How the word ‘No’ can seriously set you free and make you more productive
It’s almost as if it’s a bad word.
Even though some parents yell it at their kids all the time.
But then tell those same kids not to say it.
It has a negative connotation.
Yet I find saying it puts me in a positive frame of mind.
I’m talking about the word, “No.”
And I promise you: Saying it more often has been a key to my success.
Why we’re told to say ‘yes’ more often
Many self-help gurus and coaches will tell you to say “yes” more.
And in many cases, they are correct.
Yes to new adventures.
Yes to change for the better.
I get it, and I agree.
As I’ve written before, 80% of success is saying ‘yes’ to walking through open doors.
That doesn’t, however, mean we need to say “yes” to clients, activities, projects, and requests that don’t suit our talents…
… or our strengths.
… or our lifestyles.
I find that when my instincts tell me to say “No” to one of these, I’m right every single time.
The Power of ‘No’
Earlier today, I said “No” to working with a potential client.
They had agreed to my proposal.
I even had a signed agreement from them.
But something had been eating at me since I pitched them.
I won’t go into detail except to say that their culture and their approach to business just didn’t fit with mine.
My gut said “No.” And so did I.
Yes, I passed on some money.
But the opportunity cost would’ve been more than my monetary profit.
I’ve learned that saying “Yes” in these situations costs me dearly.
They cost in stress.
In broken relationships with the clients.
In lost time.
And, sometimes, in lost money.
I spend valuable effort and resources spinning my wheels on the project, while I could be chasing better projects.
Opportunity costs are real.
Saying “No” helps keep me from expending those wasted costs.
Saying “No” to the Popular
As Tim Ferriss says:
“To do the impossible, you need to ignore the popular.”
Of course, that means different things to different people.
For me, that means I’ve become what I jokingly refer to as a “rabid nonconformist.”
It’s popular to send your kids to school. We homeschool.
It’s popular to work the 9 to 5. I’m an entrepreneur.
It’s popular to consume things like sugar, pizza and beer. I’m paleo.
Back in Illinois, it wasn’t very popular (especially among our friends and family) to move away.
We picked up and moved to South Carolina.
Those may sound like small examples.
And they are very personal.
But they work for me and my family.
We get snide remarks.
People openly mock us (sometimes in subtle ways).
But we don’t care. Because we are crushing it.
What things do you say “yes” to merely because they are popular?
When was the last time you bucked the popular and took the road less traveled?
Doing things only because society or your clique thinks you’re “supposed” to do them can lead to regret, misery and unhappiness.
Don’t be different just to be different.
But don’t be popular just to be popular.
Say “No” to things that don’t work for you.
Say “Yes” to Your Strengths
Tom Rath writes in his bestselling book StrengthsFinder 2.0:
“From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to our shortcomings than to our strengths.”
His statement is based on years of Gallup polling data that show people who focus on amplifying their strengths, rather than their weaknesses, are more engaged and productive.
Most coaching programs, schools, and employers focus on trying to help you “fix” your weaknesses.
What Rath and Gallup found is that we should manage our weaknesses, but play to our strengths.
About seven years ago, I began saying “No” to projects that weren’t my strengths.
I began outsourcing tasks that weren’t my strengths.
By saying “yes” to my strengths, I was able to say “No” to activities, clients and projects that would normally cause me stress, lost productivity and misery.
I’m happier, stress-free and my company has grown every single year.
Author and leadership guru John C. Maxwell says we should:
“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”
What he means is that we shouldn’t settle for things that are merely “okay”.
Instead, we should use our energy and finite resources to engage in those things that are “hell, yes!” activities that can 10x our success, happiness and lifestyles.