RUSH: You remember, ladies and gentlemen, back when we lost Kit Carson, trusty aide-de-camp and chief of staff, one of the things that I pointed out in talking about him and informing you about him that created a lot of curiosity? I, even today, am still getting an e-mail or two about it, but, at the time, I got quite a few e-mails about it. I said that he had become an expert in saying “no,” and people kind of chuckled. Well, they weren’t quite sure what that meant. Was I being funny?
And I wasn’t. I was being dead serious. I went on to describe how there is an art form. It is an art form how to say “no,” when to say “no” (which is pretty much, as far as I’m concerned, all the time), and how difficult it is to do. Nobody is raised to say “no.” We’re all raised to say “yes.” To say “no” is to be a problem. Uncooperative. Unwilling. Most every kid is raised to do the opposite of saying “no.” And yet one of my job requirements for the chief of staff position at the start was this is the first thing you’ve got to learn to do — and you have to be unafraid to do it — and that’s say “no.”
And back then, there were a lot of people who didn’t understand it, sent me e-mails, and thought it sounded mean. “Why do you want to say ‘no’ to everybody all the time?” I thought, “Well, it’s understandable. Nobody knows the context of this and the circumstances under which it arises. This is all to set up a fascinating article that I found at a website called medium.com by a guy named Kevin Ashton. The headline of the piece: “Creative People Say ‘No,’” and it begins this way:
“A Hungarian psychology professor once wrote to famous creators asking them to be interviewed for a book he was writing. One of the most interesting things about his project was how many people said ‘no.’ Management writer Peter Drucker: ‘One of the secrets of productivity (in which I believe whereas I do not believe in creativity) is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours? — productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people but to spend all one’s time on the work the Good Lord has fitted one to do, and to do well.'”
So what Drucker is saying is, if somebody invited me to be on this or that or do this or that that was gonna help them, I said no. If it’s not gonna help me, I’m not gonna do it. I got more important things to do. It’s a waste of time. “Secretary to novelist Saul Bellow: ‘Mr Bellow informed me that he remains creative in the second half of life, at least in part, because he does not allow himself to be a part of other people’s “studies.”‘ Again, this is a psychology professor in Hungary who was trying to discover the traits of creative successful people.
He asked them to participate in the survey, and Saul Bellow was saying (paraphrased), “One of the things I’ve learned here is that to remain creative, I don’t participate in other people’s ‘studies.’ I do my own.” Here’s secretary to a music composer, Gyorgy Ligeti: “‘He is creative and, because of this, totally overworked. Therefore, the very reason you wish to study his creative process is also the reason why he (unfortunately) does not have time to help you in this study.
“‘He would also like to add that he cannot answer your letter personally because he is trying desperately to finish a Violin Concerto which will be premiered in the Fall.’ The professor contacted 275 creative people. A third of them said ‘no.'” They were not going to help him. “Their reason was lack of time. A third said nothing. We can assume their reason for not even saying ‘no’ was also lack of time…” He goes on to write here: “Time is the raw material of creation.
“Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: The work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it.
“It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation.” Remember, this is a research project he’s doing on creativity. “The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes,” and they all say “no,” almost all the time.