Why it’s important to narrow your focus and say “no” to opportunity

BY TJ Walker

The only one who says yes to everything is a day laborer. “Yes I’ll cut your grass. Wash your dishes. Shine your shoes.”
Obviously, you don’t want to be this character. You want to specialize.
Unfortunately, when opportunity knocks and you have mouths to feed, the temptation is to say yes to everything. At some point, this becomes a huge mistake. You have to limit your “yes” responses to only that which you are enthusiastic about and are in your niche.
So much of being an expert is about knowing when to say no. It’s similar to dating. The girl or guy who says yes to everyone is all of a sudden undesirable to the elite because of the perception of being common and even of becoming a commodity.
When I started my business, I did a dozen things, from helping people with their business plans to helping raise venture capital. I nearly starved to death my first year. I only made $10,000 my first year. But each month I stripped away one of my services. At the end of the first year, I was done to just one service: I helped people speak more effectively. Once I got down to just one thing, everything became easy. My second year of business I didn’t have to chase 12 different types of business around. Instead, I chased just one type of business, and in the process my income went from 10,000 dollars a year to $200,000 in one year.
I don’t say that to impress you; indeed that won’t impress you if you are a mid-level bureaucrat at Goldman Sachs making $2 million a year. I say that just to point out the differential between being scattered versus being focused. In your field, it may mean the difference between making $10 million a year versus $100 million a year. No matter what the difference is, I urge you to focus on what you are best at and then to muster the courage to say “no.” Say it often and say it regularly. Or, better yet, say “yes” but on your terms only. I never say no to new business, but I say “I will only work for you for $10,000 a day.” If a client wants to say no to me, so be it. But I never sell myself short, and neither should you.

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