In the current world of the yes man, the win-a-million TV show insanity—a trophy for all ages and players no matter the results— we, as a culture, have gotten soft. As humans, we are more and more lax in our abilities to handle stress, failure, and temptation. Giving in to those things then limits our ability to make decisions that are best for our families, our teams, our businesses, our bodies. In the food we eat. In the ways we carry ourselves mentally, physically, and emotionally. Have this problem? You must have so-and-so disorder! You probably need to take a bunch of drugs to take care of it! Right? Feeling crappy about life tonight? Pound some booze. Or kill the gallon of ice cream; it’s OK. Go ahead and lose control emotionally with your spouse—or worse— your kids (guilty).
Then, because you are a failure for having not figured it out completely the first time, you quit trying (to manage your weight, nutrition, business, marriage, love, being a good person, parenting, life, a skill, etc.). Then, instead of asking what went wrong, learning your lesson, digging into the problem, and getting back after it, you decide you’re no longer able to get better at whatever it is. We have almost become terrified of ourselves.
You can see this constantly manifest itself in television shows where everyone wants to be a “winner.” Seemingly every show is built around fake drama, nonsense, and messed-up self-fulling prophecies. Even most of the house-flipping shows are absolutely not real; I’ve known multiple people connected to, or directly in, these shows. And then, lies and gross over-exaggerations are propagated to lure impulsive and emotional watchers who tune in every week for another hour-long mind-suck. Yes, I do hate TV—and yes, I think its a massive (part) of our problem. But it’s not the only problem.
Our whole world is now only a cell phone away (guilty again). We can find anything and everything at the touch of a button and swipe of the finger. Honestly, I love being able to get that kind of access to all kinds of things in certain circumstances. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, on and on … It’s all built to gain our valuable and irreplaceable time, attention, and the holy dollar.
There is an answer to all this nonsense.
It’s actually really simple.
It’s like we are a failure. A quitter. Instead of saying no to the food, the frustrated emotional state, whatever—we give into it. We tell ourselves its OK. We will get it next time. Next time I will try harder. Or, I’ll not go through the McDonald’s drive-thru today. (I really, really, hate McDonald’s.) But because it has all the money and the best locations and TV air time, its one of the most recognizable brands of “food” in the world.
There are tons of books that talk about our habits and how our subconscious mind is so much more in control of what happens than we realize. We should take the time to think, What am I really doing right now? Does this action, activity, choice, really make sense? Instead, we form habits that allow us to make terrible decisions and not hold ourselves accountable for them, which become these self-fulfilling negative human action loops.
We act like it’s not in our control. We not only feel like we can’t figure out whats wrong, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seem someone who has given in to their habits—as if they can’t make a decisions to say, “Hell, no. I’m not doing that anymore.”
This also manifests itself in the office. I believe it was in the book Good To Greatby Jim Collins where he talked about how people show up in your office with their “monkeys.” This could mean a project they needed help with, a mundane request, or a little tiny issue they needed help with. Whatever it was, the problem was that they showed up at your office with their monkey. And instead of taming that little hairy beast and sending it back on its way, they kept it by offering to help but leaving it unopened, unscheduled, unstructured, without a clear goal and timeline.
We all have these things. They lurk in our iPhone notes, our Evernote files, our email filing system. They roll around our brains. Bills sit on the counter. We put off telling our clients, friends, and spouses something important because we haven’t dealt with it ourselves yet.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t help others. But we don’t want to walk off with other people’s “monkey’s.” Instead, we want to offer kindness: “I am sorry to hear you are having that problem. Would you like to chat through it real quick with me?” Or, “Man, that does suck! What are you thinking you are going to do about it? Have you figured out how to work through it? Want to talk through it with me now?”
Both of these responses offer help, but they don’t offer ownership of that problem.
I can’t tell you the number of times early in our business where we would buy, rehab, sell, and do deals, in whatever section of the market we thought we may have found a deal. That was fun. We bought a bunch of deals. But, then we realized not only do we not know what to do with these properties, they are now fully our problem.
We’ve lost money this way. We lost sleep. But from those problems, we talked about the “one thing” principal in our business. And you can apply that same principal in the office and with your friends, too. It is not worse to say no to someone and have a feeling that your friend or colleague is disappointed. It is worse, by far, to have the feeling of regret after you said yes when you should have said no—knowing that you have now added something to your pile of crap that you shouldn’t have.
So, we say no. And we don’t apologize for saying no, either.
Here is the line. Practice and repeat: “I really feel for you in this situation, and the __________ (problem) does sound like its causing some issues for you / problems / it’s painful … etc. I’d love to talk through this with you and offer any guidance I can bring to the table.” If your friend or colleague asks if you would take care of it yourself, “I mean, you would be so much better at solving this right?” You say: “I sure appreciate your kind words, and believe me, I hear what a tough situation that is! Unfortunately, I can’t take this on for you. But I am definitely here to help talk through it if you need a second thought or opinion on it. I am here for you.”
It’s time to master the word no, so you can say yes to the right things.