[CASE STUDY] Why I Said No to a Job (A Great One)…During a Pandemic

Editor’s Note: The following article is from film & television editor Debby Germino (Fargo, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Smallville, Genius), who is also the founder and author of the blog Happiness In Training.

» Click here to download Debby’s “Happiness In Training” Starter Kit



Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: I said “No” to a job…a great job…for a HUGE network…during a pandemic. And it’s a decision that after months of soul-searching I’m confident is the right one.

But it certainly didn’t come easy.

Coming to this decision was fraught with fitful nights of anxious dreams and restless sleep – the sleep you get when you’re wrestling with a decision you just can’t settle on. Another morning with knots in my stomach as the scenarios dance in my head. Pros and cons of every option being tossed and turned and mixed up again. Maybe there’s just one more possibility I haven’t thought of that will settle the debate, ease my mind, and bring the confidence I long for?

I know you’ve been there too. For freelance creatives navigating the ‘Gig Economy’, the freedom to choose our next project is both the blessing and the curse of our existence.

Every 3-9 months we face a choice: This job or that one. Or even scarier – this job or no job. Even though I’ve been editing television for over a decade, I still feel flattered and amazed that someone wants to hire me to edit their show. Part of me feels the same gratitude I felt when I got my very first editing job.

“Really?! You are choosing me to cut your show! AMAZING! I will not let you down!”

My enthusiasm often cajoled me into taking any project that came along just for the chance to cut and hone my craft. It didn’t matter what the project was, I just wanted to learn. (This is the addictive quality of creative jobs and the ‘Passion Tax’ that Zack writes about.)

And learn I did. After 10 + years editing various shows and films, I’ve learned that choosing the right project DOES matter. It matters if I connect with the material. It matters that the story is worth telling and that I can add something valuable to it. It matters if I feel passionate about the characters, the style, and the world we are creating.

I’ve also learned that editing is more than a job to me, it’s more than just paying the bills, it’s a way of connecting – connecting with the writers, directors, and producers on the project, and connecting with the actors, editors, and most importantly the audience. It’s a collaborative expression of all these connections, and finding the right fit is vital to my growth and authentic expression as an editor.

I’ve always known this.

But I haven’t always known how to live it.

Soul Searching For the Confidence to Say ‘NO’

To understand what was really going on here, I had to ask myself a few questions.

What is so scary about saying no?

What do I believe it says about me if I say no?

What do I believe will happen if I say no?

Not surprisingly, the answers to these questions are predominantly psychological with only the first being practical.

  1. Turning down a paycheck is never easy. You wonder if you’ll ever get offered another job. You wonder how long you will have to wait to get another offer. Can you survive for that long? These are the practical questions that get easier with more experience and your ability to prepare for times of unemployment. To be clear, it is ALWAYS okay to say YES to a job if you need the paycheck. Your basic needs must be met and there is no shame in taking work for that reason.
  2. It feels rude and arrogant to say no. Somehow it feels like you’re saying you’re too good to work on their show. And to be saying that to a producer who is more experienced and more successful feels audacious.
  3. You don’t want to burn a bridge. If you say no to this project, you assume they’ll never offer you another job again. And maybe in the future they have a project that is really appealing to you. If you’ve burned that bridge, not only are you saying no to one opportunity, you are potentially saying no to all future opportunities. It’s career suicide, right?
  4. You’ll have to continue networking to find the right job and you suck at networking. It’s much easier to say yes, and then you can relax and enjoy your time off.
  5. Being unemployed means you’re worthless and aren’t contributing to society and your personal responsibilities, i.e. family, bills, etc.

Aside from reason number one, these are all limiting beliefs. They are all psychological hurdles that can be overcome. I knew that if I spent time building the confidence to overcome these hurdles it would lead to getting more suitable (and satisfying) jobs which would lead to greater ease in the transitions and enjoying hiatus rather than it being fraught with anxiety over searching for the next gig.

As I worked to dismantle these limiting beliefs, I started a blog to share the lessons and strategies for being happier and more resilient. Knowing I wasn’t alone in this struggle, I wanted to help others facing similar challenges.

Enter Zack Arnold & The Focus Yourself program

I met Zack while training for a Tough Mudder race. When my race companions backed out, I inserted myself into Zack’s Spartan training group and became the novice racer with three other veteran male Ninja Warrior racers (no…they were LITERALLY American Ninja Warriors). To say I was intimidated was an understatement.

But backing out was not an option.

What I experienced the day of my first Tough Mudder was some of the most encouraging and uplifting support I have ever encountered. I made it through the race smiling and not once wanting to quit or give up. (And even if I had, they wouldn’t have let me). At the end of that day, I learned two things:

  • I need to continue to put myself in uncomfortable situations in order to grow.
  • I need to keep supportive people like Zack and his teammates in my life if I want to reach my full potential.

With his Optimize Yourself program, Zack is doing what I have been wanting to do for years now. I want to help others by creating a space where I can share my knowledge and build a community of people who support and lift each other up while challenging themselves to live their best life. So when Zack asked me if I wanted to become a contributing writer as well as a coach for his Focus Yourself program, I had no doubt that “Yes!” was the correct answer.

But before I could become a coach, I had to be a student. And with the pandemic leaving me unemployed, I had plenty of time to dedicate myself to the program and learn to Focus Myself on what I truly desired.

Little did I know that this would become some of the most useful, beneficial, and valuable educational experiences of my life. Focus Yourself taught me all the things I should have been taught in school that are the foundational building blocks for anyone who wants to live a thoughtful, fulfilling, and purposeful life.

Below are the fundamental concepts and mindsets I learned in the program and how each of these lessons has given me the confidence to recognize the wrong types of jobs and turn them down.

1. Set Goals That Align With Your Purpose

Most of us spend hours daydreaming about fantasy lives that are unrealistic or unattainable for countless reasons. But what if we instead used those wasted hours to plan, organize, and achieve realistic goals that would make daydreaming unnecessary because we were living our true purpose? 

This is one of the fundamental lessons in the course. And it goes deeper than most people ever imagine.

Our culture is high achieving, fast-paced, and results-oriented. But this is not the recipe for happiness (in case you haven’t noticed). Constantly striving and trying to keep up with the latest and greatest only leads to burnout and exhaustion.

So while setting goals is necessary, it can’t be the primary source of happiness.

What happens when we don’t achieve our goal? (We feel bad, sad, mad, or depressed.)

Or what happens when we do achieve it? (We set another one, and another one, and another one, never allowing happiness in because we’re too busy striving.)

This is where systems and habits are essential. The better our systems and habits, the more we can accomplish, but also the more we feel content in our day-to-day experiences because we aren’t in it for an endgame. Setting a proper goal requires the implementation of various systems and habits to help you achieve that goal, a realistic timeframe, and an understanding of your purpose and what you find fulfilling in life.

So how do you identify your true purpose?

2. Identify Your Deeper “Why” to Reveal Your Purpose

One of the reasons our daydream fantasies aren’t realistic is because we haven’t thought about what it takes to achieve them. Once we put thought and effort into breaking down the steps to achieve a goal, it’s much easier to determine if it’s worth the work (or just as important, if it’s NOT worth the work). And to have the grit and perseverance to continue doing the work when it gets tough, you have to understand WHY you’re working towards this goal.

CAUTION: This is where the process gets uncomfortable.

It requires digging deep into your past and your own psychology to uncover what really drives you. These deeper why’s reveal your purpose and what fulfills you.

In my own exploration, I discovered that my purpose is helping others find inspiration and happiness to reach their full potential through storytelling. I had to go back to my childhood when a friend of mine committed suicide while I was on the phone with him and feel the pain of being unable to help him to understand why coaching others and telling stories of overcoming adversity was so important to me. That experience filled me with sadness but also a deep compassion to reach out to those who can’t see their own self-worth.

After concluding this portion of the program, I had a better understanding of how to properly align my goals with my purpose. So after weeks of refining and clarifying my goals, and finally preparing a proper goal statement, I was ready to get to work!

But wait…what about all the obstacles that will stand in my way? Like the time commitments that run long and disrupt my schedule? Or the doubts that keep me from trying something new? Or the family obligations that require so much of my attention?

I’ll just cross that bridge when I get there…right?

3. Recognize Obstacles and Make a Plan for Overcoming Them

This may have been my least favorite part of the program. For years now I have been writing about happiness, gratitude, and good habits. I like to focus on the positive because I know that’s better for my mental health (and it’s just more fun). So when I was told to think about all the obstacles that would prevent me from reaching my goals, I became extremely slightly irritated.

But if you’ve been listening to Zack and reading his posts, you know if nothing else, he likes to be (over) prepared.

The point of the lesson is not to discourage, instead it’s to prepare you for the inevitable challenges and obstacles that will come your way and devise a plan to work through them. When I listed all my obstacles, I discovered they weren’t so unique and they were familiar “friends” that I’ve been grappling with for years.

Maybe you’re familiar with imposter syndrome?

Or maybe (like me) you use perfectionism as an excuse not to try new things?

How about telling yourself that you didn’t really want that job anyway when you lose out to someone else?

Do you ever run the other way when things get hard or avoid networking events because “I’m just not good at networking”?

Yup. Me too. All of the above.

These are all examples of limiting beliefs (pesky little suckers). And when you learn to recognize those habitual excuses you tell yourself, you learn that you can flip the script and make a different choice.

So when my habitual pattern is to accept the first job that is offered, even when it doesn’t meet my creative or lifestyle needs, I can recognize that as a limiting belief. I can look at the evidence to the contrary. I can build the confidence to take the next steps towards achieving my goals.

That all sounds great in theory, but how do I build the confidence?

I’m so glad you asked!

4. Identify Your “One Thing” and Ask the Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask Yourself

Confidence comes in part from clarity (which by this point in the course, had grown tremendously for me). But this next step is what takes clarity from clear to crystal and builds confidence exponentially.

The idea of identifying “The One Thing” comes from authors Jay Papasan and Gary Keller who literally wrote the book on it.

The important question you must ask yourself to develop the confidence that your next action is the right one is:

What is the ‘One Thing’ I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

This concept resonated with me deeply because I was so guilty of bogging myself down with unimportant tasks that seemed urgent or important. Or I’d lose an entire day because I misjudged how long a task would take. Or I’d get stuck in a process not knowing what my next step should be and throw in the towel.

This one question has the power to eliminate all these pitfalls and redirect the attention to the most efficient and effective task on your to-do list.

This may seem unrelated to addressing limiting beliefs and getting to the place where you can identify and say no to the wrong jobs, but I promise it’s absolutely essential and connected.

When you learn to break down ideas, projects, and goals into small, manageable steps, you can easily see whether or not you are making forward progress. This gives you the assurance that while you may not know how to get that dream job just yet, you know the next thing to do to get closer to it.

So now that I have the confidence, how do I keep the momentum going?

5. Build Consistency With Time Blocking

I don’t know about you, but if I’m not consistent with something it easily slips away, and that confidence disappears as quickly as it came. This is where the systems and habits I began building at the start of the program up-leveled.

This was also the part of the program where I surprised myself the most. I have never been a calendar person who planned my day hour by hour and week by week. This always seemed like something that only “busy” and important high-level executives did. But once I saw the magic of time blocking on the calendar and how it transforms a to-do list into realistic expectations, I was sold.

As Zack likes to say,

The great equalizer is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, the difference is how we manage it. Time is not something you find…time is something you prioritize.

After setting my goals, breaking them down into micro goals, projects, and single tasks, and understanding what one thing would make everything else easier, I was ready to load up my calendar and start Getting Things Done!

Putting essentially my entire life on my calendar gave me clarity about what could realistically get done by having to find a time and day for each task. And because I continuously review my goals and purpose, I also have clarity that my actions are moving in the right direction.

So while time blocking may seem disconnected to making better job decisions, it should now be clear that it’s all part of the bigger picture of defining your goals and building your confidence such that you can align your actions to your greater purpose.

Clarity, Confidence, and Peace of Mind Can Be Yours 

The pandemic has a way of simultaneously making it seem necessary to say yes to the first and any job that comes along while also magnifying the need to say no to the wrong job that is clearly not the right fit.

Despite the work I’ve done in the Focus Yourself program, the instinct to take the first job that comes along did not disappear. But the impulse to act on it did disappear.

I knew in my gut that the job being offered did not align with my greater purpose. It did not align with my creative needs. It most likely did not align with my lifestyle needs either based on the schedule.  But it would be a paycheck. Something I haven’t had since March. This is a very enticing temptation. And in some cases, it may be the only deciding factor. We all have bills to pay and basic needs to fulfill. When those are not being met (or in danger of not being met), then take the paycheck without shame or regret.

What we’re aiming for is confidence and assurance in making decisions that lead to happy and fulfilling lives. This comes from:

  1. Setting proper goals
  2. Identifying your deeper whys to reveal your purpose
  3. Recognizing and planning for obstacles
  4. Identifying your ‘One Thing’
  5. And staying consistent with time blocking

If you have ever struggled with which job to take, or felt stuck on the wrong path with no idea how to get on the right path, come join us in the ‘Optimizer’ coaching & mentorship community. You will gain clarity, confidence, and consistency to help you enjoy a balanced and fulfilling career and lifestyle.

Continue to Listen & Learn:

The “Passion Tax” – Why Artists and Creatives Are Exploited, And How To Say ‘No’

How to Handle Transition Times and Increase Your Resilience

How to Stay Productive (and Stop Procrastinating) During Your Next Hiatus | with Debby Germino

Ep48: Feeling Lost? It’s Time to ‘Find Your Why’ | with David Mead

Happiness in Training Publication on Medium by Debby Germino

Focus Yourself Online Course

This is The Best Training Tool for Happier Living

Finding Happiness in the Impermanence of Life

Can Giving Thanks to Suffering Increase Your Happiness?

How Note Taking Will Make You Better at Life

The Four Types of Creative Jobs (and The Secret To Knowing Which Is the Perfect Fit For You)

Finding Your ‘One Thing’ | with Jay Papasan

Are You ‘Productive’ or Just ‘Busy?’ Answer These 5 Questions Honestly to Find Out.

The Zen-like Art of ‘Getting Things Done’ | with David Allen

Apply for Optimizer Coaching & Mentorship

Debby Germino is a film and television editor (Fargo, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Smallville, Genius), endurance athlete, and author of the Happiness in Training publication on Medium. She writes about happiness, health and mindful living. She has studied mindfulness for the past 10 years and enjoys helping and supporting others in creating happy and fulfilling lives. Happiness is a practice best strengthened through training. If you would like to become more resilient, less anxious, and enjoy more ease in life, Download Debby’s Happiness in Training Starter Kit today.