If you don’t say “No” sometimes, then you cannot be sure that you can deliver on all of your “Yeses”
Some time ago, I wrote about the problem with distant elephants. Distant elephant problems are the ones where you agree to do something that is far in the future and as that future approaches you discover that the agreed act is much larger and more time consuming than you might have thought when you agreed to do it. Like elephants. Four miles away they look small. At 30 yards – Big. Same elephant, different context.
The solution is to always say “No” unless you have considered the contextual elements of your agreement.
Seth Godin made the point, brilliantly as usual, on May 13. No Is Essential “No is the foundation that we can build our yes on.” So true.
Doing a few things well is far better than doing many things in a mediocre fashion.
People and businesses must learn that growth can be either quantitative or qualitative. Sometimes both if your first pick is qualitative. Saying no to some possible growth is a useful business or life building step.
The root of the problem with “No” is that many people think that doing nothing is somehow wrong. Doing nothing, the result of “No,” is a choice just as surely as doing something is a choice. You can analyze the do nothing choice and should – every time.
When you analyze, you learn very quickly that all choices require resources and resources are not infinite. To choose to do one thing is to automatically choose to not do something else. You cannot do everything. You must learn to carefully manage your scarcest resource. Usually time.
If I agree to some project without assessing the resource commitment, I must reallocate resources later to make it happen. Maybe I can or maybe I cannot do that. The cost may be very high if I try.
Better to adopt the position that my default answer is “No” until I can contextualize what the commitment means in terms of my scarce resources.
A life simplifying rule.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org