Relearning the value of saying no

half deaf guitarist

Say no unless it is a “hell yeah”

I had the good fortune of meeting fellow Berklee alumnus Derek Sivers in Hong Kong about a decade ago. For those who don’t know who Derek is, he founded I read his blog post (linked below) on this topic back then and bumped into this idea again in a different form when reading Tim Ferriss’ “Tribe of Mentors” a couple of years ago. (Ferriss explores how top performers in different fields say “no” to things.)

[side note: I need to reread Derek’s book “Anything You Want” and highly recommend it to anyone.]

Read Derek’s blog post here:

Over the past year, I had started to feel unwell and felt that something was not adding up. I began to investigate what it was, and realized that I wasn’t saying “hell yeah” in my current situation. I had begun to coast and was just “phoning it home” in my daily life.

Correcting takes time

I am currently trying to correct my situation and I realize that it will take time. Here are a few things I am finally willing to admit:

  1. I really need to stop teaching actively for a while. That does not mean that I stop helping my mentees at Berklee (yes, I am a mentor). I need to work on my own progress as a musician so that I can feel like I have something to give. Mentoring has been amazing! I have gotten to put my experience to use in a totally different way and I love it. My sessions are not regularly scheduled events and since I mentor via email, I can take time to think about the questions my mentees present me and then answer in great detail. This has been incredibly rewarding and fun.
  2. I need to work in another field for a while. (more on this in the next section below)
  3. Going through therapy has been insightful. (more on this below as well)
  4. Hitting the stop button, taking stock of one’s situation, and then taking time to make a plan is worth it. It is the only sane thing to do! We are conditioned to react and keep going. I say to hell with that. If you need to stop, then stop! You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Stopping so that one can think clearly about what to do next is much better than trying to slap a “bandaid” on one’s problems. There are no “one-size-fits-all” solutions to problems in life. You’ll still have to figure out how to make other people’s solutions fit your own situation anyway, so it is best to stop and come up with your own plans. It is way more rewarding to figure out your own solutions!

Going through therapy

I’ll tackle therapy first. I have been in and out of therapy since my student days at Berklee, but the first time I made real progress was in the course of the last three years. Having to discuss things with my current therapist that I never fully discussed before has been something that I needed to do.

I am also at a stage in my own life where I can say I actually have perspective. I turned 40 this year. It is something I haven’t really addressed here or on my other social media. Over the course of the past year, something changed. Short of calling it some sort of “midlife crisis”, I feel it is an arrival. I finally feel like I own who I am.

I spent most of my 30’s feeling like an impostor. Even with my success with RiffCentre, I still felt like an impostor. I definitely had impostor syndrome. However, I finally feel like it is okay for me to own my successes. I have always definitely owned my failures and always found it easier to own them over successes. I’ve finally given myself permission to also own my successes.

The process over the last three years with therapy was to address post traumatic stress from trauma incurred in childhood. I won’t go into detail here, but those who are close to me know what I went through. Maybe one day I will feel brave enough to actually talk publicly about what I endured in my formative years.

I have learned to let go of the feelings that have held me back. While my therapist has certainly helped me, I have done the heavy lifting and the bulk of the work. I’m a lot less upset and it feels good.

Changing professions

I will always be a musician. However, it is ok if I do other things for a living while also doing musical things. I’m incredibly lucky in the sense that I have gotten to make a full-time living from music as a teacher for so many years. The 16-year-old me would be proud of me. I did exactly what most people said I would not be able to do.

After resigning from Kitarakellari, I went to work for an old teacher of mine as a temporary solution. While I’m not sure where I will land next, I know that I am well on my way to finding something rewarding.

Finding a way forward

I applied to a couple of courses while also applying for work. I was accepted into two courses and I am still attending job interviews.

While having received a lot of rejections, I have gotten a lot of great feedback from recruiters. In a way, this whole process has actually been beneficial, I learned how to make an awesome CV for the first time in my life (with a little help from some very cool people – thanks Anniina and Heidi).

I started a course last week that was in the education field. It didn’t feel right. Even if it wasn’t a course related to teaching, it felt as though I had been there and done that. I had to say “no” to that opportunity in order to find out what else was available. I’m so glad I took a chance.

I changed courses three days ago and I feel as if I may have found the right path in the health services. I won’t go into greater detail for now, but I feel as though this could very well be something I could be happy doing for the foreseeable future.

For the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to what lays ahead. I believe that in a few years I can come back to teaching and music with a totally rejuvenated view of things. In the mean time, I should try to grow as a person and live a little. It is incredibly liberating to have given myself permission to do something else rather than trying to keep on going on doing what I was doing just for the sake of doing it.


I keep saying that I will make videos soon. I actually uploaded a video a few days ago, but it was only for one of my Berklee mentees. My comeback will happen soon. I won’t announce it. It will just happen. So if you’re not subscribed, you will not know when I make my return.

That’s all for now! I will be back soon with another blog/journal entry. I feel like there is a lot to share with you all! Thanks for dropping by and take care for now.



Leave a comment here:


Posted in Journal.