Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yes and No

Warren Buffet said that the difference between successful and very successful people is that very successful people rarely say yes.

Before I remembered that quote I was going to make a case for saying “yes,” probably because I say ”yes” too often and “no” rarely.

My mother was the “yes” person, as was my sister who is closest to my age. My older by 5 1/2 years sister probably is more like my dad, saying “no” more ofter than “yes.” I should clarify that, with my sisters, it was often they who were asking as well as answering the question. They both “listened to their own drummer.”

Of the three of us, I’m not about to suggest who might be successful (or not), and who might be very successful.

Somehow I associate saying “yes” with being life affirming, and saying “no” with being overly cautious. In a game show, if I had a choice of $1000 or a mystery gift, I’d take the mystery gift. Or maybe not. I’d hear the voices of both parents. I’d weigh how I’d feel losing $1000 with how much I wanted $10,000 instead. (My dad said that you should only get insurance if you couldn't afford the loss.)

But suppose it was $1,000,000,000 or the mystery gift. I’d take it, going with the idea that a bird in your hand is worth two in the bush.

But if it was $10, I’d go for the gift, as I can afford to lose $10. And who needs a worm in their hand?

Sometimes I say “yes” when buying something, and then I’d have shopper’s remorse and return it. Part of the reason that I say “yes” so often is that I’m so good at returning things. I switched majors 10 times in college, which is one reason it took me 5 1/2 years to graduate.

I was given the name of “Jelly Mosley” many years ago because I changed my mind so often. I see myself as someone who really doesn’t care that much for one preference or another.

The Third Patriarch of Zen, Seng-T’san (606 AD), wrote the Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on the Faith Mind), which starts with this stanza:
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart. 
In the third and last sentence, we see that in the relative world, where we are constantly fettered with the discriminating mind, we cease (with the smallest distinction) to have no preferences, and create a battleground with one side against the other.

I think the ancient lesson here is that it is of less consequence whether you say “yes” or “no” than whether you say either. Your son tells you he wants to drop out of college (as I did at one point). You can say “yes” or “no,” or you can say nothing (or you can ask, “why?”).

As Lao Tzu wrote, “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.”

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