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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.

They keep saying "yes" to every available opportunity, even when a "yes" is clearly inappropriate, against their own best interests, or completely absurd.

Me? I read stories about people refusing to give up their premium seats on an airplane for someone who failed to plan ahead and applaud their ability to not be peer-pressured into an unwarranted and inappropriate "yes".

If I don't want to go to an event for whatever reason, I respectfully decline the invitation. No lies, excuses, or apologies: I simply say, "No, thank you," and leave it at that.

And I don't hesitate to say "no" to an agency I work with if an idea they present to me doesn't make sense for my business. "I'm sorry but, no, we're not going to pursue this creative idea. Yes, I realize it's good, and that it might win you a Cannes Lion, but it's unlikely to have a positive impact on my business... so, truthfully, I'm not even sorry. No, thank you."

"No" isn't just a complete sentence.

The ability to say "no" can be a superpower.

And it's one you can have without needing to be from another planet or bitten by a radioactive spider.

The word No in the style of neon lights.


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