Bekka Palmer

How learning to say "No" changed my life

Bekka Palmer

I've been on about a one year quest that began with me wanting to change my career, but it turns out this process has changed my whole life. A year ago I officially started Closed Mondays and thought, I want to take this seriously and make it my full-time gig. I was looking to get out of commercial photography and make things by hand all day every day. 

So, I did a trade with a business coach for a few sessions and then was deep on my way to learning how to run a business and it turns out that it helps to have your life running smoothly in order to get your business doing the same.

Now I spend a ton of time talking about books, podcasts and other content that really helped me, so I've put together basically a step-by-step of what I would suggest to someone if they wanted to go through the long a tedious process of finding your life's work and then DOING it.

One podcast I listen to pretty regularly is the Tim Ferriss show. I generally take it with a big grain of salt (like Maldon sea salt, not your average tiny grain table salt) because he speaks from a place of white male privilege and doesn't always see that or notice that he is missing marginal voices on his podcast. I mention his podcast several times in this post, but just want to say, listen, take what you need, but also continue to find a diverse set of voices to guide you through your life. Anyway, that's where I found an interview with Debbie Millman that would be the impetus of change for me. 

Start there, take a listen and then, here's the most important part is do her assignment of the ten year plan. In her words, "do it like your life depends on it, because it does." Sitting down to write this out and taking it seriously gave me direction. This is a crucial step, because you can do all of the business classes and self-help you want, but if you don't have a destination in mind you will never get there. It will also help you to see what you want to prioritize in life and get rid of anything that doesn't fit into your dream world.

The next part is both the worst part and then later it's the best part. You gotta do some work to see what kinds of cobwebs have made a home in your subconscious that are holding you back. It hurts, it sucks, childhood trauma is real and scarring, however, once you find it, it's a lot easier to move past it. What I found personally is that many things that happen in my life that I don't necessarily want or like are patterns that have come up over and over again. Once you see the pattern, you will never unsee it and it will be easier to spot those friendships/relationships/problems on the horizon and steer clear in order to avoid repeating the same thing all over again.

There are a lot of methods to get into your head, I have tried most of the ones listed below and use a combination that works for me. You might look into some of these and say, "come on, are you for real, this is bullshit" and that's fine, if it doesn't speak to you, it's never going to work for you so try the next thing on the list or find your own way. But you won't move forward without looking back. 

I have tried a lot of these methods and found a mix that speaks to me. There are infinite ways to dig into your psyche and find healing. If something doesn't work for you, try another method. I would say that the ones that seem to work best are the ones with a daily routine as it takes a lifetime to heal your mind.

Okay so you dug deep, and are coming out of that cave. Now it's time to get really good at prioritizing the things that truly matter to you. That means, learning to say, "No." This is the number one most important lesson I have learned this year. Every time you say "no" to something that doesn't serve you, another, better opportunity will crop up. Seriously. It works.

Listen to Tim Ferriss again, he's got some great methods in this episode for saying no.

My favorite method of saying no is to create a set of rules for yourself and blame the "no" on them, so it  takes the personal out of it. "Thanks for reaching out, as an artist I am wildly protective of my time during the workday and have to say no to any events during that time. If you have another event in the evenings or on weekends feel free to reach out again"

"I am re-focusing my business on what matters most to me which is making baskets. This means I am no longer taking on jobs for product photography but you could reach out to my trusted colleague __________ for this job."

I have read the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown yet, but listened to a few chapters online and it seems EPIC. It's on my long list of books to read to change my life.

While you are doing all of this good stuff clean out your physical life too with The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up my Marie Kondo.


So far, that's where I have gotten with this process in my life. I have seen a 180 degree turn in my career in the best way possible, and digging through my subconscious has helped me in so many ways I can't even count them. I'll keep ya posted on any updates, further reading or listening that I come across.

Some other books that I've been reading lately that intersect with the above:
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés Ph.D.
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay