My friend Jimmy was filling his basket in the produce section when I ran into him.
“What are you doing this weekend?” I asked.
“Not too much, going out to dinner with Janet tomorrow night. How about you?”
“Gotta work tomorrow but I’m sitting in with a guitar player at Tobacco Road tonight.”
“I haven’t been there in years,” he said. “Used to love that place.”
“Come with me,” I interrupted. “It’ll be fun. Beer’s on me.”
“I’ll check and let you know.”
I was pretty certain that meant “no” but I called him around six that evening.
“You still coming? I can pick you up at eight and we’ll be home around 11:30.”
“Sure, come get me,” he responded.
I got to his house a little after eight and went up to knock on the door.
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I was positive he was going to show up in shorts and barefoot and give me some excuse about why he couldn’t make it, but when he answered on the first knock he was dressed for a night out. Jimmy kissed his wife goodbye and bounded out the door.
It wasn’t until after the gig when we were driving home that I mentioned my doubts. “I gotta tell you Jimmy, I’m surprised you went. I was sure you were going to bail.”
“I was going to,” he answered, “but then I remembered what your grandfather used to always say – ‘It’s too easy to say no.’”
“Yeah, your grandpa Nat. I used to install the coin laundry machines in your dad’s buildings, you know. One day when I was checking on an installation your dad and your grandfather were disagreeing on some change your dad wanted to make to their construction plans. Your granddad disagreed and your father was ready to throw his hands up and forget the whole thing when Nat said, “Do it Lenny, it’s too easy to say no.”
“So tonight, after dinner, when I was thinking about the hassle of going to the bar with you and how much easier it would have been to cancel and just lay on the couch and watch the game I thought of your grandfather and decided he was right. It is too easy to say no.”
“And I’m glad I went because I had a great time and never would have seen that place if I hadn’t gone with you. We should do this more often.”
Just Say No was the advertising slogan championed by First Lady Nancy Reagan to discourage children from using illegal drugs. Eventually it was expanded to counter both violence and premarital sex. But when it comes to new ideas, what would happen if we just say yes?
Yesterday I was talking with my mom about something she was thinking about doing. I was pretty sure she was going to say “no” when all of a sudden she said, “You know what your grandpa always used to say, ‘It’s too easy to say no.’ So I’m going to do it.”
It must have been 15 years since I heard that phrase from Jimmy and my grandfather has been dead since I was six. Still, his words and the inspiration behind them echo through the years. My granddad was right, it IS too easy to say no.
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How many times have you not done something because it was more comfortable to let the opportunity pass? How often have you turned your back on a great idea simply because making it happen would have taken too much effort? How often have you found it easier to say “no” rather than take a chance?
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve presented great ideas that have been turned down simply because they’d make too much work for our clients, or because it would take too much effort to even figure out if the ideas were feasible.
Saying no is safe because we don’t have to venture out of our safety zones. And if we say no we don’t have to worry that our decisions will be proven wrong. After all, if things don’t happen, how can they be criticized? “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” Indeed.
But think about what can happen if we take a risk, go out on a limb, try something new. Because as my grandpa Nat used to say, “It’s too easy to say no.”