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The High Cost Of Saying 'no'

Why we don't seize opportunities

There are a few reasons why we don't put ourselves out there more, even though we know we should.

First, we're, like, engineered to avoid pain. I think that's a direct quote from an evolutionary scientist.

But in all seriousness, these activities are really uncomfortable. Standing up in front of a room of 50 people and speaking to them? Walking into a networking event where you won't know anybody? Picking up the phone and calling a stranger?

Just thinking about those situations makes me want to crawl under the covers!

But why is it so terrifying?

“We're afraid we'll fail, and that makes us conservative,” says  Joe Apfelbaum, the CEO and cofounder of Internet marketing company  Ajax Union. “We're afraid we'll be mocked, laughed at, or that people won't agree. But 'safe' is not where you make money.”

The other reason that we don't put ourselves out there more often is that we undervalue how much we stand to gain. “Oh, it's only one networking event,” we think. “What does it matter if I skip it?”

It might matter a lot.

Apfelbaum recalls one networking event he wanted to skip. “I wasn't in the mood, and the people who would attend weren't really the type of people I network with,” he says. But he decided to make the best of it, and one of the attendees became a customer. And it turns out, that that new customer has an investor partner who wants Apfelbaum to handle marketing for every company in his portfolio.

Of course wild success stories like that are great, but what do you do if you're scared to show up to the event in the first place?

Try saying, “yes, and…”

Last summer I took a 6-week improv class. That was a big stretch for me, to not be able to hide from the spotlight. To be forced to fail on purpose. A couple of times I thought my overtaxed perfectionist brain might explode. Fail? On purpose?!

But one of the best things I learned was the “yes, and…” approach. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a cardinal rule of improv theater to agree with what your fellow actors say (“yes”) and then to add to it (“and…”).

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