02/26/2013 04:06 pm ET Updated Apr 28, 2013

Yes Is for Cowards

My mentor, the great Darren Hardy, recently imparted upon me the slightest little tidbit of wisdom, which has changed the trajectory of my life forever. Yes is for cowards.

For the past twenty years I have built businesses large and small on one simple premise, "Always Say Yes." Yes is the easy answer because it satisfies the requesting party. What I know now is that yes is the path to mediocrity and unfulfilled dreams. Yes is that well-worn path that most travel. Yes will not get you where you want to go.

Do you say yes to almost every practicable request of your time? Yes, to flying across the world to share your knowledge. Yes, to joining multiple boards to volunteer your wisdom for growing the cause. Yes, to lunch meetings. Yes, to interviews. Yes to joining the PTA. Yes to carpool. Yes, Yes, Yes.

Yes is for cowards. As humans, we love to be accepted. Hence when someone wants our time our natural propensity is to jump. We want to feel included and recognized and when someone invites us to give up our time to them, we feel as though it is a gifted invitation to become a part of their tribe. In fact, not only do we want to be encompassed in that tribe, we also fear the consequences of casting ourselves out of the good graces of the requesting party by saying no. We fear rejection. Nobody wants banishment from the tribe, even if we aren't sure what tribe that is.

Learning when to say no, and then saying it, is the one leadership quality which will significantly accelerate your journey toward your dreams. What I learned as I began to understand and appreciate the value of no is that for the twenty years that I built several small and large businesses by saying yes, every single time I said yes, I was saying no to something else, which was likely more important than what I said yes to.

I am going to repeat that: Every time you say yes, you simultaneously say no to something else. If you are meeting low value clients for lunch every day this week, you are saying no to prospecting for or meeting with high value ones. If your local trade organization has asked you to come give a free speech, you are saying no to working on building your own business. If you accept a request to join a board of directors for another organization, only do so knowing that you are simultaneously rejecting the opportunity to use that time to directly grow your own business.

Be clear as to what your dream is. Reserve your yeses only for an agenda that directly and immediately propagates that ambition. When you are unsure if your yes will move you closer to your goals, err on the side of caution and simply say no. Don't make the mistake of thinking that every yes opens a new door because it is more likely that a hurried and unpremeditated yes is creating a ceiling that is slightly lower than your unlimited potential.

The key to building a great business, and a great life for that matter, is in knowing that you have your own tribe to concentrate on. Your tribe, your business, and even your own personal relationships at home, will grow stronger when you eliminate the distractions of others vying for your time. Today, I am giving you the gift that my mentor gave me. I'm giving you permission to say no. I hope this gift offers you the opportunity to concentrate on your own agenda. Only by doing so will you achieve all of your wildest dreams.