Welcome! This week, we're celebrating the "Week of 'No'". (Sometimes it's good to be bad.) Throughout the week, we'll explore ways to harness the power of "No" but still create a "Yes, And" environment around you! This week, we continue our journey with "It's Not 'No', It's Just 'Not Right Now".
"It's Not 'No', It's Just 'Not Right Now'"
I recently had the pleasure of attending a Q&A session in Chicago where Grace Bonney, Founder of Design*Sponge, hosted a panel of local female entrepreneurs from her book "In the Company of Women". As someone who is also a Chicago-local, female, entrepreneur - the conversation was both edifying and inspiring.
Inevitably, the conversation started veering towards the topic of balancing priorities as a new company. How do you find boundaries for yourself? How do you not say "Yes" to everything you're asked? How do you find time to sleep at night and attend a friend's birthday party without your new business going under? How?! HOW?!?! TELL US HOW?!?!?
Lauren Ash, the Founder and Creative Director of "Black Girl in Om", had a response to this question that blew my mind. She said that at the beginning of the year, she and her team took a few weeks to set their intentions for their year. They thought about what they wanted to accomplish, and made goals as a team to get those things done. During the year, if she was offered an opportunity that didn't relate to or fulfill one of those goals, she didn't do it. SHE DIDN'T. DO. IT. As a type-A, borderline obsessive personality, this left me floored. I can't imagine filing an email in the incorrect gmail folder structure, much less say "No" to a business opportunity! WAS SHE NUTS!?!
No, she was not nuts. In fact she's a strong, successful, business woman whose passion and aptitude I envy and attempt to emulate daily.
She simply lived by this mantra: "It's not a 'No', it's just 'Not Right Now'."
The truth is, "Yes, And" can be a bit of a drug. I've been known to be addicted to "Yes, And", and I know a lot of hungry, young, business people can relate to me. When I started performing comedy, for the first two and a half years, I basically didn't turn down a gig. Need a walk-on for your digital short? I'll do it. Need a cover for the 10:30 show tonight? I live down the street, I'll be there. Director abandoned you a week before your sketch show goes up, and you only have two scenes written and casting directors will be there opening night? Start the pot of coffee, we've got 13 sleepless nights to work through.
My thought process was to be the person that everyone could count on for as long as possible. That way, I could learn as much as possible in a short amount of time, and be exposed to everything. Needless to say, it got to a point where I was sitting backstage during a sketch show I was in, between scenes, reading a book that I was supposed to present for the improv set the next night, because I didn't have time during the next day to read it because I was performing in an improvised character rap battle. A CHARACTER RAP BATTLE, YOU GUYS. (Our name was "Tic Tac Toe" and we got past the first two rounds, thankyouverymuch.)
While my intentions were pure and honorable, the end result was - I was burnt out and basically useless because I had no creative energy left for all the things I was piling onto my plate. I was "having it all" while tasting none of it because I couldn't prioritize what was most important and impactful.
There's always a fear that if we don't take advantage of what's happening now, it may not be there when we want it. And, that is definitely true! I haven't run into another opportunity to do a character rap since that battle (which might be for the best, my rapping aptitude is "Fun Mom Who Rhymes" at its peak). However, the "just not right now" philosophy provides a way for you as an employee to say "No" when it's needed without creating a “No” environment. Similar to active acknowledgement, "just not right now" gives everyone the power of being recognized and valued without veering from what's a priority at present.
Check back in tomorrow for our next "No" technique: "Yes, And'"...