I had coffee with an awesome entrepreneur over the weekend and he said something that really got me thinking: “I hate hearing no."
Turns out that I hate saying no (and this can sometimes get me in trouble). I love the feeling of being a “yes" man, having a can do attitude, and making things happen that seem like they’re not possible, but sometimes there’s a real cost associated with saying “yes." Business school has taught me a number of things, but one the most important lessons has been how to say “no" when it’s appropriate.
Recently, I’ve had to deliver bad news entrepreneurs we can’t invest in, tell people I can’t carve out time for a meeting because I can’t be in multiple places at multiple times, and say no to extra work because I can’t quite get it all done.
This has been pretty frustrating, but ultimately, I think saying no to some things just means you can say yes to others. I’m not talking about that “kinda-sorta" yes that’s driven by FOMO (fear of missing out), dilutes your focus, leads to flaky scheduling and spreads you thin. Giving someone or something a real “yes" and committing to that yes means you can devote yourself to that thing and accomplish it well.
In its essence, I think this boils down to one thing: being present. Pick the things in life that really matter: your family, your friends, the people, work and art that truly inspires you. You don’t have to ignore everything else, but don’t say yes to anything that compromises the level of enjoyment or excellence that you get and give to those things that really matter.