Yes, No.

Tuesday, 7:35pm
Reno, NV
No no, no, no no no noooo no, no, no, no, no no no no!” (The Human Beinz, Nobody But Me, circa 1968)


Well, that was a nice virtual brawl in the comments section, wasn’t it.

We do have a winner, whom I shall reveal in a bit here.

First, though, let’s get straight on the answer to the Quiz question:  What is the “Magic Word” that can work wonders for your productivity?

There were a lot of great answers.  Quite a few answers that totally sucked.  And a bunch of awesome critical thinking on the subject, which of course was the goal of the quiz.  I think Lisa Wagner wins the “Most Creative Answer” category, hands down, with her “strong coffee” response.

Damn hard to argue against strong coffee being an productivity enhancer.  But that wasn’t the correct answer.

Those of you who perused the comment threads already know there were a couple of flurries down the “focus”, “clarity” and “movement” rabbit holes.  These are not bad guesses.

But they miss an important rule of being productive:  How does your theory play out in real life?

I have a personal vendetta against success-oriented theories that are, when put to the test, complete bullshit.  This includes a lot of the “spooky” stuff out there that claims you can mind-meld your way to the Big Bucks by just concentrating on forcing the universe to give in.

Now, I’m all for using the universe’s mysterious powers for personal advancement.  I’ve seen it happen too often to ignore.  And my own career was built on a foundation of written goals, visualized in detail, and constantly fussed over so my brain was clear on what I wanted.

Which, when I added movement — specifically, planning out the attainment of my goals and going after each step with disciplined dedication — it nudged the universe to reward me with opportunities I would otherwise have never noticed.

However, there are important distinctions here.

Distinction #1. None of the elements will work alone.  You need everything in place — goals that you’ve spent time crafting, visualization of what your life will look like once you get moving… and then, of course, movement itself.

Distinction #2. If you’re a rookie at setting goals, your first attempts will often be very, very bad.  If you have a burning desire for something concrete, great.  But I’ll tell ya — when you’re a raw rookie at goal setting, the whole concept of being able to want something, plan for getting it, and then put that plan into action…

… is like being shoved into the cockpit of an F-15 tactical fighter jet.  You might need a little time to figure out how to even start the beast.

Distinction #3. Eventually, if you stay with it (and get a little veteran guidance), you’ll get the hang of good goal setting.  Zoom zoom.

But it DOES require some effort.  And that pisses many people off.  They want voodoo, and they want it now… and they do NOT want to work at it.  Not even a little tiny bit.

And there just happens to be an endless mob of folks out there willing to sell you the “big damn no-sweat secret” of attaining your goals… you know, that special mysterious mind-over-matter secret that requires no effort, no planning, no movement, no nothin’ except a little snuggling up with your dreamy desires.

And it’s just total crap.  Books don’t get written magically, products don’t get produced with fairy dust, and businesses don’t grow from wishful thinking.

The universe will help you out… but you gotta do your part first.

And that means you gotta take goal-setting seriously.  And if you need help putting your plan together, you GET that help… and if you get hung up over moving forward, you get help for that, too.

Being productive is a function of a lot of things.  Like, for example: (a) knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing… (b) being proactive in overcoming obstacles… and (c) steadily increasing your savvy and understanding of the process.

So, yes… many of the answers to the quiz were not wildly off-base.

But they tended to be elements of the theory of being productive.  And I tried to show how people can get hung up on things like “focus”, and actually BE really, really freaking focused…

… and still not get anything done.  (I know a great many folks who can laser-focus on stuff, but can’t finish even the simplest project.)  (Same with motivation, setting deadlines, using timers, all of it.  Your brain is a GENIUS at finding ways around the best-laid schemes to force your lazy ass into being productive.)

So, the answer to the quiz is about the foundation of your attitude, when it’s time to BE productive.

The Magic Word is…


Learning to use this word the right way is how you set yourself up for success.  This word will allow you to finally use all the other words — focus, motivation, discipline, work, gallons of coffee — to dig into your goal-oriented projects…

protected from all the evil crap out there that yearns to destroy your productivity.

Why “no”?

Because few people recognize the power of the word, or the best way to use it.  Humans tend to be either spineless about it, or raving sociopaths.

We’ll discuss the sicko’s at some other point (and you DO need to be aware of them, and know how to deal with them, if you’re gonna be successful in biz).

Right now, however, I’m concerned with entrepreneurs and business owners who have a dysfunctional relationship with the word “no”.

Here’s the thing with “no”:  You do not have to be an asshole to use it.

In fact, especially in business (and affairs of the heart), you are an asshole if you DON’T use it.

Saying “yes” to something you have no intention of doing… because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or appear to be a “negative person”… is just cruel and selfish.  You actually goose the coming heartache to higher levels…

… and in business, you can cause irreparable damage.

There are consequences to saying “yes”.  You enter into a verbal contract front-loaded with social and financial obligations… plus all the required energy and time commitment to follow through.

I came up with something I call “The Professional’s Code” long ago.  I will not work with you if you cannot honor it:  You will be where you said you’d be…

… when you said you’d be there…

… having done what you said you’d do.

This applies to meeting your deadlines, as well as honoring your agreements at every level.  Yes, even the small shit.

Hard core?  To the average slacker, hell yes it’s hard core.  How dare anyone demand that you be responsible for your words, actions and promises?

That’s… that’s… that’s just MEAN.

Well, lemme tell you why it’s actually not mean:  I’ve seen businesses go belly-up because of promises breached.  Partnerships shattered.  Projects sunk, and futures mangled.

You wanna talk about being mean?  Watching a good person’s livelihood get crushed, because some bozo didn’t follow through on his promises… now THAT’S mean.

Screw the bozo’s feelings.  This is the adult world, folks.  Money is on the line, payrolls gotta be met, and debts paid, and profits secured.

And you know what?

While all that may sound like scary, un-fun stuff to the non-entrepreneur…

… the fact is, if you have what it takes to start your own biz…

… all this hard-core pro-active “get ‘er done” attitude stuff IS fun.  Once you get a handle on it, and put it into action…

you quickly discover there is no other way to live your life. Being responsible, following through, and meeting your obligations transforms you, almost immediately, into a person of real power, mojo and respect.

And THAT’S the kind of dude or dudette the universe LOVES to help out.  Get your real-world act together, and the spooky stuff will swamp you with rewards.

And “no” is a big part of the game.

There are 3 elements to using the word correctly:

Element #1. Know when to use it.  Never use it casually.  Take a moment (or longer), when asked to give a yes-or-no answer on something, to consider the consequences of agreeing or not agreeing.

When you have your goals straightened out, this becomes easy.  For example, if you’re an entrepreneur, finally creating your own biz and headed toward clear goals, step by step…

… and someone appears and offers you a J-O-B for big bucks somewhere…

… it won’t matter how nice the benefits package looks, or how sweet the view from the corner office is, or how much your spouse wants that steady paycheck.  Because, once you get a taste of working for yourself, going back to working for The Man would be like drinking sewage.  Screw the easy way out — you’re going after a clear goal as a entrepreneur.

(On the other hand… if that offered job lights up your heart and makes you sleep easier, then that might be a sign you need to readjust your goals.  There’s no shame in taking a job.  There is only shame in making a wrong decision because you didn’t take the time to get clear on your goals.)

You’ve heard the phrase “your word is your bond.”  For most folks, that’s all it is — a phrase.  It’s not taken seriously, and the average person believes they are entitled to interpret words like “yes” and “no” as they see fit.

Success junkies know better.  Words like “yes” and “no” are, for true professionals, gateways to fresh paths in life.  “Yes, I’ll do it,” means you’ll do it.  “No,” means no, you choose not to do it.  Two different paths follow.  And the pro chooses, and commits, and gets moving.

Element #2: Know how to use it.

Again, you do not have to feel like a negative or mean person.  Just realize that it is a very potent word, with implications for future actions, and loaded with emotional vibrations that will set other people off in batshit ways.

You can sheath your “no” with appropriate nice thoughts, and even use variations of the word… as long as you’re being honest and direct.  “Bob, I understand you want me to drop everything, and dive into your problem here.  No shame in asking.  No.”

Do not leave room for negotiation.  Don’t say “but I just can’t do it”… because that implies you would do it, if only the situation could be fixed.  It’s a weak position that invites an argument:  “Well, why not?  What’s keeping you from agreeing with me here?  C’mon, man, I’m just asking for one tiny little special favor… please, please, please, pretty please?”

For most of the world, “no” is just the beginning of the process.

For the pro, it’s the end.

Element #3: Make it stick.

Once your reputation is solid as a person who means what you say, “no” will mean “no”.  Until that rep kicks in, however, you’ll have to log some time building it.

Once you’ve said “no”… after doing your due diligence of considering your answer carefully… all further discussion is over.  (If you’ve been using “no” to mean “let me think about it”, then stop — and start saying “let me think about it” when that’s what you mean.)

Don’t get mad.  Don’t berate people.  NEVER say “what part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”  That’s sarcastic… and you’re being a prick.  This isn’t a game, and you’re aren’t trying to “win” anything.

You’re just setting up boundaries on your time, energy and commitments. You can actually SMILE when saying “no” each of the many times you may need to repeat it.  You’re not arguing, and you’re not taking the bait of entering further discussion.

“No, Bob.  What else is on your mind today?”  And you move on.

All the productivity tricks in the world won’t help you if you can’t master the art of saying “no” when you need to.

And you know who MOST needs to hear “no” from you?


You need to be able to tell yourself “no” when it’s time to sit down and get to work.  No to checking email first, no to answering the phone, no to surfing the web just for a few minutes…

… no to everything but the task you need to get into.

You are one stubborn beast, too.  You don’t want to hear “no”, especially from yourself.

But that’s how you get shit done.  The “no’s” set up the internal and external space to finally sit down and get busy.

Make sense?


… the winner, remember, was the 7th person to get the right answer.  And the answer, as I framed it, included giving your reasons why.  A lot of folks skipped that part.  Shame on you for skimming the quiz.  Bad habit, skimming.  It’ll get you in trouble, and screw with your ability to win these quizes.

So.  The winner is…

… drumroll, please…

Kelly Exeter, from down under.  Answer number 96.  And she almost blew it, in answer number 95, by not explaining her reasoning.  There were a lot of folks who just posted “no”, without explanation.  That wasn’t the rule.  So, no, you slackers didn’t win.

Congratulations, Kelly (and nice save).  My personal assistant, Diane, will be contacting you to get a mailing address for your signed copy of “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel”.  Could life get any better?

Let’s do another quiz soon, what d’ya say?

Stay frosty,


P.S. We’re down to the short-hours leading to the Action Seminar.  It’s February 25-27, down in beautiful San Diego… and we’ve got a stunning crew of marketing wizards and top copywriters and killer “behind the scenes” experts prowling the event…

… eager to meet you, answer questions, brainstorm and help you get moving on making 2011 your best year ever.

I can’t even begin to understand why you’d miss this.  I have zero plans to ever host something like this again.  We did it last year, and it was the seminar of the year, and we’re set to top that mark this time out.  (I’ve been fielding calls all day from insiders and experts who cannot WAIT for the seminar to start.  The anticipation is palpable…)

Get details on the Action Seminar here.

I’ll see you there.

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"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eric Graham and wordingme, WatchUsFlip. WatchUsFlip said: Yes, No.: Tuesday, 7:35pm Reno, NV “No no, no, no no no noooo no, no, no, no, no no no no!” (The Human Beinz, No… […]

  • Staying disciplined and saying no to yourself is one of the hardest parts of the job, because many business owners make the false assumption that once they get their start-up, they can do anything they want.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hard, but totally worth it. Also, it gets easier as you get in the groove and make it a habit. And after a bit, you can’t even imagine living any other way (cuz it feels good and right and empowered to be in control of your time and commitments).

  • Lisa Wagner says:

    Carlton, your blog is my espresso machine. No sugar, no “fluff”, just hard core, strong, bold, kick-in-the-ass shot of sanity.

    Thank you. I’m printing this puppy out to save it.


    P.S. See y’all in a few weeks…

  • Patrick says:

    Hi John,

    Great lesson. One I could well do refocusing on.

    “No” is also critical for gaining greater productivity in one-on-one selling. There are many potential time waister sales inquiries.

    It’s an art questioning them down on the phone to see if they can buy now and politely trying to answer their queries on the phone so I don’t have to spend 2 hours (including traveling) doing a presentation for them.

    “No” lets me focus on the potential customers that I know will buy from me on the first visit.

    It increased my productivity and closing ratio dramatically.

    I need to bring it to other aspects of my life now…

    The competition was great fun. It was amazing to see the broad range of answers.

    Thank you

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for the note, Patrick. “No” is an essential tool for any pro dealing with clients… and knowing how to use it correctly will make your life easier and much, much more profitable.

      Biz owners appreciate and respect a pro who is in control of his promises and knows his boundaries. They may fuss and fidget at first, but when the respect hits, they’re on your side forever…

  • Jose says:

    My cousin, who is a professional photographer says you can’t say “No” to a client EVER.

    He thinks that if your client ask you something and you can’t do, you will lose him forever.

    A lot of people have the same way of looking at live, the scarcity mentality. What has delighted me is saying no to someone and seeing this person respecting me for this: It speaks the message I’m so good I don’t need them and that increases my value!!

    It happens with women too and is counter intuitive, but as you try to please women more and more, they disrespect you more and more.

  • Adil Amarsi says:

    Hey John,

    Darn, only 20 spots away from Kelly (to whom I want to congratulate for winning such an awesome prize).

    I really do agree with the movement part of goal setting, and you do need a veteran to show you the ropes. I started trying to do this on my own, only to get completely shut down and a bit discouraged.

    Now, from working with Alex, I know exactly what I’m doing and how to get there. So making me a better marketer, copywriter and overall better person.

    Thanks for the advice as always


    P.s. Was wondering if you could do a post on two things….
    1) how to get comfortable with money (a practical guide)

    2) not comparing yourself to others in a negative manner.

    Thanks again dude.

    Internet marketing blog

  • Barnabas Ng says:

    I was in the middle of writing and I said to myself. “I will have to take 10 mins off from this…head to the John Carlton’s blog…read the blog post and write a comment. (I can’t say No. Damn!)

    Totally agree.

    No is a very difficult word to say. Probably because we want to do many things (important and the not so important task) in the shortest time.

    It is the small little things that we don’t often say no to. Things like, “let me check my messages for a minute” and “what is the latest news on TV, I only need 5 mins to check.”

    10 mins up. No extra time. I got to get back to what I was doing.

    PS. Great quiz…and great lesson.

  • Dan Axelrod says:

    Hey John,

    I know this wasn’t the crux of your post, but could you share your visualization “ritual” if you have one?

    I recently started a 30-day challenge for myself where I commit to visualizing my outcome for 30 minutes a day for 30 days in a row. How I’m doing it is writing a description of my ideal situation and behavior, visualizing it, and at the end of the 30 minutes, rewriting it. (This is how Bob Proctor recommended it in one of his programs).

    What was your way of doing it? I know that you are a fan of “Think & Grow Rich,” where Hill says to visualize for 30 minutes a day, but doesn’t give very detailed specifics.

    Thanks. I’ve been looking forward to your teachings on goals ever since you mentioned in the “Freelance Course,” your desire to one day teach a course on it.


  • This is a valuable explanation of the answer.

    And please consider this detail for future posts; if you look at any post on this blog before clicking the title or the comments, the text is just normal.
    BUT, if you click the title, or the comments, and have just one post on the whole page with its comments, there are some links that appear in the blog post, I mean some phrases that were not clickable, like “the answer” <—- which became clickable. But I did not notice this until now.

    After I discovered the answer here, the first thing that came to my mind was: oh! was I mislaid because of that link "the answer"???
    I remembered that I wanted to make sure the word "NO" was not the targeted word in the clicked "the answer", and that it was not the answer, and after clicking the link "the answer" (which is logically supposed to be actually "the answer") I detected nothing that refered to the concept of "No". I only found something like "hook" or "hook up"

    This problem of "irrelevant link" (like a link with a tittle like "the answer" but where it is absolutely not the answer here… ) still touches this same article, look at the two words "the answer," in this present blog post, it became a link, the same that was in the quiz #11 blog post.
    If this system of links stays like that, I would have learned something more than the power of a "hook", or the power of a "no", it's that any link inside any blog post on this blog, may as well be completely irrelevant to the actual subject of the current blog post, which is really a shame compared to the high quality of the content.
    Ok that was my rant, but I completely appreciate the real answer which is "No"
    and it is wonderfully explained by John, very deep explanation, and perfectly relevant to the problem of productivity.

    • Dan Axelrod says:

      It’s a hard knock life, Karim, huh?

      • Hello Dan,

        🙂 well, not that hard if you learn from your failures, nobody’s perfect; I failed at finding John’s answer, but it gave me some cool thinking exercise, plus some valuable super practical advice, now I just have to practice it whenever I can.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Karim. We’re experimenting with software all the time with this blog… that particular thing you saw was something that highlights words and phrases that are found in previous blog posts. It’s annoying, and I’ve asked our programmer to remove that software. Sorry for any confusion… not intentional. Seemed like a good idea at the time…

      • Hey John, no worries, and while we are talking about technical stuff, please add the possibility of being notified by email whenever there is a reply or comment, I’m sure a lot of readers will find it useful, and participate more.
        Thanks again for the crazy critical thinking week, answers were quite amazing lol, not only some of them could be articles by themselves, but you could even create a free downloadable report containing a best of “echos” to that quiz : )
        Oh and also, I emailed you to tell you about a big delay in receiving your emails, please make some tests to evaluate the effectiveness of your emails, I have no problems at all with other subscriptions and email communication/subscription/notification.
        See you next time, have a cool day : )

  • Colin says:

    Bob Ansett the man who started Budget rental cars does a great talk on the “Power of NO”

    This turned him into the “Can Do Man” at all costs because the word No in the hands of your employees can be your undoing.

    In the hands of an employee the word No empowers them with authority.

    “No Sir we do not have a car for you”

    instead of…

    “If you wouldn’t mind waiting we have a car due back in 15min”

    So No in the wrong hands could destroy your business.

    My advise is to take “No” away from your employees.

    • John Carlton says:

      Nice piece of advice there, regarding employees, Colin. But irrelevant to how entrepreneurs use the word. I see your point, though, and appreciate the note.

      No IS a powerful word, which can be used right or abused wrongly. That’s why I spent so much time explaining the right way to use it.

      Don’t you guys ever read anything I write? Are you all just skimmers?

    • While this post is aimed at entrepreneurs rather than employees, I think that blindly taking “No” away from employees is not the right way to do things.

      A proper job description which details what they can say no to and what they cannot is important. That allows them to focus on what they were hired to do if needed but still gives the manager the power to ensure the job gets done.

  • stephen says:

    Kennedy says deadline is the magic word.

    • John Carlton says:

      Actually, Dan quoted me on deadlines years ago, when I wrote “The most important invention in the history of getting stuff done is deadlines.”

      But it’s not the Magic Word, Stephen. Deadlines are a concept.

  • Andrew Dickson says:

    Thanks John. Timely words given I’ve had to say ‘no’ to so many demands (including many of my own frivolous ones) lately so I’d achieve my goal of finishing SWS on time.

    Be well staying frosty.

    • John Carlton says:

      Good job, Andrew. That’s why we set limits inside the SWS, to help folks get a taste of mild (very mild) pro-level discipline while learning this life-changing new skillset.

      Thanks for the note, man…

  • Kristina says:

    I love this series of posts. I think saying “No” is hard to do if you’re used to pleasing other people (from experience).

    However, I think this post is a refreshing take on the subject, especially the last part about saying no to yourself.

    I have to admit, I find it easier to say no to myself than to others but this has opened my eyes.

    Adopting the entrepreneur mindset does have its perks, this is one of them. I’ll keep this in mind.

    Thanks John. I am so loving your no-nonsense blog posts, newbie that I am and I look forward to more quizzes. Hope I get enough chutzpah to join next time. Awesome post. 🙂

    • John Carlton says:

      Kristina, I’m betting you’ve got a snarling Chutzpah Beast snoozing inside you right now, just hoping you’ll wake it up and let it get to work making your life better.

      Remember: A good reputation comes from being firm and knowing your boundaries. People will resent you doing this, until they realize you mean it… at which point they will PROMPTLY stop resenting you, and start respecting you. It happens in a blink. They want you to fail at being firm… but when it’s your groove, and you’re comfy being firm, it’s game-over. And everyone moves on (and you get to enjoy fresh respect)…

      Thanks for the note. Good luck to you on waking up the beast…

      • John, what you say is sooo true about people resenting you for it at first.

        When I started writing copy, I was a “yes” man, doing anything and everything, working weekends, evenings, and honestly feeling like a friggin’ slave.

        Then I started to say “no”, and at first, it was a hard “message” to get across to clients, family, friends, etc…

        But then, just as you mentioned…in a blink people started to respect the boundary. An amazing change happened in my life, my business, etc…etc…

        I actually started TAKING weekends off, evenings off, and other time OFF…yet still manage to accomplish the same amount of work. (saying “no” seemed to work for me too in terms of the time management of myself)

        This is one of Those blog posts.

        One other tip for the readers, if you just LOVE one of John’s posts, there is an application online (free) called “Readability”, where you put a bookmark in your browser. When you come across a blog post you want to print, this application makes that blog post all pretty and formatted nicely according to settings you control at first. Then, it allows you to print that post by itself as an article.

  • Sal says:

    Great advice John because without it, no you will not succeed at fulfilling many goals, let alone business goals.

  • Oh John, well I guess it could have been any or at least most of the brilliant answers posted on the original post.

    I love the power of yes-no though because you just move through decisions into action so quickly. And can get rid of the rubbish in between (yes it’s an energy drain even if you might not use quite those words 😉 )


  • Nancy Boyd says:

    John this is a classic! You can’t really say Yes if you don’t first say No to what doesn’t fit your highest good/priority/goal.

    Being passionate — and clear — enough to do this consistently is what sets the winners apart. By a very wide margin.

    Thanks for a truly inspiring and true article.


  • ken ca|houn says:

    No is a great word to use with in two circumstances in particular I’ve found:

    #1) moocher/bad/freebie non-customers, as in:

    “no you can’t get a free copy of my latest (whatever) and pay me out of the profits you think you’ll get in a year”… like Popeye character “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”… or “NO I won’t answer all your questions and give you free consulting advice just because you bought one product from me many years ago”… or..

    #2) people wanting me to promote bs… “No I won’t hawk your $2000 trading system to my traders because number one you’re not even a real trader and number 2 I want my customers to always trust me, so I won’t compromise my reputation by affiliate promoting crap… sorry go away g’bye.”.

    “Harrumph harrumph harrumph” quote from one of my favorite movies Mel Brooks’ classic “Blazing Saddles”.

    Gotta just say no.

    to not wasting my time,


  • ed says:

    Justin Bieber said Never say Nver..
    I say No to pain in the ass clients

  • Kelvin says:

    You’re always delivering a very powerful ideas. In my business, time is of essence and getting the yes even if they already said no is what makes my business keeps going stronger in spite of the economic condition. Getting the yes or no answer will impact your business in a positive way. No mean move on to the next.

  • I say YES to making money and focusing.. and NO to other stupid things

  • Damn! I missed this one…Next time for sure…gearing up for that! Ha ha.

  • So it looks like Nancy Reagan had it right years ago, when she said…

    Just say ‘NO.’


  • […] This entire section reminds me of a blog post by John Carlton where he discusses working with the universe to create your reality and the importance of saying no: sticking to your … […]

  • Fern says:

    Knowing when to say No is ultimately about knowing your priorities for your business, which is crucial for success.

  • >