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NO Is The New YES!

June 18, 2017

As a sales person, I was  taught never to say no to a customer. Even if we didn’t have the solution in-house at that point,  the first thing was to say yes, then go look for a solution on how to fulfill that customer’s requirement. Needless to say, many are the times we were overwhelmed and exhausted from doing this, and half the time we were at logger-heads with the delivery team because of this. I’m sure if you are a sales person you will identify with this and you do understand what I mean. But let’s forget about sales as a profession for a few minutes...

Do you know everyone of us is a sales person? How, you might ask. Read on and you will understand.

Sales starts right from the moment a child is born. As little as an infant is, not even knowing how to speak, s/he already has the skills of a salesperson. The infant already knows what to do in order to grab the attention of his/her audience. If it is the mum for instance, the infant will start whimpering or making some unintelligible disgruntled sounds that will make the mother rush there concerned. What did the infant just do? Even without speaking any coherent words the infant sold an idea to the mother that she needs to be there with him/her. The infant sealed the deal.

How about when you are now all grown up and ready to start your own family? Now that part is interesting. How do you sell yourself to your future spouse to be? Men, what kind of lines do you use to lure her to marry you? Women, how do you present yourself for him to forget all others and (hopefully) stick to you? Like I already said before, all that is akin to a sales pitch. You are either going to be successful and seal the deal, or you will lose it to the next supplier who offers a better service to yours. That’s just how it is.

Now, I intentionally started by talking about sales because there is something very important I want us to talk about today.

It is not everything that is sold to you that you should say yes to. Not every machinga (hawker) who comes your way has products that you need to buy. You have to be selective, you have to be careful and really consider your options before you agree to buy anything that is presented to you. Remember, we are all very good sales people because we are born with that skill in us, but that does not mean that when someone comes to sell to us we say yes to everything. We have a choice to say NO.

The late Steve Jobs (RIP) put it very well when he was asked about the one product he was really proud of. This is what he had to say, “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.

When Warren Buffet was asked to share the single most secret to success, this is what he said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” Same message Steve Jobs had, but packed in different words and expressing an even deeper revelation; that there are successful people, and REALLY successful people. Both are successful but the intensity and level of their success is separated by a little two letter word; NO.

When you are young, you can toy around with different ideas but there comes a time in life when you have to decide the one course you will take in life and stick with that course to the end. When you are young you might have the luxury to say yes to everything that comes your way (as long as it is legal, legitimate and morally right). At that point in your life you are probably still trying to figure out who you are and what you were placed on this earth to do, but the moment you start your second decade of life, you should start being very careful about what you say yes to, especially when it comes to your friends, your activities, your profession and career path. You should start becoming more conscious that every action (or inaction) on your part today will have an equal and parallel result on your tomorrow. And it will not matter whether you did it when you were still a teenager.

By the way, did you know that NO is a complete sentence, one that does not need any explanation from you to anyone? For instance, one of your friends comes to you and asks or tells you this, “Let’s go out and party all night long since today is a Saturday”. You can simply say, “NO” without having to add any other word. That is a complete answer. Now if you choose to expound on your reasons why that’s something different but ideally you already gave a full response.

The world has become a very dynamic place and things are changing every day. You’ve heard people coining statements like, “orange is the new black”, or “Thursday is the new Friday”, etc. I don’t know how that works but I’m adding my own “new” to the list. NO is the new YES! In other words, when you say NO to things that are not enhancing your life or helping you achieve your dreams or goals, then you say YES to yourself and your goals.

Like a lady called Susan Gregg said, “Early on in my journey I found developing the ability to say no expanded my ability to say yes and really mean it.” Saying NO to things that are irrelevant to you at that moment simply means you are saying YES to the next item on your personal agenda. People might not understand you at that point but in due course they will when they start seeing the results you are producing, but if they are haters they will just hate you more; but then again, that’s what haters do, right?

Learn when to say NO if you want to ever make any impact in this life. Like Richie Norton said, “Say not to everything so you can say yes to the one thing”. Every one of us has that one special thing that landed us to this world. Everyone of us has a special gift and purpose that was put in us by our creator. None of us came empty handed. Unfortunately many of us are so busy saying yes to the wrong things that we have no time to say yes to the right things.

Ladies and Gentlemen, again I repeat, if you ever want your life to have an impact, you’ve got to start saying more NOs and less YESes. In concluding this article today, please allow me to borrow the words of Stephanie Lahart: “Let today mark a new beginning for you. Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Anybody who gets upset and/or expects you to say YES all of the time clearly doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Always remember: You have a right to say NO without having to explain yourself. Be at peace with your decisions.”


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 18th June, 2017, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".





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