Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 8.46.53 PMOf the estimated 1 million words in the English language, which is the most powerful in effecting change? Which word do you think the great inventors of history and builders of today’s businesses use like gold? Power players learn to wield the power of saying, “No.”

In fact, the University of California in San Francisco compiled research showing a strong correlation between people who have difficulty saying no and those who are most likely to experience stress, burnout, and even depression.   Think about it, the more you have piled on top of you, the more you feel you can’t get it all done–especially if you are powerless to stop piling more on top. The best way to honor your existing commitments is to say no to new ones. This powerful position gives you the opportunity to successfully fulfill your commitments.

From Life to Business

This advice is arguably just as valuable to entrepreneurs and business owners as it is to individuals in their personal lives. At any stage of a business’s growth cycle, whether that is in the early stage trying to produce a minimum viable product or in a later stage when cash needs to be invested in growth initiatives, managers must be very good at saying “no.”  No to solicited expenditures. No to product features that aren’t backed by customers’ willingness to pay for them. No to tasks or programs that are diversions from real value-adders.  If Thomas Edison had said yes to more visits to the pub, who knows if he would have been in his lab long enough to make his most rewarding discovery that led to a successful light bulb.

Jobs’s Take on Saying No

Steve Jobs has been quoted as saying, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.  You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.  Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Say “NO” to at least 10 things today that could distract you from what you need to focus on.