A colleague approaches you with a radical new idea. What are the odds you will imagine the possibilities, build on her concept, and embrace this new vision? 18%? 3%? 0%? Grumpy professors, cynical parents, and finger-wagging bureaucrats have lured many of us into building championship NO instincts. Much easier and less risky to protect the status quo, right?
The problem with this stop-sign approach is that it completely undermines forward progress. It’s a primary force that’s led to the downfall of great leaders, companies, and cities. Building a fortress around the past simultaneously restricts the future. Yet so many of us continue to reflexively toss out NO’s with rhythmic consistency.
I was on a call with lawyers and tax specialists this week that made my stomach turn. These “professionals” were remarkably adept at shooting down idea after idea. A concept that generated 2% risk. NO. Another approach that yielded a .5% risk? NO. Any idea whatsoever that would require judgment and creativity? NO, NO, NO.
The world is filled with nay-sayers, but if we succumb to their no-can-do thinking, progress as a society stops. Nearly every advance in civilization was met with an ice-cold reception by those who live in fear and justify their existence by tossing wet blankets on great ideas. Thankfully, the best leaders have the courage to push aside these flaccid obstructionists and advance their cause despite the critics.
Are you one of those lost souls who act as the self-appointed idea police? Do you feel obligated to find flaws and overstate the risks? Should you get new business cards with the title of “devil’s advocate” since you tend to play that role so often? If so, it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror and realize you’ve been brainwashed by the fear-mongers. That’s not who you really are. Saying no is much easier than yes, but it also chains you to mediocrity. It’s time to do the right thing instead of just the easy thing.
You have a mission and purpose to conquer. And assuming it is something worthwhile, you will undoubtedly be met with the dark clouds of negativity. Never let no overtake yes. Never let fear, protectionism, or jealousy inhibit your true calling. You are here to create, not to succumb.
Now go paint your masterpiece.