A while back I read the book called, “The Dip” by Seth Godin and it really changed my perspective. It’s a book about quitting and how quitters are winners, contrary to popular belief. As I get older I am finding that the better quitter I am the better my life is. The better I am at saying no, the more I get accomplished. This is counterintuitive to what I was brought up learning. No was a bad word and quitting was for losers. Saying No and quitting something isn’t an easy way out. This blog post isn’t about permission to quit when something gets tough. It’s about making a decision to be excellent. You’ll never achieve the success you want if you say yes to everything and if you continue trying to do it all.
In psychology classes, you’ll often learn about social proof. You’ll hear about the curious case of Kitty Genovese. A woman who was stabbed to death in New York while 38 bystanders watched and did nothing. As the typical class goes on you’d hear how reporters picked up the story and talk about apathy and city life. Instead, it’s proof that confusion kills.
When Kitty was being stabbed the onlookers weren’t sure what to do. Not only did they see the attacker and the victim but they saw each other. The social clues that required action were not only present, but ALL of them were present. Each person was frantically asking themselves, “Should I call the police, should I physically help, should I shout, should I attack, should I hide, did they already help, did someone else already call?” With a myriad of potential options, the brain shuts down into inaction. A woman dies because there was a lack of clarity.
Should you ever find yourself in a situation where you are in danger, you need to help others cut through the confusion. You need to single out people and request help. It’s part of the basic CPR training for emergency responders. Saying “You there, in the v-neck shirt with the skinny jeans, please call the police,” is going to recruit and empower that person to help.
When You Confuse You Lose
I love the StoryBrand slogan, “When You Confuse You Lose.” I think we’ve all had the shopping experience where we are looking for a new item but are overwhelmed with the choices. I think part of Apple’s lingering success isn’t because they are innovative or even stylish, it’s because it’s easy. If you need a product and Apple makes it, you can have a mac or choose from an infinite choice of PC/laptop configurations. There are hundreds of cell phone choices or you can buy an iPhone.
Saying yes to someone or something adds something to your plate and gives you more choices. These choices confuse. Instead of saying yes immediately you should follow this rule.
New Rule: When I say yes, I will say no to two other things.
Saying No Creates Priority
People often mistakenly use the word, “priorities.” The word itself means there can only be one. Priorities as a word can be an oxymoron. If you have unordered priorities, you have things you think are equally important. You might not define them that way personally, but priorities when used correctly, create order.
For example, many people say their list of priorities in order is, “God, family, then business.” However, these same people work late hours and don’t attend Church let alone have a “quiet” time. This isn’t about judging someone for “hustling” or working hard but it’s clear God and family aren’t a priority.
Making sure your first priority is satisfied and moving on to the next one gives you the amazing power to say no to anything that interferes with that. If you get a new job opportunity that requires a lot of travel? It’s easy to say no if family time is your priority.
Priorities (properly ordered) help define very clearly your boundaries in many cases. Where you struggle to say no, you likely have undefined boundaries.
Saying No Creates Value
When you say no you are creating a scarcity. Scarcity is the essence of value. We value gold because it’s finite, it’s limited, it’s scarce. When you say no to that job offer, you’re telling others and yourself that you value something greater than that job. Every time you say no to something you’re saying that your “yesses” to are more important.
Saying No Creates Clarity
There is nothing like having the ability to say no immediately. It indicates crystal clarity around a matter. Often people will ask for our attention and we’ll be at odds internally with upsetting them. However, the only person that knows how much you have on your plate is you. The only one that defines your priorities is you. There isn’t any explanation needed. Saying no empowers you by solidifying in your mind what is a priority. For the person asking (or the opportunity arising) it’s just an answer to a question.