If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re reading this title, I imagine at least two things caught your eye.
First, the number “one.” You’re probably used to reading articles or listening to podcasts that offer you at least three or more goals for entrepreneurs in this new year. Coming across an article that’s suggesting just one goal may feel a bit, well, weird.
Second, the word “abnormal.” Admittedly, this word still feels like an interesting choice to me. I considered the word “counterintuitive” in its place, but all I could hear was the voice of my SEO (search engine optimization) friends telling me that “counterintuitive” has too many characters.
Fair enough. So, “abnormal” goal it is. And without further ado, here’s the one abnormal goal I think entrepreneurs and innovators should have for 2021.
This is a goal for entrepreneurs about bringing focus to one’s life. As an entrepreneur myself and a friend to many other entrepreneurs and innovators, I’m well aware of the struggle that is “saying no.”
In my own life, the ability to say no always feels in direct conflict with my sense that I’m doing enough, producing enough, being enough. It’s why saying no feels so incredibly difficult: because when I do, my sense that I’m enough feels threatened.
If I say no to this project or to my involvement with this thing over here, how will I know that I’m doing enough? How will I know that I’m succeeding? What if my goals fail because I say no?
Otherwise, why would you be doing it (you tell yourself). After all, we always only choose to do what’s important, right?
False. There is plenty of research out there which demonstrates that most of what people do in their work is what feels urgent to them; not important. Interestingly enough, it also turns out that most of what feels urgent originates outside of us.
The text we just received.
The email that’s been in our inbox all day.
The missed call from our boss.
No doubt that some of these things are genuinely important, but surely they all feel urgent. And notice how they all originate outside of you. In other words, what feels urgent usually is being dictated by someone else.
Here are two reasons why the abnormal goal for entrepreneurs: say no in 2021 will have the greatest return of any of your goals.
Imagine two people, both entrepreneurs. The first one has one singular goal to increase year over year revenue by 5%. Everything else she and her team does (outside of the inescapable daily duties) is in service of that goal.
The second entrepreneur decides to set seven goals, including increasing revenue, expanding internationally, develop three new products, improve customer satisfaction, and the list goes on.
Who do you think would be more likely to reach their goal(s)? I’d argue entrepreneur number one, and if for no other reason than because she will be more focused. But notice that you can’t have this kind of focus without having to say no to other (often very good) things.
Saying no brings focus. Focus enables innovators and entrepreneurs to reach their goals.
Saying yes to everything (or almost everything) drains your energy. The energy drainage, however, is much like the proverbial frog in the pot of water being so slowly heated that it never notices its own impending death.
When we say yes without saying no, we’re increasing our own temperature gauge.
Saying no produces more energy for us; saying no is an energy creator. This discipline gives our life more space and in the process gives us more of what we need to keep going.
The “no’s” by the way don’t have to be always be huge and critical. In fact, I think the best way to figure out where a “no” may be needed is through a life audit.
Lay everything you do in your life out on a piece of paper or word doc. It’ll be tempting to leave some things out, but if that’ll be self-defeating if you do. So, write literally everything you do out.
Taking care of your dog all the way to crunching numbers for your business
What you’ll quickly discover is that you do a lot, but not everything you do holds equal value or importance. Now ask yourself, are there any things on this list I can say no to?
This process will give you energy back you never knew you had lost. It’s critical for the entrepreneur and innovation, both of whom absolutely need more energy, to undergo this task.
You could be reading this and still wondering why I called this an “abnormal” goal. Well, it’s because I believe that the discipline and art of saying no has become truly abnormal. If you’re not saying yes, then something is probably wrong with you.
This how the work culture in America tends to operate, anyway.
Saying no can often generate shock and resistance to whoever is impacted by the “no.” That shock and resistance is often underneath why so many people struggle to say no. It has become abnormal and counterintuitive for entrepreneurs and innovators to practice the discipline of saying no.
While it may feel an abnormal goal for entrepreneurs, it is normal for what you’re trying to achieve, it really is in your interest.
And the interest, by the way, is of the compounding sort. Little by little, year over year, and you’ll find yourself years from now deeply grateful. Only saying yes is much like a compounding cost: little by little, year over year, and you’ll find yourself years from now deeply regretful.
Entrepreneurs are most known for their ability to keep going when times are tough. They’re also known for their innovations and a commitment to bettering