Startup general interest

Saying ‘no’ is often right, but don’t leave people hanging

By June 24, 2014 2 Comments

Creative People Say No by Kevin Ashton is a great reminder on the importance of saying ‘no’. The post starts by quoting lots of famous people saying ‘no’ to opportunities so they have more time to be creative, and then comes the money quote:

Time is the raw material of creation. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes.

I love this quote because it recognises that graft is at the centre of creativity.

In his post Kevin is mostly talking about artists and authors, but his message applies equally, if not more, to entrepreneurs. Great entrepreneurs say ‘no’ a lot. This won’t be new news to many of you, but I haven’t seen it explained this well before. An entrepreneur is creating a company and just like in the quote, when the magic is wiped away it’s all about working hard at learning and doing.

Later in the post Kevin recognises that saying no is difficult because it often feels confrontational or rude. I feel that a lot when I refuse meetings with entrepreneurs, and I can sometimes feel that people are worried when they say no to meetings with me. If we are saying no for the right reasons these feelings are, of course, unhelpful and we should try to get beyond them.

We can help each other in this regard by being courteous. When asking for meetings that means phrasing the request as a request and not being too pushy. When receiving requests that means answering, even if the answer is a ‘no’. Not answering leaves the asker wondering if they have been deliberately ignored or just forgotten, which invites pushiness and exacerbates the problem.