an old fashioned scale
Every "yes" is a "no" to something else by default.

It was 2 AM when this newsletter article came to me. I’d been lying awake for an hour, thinking about all the things I needed to get done this week.

Entrepreneurs everywhere struggle with this same burden - there is so much to get done and there are so many shiny new opportunities to say “yes” to. What is an enterprising business owner to do? Say “yes” to everything, of course! At least, that’s what we want to do… and often fall victim to.

But then we regret it later when that feeling of being overwhelmed hits you in the wee hours. I’m not alone in this, right?!

The successful entrepreneur’s super power


That one little word. “No”. Oh, the liberating power of that word.

One syllable. Two letters. Short and sweet. How can one little word like that be so difficult to use?

Yet this little word - “no” - is one of the most powerful words in the entrepreneur’s vocabulary… if we have the courage and wisdom to use it.

Here’s why. Every “yes” is a “no” by default. You’re a human, stuck in the confines of time, space, and energy. Just like every other human on the planet, you have exactly 24 hours in a day. So your capacity to say “yes” to opportunities is inherently limited by the laws of space and time, to say nothing of your own energy. So every “yes” give is by default a “no” to something else.

And if it’s true that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, why is it that some people seem to make better use of theirs? Because they know how to say “no”. If you and I are going to take back control of our lives and our schedules, we have to learn this word, too. “No”.

Saying “no” to others

Opportunities will come to you from a variety of directions and people.

How can you say “no” to them? First, you’ve got to reframe. Saying “no” is not a rejection of the person. It’s a rejection of the opportunity.

It’s important to communicate this with others, as well. When you need to say “no” to someone else, it’s generally best to affirm that there is value in whatever opportunity they’ve introduced (if you can see it). Then you can simply explain that in order to uphold your current commitments, you have to say “no” to this opportunity.

It really is that simple. And you don’t need to feel bad, either.

Saying “no” to yourself

Personally, I find this one even more difficult.

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy. The entrepreneurial mind often has 100 ideas before breakfast and most of them seem pretty brilliant when they occur to us. Would it really be so harmful to explore that new idea?

The answer, of course, is “yes”. It really might be harmful. The ideas for things we could do are limitless. The things we should do are far fewer. Would you rather make an inch of progress in a hundred directions or a mile of progress in one or two directions? How about jack of all trades, master of none? That might cut it for your home improvement projects, but it’s not going to work for your business.

A sure sign of being overcommitted is having too many things we’re trying to do, and doing none of them especially well.

Mature business owners say “no” often and confidently

They say it to others. They say it to themselves. They say it to lots of good things.

They say “no” because they know that time and energy are finite resources. They say “no” because they understand that every “yes” is a “no” to something else. They say “no” because because they believe that “no’s” to the wrong things empower them to say “yes” to the few right things.

So say it with me: “no”.

How this will make you money

There is power in focus! And there’s money in focus, too.

When you practice the art of saying “no” to most opportunities, you’ll start to be more judicious about the things you say “yes” to. And when you’re careful about what you say “yes” to, those things will be much more likely to make you more money. Firstly, because you’re choosing more wisely. And secondly, because you won’t have spread yourself too thin.

I know it may seem counterintuitive, but this really does work. Start saying “no” more often.

Your action items

Here’s our action plan for this week. Yeah, remember how I started this edition? I need to re-learn this, too.

  1. Identify your current commitments.
  2. Carefully inspect each opportunity that comes your way this week.
  3. Make it your goal to say “no” more often than “yes” this week. Only say “yes” to things that are going in the direction your life and business are trying to go.

Bonus questions

Here are a couple of quick questions that may help you in making better decisions when opportunities present themselves.

  1. Do I really want to say “yes” to this? Or am I just afraid to say “no”?
  2. Will I feel a sense of relief if I say “no”?
  3. How will I feel later if I say “yes” to this opportunity? Will I regret it?
  4. Can I honor my current commitments if I say “yes”?

To thriving,