First Say Yes, Then Say No

Common advice from successful people is to “say no” more.

That’s good advice for people who are already successful. Their opportunities outweigh their time.

But it’s terrible advice for those starting out.

The problem with saying no in the beginning is that you don’t know what you’re saying no to

Sure, if you get an opportunity in a field that you know you’ll hate, say no. 

But most of the time, our choices are among a small set that diverge slightly from our current path. 

Whether to focus on product management or paid marketing when we start working in tech. 

If we should focus on domestic or international markets when we start working in finance. 

Whether we should work in tech or finance or consulting in the first place.

In the beginning, we have to try as many things as possible, so we can learn what we do and don’t like.

David Epstein makes this point in his book Range: “We can maximize our fit with our work and our life by sampling activities, social groups, contexts, jobs, careers, and then reflecting and adjusting our personal narratives. And repeat.”

First we need to find out what we like, and the best way to do that is to sample a lot.

First say yes to everything.

Once you’ve earned some success, or learned what you DON’T like, then you can start saying no.