We talk to start-up and ideas guru Tess Robinson about how doing less can actually open up space for more
Whether small or big business—in the era of the intrepreneur, we take inspiration from the entrepreneurs of the world, for work + life hacks, how-to and nimbleness, and the kind of sleeves up resourcefulness that turns heads.
Either way, it’s apparent that the Russians are really giving this drinking thing their all. Take their drinking game ‘Bear Paw’ for example. The rules are simple: a large stein is filled with the cheapest, lousiest beer you can find. It’s passed around the table, with each person taking a sip. After you sip, you replace the beer you drank with vodka, so the stein is perpetually full. Continue until nobody at the table is conscious, and voila, you’ve got yourself a winner (or no winner?).
Why am I telling you this? Because as I learnt about this game the other day (trust me, I did not get involved in such an frivolity), I thought to myself, it’s actually not too dissimilar to running a business.
Now, before you dismiss me as a drunkard and tell me to rack off, hear me out.
In business, we constantly say “yes” to doing more. We add to our ever-expanding to-do lists, cram our cluttered calendars, and fill the space between our ears with overzealous and never-ending thoughts of what we should be doing or what hasn’t yet been done. We’ve become information-rich, stimulation-heavy and completely, utterly, and exhaustingly time-poor.
We’re like the drunks at the table, we keep topping up our steins until we’re splashing liquid all over the place. We know it’s not good for us, but we continue with little strategy, little control, and a rather large sense of overwhelm that consumes us until our heads hit the table.
Without even thinking about how it will impact us later, most of us just say “yes”. And we pay the price later.
Complete disclaimer: I’m a total sucker for saying yes. Ask me to sacrifice my time for any meeting, decision, opportunity or chance to pat a handsome doggo, and my automatic response, without even thinking is generally “YES!”. It’s very much à la Herbal Essence commercial–you can read all about my addiction to fireworks and confetti ideas here, but trust me, I like the new.
Each year my team and I all choose a word of the year. One year, one of my staff members chose the word “no”. At the time I thought it was a bold choice, even a little negative if you will. But now, after falling down the “yes” rabbithole a few dozen too many times, and spilling my stein more times than I’d care to admit, I kinda think it’s genius.
Namely, that life is short; not only do we not have enough time for everything we do want to do, but our lives quickly get cluttered with plenty of other things we don't want to do. We’re far too busy saying yes to everything and anything that we forget to prioritise our needs.
This year, my word is “spaciousness”. As it currently stands, my calendar is pleasantly full, and I’m really trying my hardest to keep it from getting (un)pleasantly so. I’m doing my best to learn how to say no to non-essential projects, tasks, requests and the hardest of all–opportunities. Creating space is all about saying “no”, and I’m beginning to really get the hang of it.
When most of us are faced with making a decision, no matter how big or small, we tend to frame it within a context of yes versus no. Our answer falls in one of the two categories. I admit this is how I went about making decisions, at least until recently, when I read Tim Ferriss's new book, ‘Tools of Titans’. One of the lessons Tim shares in the book comes from a conversation he had with the entrepreneur Derek Sivers about how they make decisions differently than the rest of us. Namely, that life is short; not only do we not have enough time for everything we do want to do, but our lives quickly get cluttered with plenty of other things we don't want to do. We’re far too busy saying yes to everything and anything that we forget to prioritise our needs. But how can you make more time for the things you are excited about, at the expense of those you're less enthusiastic about?
The key is to reframe how you make your decisions. Rather than using a scale of “yes” or “no”, reframe the decision in a way where you either think, “Hell yeah!” or “Um lol, no”. And if it isn't a fiery and electric buzz on the inside, then you’ve pretty much got your answer.
Steve Jobs was as proud of what Apple chose not to do as he was of what Apple actually did. When he returned in Apple in 1997, he took a company with 350 products and reduced them to 10 in a mere two-year period. Why? So he could put the "A-Team" on each product. He pretty much obliterated their offering in order to elevate and leverage one of the most iconic brands of all time. He knew the power of no, and he knew how to turn a ‘yes’ into a YASSSS.
So, enough appeasing and people-pleasing and keeping up with appearances. What are you saying "no" to? Start today, and see where it takes you!’
ABOUT TESS ROBINSON
Manning the guns of the Smack Bang studio is Tess. She is all about working hard, avoiding the obvious, barefoot living, seizing the day and leaving on time.
Tess is an ambitious young creative with a strong vision and distinctive creativity. An ideas guru, branding specialist and compulsive maker of things, Tess’ main focus is positive impact.
With her infectious energy and enthusiasm, Tess pours passion into everything she does.