The No Jar

Most people say “no” far too reflexively. They dismiss or decline before they’ve even thought about it. They say no to things because they’ve said no to them before, or because there was even the slightest bit of uncertainty in the option, or even because they’ve set their internal default to “no.” This is a terrible habit.

Why? Because a reflexive “no” almost never gains you anything in life, but every single thing you said “no” to was an opportunity to gain something, even if only information. Your two options for answering any opportunity should be “conditional yes” or “deliberate no.”

A conditional yes is just that – a yes, “if.” It’s a good first answer. But the other is equally valid if done correctly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with saying “no,” of course. You can – and should – say “no” to a great many opportunities. But don’t let it be your default or your reflex. Think about why.

How can you raise the cost of a “no” on yourself? Simple. Keep a “No Jar.” It works just like a swear jar (a concept that can be applied in lots of interesting ways), except that instead of putting in a dollar when you curse, you put in a dollar when you say a reflexive no. A “deliberate no” is free – so if you take your time, think about it, come up with several reasons why the answer is “no” and what would have to be different to make it a “yes” – then that’s different. That’s free. But a “no” fired off within seconds of hearing the option? That costs a dollar.

“I don’t know what I want to eat tonight,” you lament. Your friend or partner suggests a place, and you immediately scowl and say “nah.” Boom – one dollar in the jar. Looking for work and a family member sends you a job listing? If you immediately trash it, that’s a dollar. The point isn’t to force you to say “yes” to everything; that’s why it’s a dollar and not $100. It’s just to raise the cost of saying “no” just a little bit so that you’re more likely to give each option a proper weighing and build a habit of keeping an open mind.

And here’s the side benefit – when you’re ready to say “yes” to something truly great, you’ll have a little startup capital to do it with.

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