Just Say No!

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Principle #42 in Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” is Just Say No! It took me a while to truly adopt this, but once I did, it has significantly changed my overall productivity as an entrepreneur.

“Say no to the good so that you can yes to the great.”

– Jack Canfield


The Danger of Saying Yes to Everything

I remember when I first made the leap from a full-time employee (a contract trainer at Langley Air Force base) to an independent entrepreneur. Every time an offer came in to contribute to a book, do a class, or do some consulting work, my answer was a quick “Yes.”

This was due to a unrealistic fear that if I said No, the offers would stop.

The result? Burnout.

At some point I realized that I had zero time for myself and wasn’t taking the time to recuperate. Worse, I just wasn’t doing as well I could on the projects I was working on.

Gratefully, I hired a coach who helped me realize the problem and implement a solution. In short the solution was a willingness to Just Say No!

The Pareto Rule

The Pareto Rule (named after economist Vilfredo Pareto) states that 20% of your input results in 80% of your results. In other words, you receive 80% of your success from 20% of your activity. The other 80% of your efforts only contribute to 20% of your success.

Said another way, 20% of your work activity results in 80% of your income. The 20% is often you focusing on your core genius. The other 80% of your work certainly fills your time. However, it contributes very little to your overall income.

Pareto improvement refers to reallocating resources to improve one entity without negatively affecting the other entity. For example, it’s possible to reallocate your time to focus more on your core genius and less on the time wasters.

The key is to know what your core genius is, and recognize the time wasters. The key is to be able to distinguish between the Great and the Good.

When to Say Yes and When to Just Say No

It took me a while to figure this out, but once I did, it made my decisions much easier. When I’m struggling with whether I should take on a new project or not, I ask myself two questions.

Does this help me fulfill my life purpose?

As mentioned in my post for principle #2 (Be clear why you’re here), my life purpose statement is “to use my writing and creativity to inspire others to pursue their passions and live up to their full potential.”

If it isn’t, the answer is an easy No. If it is, I go on to the second question.

Is this project in line with my governing core values?

“Your core values are the deeply held beliefs
that authentically describe your soul.”

– John C. Maxwell

The coach that helped me get me beyond burnout was well versed in Stephen Covey’s principles and concepts. He coached me as I created and prioritized a set of governing core values, and I review these values regularly.

Governing Core Values also help you resolve dilemmas. As an example consider the following three prioritized values:

  1. Health – I am healthy and I regularly take action to stay healthy such as exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and eating foods that are good for me.
  2. Creativity – I am creative and am regularly involved in some type f creative project such as writing, creating course ware, graphics, web sites, and/or applications.
  3. Fun and Happiness – I am regularly doing fun things and enjoying happiness in my life. I smile often and can easily answer the question “What fun thing have you done recently?”

Imagine someone with these core values is offered a highly creative opportunity that sounds like a lot of fun. It is completely in line with values 2 (Creativity) and 3 (Fun and Happiness).

However, he realizes that if he accepts this opportunity, it will reduce the amount of time and energy he would devote to his health. The long work hours combined with his current commitments would reduce his exercise time, and he is unlikely to eat healthy in this environment.

Because he has identified Health as his number 1 core value, the decision is simple – No.

It’s worth saying the obvious. These two questions can make your decisions much easier if you have a life purpose statement and you have identified your governing core values. It’s easy to use these two questions to help you differentiate the Great from the good so that you can just say No when necessary.

If you don’t have a life purpose statement and you haven’t identified and prioritized a set of governing core values for yourself, it may be time to create them.

“Remember, to learn and not to do is really not to learn.
To know and not to do is really not to know.”

– Stephen Covey

About This Post

I’ve been learning from Jack Canfield (of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame) since 2008. I credit much of my success (including authoring or co-authoring more than 40 books) to applying principles in my life that he teaches. I’m currently going through his book “The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be,” covering one principle a week.

Here’s a link to other musing’s on Jack Canfield’s Success Principles.

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