“Yes” is magical. It brings possibility and forward motion.
But it’s almost impossible without “no” and no can be just as frightening.
First, there’s the no of “I can’t go for that.” The no of refusing to race to the bottom, the no of avoiding the selfish hustle, the no of walking away from instincts or shortcuts that strip others of dignity and possibility. This is the no that creates our standards.
And then, there’s the no of “I need to be a meaningful specific, not a wandering generality.” What Zig meant by this phrase was that the guts of focus and specialization are useful when we put ourselves on the hook and do something that matters instead of simply pleasing whoever is sitting right in front of us right now.
When we offer a generous “no” to someone we care about, we honor our work and their role in it. We care enough to offer them insight about the change we seek to make–and to tell them the truth about what we can’t do at the same time that we’re celebrating what we can do.
Getting to no requires caring enough to make a difference and being brave enough to tell the truth.