On Saying “No”

I was sitting in at a suburban Los Angeles Denny’s at 11:55pm on Sunday (that’s last night for me)…and I was exhausted.

I looked at Sara (we were waiting on our takeout) and I told her:

“I’m frustrated. I used to have a lot more energy. I used to be able to just go to sleep and wake up whenever I wanted to. I used to feel completely limitless. I was a machine. Now I get tired around 9:30pm. What’s wrong with me?”

She turned to me and told me…

“You know what…you need to chill the f*** out.”

“What are you talking about?” I said

Then, she proceeded to break it down for me…

“You take on too many things, and don’t know when to say ‘no.'”

I wanted to argue with her, but I couldn’t!

The truth is, I’ve been getting busier and busier – and things are going well.

But there’s a catch…

As I do more and more work, more people are asking me to help them, collaborate with them, give them advice, lend an ear, give a hand, etc….and my default state is always to say “yes.”

I want to help.

I love people.

I love doing good.

But I have to learn to balance helping people with helping myself.

My first priorities are to the Tribe (that’s you ;) ) and my own sanity.

After that, I have to learn how to be conservative with my time and my energy.

And I have to learn how to say “no,” when somebody asks me to do something that won’t work with my big priorities.

I know this seems like a very obvious lesson — but it was a bit of a breakthrough for me.

And for that reason, I’ll be taking a little bit of a breather before beginning “The 7 Day Startup Challenge.” That will begin next Monday — and by that time, I’ll have had the time to recharge and give you everything I got.

Fair enough? :)

Do you have trouble telling people “no”?

I know this has been a big sticking point point for me.

Have you ever had difficulty saying “no” to people, even if what they were asking you to do conflicted with plans you had for yourself, or goals you’d set?

Leave a comment and let me know!

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29 comments
Dan Western
Dan Western

This is a great post Daniel, and I think it's something that I have often struggled with in the past.


Learning to say no, for many people like myself is quite difficult, but it needs to be done when necessary!

Viktor Jiracek
Viktor Jiracek

Daniel,

Felt like you were speaking to me specifically on this one! :)


I want to send you opportunities for consulting, but I totally understand that you are busy!

Thanks for the post... learning to say no myself

Tyler
Tyler

We've had this problem at our offices too, it's hard to say No, especially when you are passionate about something. But the result of not being able to say No, is sometimes we underdeliver and our "bark" is greater than our "bite" which is not good for an entrepreneur as we pride ourselves as opposed to the NGOs in the same sector of actually being "doers" as opposed to talkers..Not saying no, has jeopardized this..

TheAjax
TheAjax

I think once I say I'm going to do something, I get it done regardless of the obstacles or personal toll. If I don't think I can do something or get it done than I don't make a big deal out of it. I most certainly don't back out. I don't say no AFTER I've already agreed to something. It's unprofessional and flakey. I do however limit the things I take on upfront. I think about how something will affect me prior to committing, but once I say I'm going to do something, I get it done.

Brian
Brian

Saying "no" is tiring, though.

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

Hey Dan it's great to hear that you're going to take a bit of a break given how much you do for the tribe as it is. I bet we don't even know half the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, so yes, take a break! I'm sure we'll be looking forward to even better material after the break!


Saying no is tough, but we all have to strive for a balanced life. My dad always said the happiest person is the most balanced person, and the moment we're unbalanced, we'll be unhappy. He said that "one yes is a thousand nos", and unless we can follow that rule, we will burn ourselves out and not be effective at anything anyway. 

blackromancemovies
blackromancemovies

If you have a job, at least you are entitled  to X weeks vacation each year. But as an entrepreneur, it`s so easy to forget to take care of ourselves. We just keep going and going. Until last week, I hadn`t taken a vacation in the 3 years since I opened my business! Now, I feel so much better.


blackromancemovies
blackromancemovies

Hey Daniel - Just a question. Do you have a VA (assistant) or do you actually do all this stuff yourself?


@kayvee My copy of the Power of No is in the mail somewhere. Can`t wait to get my hands on it!

George
George

You are so much more than your deeds, Daniel.


I think there's way too much emphasis in our culture on accomplishing all these different things, as if life is a race to see who can get the most gold stars.  We're told "what we do defines us," but is that truly all there is?  I think we do a disservice to our humanity and to ourselves when we look at ourselves and each other as nothing but a dossier of achievements.

Yes, productivity is good, and we are generally compelled to create, to produce, and to generally do a bunch of stuff as if we have to prove our worthiness to exist.  But it's extremely helpful--and indeed necessary--to step back and remember that we're more than our accomplishments.  We are people.  We have hopes and fears, dreams and ambitions, people we love and who love us in return, people we can't stand, ideas we love sharing, ideas we love rejecting, foods that make us want to vomit, music that makes us want to celebrate...or weep.  We are complex, multi-faceted minds and personalities housed inside meatbags that are 90% microorganisms.  WE ARE MORE THAN DEEDS.


So yes.  Step back.  Slow down.  Chill the f*ck out.  And if you really need to, reassess why it is you're wanting to take on all these things in the first place.  What goals do they all serve?  Are those goals even necessary?


You know what MY goal is? It's surprisingly simple:  40, 50, 60 years from now (or however long it will be--it could even be tomorrow for all I know), I hope to be lying on a comfortable bed as I'm about to die.  In one moment, I will draw my very final breath in this world, looking back on the entire summary of my life.  And in that moment, I want to be able to say with 100% conviction, "I am happy with how my life played out."  That's it.  That's all I really, ultimately want.

And getting there is a mindset, which means it's not just based in how many things I manage to do or produce with my life.  It's about taking time to enjoy all the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments as well, taking time to appreciate the mundane.


Take this time to rest, Daniel.  Take stock in yourself.  Despite what society tries to sell to you, you don't need to constantly go, go, go just to be happy.  You just have to be true to yourself.

chloe138
chloe138

That sounds like a great idea. I really like the feeling of being busy but I find that it can really damage my productivity! I think multi tasking is bad for the brain so a good recharge will help you to focus on the tasks and activities that you have decided are important :)

TheDarkLlama
TheDarkLlama

Up at 5am (my time) eh?  So am I after an all nighter.  I'm jazzed about validating a pair of ideas inspired by your 7 day challenge.  But dude... yea take some time off.  You've got tons here to keep us busy and you do so much for us already!  What is that saying "strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack."  Can't wait to see you nail the 7 day thingy next week!  

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@Tyler Hey Tyler, I think we've all definitely been there. I remember my first order for customized uniforms a few years ago, I was so confident that I could get everything done for everyone, but in the end my first business experience ended up with 3 very unhappy customers who had incorrectly sized, poorly printed and late products. With that said, it was a huge learning experience and things have gotten much better since then. I bet we all can learn from these types of situations, what do you think?


Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@TheAjax Hey Ajax, what you brought up is actually something that I struggle with. How do you know what to take in and what to say no to? I'm like you in that I always want to get something done when i set my mind to it, but sometimes over or underload myself. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@blackromancemovies Hey brm, that's awesome to hear that you've found something that you're passionate to work hard at for three years straight. What are you working on?

kayvee
kayvee

@blackromancemovies


Thats so cool, because just like an hour ago I walked into Cole's (a book store here in Canada) and found the book and I read a few pages. You will definitely like it



Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@kayvee Haha that reminds me of the How I met your mother episode with Barney and Jennifer Lopez. But you're right saying no can really take a lot of pressure off ourselves without us even realizing it. I remember reading in Getting Things Done by Dave Allen that the reason we feel so stressed is the number of conscious and more importantly, unconscious commitments we give ourselves. When we can learn to take control of those commitments, then we learn to take control of our stress. I'll def be checking out James Altucher's new book, thanks for the recommendation!

mattwilsontv
mattwilsontv

@kayvee Really enjoyed this podcast.  He's been talking about this a lot lately.

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@George Hey George this is a pretty powerful piece of writing and really does bring things back into perspective. Sometimes we really are too focused, too close to our own work to realize where it's taking us or why we're doing it. It's so important to achieve the right balance of where we want to go, where and what we're doing now and ultimately why we want to connect everything together. Daniel really is a great example (thru sharing his embarrassing rich20Something evolution!), and I hope that we all can be good examples to each other by doing our best to achieve that balance. Definitely looking forward what both you and Dan will be coming up with!

TheAjax
TheAjax

@Justin Tan 


What works for me is, at the beginning of any project I have, I take the time to map out my exact goals and an action plan to get them done. Once I have that I can make a schedule and a budget for myself. Whenever something new comes up I just look at each way it could affect those things. Does it take away from my progress? Does it contribute to the process of meeting my goals? Will it take away resources from my priorities? Does my timetable allow for me to fold this in? 


It's basically just setting something in stone for yourself and sticking to it. When something comes up, ask yourself if it takes away from that. If it does, say no. If there's a benefit or contribution to that, say yes. 

kayvee
kayvee

@Justin Tan


I will check out that episode. Justin, James Altucher also did a recent interview with a famous rapper. And the rapper mentioned how when he first became successful, he started having severe stomach pains. So he went to the doctor and was told that there was nothing wrong with him. But the doctor referred him to a psychologist. After asking the rapper a bunch of questions, the psychologist realised what the problem was. The rapper kept talking about other peoples probleme.s The problems of his friends and family members.


So the psychologist told him to learn to say no and to stop taking on peoples drama and problems


And after he started doing that his stomach pain went away


Many of our ailments have emotional roots

kayvee
kayvee

@mattwilsontv


I enjoyed it too. It is definitely something I have to learn to do in my life...saying no...not just to others...but to myself as well. We all have limited energy and attention per day. my issue has been lack of focus.


The biggest reason I dont say no is FEAR. Success comes to those who choose and believe in themselves.


Every work situation I have been in is basically a bunch of employees craving for the approval of the boss. And sometimes those employees will backstab and bad mouth other employees to get that approval.

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@TheAjax @Justin Tan That sounds like a really solid strategy man, will definitely see how I can implement that in my own life. It's always tough though isn't it? It's just those "somethings" that come up can be like birthdays or emergencies, and it can be difficult to really judge and make the right call about what to say yes and say no to. I think in a way it's almost a skill we have to develop. By continuously making and not making commitments on things, we should slowly get better at it. What do you think?

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@kayvee @Justin Tan Yea I think subconsciously we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves and it weighs down on us before we even realize it. Have you ever felt that kind of pressure before? If you did, what did you do to take it off?

TheAjax
TheAjax

@Justin Tan


Definitely.


When you first start to differentiate it's not only tough to decide between things, it's tough when you feel like you're missing out and letting people down. Everyone who's used to you being accessible won't understand why you're suddenly disappearing, they feel devalued, relationships become strained. It's definitely a tough thing to do in and of itself just because you have to sift through yourself to prioritize. On top of that, there's fallout. In the end however, you're only person. You have to decide to prioritize what you give yourself to and once you commit, your reputation is built by your willingness to see things through.


It always starts out really tough and uncertain but like with most things in life, you'll get better at it and it will become much easier to do.

kayvee
kayvee

@Justin Tan


Oh yeh Justin....I have definitely felt that kind of pressure many times....


For me that "pressure" comes in the form of guilt or fear of criticism, or fear of being seen as "not nice"


So many times, i end up justifying it to myself when I say yes to things that are not good for me.


The underlying root of all of this is fear.....fear of lack of approval, fear of  rejection and so on


I learnt long ago that I was a people pleaser....but I am working on it :D



Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@TheAjax @Justin Tan That's definitely good advice, I guess a lot of it comes down to creating the right priorities to begin with. Thanks for sharing man!

Justin Tan
Justin Tan

@kayvee @Justin Tan Yea it's a fine balance between being a "good guy" and just being a "yes man". I've always loved to help/surprise people by unexpectedly giving, yet whenever it becomes an expectation for me to help other people, I always feel a bit annoyed about it, but do it anyway because technically I've already committed. At that point, I'm scared, either to stand up for myself and say no, or even worse, stand up for myself, say no, but end up doing the deed anyway. Saying no, and more importantly following through with it, is one of hte toughest things we can do, but I'm sure both of us can get better at it!