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Opinion How the power of ‘no’ can get you exactly what you want

Saying ‘no’ keeps you focused and selective, founder of real-estate brokerage RE/MAX says “You can spend all your time chasing the monkey — that next bright, shiny thing — or you can be hyper-focused on the one or two things that are important to you. ”

In the business world, the word “no” holds significant power and serves as a crucial aspect of leadership and entrepreneurship. While it may be difficult to utter this simple two-letter word, mastering the practice of doing so takes practice and perseverance. Start with small steps if necessary, and remind yourself that each time you confidently say “no,” you remove a potential obstacle on your journey towards success.

The clearest definition of success I’ve ever heard came from a conversation I had with entrepreneur and author Darren Hardy: “Success is doing what you want to do, when you want to do it, where you want to do it, with whom you want to do it, and how you want to do it.” That’s the type of freedom every entrepreneur strives for. But it doesn’t come easy or fast.

When I heard success described in this way, it hit home. I realized I had the power to give myself permission to do what I wanted, when I wanted, where I wanted, and with people I wanted to be involved with. If something doesn’t check all those boxes, I’m out. Everyone should live their lives this way, yet most people won’t get to a place where they believe they can. 

At my age, with 50-plus years of experience as an entrepreneur and all that I’ve accomplished in life, I now live by this definition of success. In fact, I’ve made it my mantra. I have wealth, money and prestige. I have friends, businesses and hobbies. You could say my life is satisfying and full. When I’m considering whether to give up an hour of my time for someone, the choice comes down to those factors. Am I willing to give up 60 minutes of my life for whatever their cause might be? 

Sometimes yes, but mostly no Today, I’m selective. I say yes to only a few requests. Saying no preserves your value and resources. You can spend all your time chasing the monkey — that next bright, shiny thing — or you can be hyper-focused on the one or two things that are important to you and your business. It’s easy to run after the next shiny thing, but in the process, most people end up destroying their companies. 

Focus on where you’re going to get the best results. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said it brilliantly: “[Focus] comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

If you’re constantly jumping from one shiny thing to another, focusing on the flavor of the day, you will inevitably lose. That shiny thing is nothing more than a distraction. 

“Be selective, realistic, and honor your priorities. ”

According to Warren Buffett, one of the most successful businessmen and investors of all time, how often you say no can determine your level of success. “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything,” Buffett said.

Know this: You can have anything, but you can’t have everything. So be selective, realistic, and honor your priorities. Consider the various roles you play — spouse, parent, friend, sibling, boss, employee, volunteer, and more. Balancing these responsibilities can fragment your time, which emphasizes the importance of mastering the art of saying no.

The best leaders in business understand the power of saying no. You can’t do everything and expect to do it well, so prioritize these areas of your life and consider the choices you’ll have to make to fulfill your goals and live your calling.