The Power of ‘No’

How this little two-letter word can transform business and life

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Amy Poheler’s number one New York Times bestselling book may be entitled Yes Please, but the underlying message from our recent chat with the comedian-actor-writer-social activist extraordinaire was the absolute importance of saying “no” – and the positive impact that practicing it can have on your life.

“I love the word ‘no’, it’s like my favourite word,” laughs Amy in her interview with The Collective for our June cover story. “…It’s almost like a learned skill – especially for women.” She goes on to quote Gavin de Becker, author of The Gift of Fear who writes that ‘no’ should be a complete sentence, it doesn’t need to be the beginning of a negotiation. “It’s a great feeling when you start to prioritise, put yourself first and practice self-care by saying no.”

Amy shares how often she has to say no to herself – no to over-scheduling or to agreeing to a project that doesn’t feel quite right. When it’s the right decision, “it’s a really cool feeling”.

Whether you run a multi-national, juggle school pick-ups and soccer games or balance competing uni assignments, the word ‘no’ can be the difference between success and a stressed-out breakdown. Saying no keeps you focused on what’s important, not distracted by what other people deem as important.

Steve Jobs was also a strong proponent of the powerful two letter word. “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

It can be very difficult to put those boundaries in place and have the confidence to say no. Especially in the workplace where you think it could jeopardise your career. But saying no is one of the most powerful things we can do in order to be effective on our most important tasks.

Our time is possibly our most scarce asset. Using time wisely is critically important to long-term success. Every time we say yes to something, we’re effectively saying no to something else. That’s why it’s helpful to know your core values, your passions and priorities, so you know where to draw the line and what to focus your energy and attention on.

Switching off your computer at the end of the day might seem like you’re saying no to your work, but it also means you’re saying yes to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. No is not admitting defeat. It’s admitting that you know the value of your time.

Read our full cover story with Amy Poheler in Issue 22 of Collective Hub

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