Shaped by the Power of “NO”


“Saying no shapes us.”
-Jackie B. Peterson

A note from Jackie…

It is so easy to get distracted from working towards our goal. There are so many possibilities out there–so many choices, so many distractions. How in the world can we stay focused and on track?

Case Study

One of my Better, Smarter, Richer clients told a great story a few weeks ago. She is a counselor working with parents and their children to improve parent/child relationships. Parenting skills and relationships are her specialty, her deep and narrow niche. She had carefully explained her specialty to a colleague, a therapy clinician, who she thought understood perfectly. Then a few days later, she got a call from that colleague, offering her a counseling engagement with a couple who needed and wanted some marriage counseling. The engagement would probably involve 10 sessions of on-going and actually interesting work; was she interested?

My client thought about the offer. She is just starting her business and is looking for new clients. For a few moments she was really tempted. Here was the proverbial “low-hanging fruit” just waiting for her to reach up and take advantage of it. She would have a client and a lucrative engagement covering several weeks; she would have a real paying client. It was definitely a temptation.

Then she remembered her lessons about mission creep. She began to think of what the marriage counseling engagement would lead to. If she took the engagement it would most lead to more marriage counseling work if it led to any additional work at all. And, it might not lead to more work, because marriage counseling is not her specialty; her specialty, where she really shines, is parenting. It is highly unlikely that a marriage counseling engagement would lead to parenting engagements. She would have made some money yes, but she would not have delivered her best work and she would not have been working with her target client. Not only that, she would have used up precious marketing and product development time doing the wrong work. She said no to the opportunity, which was exactly the right thing to do.

Being Michelangelo

What she learned, and what we teach at Better, Smarter, Richer, is that your work shapes you. What you do leads you to do more of the same or similar work. You become known by the way you perform work and by the kind of work you do. One thing always leads to another. If you want to become known as an expert in parenting, marriage counseling will not help you.

We have all heard the story of Michelangelo the sculptor saying that when he worked to create his magnificent sculptures, what he was really doing with his hammer and chisel was freeing the shape that was locked inside the stone. He could envision the shape already there; his job was to free it from the stone. That is exactly what you are doing when you turn down work that is not right for you. You are shaping the “expert you” and helping that expert emerge from your unshaped block of potential. Every time you turn down the wrong work and insist on the right work, you help the expert that you want to be known as emerge from the block and its shape and size get clearer and clearer–to you, to your referral sources, and to your clients.

So when you are offered work that is not exactly right for you, say no. You can also remind the person offering the work about what you really want. “Thanks for the offer of referring me to the couple wanting marriage counseling. That is not my expertise so I am saying no. What I am seeking is work that involves teaching parenting skills and building better relationships between children and their parents. If you have clients who need that service, I am your person.”

Saying no to what does not build your expertise or serve your growth is the way to success.

Learn more about saying no, establishing yourself as the expert, and attracting that elusive “perfect customer” with our brand new Better, Smarter, Richer eCourses!