job applications come back with a “no.” Even if you make it to an interview, you could hear that “we’re going a different direction,” which is just a nice way of saying “no.” That vacation spot that you’re seeing all over Instagram quickly becomes a “no” when you check the bank account. We’re told “no” for big and little things in our lives. And we have a choice to make every time we’re told “no.” We can revert back to our toddler days, lie on the floor, kicking and screaming and causing a scene until we stop and get told “no” again. Or we can find the joy and direction in “no.”
Because what if maybe, just maybe, the times we’re told “no” are God nudging us towards our created purpose.
What if despite how badly we want something, we’re told “no” for our own good. I learned in Sunday school that God answers prayers three ways: Yes. No. Wait. And I don’t think anyone much cared for the second two answers, but the longer I go through life, the more I truly believe that “no” is for my sake. “No” is for my better. “No” is often because I’m going to make some decision that’s not for the best.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t like being told “no” anymore than the next guy. I don’t see the good side at the moment. Sometimes, I’ll see it later. Other times, I’ll just stay frustrated by that no. So I try my best to accept it and use it to find out what’s next. And here are three things that I try my best to do to keep my “no’s” in perspective.
I know this might sound a little simple and maybe even annoying. If you’re like me, when you get a “no” you just want to be mad, disappointed, upset, whatever. I just want to be bummed for a little, and I want the people in my life to be bummed with me. I’ll get over it, but I want to just be upset. But in that time of frustration and sadness, I try to force myself to be more intentional in prayer. It’s easy to drift away from God when life doesn’t go our way. But I think it’s in those moments that we need to pull closer. It’s in those moments that we need to ask God, “Why?” We seek in prayer for the answers we might not know in the moment. We ask in prayer to get perspective on what’s next. We learn how “no” is going to not define us but refine us.
2. Get with your people.
We all know that we need people in our lives. We need communities around us. But we also need those couple of really close people. Those people we trust with our ugliest parts. Those people we can tell all of our frustrations and feelings knowing full well they’ll love us even more on the other side. And we need to bring those people in close when we’re let down. Those people are the ones that will hate the people who told you no for a job. Those people are the ones that will go and unfollow that ex-girlfriend right away. Those people commiserate with you and have your back. But those friends are also the ones who know when it’s time to pull yourself out of the disappointment. Those friends are the ones that you trust enough to listen to when they tell you it’s time for the next chapter. It’s time to turn the page on the “no” you’ve been given and start searching for what’s next. Without those friends, that “no” can be the only thing you hear and convince yourself that’s all that you’ll ever hear. You need those people to be there to tell you that there is a “yes” out there just waiting specifically for you.
3. Find out what’s next.
I’m a doer. I’m a performer. I’m an achiever. So if I’m given a “no,” I feel a need to spring into action. I’m disappointed and sad, but I start to work out of almost a spiteful vengeance to prove wrong whoever said “no.” Now, this might not be the healthiest place to work from, but I’m working on it.
But I do believe that it’s important to not just sit and look back on the doors that have been shut— it’s important to look for what’s next.
Look for where the next “Yes!” could come from. Take lessons from your “no” and let it inform where you look for “Yes!” But all the while telling yourself there’s something out there that’s just for you. It might not feel like it, but you’ll eventually talk yourself into it if you tell yourself enough that there is a “Yes!” for you.
My prayer is that our “no’s” don’t define us. They don’t define us individually, and they don’t define our generation. That we can trust in a God that uses even the hard times that come with “no” to nudge us towards who He’s created us to be.