the most impactful word in the success vocabulary

The word is ‘No’. This simple two letter word can be the most powerful tool in your success journey and the most important weapon in your arsenal as you pursue mastery.

Saying no is crucial to remain focused in your craft and doing things that bring meaning and joy in your life. As Steve Jobs 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.”

No is a master skill of the superachievers and the gamechangers. Like all other great things in life, saying no is not easy, but it’s worth it.

It’s an important strategy that can help us get unhooked from our addictions and the distractions around us and stay disciplined in our pursuits.

Some of us are people pleasers and we hesitate in saying no because we don’t want them to hurt them and get our name in their bad books. And due to this, we end up following their agenda instead of working on our own.

There’s no middle ground, no maybe. As Ryan Holiday puts it, “Don’t say maybe if you want to say no.” We need to draw a line in the sand. If something doesn’t serve our priorities and accomplishment of the big goals that we have created for ourselves, then it’s wise to say no to it.

When we are unsure about saying no, it indicates there is a misalignment and lack of clarity within us. We need to work towards knowing what we want in life and develop conviction and commitment towards it. This will help us gain clarity propelling us to taking aligned actions. It’ll empower us to say no to all the behaviors, habits and activities that lead us astray from our path.

Like I said, some of us are pleasers who overcommit themselves because they want to feel liked by everyone and end up embodying the ‘superhuman syndrome’. But it can be detrimental for our performance, productivity, and well-being in the long run. That’s why the best thing that we can do for ourselves and for our perennial success is to say no to anything and everything that doesn’t contribute to our most important goals. Less is more. As Warren Buffett points out,  “You’ve gotta keep control of your time and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life.”

If you feel uncomfortable saying no and feel the need to provide an explanation, simply state, “Hey, that sounds really great. Unfortunately, I have too much on my plate right now and I won’t be able to devote the time and attention that it deserves. Thank you so much for thinking of me. Hope you find another solution soon.”

An important contributor to the success that the extraordinary and the elite enjoy is what they don’t do versus what they do. What separates them from others is not about what they are constantly ‘doing’, but what they are constantly ‘not doing’. This is their secret sauce to unparalleled success and productivity. Another famous Buffett quote echoes this notion, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Saying yes is easy, saying no is hard. But it’s important to living a rich, meaningful and aligned life. We need to careful about what we say yes to, because when we do so, we say no to everything else. In simpler words, what we say no to determines our success. It’s not about doing more, but it’s about doing less. As Robin Sharma puts it, “Geniuses understand that it’s smarter to create one masterwork than one thousand ordinary pieces.”