“Sure, I’d love to help.”
“Yes, let’s setup some time.”
No matter how busy I would get, I had a very tough time saying no to people.
Little did I know, that mastering that one skill would change my life. Seems trivial right? It’s a huge factor as you’ll see when I break it down in this article.
Pursuing work as an entrepreneur can be even more tricky after being in the traditional 9am-5pm role because you need to make your own schedule. There are so many choices to make on how to spend your time to be most effective.
If you’re the kind of person who has an activist-spirit or is already pursuing social business than you probably have a high level of empathy. Something that is very powerful in business actually because it’s so important to understand things from the someone else’s perspective. However, while being a very good thing, it can also be a bit of a curse that you need to be very aware of because you always want to help others.
I noticed this the most during my entrepreneur years the most. I would always be networking and meeting new people. As that happened opportunities would come up to work with them.
At the early phase of a business you likely don’t have a ton of cash flow.
You bootstrap and do everything yourself which means you don’t have an assistant.
You’re just a person following their passion and trying to figure things out.
The one thing you can trade since you don’t have a lot of money is your time. Write an article for someone, build their website, make a video…etc. Whatever skill you might have that can help them out.
But the habit of saying yes to everything has huge downsides that I outline below.
But first, why do we say yes?
Why am I a “yes” addict?
As technology continues to boom and connect us in every way possible we lead high paced stressful lives with infinite choices.
We are taught to help others, be kind, bring value to their lives. This is what gets you a return in life.
You don’t want to let someone down or destroy an important relationship.
You want to be helpful and positive. No, is seen as unhelpful and negative, right?
It the book, The Power of a Positive No, William Ury states:
“Saying no has always been important, but perhaps never as essential a skill as it is today.”
Ury even says that “whether and how we say No determines the very quality of our lives.”
His whole thing is about learning to say No in a positive way that still gets the yes.
Mahatma Gandhi once said:
“A “no” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a `Yes’ merely uttered to please or what is worse, to avoid trouble.”
Delayed Personal Progress
It’s exciting to connect with people who show interest in what you’re doing. Maybe you can help each other out? Out of excitement we might rush into decisions, giving into negative emotions such as fear and guilt.
I was always open to a mutually beneficial partnership because it meant progress to me. But, that usually meant carving out some of my limited time to make it happen.
When you do this a few times, you suddenly realize you’re over committed and basically delaying your progress more than anything because you’re spending less and less time on the things that truly matter to your personal goals.
When you become spread too thin and overcommitted, you start having shallow relationships.
You tap into that limited time inventory and start paying less attention to the most important people in your life, business or personal.
Maybe the work you promised someone in your professional life is being delayed. Maybe your quality is suffering because you’re scrambling to get things done based on a super busy schedule. Now, that relationship starts to erode because they are unhappy with your work and attention to them.
I have built so many connections as I interview tons of social entrepreneurs and connect with people in the industry. It’s very hard to keep up with everyone and most times you cannot. I wish it wasn’t the case but you have to keep your attention focused. People don’t want your half baked attention. They want to feel like you give a shit. They want you to listen and provide your undivided attention to them.
Focus is an art itself. Learning how to keep your attention narrow and avoid constant distraction is important. Practices like meditation help this a lot. It has for me.
Saying No Leaves Room For a Better Yes
As you have read so far, there are very good reasons for learning how to empower your life by saying no.
Your time is limited and you can’t buy more of it, so it’s value is very high. You must use it wisely.
When you’re focused and you know what your priorities are you can intelligently determine when to say yes or no.
When you say no you leave room for a better yes.
You say yes to giving your goals precedence.
You say yes to quality time with family and friends.
You say yes to take care of your health – mental and physical.
You say yes to very important opportunities that surface. Things that are important to you.
Success in life requires key pillars – health, wealth and strong relationships. Not just one of the three. I have interviewed people such as Tony Robbins and Arianna Huffington who will tell you this very thing.
I can appreciate the macho hype about living the “grind” to be a successful entrepreneur. You have to put in your time to do great work but how you allocate that time is very important.
All work does not lead to success. You need your personal health and strong relationship – friends and family. This is holistic and keeps you in a good state of mind for better work success.
If you want to learn more about how to say no and still get a yes, then definitely check out the book, The Power of a Positive No, by William Ury. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Related: How to fully commit to your idea