Learning “the art of the slow yes and the quick no” is something we all have to master if we want to be efficient and effective with our time and focus.
Recently I was reading Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, by Harvey MacKay, and there is a whole chapter dedicated to learning how to say no gracefully.
There are many beliefs that prevent us from saying no. These are the beliefs that are stopping us from growing. By saying yes to everything that comes our way we are not leaving enough room for the few great opportunities in life.
Also, there is a great article by Derek Sivers where he states, if it’s not a “Hell Yeah” it should be a “No”.
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, plays a big role in this situation, and what we have to accept is we are always missing out. There will always be an opportunity cost. The key is to not let this affect us and our decision-making process. We must have a clear PRIORITY. Not priorities, just a priority!
The goal of this article is to help those of you who are having trouble saying no and are constantly in environments that are not supporting your growth. It might be a situation or a specific person, but we have to be aware our environment is shaping us and the way make decisions.
Having a strong purpose will maintain your commitment to your goals. It is OK if you struggle with commitment and discipline, we all do to some degree. This is why the BizLatte team has put together a FREE e-guide that will help you Identify Your Professional Purpose.
Let’s explore how having a clear priority, and a strong purpose will help you avoid the things that are slowing your professional growth.
Being Selfish is Not Always Bad
"You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything." ~ John C. Maxwell
Knowing when to say no is a topic where I am an expert because I spent many years saying yes to everything. Let’s look over the past decade: I was a personal trainer for 6.5 years, went to Law School for 1.5 years, have two Master’s degrees, taught college for 4.5 years, worked with an international non-profit for 3 years, started one business, and co-founded another, plus a 4-month stint at a consulting firm. Oh, I am only 33 . . .
Some people look at the above as accomplishments. I see someone who is unclear about their goals in life. BTW if you are doing the math, I have always held two jobs at once or was in school while working simultaneously. My choices are the proof I can help you start saying no since I said yes too often.
Let’s quickly go over the main reason we say yes when we really should be saying no. Purpose or let's call it your goal in life. That’s it. The people who have a clear purpose run toward it and don’t let others stop them. Recently I had coffee with a brilliant young MBA student. She asked me, “Matt, how do you fight the temptation to go work for a large business, you would make more money at a corporation compared to being an entrepreneur?” I opened my notebook and drew two lines on a graph.
The upward linear line represents working at a large company. The s-curve represents being an entrepreneur. I have a clear goal and believe with enough time I will become financially “successful” (we can talk about that another time as it’s overrated) along with doing the work I want to do. Currently, I could make more money at a business, and there is no guarantee the s-curve will happen. Yet, I know for sure, the s-curve will not happen unless I try.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” ~ Wayne Gretzky
In the past, I said yes to almost anything which seemed interesting. Now, if an opportunity falls outside of my goal, I say no, plain and simple. Here are some steps to try if you want to start saying no.
- You need a clear goal. I know, it sounds obvious, but most people have never thought of their professional purpose. See our free e-guide to map out your professional purpose.
- Stop following someone else's goals. Many people get caught up in other people’s dreams and follow blindly. Don’t get me wrong, your goal might be to help a large company, non-profit, or a start-up grow. We are not all going to be CEOs. That is fine. The world desperately needs people who do the necessary work to get stuff done. The point is you should make sure you are not aimlessly following.
- Trust your gut. You must get out of your comfort zone. Yet, at the same time trust your instincts. There was a point where I never went to networking events. Now, I network weekly with purpose. Just a year ago, I would drive to events and know it did not align with my goal, but I wanted to check off the “networking” to-do task for the week. Now, I trust my gut. If I am not going to add or receive value from an event, then I say no and don’t feel bad.
There you have it, to say no, you need to determine your goal in life, stop blindly following, and trust your instincts.
Have fun saying no!
Here is an easy and valuable recommendation: AVOID negative people and negative environments at all costs!
Even if they are family members or close friends. Especially if they are charismatic or influential.
This is why:
Currently, I am reading The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell. There is a specific part of the book that talks about a study conducted by Howard Friedman (psychologist at the University of California at Riverside).
For the study, they put together two people in a room for two minutes and wouldn’t allow them to talk. One was a previously identified charismatic person and the other was a non-charismatic person. Results showed that even without talking, both people would leave the room feeling like the charismatic person was feeling.
If the charismatic person was happy, the non-charismatic person would also leave feeling happy. If the charismatic person was sad, even if the non-charismatic person was happy at the beginning they would end up sad too.
THIS HAPPENED WITHOUT SPEAKING!!!
Do you see why you have to avoid negative people?
Charismatic people have the ability to influence others, even without talking. So beware of the negative-minded charismatic people.
People who are always complaining… avoid them!
People who see the glass half-empty… avoid them!
People who speak negatively or gossip about other people… avoid them!
Sometimes this will be hard, because we may feel the need to vent. One great way to do so, and transform it into a positive experience, is to talk about the situation instead of the people.
Also, do it in a way that allows you to learn from the situation and make the necessary changes when that situation happens again.
I do this all the time with Matt. I share the situation and challenge I’m facing with him, to get his point of view and vice-versa. But we never speak negatively about specific people.
“Criticize generally; praise specifically”
Part of avoiding negative people is being sure you are not one of them. The way you talk to yourself, even the way you walk and dress can have a big impact on you.
For this reason, the BizLatte team has put together a couple of FREE resources to help you. Dressing professionally will have a positive impact in everything you do. If you are a woman check out this guide, if you are a man check out this one.
The same applies for environments. Be sure that you are hanging out in places and organizations that are positive.
Even if you have to be alone for a while because creating that space will allow the right people to come into your life.
Stop Pleasing People
It sounds counter-intuitive, yet saying no is essential to do great work and add value to the world. You saying yes and not giving your all or not having enough energy is not beneficial to anyone. You will be resentful, do poor work, and become exhausted.
Learning to say yes at the right time and no more often is exactly what the world needs. You will only say yes to the most important areas in your life and career which gives you the time to do excellent work.
We are not recommending saying no to everything, but to be smart about your yes and no. You only have a limited amount of yeses in life, make them worth it.
Knowing when to say no is just part of your professional development. The BizLatte team has put together numerous free e-guides to take your career to a higher level. Check them out below and become your ideal professional self.
Alejandro I. Sanoja & Matt Avery