The Jim Carrey film Yes Man was based on Danny Wallace’s memoir by the same name. Danny spent a year of his life saying “yes” to every opportunity that came his way. I would argue that this is one of the best lessons I’ve learned in business. You should say “yes” to basically everything, all the time.
I get it. The prospect sounds insane. But I believe in the power of opening yourself up to new opportunities and practice it every day. Don’t agree with me? Let’s take a deeper dive into this thought experiment.
The Opportunity Value Of ‘Yes’
Hockey player Wayne Gretzky put it best when he said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” It’s the same in business. In binary terms, the opportunity value of “yes” is 1. The opportunity value of “no” is 0.
In my experience, so many pivotal business experiences have begun with a seemingly bogus opportunity. I only agreed to them out of some moral obligation or irrational optimism. Yet the outcome was often surprising.
A good example of this was an invite to a networking event back in 2016. An overly persistent colleague invited me, and I truly didn’t want to go. I only agreed to it because he had done a favor for me once upon a time and I felt I owed him.
The networking event didn’t seem to be anything noteworthy, at first. But one of the people I met there introduced me to blockchain technology. He gave us our first opportunity to market for a blockchain startup. I found it fascinating. Soon, my business had niched into blockchain marketing. The outcome? We tripled our annual revenue.
This simple “yes” led to an opportunity that set us apart from the pack and has radically altered the trajectory of my business and life.
The Importance Of ‘But’
I’m not so naive to think that every opportunity or deal is going to have monumental value and meaning. As entrepreneurs, we’re a busy bunch. Time is invaluable, and the ability to discriminate between good opportunities and bad opportunities is essential.
That’s why you have to understand that “yes” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re agreeing to something on their terms. You want to say “yes” on your terms. That’s where “but” comes in.
Take a corporate massage company we spoke with a couple of years ago. They wanted us to write their website, but their price point was too low and they couldn’t afford to pay more. We could have just said “no,” but then that opportunity would have disappeared.
Instead, we used the “yes, but …” technique. We went back to them and said: “Yes, we’ll write for you, but we want you to introduce us to your network of clients. And we want free massages.”
Suddenly, we had 20 elite New York businesses as warm leads. And my back felt fantastic.
Make Them Say ‘No’
As a business owner, saying “no” means closing a door. Perhaps there are some opportunities that are completely worthless to you. But maybe that’s because you haven’t thought about the kind of deal you could work out that would turn your “no” into a “yes.”
You don’t want to meet with someone? Think about what would make it worth it for you. Tell them, “Yes, I can meet with you, but I’m very busy, so I’ll need you to pay my hourly rate for our meeting.” Or, “I saw that you know the CEO of Company X. If you can get me a sit-down meeting with them this week, I’ll be happy to meet with you, as well.”
If they want that meeting badly enough, they’ll pay you for your time or get you that meeting. If it’s not worth it for them, they’ll say “no.” You respond by saying you totally understand, and that will be that.
Be A ‘Yes’ Person
There is no opportunity with “no,” but everything becomes possible with “yes.”
Of course, there are exceptions. I’m not advising saying “yes” to anything illegal or unethical. But short of that, “yes” is your most powerful tool.
“Yes” builds bridges. “Yes” opens doors. And “yes, but …” lets you negotiate in your favor.
What do you have to lose? Be a “yes” person and reap the rewards.