Column: Learning to say no

The British Columbians who are criticized for saying “no to everything” have good company.

The British Columbians who are criticized for saying “no to everything” have good company. Some very successful people believe saying no can be a good thing.

The late billionaire Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.) said “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. Saying yes means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” Billionaire Warren Buffett: “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”

Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister; “The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.”

Joe Calloway, Magnetic: The Art of Attracting Business. “When you say no to the wrong people, it opens up the space for the right people to come in.” Site C is an example of when saying yes means saying no to good things, like developing alternate power sources, and feeding a million people from farmland instead of flooding it.

Another example. A recent Vancouver Province editorial had a go at LNG development. It noted the oil and gas sector employs less than one per cent of B.C.’s labour force and contributes less than five per cent of the GDP. For every oil and gas worker there are almost three people employed in the motion picture industry, ditto performing arts and publishing. It’s four to one in agriculture and forestry. For one oil and gas worker there are 17 high-technology workers; 25 tourism workers; 36 professional, scientific and technical workers; 40 construction workers and a whopping 50 to one in the retail business. Some 98 per cent of B.C. businesses are small ones, a higher ratio than any other province. The editorial suggests the province show more enthusiasm for developing these sectors, focusing some attention “on the commerce that drives B.C.’s economy now, in real time.” That sounds like a good idea for a diversified economy.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.

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