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It took a 9 lb. puppy to finally sober me into accepting and employing the tactic that every business book, self-help book, and dog training book puts as their first order and command.

Learn to say “NO!”

Keep in mind, I thought I had been doing it my whole adult life. After all, I am a father, a business owner, and, like you, someone with a very hectic schedule. But the dog exposed the ugly truth: although I had been saying “no,” I was vacillating and found I was giving justifications and disclaimers as to why.

A Humorous Tale…Pun Intended

Recently my manager and I found ourselves dealing with a recurring problem. Our teachers would not give credence to a simple request: “For security reasons, please do not use the back door.” We debated the language that could best be used on a door sign to clarify the importance of our request. We first addressed every teacher individually (sometimes on multiple occasions). However, music teachers think like artists (enough said…) and contemplate any soft words in the message you deliver.

Much like children and dogs, they are masters of manipulation. So, the debate with my manager continued because we needed just the right language. We needed to be firm, but not offensive. Tough gig!

There is a Reason a Dog is Man’s Best Friend

When this problem persisted and the urgency of teachers not complying with our basic request amplified, I jokingly said to my manager, “We should take a lesson from my puppy training book.”

Chapter one says, NO! Chapter two says, NO! Chapter three says… you’re not listening, the word is, NO! That’s when it hit us both right between the eyes. The sign needed to be simpler, much simpler. As a matter of fact it needed to be one word: NO!

I’m sure you’re curious – is it even possible that this tactic worked? Of course, you already know the answer. 100 percent!

And the reason it worked is because the tactic was completely simple. There was no confusion as to why, or what, or any possible what if. The answer was clearly given in advance and in one single word: NO!

Could a Two-Letter Word Really Be that Powerful?

Embracing “NO” is not about a word. It’s not about being inflexible, and it’s not about getting your way. Understanding and embracing the word “no” is about being in touch with your principles and standing by them. Since I have personally revisited the topic of “NO,” I have watched closely to understand two things: when I choose to say the word, and more importantly why I choose to say it. I have paid much closer heed to any circumstances that evoke the feelings in me that would make me consider summoning that word.

One immediate result of saying “no” is having more time in your schedule for a truly convicted “yes.” The requests you do accept have a greatly improved value. You immediately find that you are more refreshed, and clearer in thought which stimulates creativity. I dare say you are happier because you are less conflicted.

Does ‘No’ Work When the Stakes are High?

We all deal with bigger fish than ourselves, and there are times business can be intimidating. But your job is to protect the core values on which your business is based, and that means saying “no” and speaking up when it’s uncomfortable. I’m not saying it’s pleasant, but I am saying it’s necessary.

Take, for example, banks with hidden fees that are placed on an account that must be challenged, or suppliers of services that take actions without communications, or business people hiding behind a corporate veil or higher authority, or customers who leverage how much they have spent in your business, or leverage how long they have been with you. You deal with numerous pressures daily and saying “no” empowers you. It’s not a money thing; it’s a respect thing. And “no” is the key to this door.

Do you dare speak up for the right circumstance and say “no”? Of course you do, and the more you do it, the more comfortable it is to say. How does the old saying go? “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing at all.”

Here’s to dog trainers and business books from all over the world who have whittled it down to one simple two letter word: NO!

Can I have my treat now?

Menzie Pittman is the owner and director of education at Contemporary Music Center in Virginia (CMC). Following a performance and teaching career spanning more than 32 years, he founded CMC in 1989 and continues to perform, teach, and oversee daily operations. He has 50 years of musical experience as a drummer and drum instructor. Menzie is a frequent speaker at NAMM’s Idea Center, and a freelance writer for MMR’s “Small Business Matters” column.



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