Poverty Can Be Liberating (And Other Ways To Learn To Say No)

Steve Jobs

Learn to Say No – and Get Your Life Back!

Steve Jobs said it. Michael Porter said it.

Saying No is a skill few master and this writer is no exception. Take a look at your calendar for a given week or month and ask yourself how many items are there because you lacked the will or desire to say NO?

In a recent experiment – inspired by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and one of the geeks I follow – I did just this.  If I eliminate my teaching schedule, almost ALL of my appointments and meetings were a result of me saying yes to things that:

  • benefit only the other person and are highly unlikely to benefit me, my family or friends

  • don’t bolster or otherwise reinforce my teaching and consulting practice

  • don’t particularly excite me

  • don’t really require or speak to my own unique skills

  • don’t make me a better or well-rounded person in any meaningful way

learn to say noThe need to say NO was never lost on me. Kind of like working out or drinking less, it’s one of those things I’ve always known I should do, but never bothered. Prior to the tech bust in 2000/1, my brother and I endured a never ending parade of folks who wanted a seat on our black leather couch (a metaphor for wanting us to invest in their sure fire idea). Once the bust hit and our revenues went from $17 Million to exactly half of that the following year, we had neither the means nor the desire to be involved in any side ventures.

After rejecting yet another meeting on the black couch, my bro just looked at me and said, “You know…. Poverty really is liberating”.

However that this old dog didn’t really learn the lesson and within a few years revenues were back up and we were back investing while the black couch parade continued unabated. In the roughly 10 years since then I plead guilty to not being particularly focused in my activities outside teaching. However recent months (and stumbling on Sivers’ video) have shown me that it’s time again to learn to say no.

It’s Never Too Late To Learn to Say No

So I’ve decided to adopt Sivers’ philosophy (at least until the end of this year). No more taking on little one and two hour projects that don’t pay but are a nice favour for someone else.

My new mantra is “Hell Yeah, or NO!” Here is a little one minute video from the guy who started all this…