Like many people, I want nothing more than to support my colleagues, family and friends in anything they do. However, a time comes when you need to look out for “numero uno” and be selfish with your own time — this is where you need to learn the power of saying No.
I know many people will be reading this and immediately panicking at the prospect of saying no (I just can’t do it!!!!! I hear you scream). But look at this from a logical standpoint, would developing the power to say no to requests that you can’t fulfill or assign your precious time to provide a better quality of life?. I’ve made countless mistakes in the past of saying yes to everything because I wanted to be seen as the good dependable guy, but all that resulted in was becoming stressed around supporting others with their tasks and not delivering on my own.
(This could be you after crashing on the yes train)
Let me give you a recent example of how the power of saying no is leading to one man’s refocus on his craft and main priorities after saying yes too many times, A course of events which eventually lead him to pay a heavy price in his career, for any sports fans (especially american) you will be familiar with this tale.
Conor McGregor is an athlete competing in the UFC, his craft is essentially to fight other men in front of thousands of people out and get paid for doing it (dream job??). Conor is no doubt the sport’s biggest star, top earner and all the accolades that go with this status, he’s been the company’s go to man for a multitude of duties in the last few years. Earlier this year, Conor was slated to fight an opponent outside his weight class for the first time — unfortunately this opponent picked up an injury just 3 weeks before this event, the biggest event of the promotions history too.
At this point, Conor had already been on multiple media tours, filmed a variety of adverts and was making public appearances for the organisation in order to promote this event — how he gets training in around this, is an art unto itself. The UFC now had a new problem, one of their biggest events this year was 3 weeks away and their main event was crumbling — the next steps were to approach Conor and hope he would help out.
Now, this is the part where the problems begin and when saying yes to everything started to create larger problems.
Conor said Yes to staying on the card with a new opponent
Conor said Yes to fighting the new opponent at 25lbs above his weight class
Conor said Yes to squeezing in a crazy circus of a new media tour in just 2 weeks in order to promote the new fight.
So what happened as a result of Conor agreeing to all of this in short timescales — he lost the fight. Not only did he just lose a fight, his reputation as a fighter and persona may have also been damaged — potentially with an impact on his future earnings too. Conor agreed to help out and paid a heavy price as he was ill prepared for the task at hand, ultimately he could have said no to a few of these requests and maybe the outcome would be different. Ultimately, all the distractions from the work he needed to do, led to his failure when it came to deliver.
Fast-forward to the present day and Conor was scheduled for a rematch with the same opponent he lost to earlier this year. Although this time, things were different — Conor had realised the error of ways and was now prioritising his time to focus on what he needed to do to win.
When the UFC came calling to Conor summoning him to attend another whirl wind media tour across different countries whilst he was in training for the fight, Conor declined and cited that he’s focusing on his priorities of training so that he can achieve his goal. Conor had learnt from his previous experience that he was saying yes to everything, paid the price for that and now was the time to say no, to be clear that he needs to spend his time on his priorities.
So what’s the takeaway from this post? Next time you’re asked if you can do x,y,z, think about if you have the time/capacity and if saying yes will impact on what you need to achieve. Telling someone no is always a difficult thing, but mastering that and explaining to them why you can’t support is an invaluable skill.
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