Using the 5/25 Rule to Learn to Say “No”
James Altucher

Wow! What an idea. I almost agree with it, but not quite.

There are two things that are probably on most peoples top five- their family and social/leisure time. That leaves three spaces for pursuit of interests. One of these interests is probably career. Which leaves two spaces for hobbies or whatever else.

If my two primary focuses outside of family, career, and social/leisure time are playing guitar and studying Spanish, and I say “No” to anything that doesn’t fall into these categories because they are in my bottom 20 or not on the list at all, it seems like I’d miss out on a lot of other good stuff a spontaneous “yes” has to offer. Like a friend asking me to join them at the YMCA for a hip hop class. Do I have anything to gain from it even though I’m not pursuing a dance career? No. But could I have fun by mixing it up a bit? Definitely!

I’d prefer a more flexible model where you focus on the top five to a point.

To the point you get bored.

And then, sure, grab that bottom 20 list and pick something to do off it. To focus on for the day, for the week, for the month. Something to keep the mind engaged and not forever confined to the same old same old. I for one always end up focusing on watercolor painting in the winter instead of music.

My focuses evolve and cycle.

That bottom 20 is maybe a good reference for all that we’ve dreamed as possible for us. Maybe somethings we never return to (I can cross “be a rockette” off my list, for sure) but other things- like you wanting to be a DJ one day- maybe down the line the space becomes available. And maybe it doesn’t. But we can still keep those other passions, joys, dreams, aspirations, and loves on the peripheral, but just knowing the right time to say yes to them.

And I think it is important to know why you are saying yes to something. If we can say yes to things from our 20 list without being attached to outcome- like taking a dance class without it meaning the focus in now become a dancer- then we can relax and let those random “yes” moments come and go without any regret.

And for the record, my top 5 is my family (I have a new baby daughter!), building my career as a writer, studying Ayurveda, making a music album with my husband, and enjoying nature.

Thanks for such a thought provoking article!