from Sahil Bloom | by Sahil Bloom

Sahil Bloom


about 1 year ago

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Saying YES is how you create income. But saying NO is how you build wealth. How to say no more effectively:

Confession: I've always had a contentious relationship with the word No. At a young age, I discovered that I had a tendency to overcommit—socially, academically, and athletically. I'd take on a lot, and then hustle to make it work. I had a bias towards Yes.

I never worried about it. In fact, I viewed my bias as an asset, not a liability. Saying yes to everything put me into uncomfortable situations--the situations where I had experienced the most growth and luck. Unexpected encounters, new ideas, and meaningful relationships.

But when I turned 30, I noticed that taking on more was no longer serving me well. I felt scattered. I observed the people I admired: Their success was not a result of taking on everything—it was from incredible focus on a small number of projects. They had embraced no.

Conceptually, this makes sense: Imagine your professional life as a big flywheel. When you're starting out, the wheel sits still. It's big, scary, and intimidating! Your first tasks are: • Determine what will get it moving • Execute consistently to get it moving

Once the flywheel is in motion, however, your task fundamentally changes. Now you need to prioritize the most high leverage, efficient deployment of incremental energy. One push at a bad angle will slow the momentum. Every unit of energy you deploy must be purposeful.

The most important factors in each stage: Stage 1: Experimentation (figure out what works), force (intensity), time (consistency). Stage 2: Angle/Leverage (press what works), force (intensity), time (consistency). First, try a lot of things. Then, do a few things well.

Mapping this to the idea of Yes and No, we form a generalized model: When you're in your 20s (or, more broadly, when you're trying to get your flywheel turning), "Yes" plays an important role in helping you determine what works. Saying yes lets you test and experiment broadly.

When you're in your 30s and beyond (or, more broadly, when you've got your flywheel turning), "No" plays an important role in helping you focus on only what works. Saying no lets you eliminate the noise and double down on the actions that compound most effectively in your life.

This is the structural importance of saying no. Once you have your flywheel spinning, saying no gives you the bandwidth to capitalize on the 10x opportunities (by turning down the 1x opportunities that saying yes may have presented). Here's a tactical strategy for saying no:

The 2-List Prioritization Strategy Make a List: Write down your top-25 priorities on a piece of paper. Narrow: Circle the top 3-5 items--the absolute top priorities in your professional life. Split: This is your focus list. The other items are your "avoid-at-all-costs" list.

The idea here is that it is impossible to have more than 3-5 core priorities. By separating the list into "Priorities" and "Avoid-At-All-Costs" we create a very clear line for Yes and No. Your first line of defense: If an opportunity doesn't fit your 3-5 priorities, say no.

The final challenge: saying no to opportunities that do fall within a priority category. I have two useful decision-making razors (rules of thumb) I use here:

The Right Now Razor When deciding whether to take something on, ask yourself: "Do I want to do this RIGHT NOW?" We delay on things because we aren't excited. If I'm so enthused that I want to take it on right that moment, odds are it's an exciting opportunity.

The New Project Razor Ask two questions: (1) Is this a "hell yes!" opportunity? If not, say no. If yes, proceed to Step 2. (2) Imagine this is going to take 2x as long and be 1/2 as profitable as you expect. Do you still want to do it? If not, say no. If yes, take it on.

Give these frameworks a shot. Hone in on the exact priorities that will compound most effectively in your life and learn to say no without feeling like a jerk. (I like "Sorry, I'm heads down on X" or "No, that's not something I'm focused on right now" as polite ways to do it).

By taking on less, you'll have time to focus on the professional priorities that truly matter—and the personal priorities that truly matter, like time with your loved ones. No has been an enormous unlock for my life. I hope this thread helps you find that unlock as well.

If you enjoyed this, follow me @SahilBloom for more writing on wealth, frameworks, and personal improvement. I write deep dives on these topics in my weekly newsletter. You can join 117,000+ others who receive it here:

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