Learning To Say No

Really successful people say no to almost everything

Warren Buffett

In the entrepreneurial world, there comes a time when one must say “No.” Of course, entrepreneurs do not need to, nor should, reject every idea that crosses their paths. However, it should follow that they do not need to, nor should, openly accept every idea. Often times, ideas come across that do not compliment the company focus, or are not “the smart moves” to make. In these cases, one must determine whether or not to accept the idea and dedicate their time, money, and hardwork into such an endeavour. This was just one example of the importance of saying and understanding when to say “no.” And that’s what this post is about: learning about saying “no,” and why you should.

While there are obvious dangers of automatic rejection to everything, the dangers of automatic approval often go unnoticed. Here are a couple sample scenarios of what could go wrong. First case scenario: a company startup founder has taken on too much work, and has over exhausted themself. This situation can best be explained by a famous water pipe analogy. Think of a water pipe with a constant flow of pressurized water. Now image poking one hole in the pipe. The water is able to leave the hole with a strong flow. But, as we poke more holes in the pipe, the less water is able to flow out of each hole. Now apply this analogy to the example, and we come to this conclusion: by giving them self too much work, the entrepreneur is not able to maximize the quality of each task, and is also spread too thin, thus becoming overworking.

Let’s look at another example. Brendan Cieko, of Cuseum, was overwhelmed with new technology that had no tangible benefits for the consumer. So, he refocused and narrowed in on what would work for him. Rather than lose the company vision to being spread thin, he said “no,” and remained true to the company vision. By rejecting the unnecessary, Brendan was able to remain true to his virtues.

The last example is harder to detect because it incorporates a behavioral fallacy known by the acronym F.O.M.O. When entrepreneurs, investors, or anyone, is in caught in a feeling of missing out, they typically will respond with an action to “catch up.” However, this natural herd mentality choice is not always the “right” decision to make. While it is understandable for early founders to be open to all opportunities, they can be distracting from the company goals, and in the long term do more harm than intended.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent these scenarios from happening. One method is by changing the way you approach opportunities. While they may seem glamorous at first glance, it doesn’t hurt to think about ideas in the long term and in relation to your goals. If your business objectives or personal goals will not benefit from these opportunities, then it may be best to focus on other things. An added bonus to doing this is preventing work overload which allows you to spend more time on the things that matter to you. Another simple, yet overlooked approach is to recognize your tasks. If you understand how much you can realistically do, then it does not make logical sense to go beyond your limits. Often times, little things like knowing how much you can do will prevent overload and be a good indicator of when to say “no.”

There is a common recurring theme of “knowing yourself” when preventing too many “yeses.” And there is a reason for this. If at the end of the day, an entrepreneur doesn’t understand themselves and their capabilities, goals, visions, etc., then how can they expect themselves to make the best decision? And when done right, deciding when to appropriately reject ideas has its pros. When David Chait first started Travefy, he was having difficulty with the API software and integrating it with Travefy. However, rather than saying the figurative “no,” David understood the Travefy needed the API, so he gave it the “green light” and devoted time and effort into it. Needless to say, it worked out.

It comes from saying no to 1000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much

Steve Jobs

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