Addition by Subtraction- My Year of Saying No

Addition by Subtraction – My Year of Saying No
Posted on March 15, 2016 by Shawn Gerber
No = Yes?
NO. Such a simple word, really. Just two letters long, yet it has been such a difficult word to master.

N. O.

Why is that so hard to say sometimes?

Some days I look at my two year old niece and am just astonished by how quickly she learned the word no. It’s incredible, really. She’s good at it – uses it without hesitation.


It’s simplicity is beautiful. She’s not trying to please anyone. She’s just stating how she feels and what she wants in that moment. Is it lacking a little tact? Yes, but that’s to be expected of a 2 year old.

No is a powerful word, capable of shaping the very direction of your life, yet saying no can be such a chore. It comes loaded with a certain amount of fear that no two letter word should possess – fears of offending or disappointing others, of missing an opportunity, or of being improperly judged as being selfish or self-centered.

You have those fears on one side, and the legitimate reasons you want to say no in the first place on the other. It turns into a full-on battle inside of you.

What is one to do? How bad could a yes be? It’s definitely an easy answer right here in this moment…


Ah…that felt good. Nobody’s feelings are hurt. Everybody is happy. This could be a great opportunity! What a good day.

Sound at all familiar?

It will if you have even one people pleasing bone in your body. The struggle is real, and before you know it you have a ton of “extras” on your plate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that the more I add to my plate, the more mediocre everything tends to become. Actually, that sounds like something I learned in macroeconomics. Oh college days…

Over time, two things have become very clear to me:

Being hyper-committed and “busy” does not necessarily equal to being productive or successful. I’d rather be the latter.
Trying to please people is an endless, unrewarding pursuit. It needs a filter.
Coming to those conclusions (albeit far too slowly) is also how I decided to start this “year of no” for 2016. Let me explain how it looked for me.

In 2015 I was hustling hard and the more you hustle, the more opportunities seem to cross your path. Before I knew it I found myself juggling a lot of balls, trying to keep a lot of people happy. I started the year with a pretty clear vision of the 2-3 big things I truly wanted to accomplish both in my career and personally. At the end of the day, though, I found myself in a very different place. There was a disconnect and a dissonance between how I spent my time and what I truly wanted to accomplish.

How did it all turn out you ask? You probably guessed it already, those 2-3 things failed miserably. And the rest of the stuff I was juggling? Mediocre at best. Stinking economics class…

So I (finally) decided to put an end to the craziness and took action to get myself on point for 2016. That meant learning to look more closely at “opportunities” and figuring out good ways to say no so I could focus on those 2-3 things that really matter to me, which are:

Building a business that allows me to help people improve their lives and creates freedom for me to live a healthy lifestyle (I want to be a good example of what I coach), travel more, and spend more time with my awesome family and friends.
Kicking butt at triathlon, especially long course (Ironman and Half Ironman distances).
Have fun. It’s cliche, but I want to enjoy most of what I am doing on a regular basis. It feeds productivity, too.
So I learned how to say no (key word learned). I got rid of a lot of superficial commitments. I said no to things that weren’t helping achieve the three things above. And slowly, but surely I am entering this hallowed space that allows for this weird thing called focus.

And it’s wonderful.

By subtracting I added so much to my life. It seems so backwards in a world that rewards busyness, but it turns out you can be happier, do more and be more by saying no to most things and only saying yes to the very best.

“Good is the enemy of great.” -James C. Collins

Now I know you’re not here to hear my life story so let’s talk about the actionable bits that made all the difference. Here are the biggest game changers from my experience:

Get Clear

Getting clear on the 2-3 big goals or ideals that are most important to you is so key. It lays the foundation for being able to say no and helps keep you on your vision when it gets hard.

Fair warning: if you do this but don’t follow through you will experience the same dissonance and frustration that I did in 2015. Be ready to take action when you decide to get clear on your vision.

Reduce Choices and Examine Consequences

This is key. Just by being very clear with your personal vision you will be able to weed out 80% of “opportunities” that don’t fit the mold, which is a good thing. When we have too many choices at hand we tend to either not choose, or go into default mode (which is saying yes for a people pleaser). Be clear on your vision and weed out everything that doesn’t fit. It helps to practice and become good at turning things down. Which brings me to my next point.

Learning to Say No Kindly and Clearly

No, by it’s very self, is a sentence. When you leave it at that, though, it often does come across as rude or selfish. That’s why it is worth learning a few good ways to say no kindly and clearly.

When done well you can preserve relationships, extend respect and stay on mission. It’s a wonderful skill to have in your arsenal!

Rather than unpack all of that right here, check out this great article I’ve read on the topic:

8 Ways to Say No Without Hurting Your Image

Come up with a few scripts of your own, then practice. A lot. It gets better with time, I promise.

Establish Your Support Group

Find a mentor. Talk to family or friends. Find the the people that will help you get out of your own head, offer other perspectives, and ask you good, hard questions to keep you on track and inline with your vision. Accountability is key, especially when establishing new habits which is exactly what this is. Get your group and have them help you on vetting the opportunities that pass the “first cut” I mentioned above.

Vet The Opportunities That Make It Through

Don’t be in a rush with the 20% of opportunities that do not get weeded out right away per the above advice. Ask for time to process them and really take the time to walk through the details. Sit down with your support squad and examine the potential consequences involved with either saying yes or no.

One of the better questions I ask myself is: “Will this create a synergy between the things I already have going on or will it just district and detract from them.”

That helps get things clear pretty quickly.

Go Public With It

Follow my lead on this one – telling folks about what you intend to do creates an atmosphere for accountability. In tough moments, just knowing that someone you know may ask you about it may give you enough pause to step back and make a solid decision.

For Daily Success, Try A Not-To-Do List

I like to have two lists to keep me on point daily: a to-do list and a not-to-do list. If I’m being 100% honest, the things that I know I shouldn’t do but end up doing anyways (reading articles on Facebook, checking emails and texts, etc.) are the ones that get me off task the most.

Choosing the 2-3 goals that are a priority for the day, then also establishing a list of things I will not tackle in a given day brings clarity to the mess that is my mind. Knowing I won’t touch a certain task on a given day just removes clutter and helps keep my processing power where it needs to be.

If you get your priority items done for the day (which feels great by the way), you can move on to some of the lower priority items on your to-do list. I absolutely love setting my day up like this because it really does help you be clear about what you want to accomplish and feel great about it when you do.

Everybody has their own systems for this but I share mine in case it helps. I use an app called Trello to keep it all organized and, most importantly, easy.

I have a long-term, short-term, and a “today” list that I can easily move items around in as demands change. The 2-3 priority items make it onto the today list and the others remain in short term. It’s easy, fluid and fast. Great tool Check it out if you have the time.

Say Yes, To The Best

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

Human behavior is a messy arena. It is my hope that sharing this brings some clarity to your mind. Decluttering and leaving room in your life so you can say yes to only the best of opportunities is such a great feeling.

Like so many things, it comes down to human behavior, or, put another way, recognizing bad habits and replacing them with new habits. If you’re curious about the best way to get habits to stick, or would like some accountability as you give it a go – reach out. That is a big part of what we do with our clients here at Rare Air Fitness.

Here’s to a great year!

Love this article? Check out Shawn’s website: 

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It matters to this one

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by how big the problems are in the world. We hear about things like child sex trafficking and think “I can’t stop it, what could I possibly do that would matter?”  But, you see, the thing that matters is the life of even just one child rescued.  It matters to her. It matters to him.  In 2015, 10 new children were rescued thanks to the generous sponsors and participants of the Sock it to Child Trafficking 5K.  10 might not seem like that many when considering how many thousands of children are at risk and how many millions of orphans there are in the world.  But, for those 10 life is now safe.  For those 10, they no longer have to wonder who loves them, whether they will eat today and whether they will get to go to school. It matters to them.  Here are the stories of just a few of those 10.

7 year old Dolly
Dolly is described as a very ambitious little girl! Both of her parents died in the 2014 floods in NE India. She and her 5 siblings were rescued from the flood but sent to live with various relatives. Dolly was brought to the city where she was rescued by Asia’s Hope. She, too, is thriving in her new home, free from the dangers of the Sex Trade thanks to the funds from the Sock it to Trafficking 5K!

9 year old Arjun
In 2014, Arjun’s mother and father were lost in the terrible flood that ravaged northern India. During the worst days of the flooding, Arjun nearly starved to death, but was cared for by a Cathlolic nun. He was temporarily resettled with an uncle, but that uncle could not afford to care for him, so he brought him to the Asia’s Hope home. Now he is being supported by funds from the Sock it to Trafficking 5K and is thriving and happy!

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Thank You!

The 2015 Inaugural Sock it to Child Trafficking was a HUGE success! Over 350 people participated in our 5K at the OARDC in Wooster, OH.  We are so thankful to our sponsors, our participants and our volunteers for making it a great day!  Most importantly, this event raised nearly $25,000 which will be given to our partner organization, Asia’s Hope.  These funds will be used to help rescue 20+ children in NE India and provide them a home, education, medical care and a FAMILY.  Thank you for allowing us to follow our dream of truly bringing HOPE to those most desperate.

Please continue to consider being part of Team Hope International by becoming a fundraiser through  We will have a team participating in the Buehler’s Heart and Sole in Wooster on August 15, 2015 as well as the Akron Marathon on Sept. 26.  You can participate in any event of your choosing as well!  Simply create your fundraising page and let your family and friends know how they can donate!



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8 Reasons Why 5Ks are Ridiculously Awesome

Color Run!
Train and still have a life – race hard and walk normally the next day – what’s not to love?

5Ks are all the rage with more and more races popping up every year. There’s a reason they’re so popular. Well actually there are a bunch of reasons. Here are our eight reasons to give 5Ks a try.
1. Race + Travel = Racecations!

With a plethora of races almost each and every weekend, it’s easy to find a race, whether it’s near or far, and make a fun weekend vacation out of it. Plus you won’t be totally toast after running it so you can really soak up the local attractions after you’re all done – winning!

2. Healthy Fitness

With more focus on speed than endurance, 5Ks allow you to build a lot of fitness quickly while still maintaining balance with the rest of your life. No complaints there!

3. An Apple a Day…

Keeps the doctor away. Do 5Ks and you can worry far less about those overuse injures all your long distance runner-friends seem to complain about from all those weekly miles.

4. Free Time

What’s that? You don’t have to spend 8+ hours a week training? What will you ever do with all that extra time in your week?

5. Your Wallet

It will thank you. Way less expensive, yet you still get a t-shirt, stale bagel and a green banana for your efforts. Awesome!

6. The People

No need to worry about feeling intimidated. Runners are a cool crowd, and 5Ks bring out all ability levels from walkers to competitive speed demons. It’s a really sweet community to be a part of.

7. Wall Breaker

You don’t really hit a wall so much in a 5K so much as a rough patch. What’s great about a 5K is that if you do get on the struggle bus it’s all over really quickly, and you get treats at the end – makes it a lot easier to break through any walls you may encounter.

8. Style

Last but not least, style. If running apparel isn’t your thing, you can still maintain your sense of pride at the 5K level. No need for fuel belts, water bottles, gels, blocks, powders or bars. Short shorts not your thing? No problem! You can run in just about whatever you want without a hint of chafing. 5-K for the win. Who’s with me?

Shawn Gerber is the founder and head coach at Rare Air Fitness, a company dedicated to helping people find and extract the very best from themselves. He is passionate about the human body, especially as it relates to sport and exercise. If Shawn isn’t busy exercising or coaching you will often find him in the kitchen experimenting with healthy (and delicious) recipes. Need help with you fitness or weight loss goals? Reach out to Shawn over at Rare Air Fitness.
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2015 brings exciting changes to Team Hope International

2014 was another successful year for Team Hope International with over $15,000 raised! The funds were given to our partnering organization, Asia’s Hope for the sponsorship of children in NE India who are currently unsponsored. These funds will allow them the food, clothing, beginning education and loving family they so deserve and desire.

As we look forward to 2015, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting a 5K event titled, “Sock it to Child Trafficking 5K”!  The race will include sponsorship from Vertical Runner Wooster and socks from Swiftwick, along with a great race day shirt and awards for top finishers.  The event will be held on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at the OARDC in Wooster, Ohio.  This event promises a family friendly, walker friendly, beautiful closed course on the campus of Ohio State’s Agricultural and Technical Institute.

As preparations are underway, we will be posting the registration page shortly.  Participants will be encouraged, though not required to create a fundraising page to include family and friends in their race!




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2014 WooDu a Success

Today was the 2nd annual WooDu held at Wooster’s Oak Hill park and the turnout of over 100 participants was fantastic!  Congratulations to the Team Hope participants who completed the run/bike/run today. Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped serve fantastic finish line food on behalf of Team Hope!

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Sock It To Child Trafficking

Remember, the Sock It To Child Trafficking Event is coming on Saturday March 29, 2014! No pre-registration required. $15 and you’ll get a great pair of Swift Wick socks. 3 mile non-competitive walk/ run beginning at Vertical Runner Wooster. We need people to volunteer to work the event as well as participants! Last year, this event raised almost $800- let’s double that this year!! I’ll share the flyer and you copy it, post it, anything!! Please let me know if you can volunteer- it’s a “poker” run, so there are stops along the way where you’ll pick up a card, then the best hand at the end of the day wins a great prize compliments of Vertical Runner! FAMILY FRIENDLY!

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If you plan to run the Capital City Half Marathon, register soon! They will be selling out in record time this year! Stay tuned for info on our first group run coming this Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. in Wooster!

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More 4 Orphans Summit

At the More 4 Orphans Summit in Columbus I listened to Stephanie Fast share her story of being abandoned in South Korea at 4 years old, left to wander the country for 3 years! Abused, broken, finally adopted at age 9. She said “At the garbage heap moments of our lives, the heavens break open and God says She Is Mine.” He knows each one by name. This is why we race!

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VR to Rockstar

Check out Vertical Runner’s newest training program- VR to Rockstar! Finish your first 5K or improve your 5K time. Download this flyer for more info. Thanks Brian Polen and Vertical Runner!

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