“Yes” is a powerful word. So is “no.” Saying either can change the direction of your day and your life. And here’s the twist: When you say one of those words, you must say the other. Otherwise, you won’t achieve your goals.
The Olympic wrestler Nate Carr has lived his whole life with this understanding. In a recent Spartan Up Podcast, he revealed how declaring yes to his goal of becoming an All-American wrestler at Iowa State University immediately defined a variety of no’s.
“Because I was 100 percent committed to my daily training,” he says, “I had a no for anyone who asked me if I wanted to go out and get drunk, or if I wanted to smoke pot. My yes produced my no and kept me focused.
“But if you don’t have a yes,” he adds, “how in the world can you have a no?”
It’s a profoundly simple idea, and Carr isn’t the only world-class achiever to use the yes-no principle to realize their dreams.
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Great Britain’s men’s eight row team had consistently failed to make an impact in major regattas. Gearing up for the Sydney Games 2000, they began asking themselves one crucial question before every activity: “Will it make the boat go faster?”
Will regular training make the boat go faster? Yes. Will binge-watching The Sopranos? Probably not. During their 18 months of training, the athletes answered this question thousands of times. And on the day of the race, their boat did go faster. Against all odds, the rowers took home gold.
Steve Jobs used the yes-no principle to drive Apple’s historic resurgence. According to biographer Walter Isaccson, when the tech maven returned to Apple from Pixar in 1997, he decided the company would focus on only 10 products. Saying yes to these initiatives meant saying no to hundreds of good ideas.
“People think focus means just saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on,” Jobs explained at the time. “But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 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 a thousand things.”
So, how can you start using your yes to consciously figure out when to say no? Start by answering these three questions:
- When it comes to [insert goal], do you really want it?
- If you answered with a hell-yes, what are you going to do to achieve it?
- And if you commit to the above steps, what will you stop doing?
Say yes to your plan. Declare no to any distraction. Achieve goal. If it works for the world’s top athletes and businessmen, why not you?