So much Yes
Several years ago Shonda Rhimes, the ubiquitous creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and a growing media empire, wrote a book called the Year of Yes. In it, she detailed how she said yes to everything that came her way. She did this because, as an introvert, she realized she’d been saying no to invitations and social events for years. It was her default response. It wasn’t because she was too busy or disinterested, it was because she was afraid.
This was a great tactic. By forcing herself to always say yes, she’d have to overcome that fear, to get out and meet, mingle and try new things. By telling herself that Yes was her new default, she never needed to find an excuse and was always mentally prepared for what she was agreeing to. Knowing she was going somewhere or participating in something was now going to be her new normal.
I see your Yes and I raise you a No
But I’d like to propose a counter argument. I think most of us who work for ourselves say yes too much. It’s like dating, if you’re always available, your potential match wonders what’s wrong with you. Why are you so desperate? The key to being successful is knowing who to say yes to and knowing who to say no to (just like dating).
Sure, when you first start out you need to take everything that comes your way. You’re grateful for the business and the money. You might need the work for your portfolio, or just for experience. But as you get more work and more experience, as you hone your craft and you find your niche, there’s a desire to want to still help everyone. And that’s a really sweet gesture. You should want to help everyone. But you can’t actually do that. Because by trying to help everyone, you’re only holding yourself back and preventing yourself from helping the people you really want to work with and who will pay you what you’re worth.
Sorry, but I need to wash my hair
The same holds true with networking. In the beginning you should attend all the meetings you get invited to. You should meet everyone you can for a face to face meeting. Get out there and say yes! But at some point, when you start to have a really robust network, you’ll realize if you keep saying yes to everything, you won’t have time to actually work! It’s a great problem to have. ‘Look at me, I’m so popular that everyone wants to get to know me.’ But this goes back to, do you want to meet them? Are these the people who will help you move yourself and your business forward, and can you help them in return? Will going to that United Plumbers Workers Meeting be a good fit for your ideal client? (no disrespect to the pipelayers out there.)
This is my dance space, this is your dance space
It’s so easy to get caught up and forget what your boundaries are. Or maybe you’ve been so busy you haven’t created them yet. It’s time. Time to be selfish for the sake of the greater good. I was guilty of this myself. I was told you can get to the point of overnetworking. And while I’m not sure I agree with that, I did find I was spending a lot more time out of my home office than I wanted to. So now I do two things:
1) I do a lot of my face to face meetings over Zoom. This gives me a chance to still create connections, but without losing time commuting. I still get to see them and connect with their energy but in an efficient and effective way.
2) For 2020 I’ve instituted a strict two event per week policy. That means I can only attend two events in any given week in person. This forces me to be more selective of what I say yes to, and forces me to turn down things that seem great but would break that rule.
And you know what? While sometimes something sounds great and I’m bummed I can’t go, once it’s passed, I forget all about it and move on.
You don't only get one shot
Sorry Eminem. You can go crazy with the ‘what ifs’. What if my perfect client is there? What if I never get invited again? But the reality is there’s always another event and there are tons of other clients. We don’t just get one shot at most things. And if you’re playing the long game, which you should, one or two no’s isn’t going to undo the chance for a future yes. In fact, it might accelerate it. What do you need to say no to?