If you want to be ridiculously successful, you must master the art of saying no to opportunities.
I’ve built an 8 figure company that was profitable and successful.
On the flip side, after I sold the 8 figure company I launched a startup that morphed into 7 figures.
Sounds great, right?
It could have been great if not for the 7 figure loss!
Talk about a miserable and painful experience.
What happened, you ask?
Let’s normalize a few things. We’ll put aside the huge ego I had after the sale of my company.
We won’t talk about how I wrote the check for the things I shouldn’t have but did because I could.
Oh, and we’ll overlook the fact that I started the business out of greed and for the sake of money.
Yes, I broke most of the success principles I learned in my first startup.
But the main reason the company was a failure was me being a ‘yes’ man.
Yup, I’m a hardcore people pleaser.
I should have been saying no, but didn’t.
It turns out I’m not alone.
The billionaires I’ve met and researched ALL have one thing in common.
They’ve all mastered the art of saying no.
In fact, in this post here I talk about why being a yes person is wrong, wrong, and wrong.
The art of saying no is the difference between massive success or failure.
So let’s take a look at how saying no protects your success.
The Silent Thief Robbing You Of Your Success
There’s a silent thief who is robbing you of your most precious resource, and you don’t even know it.
What’s your most precious resource, you ask?
[[Rich or poor we all have 1,440 minutes each day. Choose wisely.]]
No more. No less.
And once the time is gone, it’s gone. For good.
This thief takes the form of requests.
You know what I’m talking about:
- Wow, you’re so amazing and great, can I pick your brain for a few minutes?
- I haven’t seen you in ages. Would love to catch up, what do you say we grab a coffee?
- I’ve got this amazing opportunity that you would be perfect for you, why don’t we meet over lunch?
- Would you mind helping me (fill in the blank)? I could use your help, and besides, you owe me one.
- Your friend/mother/boss suggested I reach out to meet you so you can help me with (anything and everything). It won’t take long.
The above requests sound innocent, if not flattering.
Your internal self-talk goes into overdrive to justify why you should say yes. You’re not alone if your self-talk to justify saying yes includes:
- You ask yourself what’s the big deal to spend a few minutes helping someone?
- If you have to eat lunch anyway, why not take the meeting, you tell yourself.
- You fear saying no makes you a selfish and mean jerk to your family/friends/colleagues.
Justifying why you should say yes may make you feel better.
But make no mistake about it, [[we all have 1,440 minutes every day. It’s what you do with your minutes that defines you.]]
Why Saying No Unlocks Your Success
Saying no to unimportant activities is a big deal.
Ever wonder why successful (and rich) people are successful?
Successful people have mastered the art of saying no.
Tom Corley dedicated half a decade researching and studying poor and rich people.
Corley had a hunch that being rich was more than luck, intelligence or hard work.
It turns out that Corley found over 300 stark differences between rich and poor people. You can read about Corley’s research in his book, Rich Habits.
Corley shared with Kane that 62% of rich people know their goals and keep them in sight daily. Compare this to a paltry 6% of poor people.
But wait, there’s more.
81% of rich people know what they need to do every day.
86% of the rich people surveyed read nonfiction to improve themselves?
Are you starting to see a trend?
If you haven’t done so yet, click here to read the interview Kane has with Corley.
You can thank me later.
Rich and successful people are masters at saying no to the unimportant things.
[[Learn to say ‘no’ to unimportant things so you can say ‘yes’ to success.]]
Watch and listen to this interview with Corley who shares why rich people are masters at saying no.
And speaking of saying no, you can start now.
Say no to your upcoming Netflix marathon session. Instead, click here to read/listen to one of Corley’s books.
You won’t regret it, and it will forever change your daily habits for the better.
Successful People Have Goals (So Should You)
When it comes to goals, Thomas Carlyle says it best:
“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder.”
My goals, and not my ambition, enabled me to build an 8 figure company.
Having a definiteness of purpose ensures you:
- Keep on track with your daily activities
- Helps you decide what to focus your time and attention on
Tom Corley’s research confirms that 62% of rich people keep their goals in sight daily.
So how do you create your definiteness of purpose?
- Determine exactly what you desire. Your desire must be a ‘burning desire.’ Keep it specific. As an example, saying you want to be rich is vague. Instead, saying you would like to be in possession of a million dollars is specific.
- Calculate when you will achieve your desire. If you’re not sure, that’s OK. Write down your best guess.
- Decide what you will offer or provide for achieving your goal.
- Map out a plan of the steps you’ll take to fulfill your desire. Know that your plan will likely change, but you need to start somewhere.
- Write out a clear and detailed statement. This statement becomes your Definiteness of Purpose.
- Read your Definiteness of Purpose upon waking and right before you go to bed. Do this every day.
A famous example of using Hill’s method to create a definiteness of purpose is Bruce Lee.
Lee’s wrote his letter in January 1969, well before his fame, fortune, and untimely death.
And true to his word, Lee achieved his definiteness of purpose.
The Only Question To Ask Before Saying No Or Yes
Successful people have no issues saying no more than yes.
I shared earlier how I built an 8 figure company from saying no more than yes.
Sounds great, you say, but how do you know when you should be saying no or yes?
It took me years to figure this out, but when I did, I never looked back.
I developed one question that I ask myself before saying no or yes.
And that question is:
If I agree to this activity will it move me closer to my definiteness of purpose?
Don’t let the simplicity of this question fool you.
Why This One Question Saves You Time And Effort
This question helped me beat the competition, realize my goals, and achieve success.
I took the guess work, effort, and energy out of making too many decisions.
I received daily requests from colleagues, friends, and family member to meet.
In the past, I bought into social programming and said yes for the sake of saying yes.
Once I had my definiteness of purpose and question, everything changed.
If a request didn’t move me closer to my definiteness of purpose, I didn’t think twice about saying no.
Saying no is one of the hardest things for me to do. In the beginning, the process felt calculating, ruthless, and self-centered.
But I reminded myself of a few things:
- Achieving my definiteness of purpose allows me to help countless people.
- When most people ask a request, they don’t care if it’s me that helps or someone else.
- I could please one person, and as a result, fail at my goals. Or, instead, I could achieve my goals and please many people.
Looking back now, I realize that [[success requires focus. And focus requires you to say ‘no’ more than ‘yes.’]]*
To recap, develop your definiteness of purpose.
Next, ask yourself if the request on your time moves you closer to your definiteness of purpose. If the request does not, saying no is the only way to go.
While these two actions help you with the mechanics of saying no, let’s now focus on how to say no.
Another Take On Why You Should Be Saying No
Sivers system for deciding on when you should be saying no or yes is, and I quote:
If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no.”
Read Sivers post and watch a short animated clip here.
Saying No Without Guilt Or Shame
[[Your favorite billionaire became a billionaire by learning how to say no.]]
There is an art to saying no in an empathetic and guilt-free manner.
McKeown doesn’t stop at saying no in a way that has you smiling; you’ll also learn how to do less but better.
This article has an excellent summary of what McKeown calls “The No Repertoire.”
Saying no through any one of these eight strategies has you well on your way to unleashing your success:
- The awkward pause
- The soft ‘no’ (or the ‘no but’)
- Let me check my calendar and get back to you
- Email bounce backs
- Saying, “Yes. What should I deprioritize?”
- Say it with humor
- The “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”
- And the, “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.”
There are no shortages of suggestions for saying no and not feeling guilty about it.
As important as learning to say no is the message you’re sending to everyone around you.
So let me ask you something.
[[If you don’t respect your time, why should other people?]]*
While you think about that, here are a few more suggestions on saying no.
The Marie Forleo Guilt Free Method Of Saying No
Marie Forleo is a thought leader loved by Oprah, Richard Branson, and countless others.
Forleo’s MarieTV has a brilliant episode walking you through saying no with style.
Click on the picture above to watch the episode.
Forleo’s suggestions on saying no both protects your time and gets to the heart of the matter. After all, true success is a win-win situation.
Below are four scripts that Forleo suggests you can use:
“My work schedule is full, so coffee is not doable these days. Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you have a quick question?”
“I’m not available for lunch, but you should consider getting my ___. It’s all of my best thinking in one place, and I created it to help people in your exact situation.”
“I don’t have time to grab coffee unless we’re doing it as an official business meeting. And my charge for a consultation, if you’re game is ___.”
“I have a rule, if I don’t have time to see my mother, I don’t have time to meet new people for coffee. And right now, I owe my mama a visit. But seriously, I’m sure we’d have a blast, and I hope you’re not insulted, but my work scheduled is packed, and I’ve gotta pass.”
From the serious, all business reply to humor, each of the four scripts gets your point across.
Regardless of which of Forleo’s scripts you choose, your message to the world is that you value your time.
What is this important, you ask?
[[How you value your time is how you value yourself.]]
Still not feeling comfortable on saying no and feeling good about it?
No worries, this next method is yet another option for you.
The Michael Hyatt Guilt Free Method of Saying No
Best-selling author and thought leader Michael Hyatt admits he’s a people pleaser.
Hyatt’s has developed a style of saying no that is respectful of the request and everyone’s time.
You can read the post or listen to the podcast here.
Hyatt provides ten email templates that have you saying no in style and grace. You can view the templates here.
That said, Hyatt’s method of saying no boils down to this, and I quote:
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that won’t be possible. In order to be faithful to my other commitments, I have to say no to these kinds of requests. I hope you understand.”
To the point.
It doesn’t get any better.
Thank you, Michael Hyatt!
If you’re still struggling on saying no, remember this:
[[Rich and successful people are masters at saying ‘no’ even when their heart says ‘yes.’]]
Follow the lead of the rich and successful and become a master at saying no.
The William Ury Method On Getting To ‘Yes’ By Saying ‘No’
Ury has written many best-selling books on negotiation and co-founded the Harvard Program on Negotiation.
Click on the picture below to hear Ury’s TED talk on how to get to ‘yes’ through ‘no.’
Whitney Hess writes a great article on how Ury’s system changed her life. Highlights include:
- Never say ‘no’ immediately. Take time out to think through your position.
- Describe your interests. Talk about what you’re for instead of what you’re against.
- Have a backup plan. When your ‘no’ isn’t being accepted, think of the last resort.
- Share your needs without being needy. Desperation is a weakness.
- Present the facts for others to draw their own conclusions.
- The less you talk, the stronger you are. Enough said.
- When you close one door, open another. Be a team player to build trust.
- Politeness rules the day. Always give the respect those around you deserve.
So let’s put this into action.
Ury suggests a ‘Yes! No. Yes?’ approach is the way to go.
Yes! – shows your interest.
No. – you are now asserting your power.
Yes? – deepens the relationship.
I know, you may be asking how can I say ‘no’ and still deepen the relationship?
Below is an example from the master himself, in Ury’s own words:
“I, too, want prospective customers to see our company as current and approachable, but I don’t feel that a dozen social media badges at the top of the page will help us achieve that. What if we came up with a few alternative approaches and chose the most effective one together?”
It doesn’t get any better.
Bravo William Ury!
My dear reader, do yourself a favor and pick up one (or more) of Ury’s books.
You’ll thank me later.
Steve Jobs: The Power Of Saying No To Save Apple
The return of Steve Jobs as interim CEO to Apple in 1997 became the turning point for Apple’s recovery.
Apple was fighting for its life and was months away from bankruptcy.
And here is where truth is stranger than fiction.
Jobs asked arch-nemesis Bill Gates and Microsoft for a $150 million loan to keep Apple afloat.
This article shares that:
“Apple had been producing multiple versions of the same product to satisfy requests from retailers.”
By trying to be everything to everybody, Apple had over 350 products.
Apple and its leadership became people pleasers and said yes to everything.
The same article goes on to share:
“Jobs asked his team of top managers, “Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?” When he didn’t get a simple answer, Jobs got to work reducing the number of Apple products by 70 percent.”
Fast forward one year later to 1998.
This article reveals how Jobs, in his brilliance, said no to almost everything. Apple’s product offerings dropped from 350 to 10.
Was it worth it, you ask?
At the time it was a huge gamble.
But the results speak for themselves.
Jobs mastery of saying no caused Apple to go from a loss of $1.04 billion to a $309 million profit.
[[Saying ‘yes’ to everything and everyone one is saying ‘no’ to your success.]]
7 Strategies To Help Ensure You’re Saying No To The Unimportant
When it comes to saying no, you now have the rationale, question to ask yourself, and scripts.
You now have a solid base, but it’s not enough.
Are you wondering why?
Let me explain.
Remember, I’m a people pleaser at heart. In my moments of weakness, I say ‘yes’ when I should be saying no.
The next seven simple strategies were born out of my many failures and mishaps.
If not for these seven tools I would have failed at building an 8 figure company.
Let’s do it!
1. Train People How To Treat You
Whether you realize it or not, you train people how to treat you.
What you do, or don’t do, trains people what to expect from you in the future.
Suppose you say ‘yes’ to everything and everyone.
You’ve succeeded to train people that you’re their personal assistant … for everything they don’t want to do!
Stop this train wreck. N.O.W.
When you begin saying no, your actions, and not your words, let the world know you’re committed to your goals.
When and if you do say ‘yes,’ know that your time and effort is both respected and appreciated.
2. Tame The Email Beast With Automation
Email is one of the biggest success killers and a waste of time.
Read about the true cost of email distractions in this post here.
You can do one simple thing to claim back your time and reduce email.
Every email system worth its salt has something called an ‘automated message.’
You can write an automated message with whatever you want. When someone emails you, the sender will receive your automated message.
Below are two examples of automated email messages.
Dan Ariely’s Automated Email Message
When I was writing this post, I reached out to Dan Ariely to let him know that I was including his research on my blog.
No sooner had I pressed the send button on my email than I received the following automated reply:
[This is an automated response.]
Thank you for writing me.
Due to work overload, my interest in too many things, my inability to take into account the opportunity costs of my time, and my general inability to say no — combined with my particular physical limitations — I am just unable to manage.
With this in mind, and for my health and sanity, I need to focus on the projects that I have already committed to and cut down on the time I spend responding to emails to about an hour a day.
With this in mind, please consider the following:
Here is a list of answers to FAQs
What is this nonsense about not doing email? (http://y2u.be/LFZfhamDJR0)
What do you mean by the term irrational? (http://y2u.be/vvkgHOzTEtQ)
I don’t buy that your experiments on free have shown that people are irrational? (http://y2u.be/MDQf6x8tcXA)
If I want to get more depth knowledge on behavioral economics what classes should I take? (http://y2u.be/D_OleD_zQWg)
How can you generalize results from university students to “real people”? (http://y2u.be/8PjVTvsqFfc)
What about gender, race, and cultural differences of these results? (http://y2u.be/PKB_yGKtAjU)
What if I want to feel that you have read my email and that you agree with me? (http://y2u.be/nMZcdut1BsY)
What if I want to feel that you have read my email and that you disagree with me? (http://y2u.be/VbJOrJJFBHg)
If you have a question that you think other people might have asked before, or if you have a question that you think others might be interested in as well, please go to my section in Quora, read the existing questions and if your question is missing add it. The link is:
If you are inviting me to give a talk, I am sorry but at this point my schedule for the rest of 2017 is fully booked. But if you want to try and set something for 2018 please send an email to dan@—.com with the title “Talk 2018”
If you are interested in an interview, please write: megan@—.com
If you don’t want to receive my automated response message, please submit this form.
For anything else, please use the shortwhale system (link below) and I will try to answer emails as they come but please know that if you don’t receive a response from me, it’s just a matter of too many emails and too little time.
Thanks for your help understanding.
The Brilliance of Dan’s Automated Email
Is it me or do you also get exhausted reading Dan’s automated reply?
Dan’s approach to reducing email is, well, brilliant.
The links and resources in Dan’s automated email filter out the casual emails that are a waste of time.
Dan also sets expectations.
If you don’t receive an email from Dan, you know why.
If you still have it in you to reach Dan, you now have to jump through another hoop and fill out a form.
Although I was nervous, I took the leap and filled out Dan’s form.
When Dan replied to me, I was both elated and excited.
Elated and excited from receiving an email?
Elated and excited even though I had no agenda and asked nothing of Dan?
Would I have been this excited and elated had I emailed Dan, and he emailed back right away?
Not a chance.
Dan, you’re brilliant!
Michael Hyatt’s Automated Email Message
Out of courtesy and gratitude, I email authors whose works I cite in my blog posts.
Michael Hyatt, mentioned earlier in this post, is no exception.
When I emailed Michael, here’s what I received:
Thank you for writing in!
This automatic reply is just to let you know that we received your message and we’ll get back to you with a response as quickly as possible. We respond to messages Monday – Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Central time. Tickets received evenings and weekends may take us a little bit longer to respond.
My team looks forward to getting back to you soon!
Depending on what you’re looking for, you may find one of these pages helpful:
My team will look forward to being in touch with you soon!
President & CEO
Michael Hyatt & Company, LLC
Although Michael’s automated reply is shorter than Dan’s, it achieves the same effect.
I’m provided resources for answers to common questions.
It’s made clear that Michael’s team, and not Michael, will get back to me during business hours.
Michael’s automated reply is elegant and brilliant at the same time!
3. Reclaim Your Focus
Glei recommends five things you can do to reclaim your focus:
- Make a stop doing list.
- Write tomorrow’s to-do list tonight.
- Batch your emails in 30-minute to 45-minute windows.
- Teach people to expect you to say ‘no.’
- Replace “I can’t” with “I don’t do that.”
Glei is right on target. In this post, I share how every distraction takes 23 minutes for your brain to recover and get back into the zone.
Every distraction is a potential success killer.
You can read Glei’s article and gems of wisdom here.
4. The One Question That Unlocks Your Success
If repetition is the key to success, it’s worth repeating the one question to ask before saying no or yes.
If I agree to this activity will it move me closer to my definiteness of purpose?
The question takes a second to ask, but the time it saves you is worth its weight in gold, pun intended.
5. Saying No Or Yes In 3 Steps
If you’re a visual person, you’ll love this infographic.
Special thanks to Mark Virkus at the Toggl Blog and this infographic to help you master the art of saying no.
6. Schedule Your Way To Success
Success is not an accident.
Instead, success is a series of deliberate actions that build one upon the other.
Case in point is your calendar.
When you plan a meeting with a client, you schedule this on your calendar.
When you book a visit the Doctor, you schedule this on your calendar.
So, my dear reader, are you in the habit of blocking off time for yourself on your calendar?
The first few times I started to block off time for me in my calendar felt, well, weird.
But something amazing happened.
The simple act of seeing my own time block in my calendar made me more confident in saying no.
I’m most productive and sharp in the morning. With this in mind, I schedule “me” time in the morning. Every morning.
Yes, there are exceptions. There always will be.
But most of the time it’s business as usual.
Things get done, and it feels great.
You’ll thank me later.
7. Saying No To Welcome Success Is All In Your Attitude
John Maxwell is right on target when he says:
“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”
You can ask the one question, you can say the words, and you can block off the time.
But here’s the thing.
If you don’t believe it, you’re going through the motions, and people see right through it.
[[You say ‘yes’ to success when you learn how to say ‘no’ to the unimportant.]]
Realize that your currency is your time and that your time is valuable.
Both believing and feeling that your time is valuable sets the stage for your success.
Rich and successful people have mastered the art of saying no.
So should you.
My ‘secret weapon’ in building my first 8 figure company was mastering the art of saying no.
By saying no to the unimportant, I gave myself time and permission to focus on and say yes to the important.
If you follow the steps I’ve shared with you, you’re well on your way to unlocking your success.
Start by defining your definiteness of purpose.
Next, focus on and master the seven strategies I discuss in this post.
These strategies work and are the ones I use to this day.
[[Successful people are never afraid to say ‘no,’ and to say it quickly.]]
And now you know why saying no to opportunities is saying yes to success.
Your success is waiting for you. The only question is if you’re ready for it.
I know you are.
Here’s to you and your success!
Your Raving Fan,
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