The value of saying no

Image from Flickr

If you’re somebody who has a lot of ideas, it can be pretty easy to get overwhelmed and/or distracted by all of the possibilities. It’s also worse when you’re an optimist and you believe it can all be done. I am definitely guilty of this. It is one of my weaknesses.

We all have a finite amount of time to work with and so saying no to the stuff that isn’t core is critical. I believe I am getting better at this, but every now and then I find myself having to do some pruning. And once I do that, boy does it feel great.

Seth Godin has a fantastic blog post on this topic that I love called, No is essential. Here it is in its entirety (it’s a short post):

“If you believe that you must keep your promises, overdeliver and treat every commitment as though it’s an opportunity for a transformation, the only way you can do this is to turn down most opportunities.
No I can’t meet with you, no I can’t sell it to you at this price, no I can’t do this job justice, no I can’t come to your party, no I can’t help you. I’m sorry, but no, I can’t. Not if I want to do the very things that people value my work for.
No is the foundation that we can build our yes on.”

To drive the point home even further, let’s shift gears and talk about wine. (For all of you fellow wine drinkers.)

In viticulture, overall yield — usually measured in hectoliters per hectare of vineyard — is often seen as an important indicator of quality. The idea being that low yields produce better wines because the flavors get concentrated over fewer grapes.

Part of what drives this is the leaf to fruit ratio. Too much fruit and not enough leaves, means the grapes won’t ripen properly.

The parallel to this conversation is that leaves are much like time. There’s only so much of it. And while many of us are constantly trying to maximum yield — I know I am — there are limits to the kind and quality of grapes we can produce when we do that.

I know this in principle. And more and more, I know this in practice. I am learning to say no.

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