65. Why saying “No” makes us MORE successful: Boundaries and Business Leadership, part 1
Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. I am here with Sarah Stokes, and this is the first of a series regarding boundaries for business leaders and entrepreneurs. I’m so excited to have you here. Welcome, Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you so much. I am pumped to dig in on this big topic that I can’t wait to kind of work through with you so we can help some people.
Mary: Yeah, for sure. I was thinking we need to do a series for business owners, business leaders, career professionals, entrepreneurs around what topics come up for them that are boundary related. They may or may not even know that they’re boundary related, but how boundaries show up in our businesses and in our work. And I thought, what a perfect match. Let’s talk about this, Sarah. So we’ve got a series of, of six topics that we’re going to take you through in today’s the first.
Sarah: So exciting. Cannot wait. Let’s go.
Mary: All right. So there’s this quote by Warren Buffett. And he says that really successful people say no to almost everything.
Sarah: Yeah. I’ve heard his dramatic approach to how he deals with his day. And it is like frighteningly boundaried, right? For somebody who isn’t boundaried, Warren Buffett is modeling big time. I’ve heard that he writes everything that he thinks he needs to do. He circles three and then throws away the rest, like rips off the bottom of the paper and throws it away. And now I heard that story through Darren Hardy, who talks about it. So I don’t have firsthand account, you know, it’d be cool to be next to Warren Buffett all day and watch how he works, but it almost scares me as somebody who is an over caretaker by default, right? Like, how could you throw away the rest of your to do list? What? No! But I mean, he’s one of the most on paper, successful humans we have to model after. So he must have a thing or two that he’s figured out.
Mary: Yeah, something’s going right there. Right. That’s so interesting. I did hear like the entirety of the speech. I’ve heard the quote many times, but I heard the entirety of the speech once and, and the context was around someone asked for advice on how he became so successful. And he said that the difference between successful people and really successful people is that the really successful people said no to almost everything. And it was this tool and this skill of saying no, that he really attributed to his high level of success. Yeah.
Sarah: And hey. It is true. I mean, I’ve found that in my own business. Like I am now more focused than ever and I’m happier than ever. So I think the two, there’s some evidence there that’s working, but yeah, we could all take a page or two from his book.
Mary: So for sure. And Warren Buffett, if you’re hearing this, we would love to talk to you directly
Sarah: to pick your brain about some
Mary: boundaries. I’d love to know more about what you mean in that quote. So I’m open for a conversation with you
Sarah: and he’s buying lunch.
Mary: Although I heard he eats breakfast at McDonald’s almost every day.
Sarah: You know, you can buy us an egg McMuffin. That’s okay too.
Mary: All right. Well, let’s talk about that. What is it about learning to say no that increases our success?
Sarah: Well, if you think about anything, right, if you’re training for anything, if you’ve ever done any athletics, we think about how we get ready for something, how we get ready to do something well, and there is a measure of focus there. And in my line of work, I’m the should free lady, because I know that shoulds, which is saying yes to a whole bunch of stuff that we think we have to do right? That’s what actually keeps us exhausted and broke and really distracted. So why is saying no a really like wonderful business tool? Well, we’re not exactly for everyone. Our business is not meant to serve all 8 billion humans on the planet, but if we want to show up and have a meaningful impact through our work, we need to know who it is we’re here to serve and how we’re here to serve them. Not like what I’ve heard you talk about, Mary, we don’t need to know every single thing and we don’t need to serve every single human. And we don’t have to work every single hour, but when we get really good at serving the people we’re meant to serve, and we’re focused on how we do that well, and we take care of our own bodies as a vessel for business, things start to work better and we’re no longer as exhausted and we’re showing up with energy. Right? And that’s what makes that business really click and hum along. And that’s when you’re no longer exhausted, broke and stuck.
And so it is worth it, but we’ve been conditioned to think we have to be all things to all people in order to be a really good person or really great business person. We better be doing all the things, have all the streams of revenue. Right? Nothing wrong with it if it’s working, but if you’re tired and if you’re resenting your business or the people you’re serving or the team members, it’s time to take a look, right? Yeah. How can we focus? How can we feel better?
Mary: Yeah, absolutely. I think that one of the reasons why saying no makes us more successful is because when we say no to the things that aren’t really in alignment with us or our goals or business or career aspirations, it opens up the space to say yes to the things that are our next steps and in alignment with us and saying no creates more possibility for the things that we do want.
Sarah: Yeah. I love to say leave room for magic and it’s what you’re talking about when we have said yes and our schedules 10 pounds in a five pound bag, we, there’s no room for anything magical. Right? And I just helped a client today celebrate that more of her aligned work, that, that work you’re talking about, that space for possibilities is coming in because she came up with a system for herself to say no in a way that felt good to her and refer, and we call it like blessing someone else’s business, refer out to another, she’s in the graphic design world. And she kept saying yes to all these little jobs that weren’t in her like highest want as an artist. And now she’s like, I’ve done more of the art I want to do this month because I said no last month. Ideal clients can get through because there’s space. She’s not so clogged up with the jobs that weren’t a hell yes. But she referred them to somebody and that designer’s thrilled. Right? So a soul, yes would be what we make room for with a focused, no.
Mary: Yes. Yeah. And I’ve heard before like if it’s not a hell yes, then it needs to be a hell no. And not to swear at people, but the idea of like being intentional, being emphatic about the things that we are saying yes to and the things that we’re saying no to, because it’s not just about saying no, opening up possibilities for the yes. It’s also saying yes to things that aren’t in alignment close the door for our growth and our progress and our expansion to the things that are out there for us that are next for us. Yeah. And it’s playing small.
Sarah: Yeah. Who do you want to be? And what’s keeping you from that is probably saying yes to all the things that aren’t truly for you or about you. Oh, it’s so. It’s so good to think about, yeah, Could all use a little more no. And you’re right. It is saying yes. And it, no, is not a swear word, right? No, is not. No, is not, doesn’t make you a bad person, but it sure does help you with your integrity and your alignment. Because one of the things I find is every time I’ve said a yes, that wasn’t truly a, yes, I’m not serving that person. Let’s just say I was a committee queen, right? Everybody wanted me on their committee. That’s actually, I said, yes, all those years I was flattered, right? Like, Oh, of course I love this cause. I’m going to say yes. Pretty soon I’m missing out on my motherhood, right? They’re not actually using my gifts and talents because I can be a marketing strategist all day for you. But if I’m stuck on a committee hamster wheel, and we love committees, nothing wrong with them, but I was accidentally resenting it. They weren’t getting my best. Right? So we end up not serving anyone when we say a disempowered yes, versus a thank you for thinking of me, but I’d rather serve your organization in a way that can really make some headway, you know, same goes for any, yes we say like, let’s say it yes effectively or no with love.
Mary: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And as the person potentially on the receiving end of that yes or no answer, I would much rather someone say no to me clearly and kindly than say yes to something that I’m requesting of them and have them not be wholehearted and not really want to do it. Like, I don’t want someone to go to lunch with me who doesn’t want to come to lunch with me. And I want someone to buy my services who doesn’t really want to buy my services. And I don’t want someone to agree to something from a place of obligation or shoulding on themselves or they have to for any of those kinds of reasons, because that doesn’t feel like it’s honoring me either.
Sarah: Right? You make a good point. So when we’re thinking we’re doing it for the other person, we’re actually, yeah, it’s not, it’s not even true. So you aren’t honoring that. Yeah. And respect them enough to say a loving thank you for thinking of me, but I’ve made a promise to myself to not overcommit right now. I think that would be an overextension or whatever you say that is true to you, but yeah, that’s love. That’s a loving act. And I don’t think it’s ever framed that way. So thank you for bringing that up.
Mary: Yeah. Okay. But where I kind of want to wrap up here is this idea of saying, no, being part of self leadership.
Sarah: Yeah, I geek out on self leadership. I think everything starts with how we lead ourselves first. What kind of company do you want to be a part of? Whether you own it or you’re a part of it and you’re a leader in it. Right? What, what is the essence of it? What is the essence of the leadership? What are your values? Values are my filter for everything, right? Mine are love, growth, and gratitude. And so if I find myself operating out of obligation instead of love, I’m not leading myself first and it ripples out in a way that isn’t helpful. Right? You’ll get that two by four from the universe saying, Hey, you’re out of alignment, Sarah. So self leadership is where everything begins. So thank you for letting us start this series here, because if we have that self leadership and we’re willing to be courageous enough to honor it. Right? Honor our no, honor our commitments to ourselves, honor the spirit and mission of what it is we’re here to do through our business. That’s when things will work. You know, it’s like that well oiled machine.
So when we are leading ourselves first and it feels squirmy that first or second no that you’ve never said to somebody. Maybe you always say yes to a client. You always say yes to a nonprofit. And it’s actually now a no it’s, it’s just not leading yourself first and therefore nobody wins, right? We don’t win when you’re fried and giving up or on the couch burned out, watching Netflix and eating Cheetos. No, it’s, it’s just not actually helpful. I want you choosing that proactively, right? That’s you can do that for self care, but not as a reaction to, I’ve said yes too many times. The other thing is self leadership is integrity. So how many times do we say yes, we don’t actually want to go and then we have to make up an excuse? We give ourselves a migraine, right? I’ve seen people be such a powerful creator. They get a flat tire on the way to the thing that they were feeling obligated to go. And so leading yourself first is just such a blessed integrity filled activity. And it’s never done.
I don’t know about you, Mary, but I’m always learning how to lead myself through new levels of boundaries, right? That’s why I learned from you. I’m learning to lead myself through new levels of courage, be a bigger vessel for the mission that I’m here to live out in my business. And so I, I think it’s integral to everything we want to do in life. So.
Mary: I love that so much. And when you said it’s about integrity, one of the things there’s a woman named Brooke Castillo and she’s the leader of the life coach school. And she says, people pleasers are liars. And I remember the first time that I heard her say that, and I felt so called out. Like I was doing this like noble sacrificial thing by lying to people about what I wanted to do for them and
Sarah: yeah. Oh, yeah. Stings a little, doesn’t it? feel you.
Mary: Yeah, it does sting little because I think there’s truth behind it. That if someone says do you want to be on the committee? And I say yes, but in my heart, I really don’t want to be on the committee. And then I’m mad at them for calling and asking me to be on the committee. And then I tell myself I have to be on the committee. I’m not telling the truth to myself or to the person or the committee members. And so it feels like being called out because it’s not actually telling the truth. And when we make excuses about why we’re not going to keep the commitments that we make to people, right? When we say things like, well, I just don’t have time. When the truth is you might have time if you managed your time and made this a priority, but it’s not for you
Sarah: actually a priority. Yeah,
Mary: right? Then you’re not telling the truth. And so I agree that there’s some integrity here that is worth protecting. It’s worth advocating for that value of integrity.
Sarah: Yeah. And we’ve been conditioned to care take and nurture and that equaled good person status. Right? And that people who were boundaried were seen a certain way and thank goodness we’re breaking that stigma with work like yours in the world, but the intent was never to be a liar. The intent was to make sure everybody was happy and it turns out you’ll end up unhappy and then your corner of the world has the ripple of that. So yeah, we’re, we’re learning, aren’t we? We’re getting smarter as we move through this work.
Mary: We are for sure. So I love this idea of self leadership and I remember when I became an entrepreneur a couple of years in and focusing on the topic of boundaries, one of the things that became so ironic to me was the business coaching that I was doing with my clients. I was seeing this pattern of they had left a corporate position because they were working 24 7 on a bunch of tasks they didn’t want to do and wanted to get away from like a jerk boss, right? And then they start a business and they work 24 seven on a bunch of things they never wanted to do and become their own jerk boss. Right? Oh boy. That’s my ironic kind of insight around like, especially if you’re going to work for yourself, what kind of boss do you want to be for yourself? This is that self leadership piece.
Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. And then you’re, you’ve got the onboard critic, right? Your brain is saying words to you all day that are the meanest boss of them all, right? Stuff we’d never utter to another human. We say to ourselves, yeah, knowing how you want to lead yourself, it’s going to save you a lot of suffering, a lot of suffering and honoring it is building that muscle right? Again and again, that courage muscle that will serve you so well in business. Because if, if you can lead yourself really well and stand up to your own inner critic or your own people pleaser and say, no, I have made a different decision here, I’m going to honor my boundaries everything else in business can follow suit and you’re more courageous as a entrepreneur in general, and courage is the best commodity in terms of what you can build in this world and the life you can have.
Mary: Yes, I love it. It is possible and self care. I just want to touch briefly on self care, the importance of self care. When you become a leader in business, whether it’s your own business or the company you work for, when you become a leader in business, that is when our self-care becomes even more important. So with responsibility comes the need for more care. And I wanna tell listeners that you are worth taking care of. You’re inherently valuable, and that means that you are worthy of self-care. And I think one of the ways that we stop burning out. And we become more successful is by taking care of ourselves. What are your thoughts on that sarah?
Sarah: Heck to the yes. Best business advice I ever got came from my family doctor and she was my first life coach. She said, Sarah, you cannot pour out of an empty pitcher. And I had been trying my hardest to keep pouring. And so self care is not something cute that you put on the calendar once in a blue moon, you are usually the biggest asset your business has as the visionary, as the leader, as the perhaps main driver of the goals. And so if you can’t do it as an act of self love and leadership, do it as how you take care of the biggest business asset you have. And sometimes until we give ourselves permission, we have to look at it from that business lens. I am the asset of my business. If I’m not well, if I’m not feeling energized and filled up this business isn’t going to thrive. And so until we get practiced and until it’s a non negotiable and until we can stand in the truth of self care is good for the whole world, sometimes we have to look at it from a business lens. It’s good for the business. We take care of our assets in business and you are a number one for the most part.
Mary: And we take care of all things that are important to us, right? We take care of our children. If they’re important to us. We take care of our house if it’s important to us, we take care of our cars, we take care of our money. We take care of all the things that are important to us. And so as a way to honor things that are important, then I invite you, if there’s a takeaway from today, I invite you to, to consider your self care.
Sarah: Yeah. Good point. Listen to Mary.
Mary: All right. We’ll be back next time with part two of our series. Thanks so much for being here, Sarah.
Sarah: Thank you.