When We Say No

I say No, No, No No, No, No–until I see one

[an investment] that is exactly what I am looking for.  And then I say Yes.  All I have to do is say Yes a few times in my life and I've made my fortune.We say no a thousand times before we can yes.  – Warren Buffett

When we say ‘no', what are we saying ‘yes ‘to?

As a parent, when we say ‘no' to TV before our children play outside, aren't we saying ‘yes' to their physical and emotional health?

As a student, when we say ‘no' to the internship that is handily ours so as to seek out one that isn't,  aren't we saying ‘yes' to discovering new skills so as to be even better prepared for the job market?

If I'm Paula Abdul and I say ‘no' I didn't like that number, am I not saying ‘yes' to my words meaning something?

When we say ‘no' to heading up another committee at school because we are tapped out, aren't we saying ‘yes' to our children and spouse, our self?

If I'm Katie Couric, if I had said ‘no' I won't take the CBS Evening News gig, wouldn't she have been saying ‘yes' to my brand, ‘yes' to why people hire me, ‘yes' to keeping my career on track?   (I confess, however, in response to Stacey P's comment on that post, had I been there, I don't know that I would have done it differently).

Photo courtesy of Andrea Heimer, whose ‘Yes' painting I recently purchased and love

When we say ‘no' to living out the dreams that others (parents, spouse, friends, children) have for us, aren't we saying ‘yes' to the vision we have for our self?  Or at least to figuring out what vision we have for our self?

When we say ‘no', we have said ‘yes' to something else — an emphatic, meaningful ‘yes.'

In learning to say ‘no', we are indeed learning to say ‘yes', not only ‘yes' to others, but ‘yes' to our selves.

To prioritize.
To discern.
To choose.
To be wise.

There's always a ‘yes' on the other side of the ‘no' — who and what are we saying ‘yes' to?

How are we saying yes to our self?

Over the next few hours, every time you say ‘no', will you think about what you are saying ‘yes' to?


Related Posts:
A Down Payment on Our Dream
Learning to Say No
Psyche and Choice


Lessons Learned from Katie Couric

April 24th, 2008 | Personal

If successful women build portable skills, and if journalistic chops like those of Katie Couric are ostensibly portable, why has her stint at CBS been such a debacle?

And within the context of ‘daring to dream', is there a lesson to be learned?

As we try and answer this question, there's a framework known as jobs to be done developed by Professor Clayton M. Christensen that I think can be useful.  Rather than trying to understand the typical viewer's characteristics (age, gender, for example), the ‘jobs to be done' framework focuses instead on what job a viewer needs done or what problem she needs solved, and who or what can she hire to do that job.

For example, in Caitlin Flanagan's piece A Woman's Place – Katie Couric's Long Day's Journey into Evening, Flanagan writes that the job that women with small children need done on weekday mornings is “adult conversation”.

When they tuned into Katie Couric on The Today Show, they were hiring Ms. Couric to help fill the time during “one of the most psychologically complex and lonely–and most emotionally fulfilling–times of their lives; their tenure as mothers to small children.”


However, the very same women (the “typical viewer”) who had hired Ms. Couric in the mornings who have nothing but time, time that must be filled, endured, killed — is the person who is in a race against the clock by early evening…

At nine o’clock in the morning, Katie was the personification of The Today Show in its perfected form: not just a television program, but a cheery marker of time, a blessed imposition of structure and order on the disquieting entropy of life at home with children.  But at 6:30 in the evening, she’s a drag….Just one more person who wants something from you…nagging you to be interested—really, really interested—in Anbar province.

The problem that stay-at-home moms with small children need solved (not enough time, too much conversation) in the evening is diametrically opposed to the problem they need solved (too much time, not enough adult conversation) in the morning.

Katie Couric was the right person to solve the morning problem.

At night she has been all wrong.


We can learn some great lessons from Ms. Couric's career.  For example:

When you or I are thinking about starting a new business (whether an Etsy shop or large corporation) or a new job, what problem will we be helping people solve? What job will they be hiring our product to do?

Does the problem that we want to solve for people play to our strengths? If not, is there a job that needs to be done that does?

What do you do if there's a mismatch between the job you were hired to do and the job you want to do?

In your relationships, what job are your loved ones hiring you to do?  And you them?


Related posts:

Now the News: Couric Still Isn't One of the Boys

HBR – How Star Women Build Portable Skills

Play to Your Strengths

What is Your Dream?

Asking and Answering the Big Questions

Now the News: Couric Still Isn’t One of the Boys

July 16th, 2007 | Dare Dream Do | Personal


The NY Times recently published an article by Bill Carter titled Now the News: Couric Still Isn't One of the Boys, analyzing why Katie Couric's gig on CBS hasn't lived up to expectations.

Using the ‘dare to dream' lens, let's analyze this further. Shall we?

1. Archetype mis-match — When you look at Todd Heisler's above photograph, Ms. Couric looks isolated, almost forlorn. I can't help but think of the Bem Sex-Role Inventory's definition of femininity: Girls are only considered feminine within the context of a relationship and when they are giving something to someone else. The images of Ms. Couric on The Today Show are in sync with our society's view of femininity. The CBS News images are not.

Contrast the above with those Carter describes as “swashbuckling correspondents

[e.g. Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather] who became cool doing hard news”. This swashbuckler image foots with what we consider masculine: the solitary man (think Johnny Depp in Pirates and Pierce Brosnan as James Bond) slays the dragon, returns a hero, tells the tale.

In other words, our conscious mind may want to support a Ms. Couric, especially if we watched her faithfully on The Today Show, but we don't. Because there's a mismatch between what we instinctively believe and what we see.

2. Ms. Couric isn't playing to her strengths — This is closely tied to the above, except that Ms. Couric can't change what other people believe, while she can change what she does. Which is to play to her strengths — her innate talents, competencies, principles, and identity.

I don't know whether she reports hard news well. She probably does or she wouldn't be where she is. But her ability to chase down news is secondary to her girl-next-door persona.

So why would she have opted in to a situation which wasn't her?

Because of what the title intimates — that to count we need to be one of the boys.

And because our society doesn't really value women's core strengths of connecting and collaborating unless a man displays them, we start to believe we're Leah.

Because we want Leah to permanently leave the building (she likes to slip in unawares), will you consider the following:

1) Think about women in the public eye whom you admire. Do you consider these women to be feminine? Does that mean that they don't have power to get their dreams done? Or do they?

2) How can we work with the the archetypes and ideas that prevail in our society, rather than fighting against them?

3) Have you thought any more about your strengths? Relish them. Leverage them. Figure out how to pursue your dream in a context that values your strengths.

4) And if you can't find a system, club, business, or group of friends that will value your strengths, why not find like-minded people and start your own?

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