The art of saying no

If people say no, please don’t stigmatise them 🙏

“But everyone else has time for this, why do you require special treatment?”

Self-help books / blogs keep telling us to say no to stuff, and they tell us to validate what we say yes to. In order to find more inner harmony and perform better. So why is it still so difficult to say no? No is good, it means your aware of your limitations and the finite resources you posses. In my opinion saying No is one of the strongest ways to optimise for asymmetric outcomes. Saying yes to everything under group pressure only results in symmetric base line performance that anyone can achieve. Think of a sports car, a sports-car is optimised for speed and only that, a sports car says no to a lot of things to optimise winning the race. It says no to safety, no to legroom, air-condition, baby seats, the list goes on.

Yet when we say no, as employees or even as the co-founder of your own company. Your stigmatised, your not a game player, people start to doubt that you have what it takes. So many people sub-come to peer pressure and say yes to more things than they can handle, and burn out. You become a family optimised 7 door sedan with all the bells and whistles. A baseline performer. Thats great, if that’s your goal. I’m pretty sure if your reading this blog post that is not your goal. This is growing trend in sociaty as well, job-ads more often than not sets a high bar for applicants, you need to be best in class, you need to be the best in your field etc. Yet when you get the job, your treated as a multi purpose family Volvo, not as a top performer that was advertised for. Instead accept us for what we are, we trying to achieve asymmetric results. So when we say no, that doesn’t make us prima-donnas that only think about our selfs, we are actually thinking of the bottom-line of the company, or protecting the money investors has put into our startups.

If you want us to perform like Lionel Messi in a particular field, then enable us to do that. Messi says no to virtually everything in-order to be the best. And he is likely best in class saying no to things. Barcelona actually optimise everything around Messi, very short training sessions, but with the highest level of intensity and competition. The rest of the time, Messi just chills. He doesn’t do anything else. He says no to everything else in order to keep being the best. And this phenomenon is seen again and again. The highest level performers in any particular field, force them selfs to say yes to very few things. If there was something called natural talent, that would manifest it self in athletes being equally excellent in many fields. There is no evidence of that at all. Ref the excellent book: Talent is Overrated You can’t have Messi and Michael Jordan in one person. Simply put, you get excellent in the field you put your effort in to, and only that. And that effort is finite, not infinite. Very important.

In general. We say no, because we have validated that the effort doesn’t match the outcome. That seemingly small effort has no or very low impact in winning the race. In fact, shifting focus runs a high risk of loosing the race. As a superior you might not agree, but you likely don’t know the full picture or the inner workings of the particular sportscar. That 45min timeslot we said no to might seem low effort for you, but for the sportscar, that 45min effort can ruin the race. Sportscars often time their execution far ahead and need all the timed pitstops and oil changes they have planed for. Stopping to focus on something else and starting the engines again can be deadly, as the motor will have turned cold and might never start up in time to win the race. 🏎🏁✨