Today, we are talking about the need to say no; why you need to have a cast-iron no as a business owner.
A cast-iron no is going to serve you in all areas of your life, not just in business. Before you can say no, you need to know what you're saying no to. In other words, you need to have an agenda. When I say the word agenda it can really get people's backs up because when we hear the word agenda, it's often in a negative context, such as being underhanded or having a hidden agenda, and it feels somehow as though it's manipulative – as if someone is trying to get one over on everybody else. We're not talking about having an agenda. What I mean is having a destination in mind and having a road map for how to get there; being disciplined and focused on that journey and your destination and holding yourself accountable to staying on track and achieving those overall objectives.
What we're talking about here are goals.
Before you can even worry about saying no, you need to know what you're saying no to, and to do that, you must have an agenda, and to have a cast-iron agenda, you must set goals. Typically, most people don't set goals, and out of those that do set goals, very few of them set them properly, and out of the ones that do set them properly, very few of them set them consistently. Goal setting, agenda-setting, is one of those things that pays off when you do it habitually, when you do it year after year, month after month, week after week. When you hold yourself accountable to those goals, or more importantly, when you're held accountable to those goals, you can really begin to tap into the success that is available to you.
All successful people set goals. Even those who feel they don't set goals, still set goals. They just don't necessarily do it formulaically. Now, for you, you may well need a methodology, a formula to follow. If you've never set goals or you're not sure if you're setting them properly, how will you know you're setting them properly, especially if you're having hit-and-miss success in achieving those goals?
Most people who fail to achieve their goals, do so because they're setting the goals badly in the first place. They're either setting the wrong goals or they're setting the goals badly. Then there are a whole host of reasons they might still fail, even if they do set them properly, like oversetting those goals or getting massively distracted, either by themselves or by other people, and this is where an agenda is absolutely critical because once you've got your goals in place, once you know where you're going, once you commit yourself to that path, now you know what to say no to. You say no to anything that makes you deviate off that path. It's an absolute focus. It's an absolute discipline that super-successful people either just naturally picked up somewhere along the way or have deliberately cultivated. So, if you're not already setting goals, if you're not already setting out your agenda, you are missing a massive part of what creates successful people's success.
To give you an idea of how important it is, every single one of our members across Success Groups and Extreme Growth Masterminds has to follow my 10-hour goal-setting programme. It takes at least 20 hours to complete, but remember, we're setting goals for the next 365 days. At Success Groups and Extreme Growth Masterminds, we’re not just setting business goals, we're setting life goals as well.
If you've got 365 days' worth of working towards these goals, I don’t think it's a lot to ask to put two or three days in up front to make sure that you're absolutely setting the right goals for you and your business for that year.
If you’re not setting goals right now, you need to set goals. If you are setting goals right now, you need to make sure you're doing it properly. The businesses that come my way – many of whom are not just start-ups but established businesses, sometimes doing multiple millions – do set targets. However, very often, once they've done my goal-setting programme, their whole attitude towards goal setting changes. You must do goal setting properly in order to make sure that you have goals which you can have absolute faith and trust in so you can just put your foot to the floor and accelerate as fast as possible towards achieving those goals whilst enjoying the view and the journey.
To set goals, you must make sure you're following a methodology which guarantees that you're setting trustworthy cast-iron goals that you can have every faith and trust in. Once you've got that destination, you need to have a plan or strategy for how to achieve those goals. That's your road map. Once you've got your road map, you need discipline and commitment to keeping yourself on track to achieving those goals. That's when you need a cast-iron no.
There is way more that you could do than you can do in any given day, month or year, or any given moment. Right now, while you’re reading this – and I'm very happy you are – I know there are probably ten other things you could be doing. That's why I never take it for granted when people listen to my podcast or tune in to my videos or webinars, for example, because I'm well aware that there are many other things out there vying for your time and attention. I don't take it lightly, and that's why I commit to always giving the best value and content I possibly can.
I really appreciate the fact you've chosen to read this, but here's the thing. There's so much you could do and only so much you can do, and therefore, you have to start working out what to do to keep yourself on track. That's when you start saying no.
If you don't say no, then anything that deviates you away from your path is now detracting from you achieving your overall objectives in life. I'm not saying that you have to be belligerent with this. I'm not saying that you can't go off exploring different avenues as you're going towards your goals, but understand that every single one of them is detracting from the overall objective, and therefore, you need to be very mindful that when you're getting distracted, you’ll pay the price for that.
Take me, for example. My goals are set in stone. I know where I'm going, but if something cool and exciting pops up that's an adventure or an opportunity which I think might benefit me, either in business or personally, I might allow myself to become temporarily distracted. I'm not going to deviate entirely – that would be crazy – but I might allow a temporary diversion to enjoy or to explore an opportunity and then get myself back on track. However, I don’t delude myself that I won’t pay the price. There's going to be some catching up to do down the line.
Saying no is not about saying no to everything. It's having a cast-iron no in you so you can say no to the right things. That's what this is about – you being able to say no to those things that distract you too much or those people in your life that have their own agendas.
I learned about this in an interesting way. I once had a client who was heavily into tantric sex and if you’re aware of it already, this will make sense. If you're not aware – and please forgive my definition here - it's like meditation and spirituality but through sexual energy. I was very naive talking to this lady and I had lots of questions. Did they actually take their clothes off and did they actually do things with each other? She told me that of course, they did – they were dealing with sexual energy.
Anyway, it’s not the tantric sex that’s the point here. The point is this: in the past, I've dealt with victims of violent crime and victims of sexual crimes and in my naivety, I wanted to know at what point this could potentially be damaging. Now I understand the process, I understand the safety and precautions put in place, but here's what she said, and this is why it's relevant, even though I did take a little detour there. She said to me, "Before anyone can say yes to anything, they have to have a cast-iron no." I can't remember if she said cast-iron – I may have added that, but she said, "You’ve got to have a cast-iron no because if you can't say no, you can't actually truly say yes, and if you're saying yes to the wrong things or things are going at a pace you're not comfortable with, it can potentially damage you.”
The bottom line is the idea that before you can really say yes to something, you have to be able to say no to it, and that really struck a chord with me. Ever since then, I've been applying this to goal setting. I've used it to talk to entrepreneurs and business owners about sticking to their agendas.
If you're just saying yes, it’s either because it's what you fancy right now or because you don't want to upset somebody else. It's because you get easily distracted. Something else is more fun. You're bored doing what you’re doing, even though what you're doing is super-important. If you don't have a no in you, even when you're saying yes, you're not saying yes, and that can lead to massive resentment, towards yourself or the person you're saying yes to. Even though they're just asking you if you would do them a favour, something that pulls you off your agenda, you say yes because you just want to be nice or because you're a people-pleaser, like me.
Saying no might make you feel like they're not going to like you as much and you've learned that saying yes makes people like you, because it does. People like people who say yes to them all the time. However, that's not always the best thing for you. You get pulled into their agenda. You get distracted. You end up resenting them for it, even though all they did was ask you nicely if you wouldn't mind doing something for them. You must have a cast-iron agenda because if you do, you know where you're going.
This is a major part of the content in my 28-Day Self-Esteem Reboot Challenge. It’s a programme for people who feel that they have lower self-esteem or self-confidence than they would like and it’s completely free of charge. If your self-confidence or self-esteem are low, you can find it very hard to say no to people. As your confidence and self-esteem start to rise, you find it increasingly easier to say no to people without feeling like you're a bad person or worrying about how it makes someone else feel about you.
There’s a link to this programme at the end of this post because if you do feel that you could use a self-esteem reboot, you should get yourself onto the 28-Day Self-Esteem Reboot Challenge. It's 28-days that could take you and your business to the next level and one of the topics is this content.
If you are a people-pleaser, and I confess I am one myself, saying no can be a f******g nightmare. You feel like a bad person. If you've learned this, you know what I'm on about. If you've haven't learned this, if this isn't your trait, it may sound completely alien to you, but it's really common out there that people with low levels of self-esteem or low levels of confidence or people who are people-pleasers, and sometimes, those two things can go hand-in-hand, find it so hard to say no to people because it makes them feel like a bad person. It makes them feel like they're going to be judged harshly, and people-pleasers have learned that when they say yes to people, they’ll be liked.
If I say yes to people, I'm safe, and it's nice to do nice things for each other. I definitely say yes to other people, and I definitely help where I can, but I have to have the ability to say no. Before I say yes to something, I evaluate whether or not it’s the right thing, and that's all I'm saying here today. I'm not saying you should say no to everything. I'm not saying you should say no to anything. I'm just saying you have to have a cast-iron, rock-solid no, so that when you say yes to something, you really are saying yes. I don't want you to feel guilty about this. If you start feeling guilty about saying no, there may be other things going on that you might need to resolve. You want to deal with anything that might get in the way of you living your life your way, leading your business to a destination that you want to take it to.
I want to share a little story with you about this business of saying no. If you're not used to saying no, you can’t expect to be an expert at saying no. A former coaching client came to me eight or nine years ago and it became obvious that he couldn't say no to people. He'd been pushed around for most of his life. Even his business had been pushed around by other people. He had had a pretty successful business but lost it.
I started working with him on this concept of saying no, and I was sharing similar stuff to what I'm sharing with you right now, although I've subsequently evolved my thinking over those years, and we started practicing no. If you really struggle to say no yourself, I want you to start practicing saying no too. That doesn't mean you become a belligerent arsehole who just says no everywhere. Just starting saying no to the little things that come up to distract you.
With this particular guy, one day, he went on a course, and he was sitting on his chair, saving another for his friend, when someone came up to him and said, "Excuse me, is this chair taken? Can I sit in this chair?" Up until then, even though he was waiting for somebody else and was saving the chair, he would have been super-polite and just said, "Yes, yes, of course you may sit there," and then had to work it out later. It would've made life complicated for him. But on this occasion, because he was practicing saying no, and it wasn’t a life-threatening no, he turned around and almost shouted, "No!" – completely over the top, aggressive and unreasonable.
He was just saying no to someone sitting in a chair, and there are many ways of saying no. However, he hadn't really developed the finer understanding of this yet. He hadn't developed the fine tuning and his no came out as a very strong no. When he came back to me, he felt really bad about this. I explained to him that he shouldn’t feel bad. If you've never learnt to say no in all the many colourful ways that we have to say it, don't be surprised that you have an on-or-off no – as in it's either off, yes, or it's no. Black and white. Nothing in between. I suggested he keep practicing with it, because if you're not used to saying no, it can be really uncomfortable saying it
If you start saying no and you’re no longer getting the positive feedback that you want for yourself because you’re not yet saying no in the right way or you worried people are starting to think you’re rude, then understand it's all part of the learning process. It's a skill. It's like getting on a bike and not finding the balancing point straightaway. You don’t just give up. You keep trying and you keep trying until you find your balance.
Now, of course, there are many ways of saying no. Letting someone know you’re saving a seat for your friend, for example, and you’re really sorry, would be a reasonable and gentle way of saying no. Much more appropriate than the No! my client used. You would still mean no, but it's just a nicer way of saying it.
If you're not used to saying no, don’t feel that somehow you've got to use the perfect no. You may screw it up. Like my client, you may end up going a bit too far on the no and being a bit rude. You may even underplay the no when there’s something that needs a really firm no if someone is pestering you, for example, on the bus, on the street, or at work, and no really does need to mean no. It's possible that your no might come out a little bit weaker than it needs to.
As you strengthen your no, as you use no more often, you'll start to cultivate and develop a much more sophisticated bandwidth of nos, from the super-polite no all the way through to the "No means f******g no" at the other end, and you need to make sure that you're always conscious before you say yes that this no exists for you, that you can actually say no. It takes discipline. It takes absolute commitment. The more you say no, the easier it will become. You'll realize that it's not life-ending. Most people don't even mind when you say no, especially if you say no in the right way for that particular situation. You people-pleasers will come to realise that no one's going to die when you start saying no to people.
Develop and cultivate your cast-iron no. Before you even know what you're saying yes or no to, you have to have that agenda. And remember, make sure you set your goals properly. Everyone I work within our Success Groups puts 20 hours and more into this, plus we have a whole goal-setting system they feed those goals into to hold them accountable. It's not a case of just having an idea of what you want or setting some goals on a piece of paper. There's a whole methodology that you need to follow in order to give yourself the best chance of setting the right goals and then, of course, sticking to those goals, and a big part of sticking to those goals is being able to say no to those things that would distract you from that path.
If you're a people-pleaser, this is essential content. You must develop this. Even if you are accustomed to saying no to people, then I hope you’ve learnt something here about what to say yes to and what to say no to, making sure you say no to the right things so that you keep on track for your overall agenda.
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