How to say no

We worry about closing the doors on opportunities. We’re worried about not getting 100%, when if we don’t choose, we won’t even get 1%.

Ramit Sethi

A couple of years ago, one of my friends asked me, “What’s your number one goal?”

The question made me nervous. I didn’t want to answer. I was afraid that if I said my single most important goal, I’d be closing doors to all of my other goals — of which there were many.

So I said this: “I want to be a bestselling author, but I also want to generate revenue, and I want to do this and publicity and blah, blah, blah.” He cut me off and said, “Cut the BS. What’s your number one goal?”

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Again, I hedged. But he pushed and forced me to get crisp, and said, “The number one goal.”

I said, “I want this book to be a New York Times bestseller.”

The danger in saying “yes”

If you want something big, it’s critical to make that initial choice to commit to a tangible and specific outcome.

But nobody wants to say that because they’re afraid to limit themselves.

We worry about closing the doors on opportunities. We’re worried about not getting 100%, when if we don’t choose, we won’t even get 1%.

Once I declared out loud that I wanted to become a New York Times bestselling author, I eliminated about 70% of my marketing plan. It became crystal clear what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal so I focused all of my attention on those things.

Once my book became a bestseller, then I could do a lot of the other things that I wanted to do.

That friend was Noah Kagan, and in this video, he reveals how to eliminate all of life’s little distractions and why we have to say “NO” to most things in order to accelerate our path to success.

Make it stupid easy to say “no”

How many times this month have your friends — or even YOU — said something like:

  • “Sorry, something came up. I’ll catch you next time”
  • “I don’t know if I can do that. I’m just so swamped at work, you know?”
  • “I’m too busy to do that right now. I’ll get to it later”

All of us — CEOs, politicians, Ph.D candidates, mothers of 2 — have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s OK to recognize when “no time” is actually a blanket excuse for not doing something you don’t want to do.

When you find yourself saying any of the phrases above, stop and evaluate why.

Maybe it’s not a priority for you right now. Maybe you just really don’t want to do it. Both of these thoughts are perfectly fine. You’ll save everyone a lot of time and effort by recognizing and acting on what’s really going on.

ACTION STEP: The next time someone offers you an invitation, instead of saying “I don’t have time,” be honest with them and yourself. You can even use this exact script: “That sounds really interesting, but I’m going to pass so I can focus on a couple other things I really want to do.” This will:

  1. Make others value your time and commitments
  2. Force you to be honest with yourself about what’s important
  3. Free up your mental energy to worry about things you actually care about

How I made $125,930/mo. from “no”

A few years ago, I found myself getting tons of emails from readers, my team, and friends. I’m talking 1,000+ emails/day. And just as I would wake up and start answering them, I’d get dozens more.

At first, I thought I HAD to answer every email. That’s how I built my business in the first place. But I quickly saw that if I replied to every email, I wouldn’t have time to focus on anything else.

I could spend the entire month answering emails — and have nothing to show for it.

Let’s see….my options are:

  • Wake up and spend my entire day fighting other people’s fires
  • Decide to take control of my time and do what I WANT to do

Notice how it’s so easy to say, “DUH RAMIT, SECOND BULLET POINT, LOLZZ.”

But the minute you say “I’m going to take control of my time,” that stupid voice in your head starts saying things like:

“Yeah, BUT…”

  • “You HAVE to answer everyone’s emails”
  • “Maybe that might work for YOU, but not everyone runs their own business”
  • “I’m already behind. I don’t have enough time for this weird strategy stuff”

Screw that.

If I was going to make a massive impact, I needed to get out of the day-to-day and work on my business, instead of in it.

If I kept waiting for an opening in my schedule or for an amazing business idea to strike, it never would’ve happened. I had to intentionally set aside the time in my week for thinking about “big picture” stuff.

No meetings. No calls. Just time to think about strategy and where I was going with IWT.

I started by carving out a couple hours on Wednesdays. Then I expanded to a half-day, and finally made Wednesdays totally my own.

ramit calendar wed blog
Bad, better, GREAT. By the way, “DND” = Do Not Disturb.

When Wednesday rolls around, I have a list of books and articles to read, and a notepad I take notes in. And every so often, a big idea hits…

In fact, the idea for one of my previous programs, Brain Trust, came up during one of these strategy sessions. Here are the numbers:


That’s over 2,500 members at $49/month — people from around the world who loved the program.

rbt past

All from one of those Wednesday sessions.

I could have spent my entire year answering emails and I never would have come up with this idea. The key was (1) having time set aside for myself and (2) studying high-level business strategy from the masters (see some of my reading list here).

The same is true for you.

Do you have time set aside to focus on big wins? Do you know what to study and how to apply it?

When I decided to grow, I stopped studying the people who were in my market. Why do I care if they make 10% more than I do? I wanted to know how multibillion-dollar companies and CEOs do it. What questions does Jeff Bezos ask when he interviews people? How did Steve Jobs run a meeting?

I quickly learned that successful CEOs think differently than scrappy entrepreneurs. The latter look for shortcuts and ways to get off the ground. That’s fine — they have to do that when they’re starting out.

But at a certain point, you can’t just “hustle” your way bigger. You have to completely change your thinking, your strategy, and even your team. This is what separates constantly hustling entrepreneurs from true CEOs.

How to manufacture time by saying “no”

As you may have noticed, our struggles with saying “no” are really struggles with creating habits and systems that protect our time — which is why I put together the very best material on setting goals, creating habits that stick, and getting back on track if you ever fall off.

If you’re ready to stop making excuses, break out of that rut, and make a major change in your life, this free guide is for you.

ultimate guide habits 1

Take a look at what’s inside:

  • How to wake up productive and get more done by noon than most people do all day (covered in Part 2)
  • “If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d ____.” I’ll teach you how to keep accomplishing goals even when you “don’t feel like it” (covered in Part 3)
  • Ever spent a busy day filled with distractions — answering emails and putting out fires — and walked away feeling like you finished nothing? I’ll show you how to stay laser-focused on tasks and eliminate distractions (covered in Part 6)

This guide includes HD videos, downloadable worksheets, lessons from the world’s leading experts on behavioral change, and much, much more.

So check it out. Try out the techniques. And enjoy the results you get for the rest of your life.

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