Experts say the ability to say "no" is a prerequisite for success. As Derek Sivers would say, "No more 'yes.' It's either, 'Hell yeah!' or, 'No.'" To be productive, you absolutely must maintain a laser-like focus on your priorities -- and ruthlessly manage your time.

Unless you're Bert Kreischer (whose story about robbing a train with the Russian mafia is the best 14 minutes you'll spend today.)

Bert is a great stand-up comedian, host of a very successful podcast, author of a bestselling book... yet he also says "yes" to everyone that asks him to be a guest on their podcast.

"I do everyone's podcast," he says, "Whether it's Joe Rogan, or a guy still living in his parent's basement. If I pull into your town for a gig I'll support you. 

"I know how I important it is when I get a call from a guy like Dave Attell saying he wants to do my podcast. I go through the roof. If I have the opportunity to give that feeling to another person trying to jump-start their career in an industry I love... why wouldn't I say yes?"

Or unless you're Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney.

Ryan has tended bar on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live. He's a character in Cars 3. He won a snow tube race against Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex during the Super Bowl pregame show. He co-hosts Glass Case of Emotion, the NASCAR podcast that was downloaded over a million times last year. He's done cameos on shows like Taken and movies like Logan Lucky.

But those high-profile opportunities to promote NASCAR, his sponsors, and himself to a broader audience are not necessarily the result of Ryan's stature in the sport; for how at least, other drivers are better known. 

Instead, those opportunities are the result of the 24 year-old's surprisingly old-school approach: Ryan Blaney's default position is "yes."

"If it helps the sport," he says, "I'll do it. Obviously racing is my main priority, and I'll turn down something that gets in the way of doing my job, but beyond that I'm very open to anything that opens doors." 

And he often opens his own doors -- even though that doesn't always come easily. 

"I used to be very shy," he says, "and since it's only been the past couple of years that I've been able to do things like this, I'm still that way to some degree. So I still have some work to do, especially in front of larger groups." 

For example, over the winter, Ryan was one of four NASCAR drivers to participate in a tire test at Texas Motor Speedway, and used social media to tell fans he would hang out on the front stretch with anyone that wanted to join him for lunch.

Another example: On race weekends, between on-track responsibilities and sponsor and media appearances, a successful driver's schedule is slammed -- but Ryan jealously guards chunks of each day. "I always block out time with no appearances," he says, "so we can leave early for practice sessions and driver introductions, and have time to sign autographs and meet as many fans as possible."

His reasoning is simple: Even the largest fan bases are often built one interaction, one connection, one person at a time. 

"I love going to really small acoustic shows," Ryan says, "where you can have that feeling of a personal connection between the musicians and the fans. I just try to apply the same logic: When I can meet someone on a personal level, even for just a few seconds, that makes it a lot more memorable for them -- and for me."

People (and brands, and companies) build loyal fans and loyal customer bases not by thinking about what they want; they think about what they can give. They see giving as the best way to make a memorable and lasting impact.

That's how they make real connections.

That's how they create loyal fans.

For Ryan, that means accepting -- and also actively creating -- opportunities to do new things.

And you should, too. 

Even though you're already extremely busy. Even though you may be relatively shy. Even though every opportunity might not pan out the way you hope. 

When you sit tight, when you play it safe -- when you say "no" -- that means tomorrow is more likely to be just like today.

So start saying "yes" as often as you can.

You never know where that could take your business... and where it could take you.

Published on: Feb 14, 2018
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