“People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me’.” —Peter Drucker
In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown reminds us of an important truth, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”
When I married my wife 15 years ago, I committed my life to her for better or worse, in sickness or in health. In front of many witnesses, I vowed to be hers until death do us part. And when I said yes to her, I effectively was saying no to 3.5 billion other women.
Similarly, when I chose my career, I said no to countless others that I could have chosen. I write and I speak and pursue the promotion of minimalism. I will never fly a Boeing 747. I will never perform open-heart surgery. And I will never play professional tennis. This is okay with me. I have chosen to make my life about something different.
Every day we are presented with countless choices of how to spend our time, our energy, our effort, and our money. The wisest of us recognize we always have the power to choose. And they choose to pursue their life’s greatest mission by repeatedly saying ‘no’ to things that distract from it.
Donald Miller is the New York Times bestselling author of Blue Like Jazz and the Storyline blog (on which I contribute monthly articles). Recently, he wrote a Life Plan program to help people plan and live a meaningful life.
This past winter, while meeting with Donald in San Diego, he said something I have not forgotten. He said, “My goal is to take 1,000,000 people through the Life Plan program. And these days, I am saying ‘no’ to anything that doesn’t get us closer to reaching that goal.”
I have often reflected on this approach to life. It is no different than the advice of Peter Drucker, Greg McKeown, or countless other thought leaders on leadership and influence.
Successful people are adamant about saying ‘no’ to things that do not align with their mission. (tweet that)
Of course, sometimes the choices are obvious (I never was that good at tennis nor was there a long list of women asking for my hand in marriage). But the hardest work is done in the trenches.
Staying on mission is about learning to say ‘no’ to the urgent requests, the popular requests, and the countless opportunities in front of you to make an extra dollar.
What is your purpose? What goals do you have for your life? On what mission do you desire to live? And what plan have you developed to help you get there?
Go, pursue it with your heart and your life. And learn to say ‘no’ to all the countless opportunities that will only distract you from it.