Love and the leaver-outters

Love and the leaver-outters

I had the privilege recently of contributing to the first issue of the thrice-annual The Manual. In addition to it being a tremendous example of design, the content speaks volumes.

Founder Andy McMillan asked authors to contribute a “Lesson” along with each piece. Below, an excerpt from mine:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the many things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” —Steve Jobs
[via Farnam Street]

I like things. Full disclosure: a lot of things. More things, perhaps, than can be reasonably liked by one person. Rose-colored glasses have always seemed a curious concept, as the world seems shiny enough without them. So I steer clear of conditions that might increase the likelihood of increasing the world’s sparklehood.

Choice then, becomes the primary tool to navigate “like,” as it gives each thing its priority, assigning an algorithm for liking, for doing, and for being in the world.

You see, for the like-striken, it’s hard to say no. Everyone and everything is interesting.

As I suffer from this condition myself, something a friend said to me several years ago has stayed with me:

It’s easy to say no if you love something.

Wrong. Wrong, I thought at the time. If you love something, say yes. Say yes to everything. Yet what did he mean about loving something, I quietly wondered on the side. Did he mean to imply having a focus for one’s passion was another tool to help make better choices?


No matter what it is — be it a business, a person, a piece of art, a career, a song, a family, a way of life, or a pursuit of any kind — it’s easy to say no to all the choices that will present themselves if you love something.

Finding that thing is the hardest part. But that’s another lesson.

Hurry off to pick up the book in its entirety.