Not long ago, I wrote a post on saying no that got quite a bit of traction. It was about taking back your freedom and feeling secure enough to set comfortable boundaries.
Once you get good at saying no and setting boundaries, it’s easy to take it too far. It’s easy to turn your nose up at regular work and say, “Poo. No thank you. How pedestrian.” You can go from the most generous business owner to the stingiest in a heartbeat… if you let yourself.
I’ve been writing quite a bit on boundaries lately, since it’s a big problem for service providers all over the map (not just designers and developers).
No is uncomfortable, until it isn’t. Then yes is uncomfortable. Then everything makes you squirmy and you decide that maybe it’s time to throw in the towel to let someone else make the decisions for a while.
Quitting isn’t the answer. (Until sometimes, it is.)
The Art of the “Yes And”
A lifetime ago, I was a stage actor, where I spent a good chunk of my formative years. My favourite part of theatre was theatresports or, as it’s more commonly known, improv. Improv is a practice where you learn to say yes. It’s not just about saying yes – it’s about learning to add your spin to the yes.
When I first dove into improv, I was barely a teenager – fourteen, maybe. I was awkward and strange and didn’t want to make an ass out of myself. My acting teacher taught me something that I’ll never forget:
“Improv will make you look silly and weird and strange. The best improv actors are the most confident people in the room.”
It’s not something you develop overnight. It’s an openness that is sharpened and learned. And it’s up to you to determine if you’d rather be cool or be successful on the stage.
Sure, being cool has its fringe benefits – you look great on paper and your visage is coifed to perfection – but I’ve determined that sticking to the coolness is the best way to stagnate.
There is an art to the “yes and” that requires you – the creative, the artisan, the business owner, and entrepreneur – to be open enough to possibility, no matter how uncomfortable it seems.
During contract negotiations, I often find myself saying, “Absolutely we can do that, and it’ll cost you X monies in order to execute your vision.” Or, “I love where you’re going! And we can improve that even more by doing XYZ action.”
The power of the “yes and” ripples from your client relationships to your team as well. When you’re brainstorming, every idea is awesome and no one should feel like they aren’t smart enough or talented enough to contribute.
“Yes! That is an awesome idea and I think that we could incorporate it in XYZ category. Write that shiz down and put it in the brainstorming file!”
The Insidious Nature of No
There’s a paradigm or two that states that you should say no three or four or twelve (I can’t remember which) times for every yes you say.
For one year, I followed that. During the course of 2013, I said no to more and more while saying yes to less and less. I thought that the no was opening me up for the bigger yes.
In some ways, it did. In many more, it didn’t.
All it did was show potential clients how inflexible I could be, which contributed to a serious and incredibly troubling lull in my business.
Boundaries are incredibly powerful measures to cultivate, especially for we lovers and givers; if left unchecked, “yes and” can make martyrs of us. But there’s an equal insidiousness to “no” that we don’t tend to question.
We have to tread that fine line that encourages us to be firm and steady, while still being flexible; to be the bamboo or willow tree, instead of the firmly rooted oak.
Say yes to generosity and opportunity.
Say yes. Be free.