If You Haven’t Mastered This Word, You Might Be Failing at Your Business

by | BiggerPockets.com

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.

Related: Real Estate Elevated: 5 Tips for Finding the Best Real Estate Deals

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.

Say… No.

We Hate to Say No

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.”

Other Manifestations

This also manifests itself in the office. I believe it was in the book Good To Great by 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.

Related: The Simple But Profound Secret to Long-Term Investing Success

How Do We Move Forward?

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.”

Final Thoughts

It’s time to master the word no, so you can say yes to the right things.

How have you applied this principal in your business and life?

Share your tips and experiences with me below!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.

17 Comments

    • Nathan Brooks

      That’s so awesome Andrew! I love the “collecting No’s” … and getting rejected. I even use this in daily life such as asking the cashier at the grocery store for a “good guy discount?” … it’s a fun one to see what kind of responses you get!

  1. JL Hut

    Learning to say NO to oneself and teaching your children to do the same are two of the most important things a person will ever do. It’s a small word with a lot of power. It’s a concept that once was taught but I fear it got lost along the way a few generations ago. Thanks for bringing the topic up.

    • Nathan Brooks

      it is SO important to teach this to your children, I couldn’t agree more JL. I don’t want to believe the concept is just LOST … instead, I want us to grow up, talk about it, learn about it, focus on it, and get better at it. WE can help teach it now … we can do it!!

    • Nathan Brooks

      it is SO important to teach this to your children, I couldn’t agree more JL. I don’t want to believe the concept is just LOST … instead, I want us to grow up, talk about it, learn about it, focus on it, and get better at it. And along the way I have a feeling that we will also personally get better and better at it too. It applies in every area of life: with family, friends, business, and self. Thanks for the post!

  2. John Murray

    The ancient knew what it takes to be successful. Sound mind, sound body. This is the basis for all success. If you want peace prepare for war. People will conquer, it is in our nature. The 7 deadly sins. The downfall of humans. You can go on and on, necessity is the mother of invention. To truly understand human success you have to look to the ancients, there is the wisdom of the ages.

    • Nathan Brooks

      Ancients knew this, agreed. But we also have a vastly larger amount of information to be able to apply to the principal with the understanding of how the brain works, our subconscience versus conscience mind. And then do we take control of our own destiny or allow ourselves to believe we have no control.

      The ancients wrote about this … but my guess is humans find ways to make a choice, all of us, to do things we shouldn’t. So it’s a daily practice to get better at it, and grow both personally … and culturally.

  3. Rob Cook

    Awesome Article Nathan! So much of success in anything is about our attitudes and mentalities. Crunching numbers doing analysis on prospective deals will come to nothing without the personal attributes required to forge ahead thru the process, with discipline. And saying NO to crappy deals (90% of all the deals we come across) is the key to success. Making a bad deal is a lot worse than missing out on potential profit. Missed money is better than lost money. In my construction company, we long ago adopted the management approach you discussed, of not taking other people’s monkeys off their back and putting them onto ours. Employees either make us money or cost us money. Doing their own work is what they are paid for. Doing their work for them means they should be replaced.

    On a broader note, you are exactly right calling out people on being weak, not being able to make the hard decisions in life, and have the discipline to manage themselves personally. That said, I do not really believe it is a new phenomenon. It is as old as mankind. And, as depressing as it often can be living in and suffering the idiocracy we call home, it is also the source of our opportunities. People who CAN be more productive and self-manage, are always in high demand, or alternatively, for us self-employed types, we are able to earn far more than those who are dependent and relatively unproductive. I was just telling my wife, a salesman who gets second place, gets NOTHING. Only the winner takes all in sales. Few can tolerate that kind of pressure and accountability and reality. Those who can, prosper, while others try to figure out how we pulled that rabbit out of the hat!

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