Focus is About Saying No

10 June, 2020

"Yes" is a "No" to All Other Things

Jim Carrey, Yes Man

I am a "yes man" by nature. I see a good opportunity - I say yes.

Until recently, I didn't realize that all the "yes" I have said is actually "no" to a hundred better things I could do instead. In this article, I'd like to share my thoughts and experience about knowing when to say "No".

In the book “It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work“ by Jason Fried, there's a really good comparison between yes and no:

  • No is easier to do, yes is easier to say
  • No is no to one thing. Yes is no to a thousand things
  • No is a precision instrument, a surgeon’s scalpel, a laser beam focused on one point
  • Yes is a blunt object, a club, a fisherman’s net that catches everything indiscriminately
  • No is specific
  • Yes is general
  • No is calm but hard. Yes is easy but a flurry. Knowing what you’ll say no to is better than knowing what you’ll say yes to. Know no.

Saying "no" is hard, but trust me saying "yes" then "no" is a lot harder. So before you say "yes" to anything, think ahead and make decisions wisely.

We all have limited time and resources. Doing the right thing at the right time is the key to success. Focus means you have to say no to all other things. No matter how better or easier they are.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Apple had 18 different directions. He called Apple a farm that's been created, with all these different animals going in different directions. His decisions to put a bullet in the head of most projects at that time now makes Apple so successful.


Don't get me wrong, saying "yes" can change your life for the better.

No is a powerful tool to keep your priority queue manageable and attainable. When you know what you should be doing now, it's best to stay out of everything else and focusing on your goals.

Let's stay focused.