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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

The Value of No

"No, thank you."

"No, I don't want to do that."


There may have been a time in my life when I wasn't comfortable saying "no", but I can't remember when that might have been.

Knowing when to say "no" is valuable, in business and in life, because saying "yes" all the time can be both exhausting and counterproductive.

"Yes, I'll stay late tonight so you can leave early and enjoy your date night."

"Yes, I'll watch your kids on Friday night... I can catch up on Netflix next week, I guess."

"Yes, I'll attend your wedding. Even though we were best friends in the sixth grade but I haven't seen you in twenty-five years and I'm not sure why I'm even invited, and I have to travel out of town to attend, and it falls on a long weekend when I'd rather be relaxing in my backyard inflatable pool, a cold drink, and a great book... sure, count me in."

Sometimes, you say "yes" to be nice, and there's nothing wrong with deciding to say yes.

The problem is when you don't feel "no" is an option, even when the request is inappropriate, against your own best interests, or completely absurd.

That's when "yes" is a problem.

And that's true in business too.

I once heard "strategy" defined as "deciding what you're not going to do," and thought it was an apt explanation.

A good business decides on a few important priorities, then says no to everything else that might prove to be a drain or a distraction.

And that makes sense because when you have finite resources, you can't do everything if you expect to do anything well; intuitively, we know this to be true.

Yet brands too often fall into the trap of catering to too many audiences, developing too many innovations, maintaining too many social media platforms, and funding too many initiatives.