One of the characteristics of mentally tough people is their ability to seize new situations and opportunities. They have the positive open mindset and confidence to make things happen. Another characteristic they possess is their ability to deliver consistently on goals set and commitments made.
However which trait is more important?
Well, they are both important because to be able to “survive and thrive” we need to harness our knowledge, skills and experience doing what we know whilst at the same time exploring and innovating new ways and ideas. Knut Haanaes talks about this “exploitation or exploration” in a fascinating TED Video.
As with many things in life it is a balance and learning to say No can achieve a better outcome than saying Yes. This is the case where seeing and saying yes to too many good opportunities can cause someone to overcommit and spread their mental energy, time and finances too thinly across their numerous projects.
The ability to say no to some opportunities and yes to others therefore becomes important.
Steve Jobs prided himself on this skill in an organisation that was built on developing good ideas and taking them to market. In his now famous 1997 speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference he said:
“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.”
But how do you do this?
Gut feel on each opportunity is one option but it’s more likely some kind of systematic rating system will give you better results.
- Is this new opportunity good enough to replace one of my top 3 current projects? (or whatever your current and near future capacity is)
- Is it in line with my purpose and values?
- Does it create value for my family and I, my friends, or the causes I care about.
It is an art not a science but it is important not to just say yes because that’s convention or habit or you feel uncomfortable saying no to the person involved. You need to know that you can commit enough time energy and resources to get the job done.