Do you relate?

==> A friend and colleague said she couldn’t do justice to more than one course at a time, so she was saying “no” to joining our group for another business course.

==> Another business owner in my building shared that she had decided to cut back (say “no”) on long office hours with clients after realizing the overwhelm she was feeling after rear-ending a car in traffic and bursting into tears.

==> Yours truly fell this week when my office desk chair collapsed. Ignoring the discomfort for the past two weeks, I postponed replacing the chair. Too many other priorities. No more. (I expect delivery of the new chair today!) 😉

All three scenarios involve a decision to set boundaries and say “no” for the good of the business (and business owner): ensuring a return on investment, identifying a threshold for work volume capacity and finally, maintaining work safety.

Saying “no” is about taking responsibility for yourself, protecting your dreams and your happiness by boundary setting.

Here’s a story (paraphrased) from the book, Riding the Dragon by Robert Wicks.

There was a priest who made sandwiches every evening and then delivered them to the homeless people on the streets.

He did this of his own accord. It wasn’t related to his “priest” duties. It was truly something that made him happy. He wasn’t doing it out of feeling obligation, guilt, or pressure.

If a street person refused his offer of a sandwich, he didn’t feel upset or insulted. He wasn’t expecting appreciation or recognition for doing good works. His expectations were few.

Eventually, a reporter published a story about the priest’s personal mission in the news. Soon the priest was receiving money from people around the world, including fellow priests to support his work.

Much to their surprise their money was returned with the following cryptic one-line note: “Make your own damn sandwiches!”


If you are like me the first time I read this story, I had three conflicting reactions: intrigue, relief, and guilt.

  1. Intrigue for the cryptic delivery of his “no,” (Make you own damn sandwiches!) Honestly, I read the story over again. Why so abrupt? People were being supportive. Then it dawned on me– good grief!  Relief…
  2. Relief the priest was able to protect his schedule and his happiness by keeping his duties limited. He didn’t feel the need to take on extra work and satisfy the needs of others because it’s the noble, charitable thing to do. (You gotta love that priest!)
  3. Finally, guilt because how many times have I given money instead of doing the work and facing the grim realities many people live in our communities here and in the world.

And here’s the point:

Remember, saying “no” is okay to do–even if the request is reasonable or for a good cause.

And sometimes it may come out a bit crusty. That may be your normal style. It may be you’re on the learning curve of saying “no” and need more practice.

You want to know your personal and business limits and stick to them. It’s responsible. You can’t help everyone nor is everyone a good fit for your services or business.

It’s okay to protect what is already working for you in your business by saying “no.”

So, know your boundaries (personal and business). Draw that circle and say “no” when needed.

Return on investment. Work volume capacity. Maintaining work/environmental safety. All fancy descriptions for basic business operations–whether you’re a business of one or many.

Sure there’s a time for stretching and pushing the boundaries and saying “yes.”  That’s why we use pencils to draw those boundaries.  Someone said, you can’t say “yes” until you say “no”. 

I think there’s something to that.

I’d love to read: What “No” has been good for you and your business?

Got a personal/business challenge you’d like to read or talk about? Contact me at or