I admit it. I fell for the “say yes to everything” business practice trap. For most of my career, I was convinced that saying yes was my ticket to greater success. In reality, saying yes to everything also meant I was saying yes to a tremendous amount of additional stress in my life. These days, I am following the sage advice of Warren Buffet and the late Steve Jobs. I am saying no more often, and it feels great.
I have two inspirational quotes on my office wall. The first is from Buffet: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
The second quote is from Jobs: “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.”
Their advice defies conventional business thinking because many of us suffer from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). We do not want to turn down an opportunity that may become our next big business break. We all remember a time when we said no to something and later regretted the decision. That is where the quotes on my wall can help leaders and business owners keep their sanity and stay focused on being successful.
We cannot allow our egos and insecurities to dictate our actions. Saying yes to everything only serves to spread us too thin and commits us to more than we can manage. It is simply not a sustainable business or life practice. The true ROI of the “always say yes” mentality is increased stress and a lower quality of life, both at work and at home.
To advance into the really successful business realm, we must choose carefully how we invest our time, talents, and resources. Saying yes to everything inevitably results in a crash and burn situation. Often, we salivate over opportunities without doing our research. If we always do the proper research, we would certainly say no more times than not.
As a former “say yes to everything” business owner, I have swung the bat more times than most, and as a result, I have had more hits. But make no mistake, I have never batted a thousand. Many swings have set me back in my career.
Some of my past failures include things like investing in methane gas wells, opening a daycare, buying a convenience store, starting a steel erection company, and establishing an architectural precast company. Had I done my research before jumping into these ventures, I would be well ahead of where I am today. Every one of these businesses were setbacks for me. My only positive takeaway is that I learned a lot.
Today, before I make bold moves, I analyze the situation from every angle and then use my connections to seek out the person I believe will give me the best advice. Utilizing the proper resources helps me to find the right answer for any big decision. I like to discuss the situation with my partners and managers at the company first. Then, I talk to one or more of the many contractors or business owners with whom I network. Once I get these opinions, I run it all by my business coaches. They have proven to be invaluable in helping me make some of my most important decisions.
Because I rely on coaches so heavily, I have strict criteria when it comes to selecting them. I consider my goals for growth, and then I look for a person who has already accomplished what I desire to do in the future. While this makes it more difficult to find coaches at the levels our companies have grown to, they are out there. I know this because my current coach is one of the best there is.
Make no mistake; my message is not telling you to say no to everything. I would never encourage anyone to be idle, as I am still starting new ventures, buying companies, and expanding my businesses. But these days, because I am very intentional with my yeses — I am doing my research and seeking wise guidance — I can make better decisions and do so more swiftly than I ever did in the past.
Always remember that devoting attention and focus to something, whether it is an investment opportunity, a new product launch, or a new hobby, means taking time away from something else. For the second half of 2022, I challenge you to forgo all those so-called opportunities that are loaded with potential. Instead, focus only on those that are the most important. Do your homework, be selective, and choose wisely.
In the end, it is about simplifying your life and knowing what to say no to – especially saying no to 1,000 different shiny and sexy opportunities that may tempt you but do not truly serve you, your purpose, or your mission.
Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Buckeye Construction and Restoration, 3 PLS Labor Services, Malta Dynamics Fall Protection and Safety Company, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make job sites safer and more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 740-749-3512.