The power of saying “no” is truly a life-changing art. Especially if you, like me, have chosen the entrepreneurial path. There is a beauty and elegance in saying no early and often. It not only saves your time, but it shows respect for the time of those around you.
Who knew that just putting your foot down and hollering no! like a 2 year old could catapult you to new levels of success and adventure?
To be fair lots of successful people have lauded the power of no before. Psychology Today said “No is an instrument of integrity and a shield against exploitation,” and James Altucher credits saying no with saving his life. Saying yes is often glorified, but saying no is what separates the men from the boys so to speak.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” — Warren Buffett
Now that the secret’s out, let’s break down exactly how you should say no, when you should say no and why that beautiful, little, two-letter word can totally transform your existence…
The power of no: starting simple
Start by saying no when too many choices are presented. It’s mind baffling when you start paying attention how much time we waste in our day on micro-choices that don’t greatly affect our happiness or goals.
What to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner…
What to wear…
Which route to drive/walk/bike…
What color the background of the banner should be…
Where to park…
Here are some quick ways to say “no” to the cornucopia of choice we are offered everyday.
Eat the same thing for breakfast. If you go out to lunch or dinner, tell the server to choose for you or go with whatever the person that seems the most confident ordering is having.
Go through your closet and say “no!” to anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Either sell or donate; if you plan to donate I highly suggest Madison’s Closet as an amazing cause. Then next time you need clothing, try to stick to a theme. My theme is black, unless it’s a dress (then it’s whatever strikes my fancy). The reason being if I buy all black separates they always match, this reduces my getting ready time to mere minutes. If it’s a dress (or perhaps a suit for men) it’s a one stop shop—then all you have to do is focus on only owning overcoats that are versatile.
When you are driving, biking or walking either set a route you always take and when it’s slow use that time to listen to a podcast, audiobook or just enjoy some precious empty time. Or, use Waze each day and always stick with the fastest route. This allows you to say “no” to a hundred little decisions each day.
When someone asks you your opinion on something outside of your forte turn it back on them. Ask them what they think, tell them you trust them and to make the choice themselves, constantly push back on micro-decisions that you do not need to make. Say no to 90% of the asks you get each day and you will empower people to make choices for themselves.
If you are driving, don’t waste a second looking for “a close spot”, instead find the farthest parking spot that the lot’s perimeter will allow and park it there. You will shave many minutes of circling out of your day AND you will add extra steps to your day which add up—aim for 10,000 steps baby and burn those cals!
The power of no: Finding your purpose
The best way to say no to the majority of stuff that doesn’t matter, and yes to the small segment that is impactful (80/20 principle, yo!), is to find your purpose.
Yep, I just dropped the P-bomb.
Purpose is sexy. Purpose is also something that most people don’t spend nearly enough time and energy to find, and that is a shame.
When you have a purpose—you can be laser-focused, and are much more likely to say no to all things that do not align.
A powerful way I’ve found to say no to the 80% of stuff that doesn’t matter, so you can say yes to the small core that does, is to find your purpose—both in work or play.
In my life, the theme I have chosen is, strangely enough, end-of-life. Why? Because I firmly believe the following:
Something beautiful happens when we, as human beings, face the inevitability of death.
We become rooted in the present.
By accepting our mortality, we free ourselves to live life to the fullest.
Excuses fall away, the status quo no longer seems mandatory, the shackles come off…
Unsatisfactory relationships, jobs, life choices stand in stark contrast to our limited, precious, time.
By facing death we are able to start the journey to become our authentic selves.
Life can, if we let it, turn technicolor.
This purpose allows me to streamline both my personal projects (like The Memento Mori Society) and the businesses I am looking at—everything has to feed back into the above.
Putting this type of purpose out there has been hugely beneficial, people have introduced me to fascinating concepts like Death over Dinner and the Zen Hospice, all things aligned with my purpose. It also allows me to say no to most things; there are heaps of business ideas I come across or have on a daily basis. Unless they fit in with my purpose of demystifying death and helping others embrace peaceful passing—I say no.
So spend some time truly thinking about what your purpose is, then once you find it say no to everything else.
Action item: watch Mr. Jobs dynamic talk on the power of no: