To Focus, use the Power of “No”

To focus on my goals can often be challenging.  A few years ago I was confronted by a quote that helped me become unstuck in this area.

“If you can’t say “no,” your “yes” doesn’t mean anything” – Charles Feltman

It stopped me in my tracts because of having always viewed myself as a “Yes” type of person. Yes, everything is possible. Yes, you can do it. Yes, your goal is great. This “yes” approach was for me the embodiment of positiveness. Choosing to be positive and expecting a positive outcome was my definition of being an optimist.

Since the confrontation with the quote, I now take a different view. Saying yes to everything also has a dark side. It shatters your focus. It distracts and can become an addiction. As always, there is the need to harmonize the “yesses” (the expectation of positive outcomes ) with “no’s” (the gatekeepers of focus).

Why, other than to have integrity, would we want to say “no” in business and life? Because “no “is the key to focus and focus is one of the crucial the keys to success.

The singular focus on a critical value or outcome is what distinguished a lot of great business from those that were merely good. Jim Collins refers to it as the “Hedgehog” concept.

So what is it to focus?

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Defining Focus

The best definition, I could find is the following story:

It’s the days of the epic Mahabharata in ancient India. All the kings send their sons to the ashram of Guru Drona for their education. Guru Drona teaches them everything from the Vedas to philosophy to the art of war.

One day, Guru Drona decides to see how attentive his students are. He wants to know how far they’ve come with their skills in archery. So he places a wooden bird on a high branch of a tree. And asks his students one by one to take aim to shoot the left eye of the bird. Guru Drona then asks each one what they see before they shoot.

One by one, the students come and claim that they can see everything clearly. The forest. The trees. The branches. The bird. They then shoot their arrows. Some come close to the mark. Others miss by wide margins. One or two even hit the bird. But no one is extremely accurate.

At last, comes Arjuna. He takes aim, and then Guru Drona asks him: what do you see? But unlike everyone else’s answer, Arjuna doesn’t say that he can see everything clearly. In fact, he says: I only see the left eye of the bird.

When he shoots his arrow, it goes straight through the center of the left eye of the wooden bird. 

The power of saying “no” is in our dedication to our desired outcome. It is the conscious choice to deprive ourselves for now from specific rewards to gain the more significant reward later. It is not easy. I know.

Simplicity, among other things, is a conscious choice between inclusion and exclusion. Often the magic is in what you leave out. But this means that you need to be comfortable with saying no, to yourself and to others. This is not easy to do. – Steve Jobs

If you need a conversation to help you gain your focus, send me a message.

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Brave enough to be honest

Confronting the brutal facts are not something a lot of us do. Yet it is one of the elements of becoming everything you dream of.

In business or in life, it is comfortable to allow things to be as they are. The alternative is that we need to take responsibility to change and change (even though we yearn for it) brings with it the price tag of discomfort.

Beyond the discomfort is the prize.

The prize in life, clearly defined, is lacking, me thinks.

Wild Horses Running

That is why most people stay where they are. Vague dreams of living a good life, wishing thing could be better, are bountiful. Therefore stuckness in the norm.

To be unstuck. Liberated. You and I need to be honest.

Honest first with ourselves. Then learn how to authentic with others.

I recently watched Mark Leruste be honest about the entrepreneurial experience. I love the way how he distinguishes between the marketed reality of social media and the experienced reality of everybody. I acknowledge him for voicing what so many business owners experience. I invite you to have a look at his TEDx talk.

My last thoughts.

Face the truth. No matter how uncomfortable. But do not be overwhelmed by it. Face it with love. Love is a verb. Love is that what you do or not do, that leaves the beloved better off. Truth without love is brutal, love without truth is sentimental. Truth saturated with love is powerful.