“I’m on it.” “Sure, I’ll have it done by the end of the day.” “Absolutely, I’m happy to take that on for you.”

Our default reply is, “yes” to each and every request that comes across our desks. But should we say “yes” when we really mean “no?”

It’s a fatal trap that we all end up in at some point. But what’s so compelling about us saying yes? If you think about it, being the “yes man” actually causes more problems than it’s worth.

The yes man defines us. Everyone comes to us knowing that we’re agreeable and we don’t want to let them down. This behavior sets a precedent and when we say yes they expect that we will deliver and perform.

So why would someone else do their job when they know that there’s a yes man standing in the wings to make him look good?

We’re the yes men—and we’re undeniably the sucker for punishment.

There seems to be some self-satisfaction that we can pull it all off. But does that get us to our goal? And will it lead us to a sense of accomplishment?

If we don’t learn to say no, we won’t ever reach our full potential. Rather than saying yes, we need to find focus and we can’t do that unless we say no to the things that distract us and alter our trajectory.

Or path is important—very important. And we can’t lose track of that.

We need to say yes to ourselves, not someone else, and realize what’s in it for us.

It takes work to execute focus. But despite the amount of work required¾the professional and personal growth is worth it.

After watching a Shaun White interview, I learned that he too had to find his focus. After all of the success, fame, and gold medals he needed to decide to snowboard or skate board. And he decided to snowboard in his most recent Olympic games.

He said.

“Some people attach snowboards to their feet, very few attach them to their souls.”

Shaun White is invincible right? Because we believe that he can win anything. But when faced with the choice, he focused and chose the snow.

He went on to say,

“I didn’t set out to beat the world, I just set out to do my absolute best.”

So, let’s give the “no-way man” a try and move forward with a few ideas in mind.

  1. Know your priorities and limits. Efficiency, productivity, and creativity suffer when you have too much on your plate.
  2. Our emotional connection and optimist nature makes us feel like we’re here to please. We’re the “doers.” However, to make a change we need to avoid our immediate reaction and use our logical mind to think before we act.
  3. We need to use our rational minds to stop and evaluate the pros and cons of the project load and how it to align it with our goals. And if the load is too heavy, anything that isn’t a priority or doesn’t move us ahead should be left by the way side.

The goal isn’t to just be good—it’s to be better. The only pathway to real success and prosperity is focus.

Steve Jobs said it well,

“Focusing is about saying no.”