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“No” is a Four Letter Word

the word no
By Jameel Haiat

Now that I have your attention…Oh, you thought I was going to connect the word “no” to the word “[email protected]$k”, right? Well, it’s all in how we look at it.

As a member of the creative industry, and whether you’re a writer, actor, artist, singer, dancer or any other member of the creative industry, we have all heard the word “no” in so many contexts, over and over.

I remember when I started out as a sculptor in Los Angeles, calling and contacting one scenic shop after another…

“Do you have any work available?” – “No.”
“Any upcoming Projects?” – “No.”
“Can I show you my portfolio?” – “No.”

“No” was so powerful. It was such a difficult word to hear, again and again and again. The mere memory of those days, the struggle, the self doubt brought on by that simple two letter word was almost unbearable at times.

At that point, living on cup-o-noodles and peanut butter sandwiches, that word was a curse word. It was actually more like an actual curse. I would have rather heard someone say “[email protected]$k off” instead of listening to one more “no”.

We can let this word, this simple little word control us, hold us back, make us cry, fill us with dread, paralyze us with fear and doubt. We can let it be the four letter word that feels filthy, dirty, negative and painful.

We can let it cast a long shadow on our lives, our careers, our future. Or…

We can think back to our youth. We can remember the days when we were kids, teenagers, when the word “no” was a challenge, a goal. It was also a four letter word, but this one was “hope.”

We would ask our parents, our adults…
“Can I go out and play?” – “No.”
“Can I have one more piece of candy?” – “No.”
“Can I spend the night at my friends house?” – “No.”
“Can I do my homework later?” – “No.”

We heard them say no, over and over again, but in our minds, that was only a short wall to hop over, a small bump in the road, only for that minute, that hour, that day.

Sure, we may have felt crushed in the moment, but the next day was another day to challenge them again, with the same questions. The next day there was hope that “no” would become “yes”. The next day was all about blue skies, sunshine days and the simplicities of childhood.

We didn’t let “no” control us.
We still played, we still laughed, we still hoped.
We knew as children that we would hear the word “yes”, it would come and so we persisted.
We asked them about our homework, the candy, our friends until ultimately, sweetly, they said “yes”.

Now, as adults, we sometimes need to remind ourselves that words are just that, words. Yes, they can bring pain, they can bring doubt. But, they can also bring hope, joy and make dreams come true.

There is no better time than now to channel that inner child, the one that dreams, the one that imagines, the one that hopes.

The child that dreamed of writing the book, of performing on stage, of sharing their art.
The child that has become an adult and is now part of our creative tribe with big visions.

Yes, “no” is a four letter word, but so is “hope”…

Also by Jameel Haiat:

The Art of Perserverance

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