Just Say No

I have a friend, a father of four, who’s told me time and time again, “you know Rod our family always says no first.”

Before I knew him well, it used to bother me. How could you always default to no? Wouldn’t you miss a ton of wonderful opportunities? Wouldn’t you end up denying your kids wonderful experiences? Wouldn’t your son or daughter fall behind the other kids – the one’s playing on ultra-competitive travel teams? What kind of future would that lead to?

To me, a father of five, but just starting to have to deal with these questions, my friend was a revelation. He was fearless. Absolutely unafraid to say no and deal with the consequences.

As I got to know my friend better (I have coached his third youngest for several years), I finally realized what made him tick and why his plan was so brilliant. I realized, he wasn’t really saying no. He was actually saying yes, but carefully and only to those things he wanted to be part of his life. The reason he defaulted to no was because he was intent on studying and understanding the impact of a yes on him, his family and his life.

His priorities were avoiding any distractions from his job, having the family together each night at the dinner table, and having time in his and his kids’ day for reading, sitting on the front porch swing, building tree houses, fishing and enjoying life.

This, of course, meant he was the opposite of most of the people I was friends with. He didn’t care if his kid eventually played high school baseball. He just cared that his kid enjoyed playing that season.

Since I met this friend, I’ve found myself working up the courage to say no more frequently and, probably not by coincidence, have found myself surrounded by a new set of friends – people who are built of the same stuff (maybe there’s strength in numbers).

I’ve noticed this same attitude has seeped over into the workplace. As our little company has grown, we’ve become better and better at saying yes to opportunities that are in-line with our philosophy and no to compelling projects that would detract us from what we feel we do best – publish a fun magazine chock full of useful information. In fact, I’ve noticed the better we get at saying no, the better our little company performs. It’s an interesting study.

Of course, like all leaps in learning, now that I know the power of no, I see evidence of it at work everywhere, especially in the many and varied projects we cover in the pages of our beloved PRB. I’m sure for every yes in every project, there were a ton more no’s. I’m also guessing, the better the decision-maker is at saying no, the better the project turns out.

Till next month…

Rodney J. Auth