Service of No III

April 28th, 2014

Categories: Danger, No, Recommendation, Risk


I’ve covered this powerful two letter word from the viewpoints of saying and hearing it. This time I’m addressing people unable to absorb the concept.

It’s a Landslide

Take the citizens of Oso, Wash. who built homes where they were told not to because the area was a potential landslide zone. Build they did, the horrific natural disaster happened and now we read headlines such as “Leveled by Landslide, Towns Mull How to Rebuild” datelined Oso. I scratch my head.

Can’t Top This

The old saw about climbing Mt. Everest because it is there has a questionable ring to it after 16 sherpas died in an avalanche. mount everestSome love taking risks. I get my thrills from juggling too much work and meeting deadlines, so I don’t relate to the need to put my life in jeopardy to feel alive. I’m glad the sherpas are on strike, closing down mountain climbing for the season, although I don’t think better benefits and pay can mitigate the potential of death for a frivolous cause.

Trying to Be Cool Can Kill

I landed on an obituary for a 37 year old Wikipedia editor who died from head injuries in a rock climbing accident in Joshua Tree National Park. Adrianne Wadewitz had only begun the sport “in the past couple of years.” What was this brilliant scholar of 18th century British literature trying to prove? According to Noam Cohen who wrote her obituary in The New York Times, she “became one of the most prolific and influential editors of the online encyclopedia.” Cohen wrote: “She described the thrill of creating ‘a new narrative’ about herself beyond that of a bookish, piano-playing Wikipedia contributor.” What a terrible loss. Maybe there were more sensible, 30-something appropriate ways of doing this.

Didn’t Like You Then, Won’t Like You Now

yelling bossRob Walker counseled Laurie in his “The Workologist” column in the New York Times Business section. She had asked for a reference from a former boss with whom she didn’t get along figuring enough water had passed under the bridge since they’d worked together. Laurie was surprised by the unenthusiastic recommendation [which she learned about when she didn’t get the job]. What happened to her “no” reflex, when going through the list of potential candidates to ask for a recommendation. Laurie claimed to have “28 years experience in [her] field and a strong track record.” Apparently common sense isn’t necessary in her line of work.

Can you share similar examples? What is it that inhibits the “no” or “not a good idea” response in some especially when there are so many other more sensible options?

bad idea


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12 Responses to “Service of No III”

  1. ASK Said:

    Re your first example: What’s the difference between building on a potential landslide zone and rebuilding a home on the fringes of the Jersey Shore…? Even more head-scratching here.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    No difference–precisely the same. I understand the draw–who doesn’t want to be by the sea or on a mountainside but not with danger and loss of all assets and belongings in the balance…

    You and I and other pals used to visit a friend who owned a condo at the Jersey Shore on the 11th floor and the view from her living room window mesmerized me: All I saw was ocean. Now that’s a safe way to enjoy being near the water.

  3. Kathleen Said:

    I happened to read about all the examples you gave and had similar reactions. A slightly different slant to the “not a good idea” response comes when one watches “Shark Tank” on ABC. There, five multi-millionaire entrepreneurs listen to appeals from people with new-product ideas who are looking for funding. The “sharks” ask insightful questions and often identify a product or service as “not a good idea”. It’s quite interesting to hear their reasoning about why they like or dislike a product or idea.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love your interpretation of the post.

    I found a free counselor a million years ago through what was called the executive volunteer corps. It was a great service provided by NYC. My business was called “Delivered Delicacies,” and my advisor was a retired advertising executive. He taught me “No business is better than bad business.”

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    If anyone needs to be told “NO” to building in volcano, mudslide or fire prone areas, it becomes difficult to scare up sympathy when disaster strikes. What ever happened to common sense? As for daredevil types, that’s who they are. They enjoy it that way, in the same manner others of us prefer to be known as the friendly local cowards!

  6. Hester Craddock Said:

    From earliest childhood to even now, the word “No” has always provoked two very different responses from me, the first, a feeling, fear, the second, an attitude, “Why not?”

    For the word to be effective in the longer run, the hearer must calmly understand why it is being said.

    Despite all the “Nos”, I smoked for many years. Then, finally, I understood them. When I went to buy some life insurance, I discovered that the coldblooded insurance company has worked out that I was going to die years before someone of my age who did not smoke, and, therefore, was charging me a much larger premium. To save money and live longer, I stopped smoking. It made sense.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Daredevils are selfish and should think of loved ones and other ways to get their thrills. If they are injured, who will take care of them? And who will mourn them? It’s a lot to ask.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You mention childhood and one of your reactions to the word “no” as “why not?” It’s great to question. I’m increasingly cynical as advisors I trusted haven’t been trustworthy. Once burned….

    However, I think the examples I selected were cut and dried.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:

    It seems that the inability to accept the concept of “no” is simply the ultimate manifestation of selfishness. At the risk of oversimplifying all of these very serious examples, I think that the behavior in each case manifests supreme selfishness or at least supreme concentration and focus on the self.

    There is no evidence manifested of concern for others or society at large. Furthermore the inability to reason logically about one’s own limitations and the accompanying possibilities of imposing individual wishes with no regard for reality, safety, common sense, or risk whether personal or to persons unknown., indicates a rather limited intellectual capacity. Academic brilliance does not really override or replace this lack of judgment.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You were more eloquent than I was when I responded to Lucrezia, but we came to the same conclusion. The sherpas may be given a living but one that is fraught with danger, and that poor young woman died no doubt trying to keep up with friends. Tragic. Had she recovered from her head injury enough to live, though no longer work, then what?

    I wonder whether sculduggery isn’t part of some of these circumstances–the hypothetical real estate agent or builder who assures potential buyers that nothing will happen for 80 years according to their calculations; the so-called friend who tells the intellectual how much she’s missing by sitting at her computer and not experiencing life-through-rock -limbing when in truth the “friend” is jealous of the other one’s brains etc.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    I’m no mind reader, so am unable to determine whether or not daredevils are selfish. Many are entertainers with large followings. Others are well paid (and insured) stuntmen. You may disapprove of them, but chances are they don’t care what anyone thinks. Now, if you are able to shut down NASCAR, the Olympics, Hollywood, etc., and enact laws to disable all perilous acts, perhaps you will succeed in abolishing daredevils…..but don’t count on it!

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The rock climber wasn’t paid; the sherpas are subject to danger for people with nothing better to do. NASCAR is big business but why? Watching speeding cars race in circles and perhaps crash and blow into flames is a waste of metal and fuel. Some of the winter sports at the Olympics are horribly dangerous–unnecessarily so. There are plenty of other sports to watch. As for Hollywood, cameras can do amazing things these days so I think there are fewer roles for stunt people.

    Clearly, what’s no for one isn’t no for all.

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