098 – The Power of Yes & No

by | Jun 21, 2018 | Podcast

What do you do when a new opportunity comes your way? What criteria do you use to decide which to take on and which to turn down?

In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, I share the power of two important words, “yes” and “no”, and how to use them to advance your career.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 00:14 – Reflecting on the most important lessons I’ve learned
  • 00:32 – The importance of “yes” and “no”
  • 00:59 – The value of “yes”
  • 01:53 – Taking offers that aren’t what you expected
  • 02:21 – Things I’ve done that weren’t in my wheelhouse
  • 02:38 – Success may not come in the package you expect it to
  • 02:54 – How long should you keep saying “yes”?
  • 03:23 – When you need to start saying “no”
  • 03:55 – 3 criteria to determine which opportunities are most worthwhile
  • 04:40 – Turning down opportunity
  • 05:33 – Where are you in your career right now?


Working on my latest mini-book, The Essential Guide to Music Entrepreneurship: 2018 Edition and the associated bonus content has given me a lot of time to reflect on some of the most important lessons I’ve learned as a music entrepreneur.

Just so you know, the bonus content for the mini-book isn’t available just yet but it’s coming along.

Regardless, one thing I’ve come to recognize is the importance of two words, “yes” and “no”.

When you’re first getting started in your career, you probably don’t have much by way of contacts, resources, or opportunities. If you’re lucky, you might be starting off with more than others, but for the most part musicians and entrepreneurs tend to start off at zero. They don’t know anyone, they don’t have much by way of money or equipment, and they don’t have venues knocking at their door to book them.

If that describes where you are in your career, you’ll appreciate the value of the word, “yes”, and it’s more powerful than you might think.

You might see other musicians turn down certain gigs or opportunities. It might be because they have other projects or prospects to focus on. Taking a low-paying gig as an in-demand musician doesn’t make much sense, unless the gig offers other significant benefits.

But for you, a low-paying gig might be a great opportunity. You might not see other opportunities on the radar right now, so really any gig would be a step forward.

If you’re professional, you show up on time, and you play a good set, you might make a few more contacts. These people might see potential in you. Granted, if you aren’t that great at your craft, you’re probably not going to get higher paying gigs or better opportunities just yet, but so long as you make just one contact that’s interested in working with you, you can keep connecting the dots from one gig to the next.

It should be noted that people may come to you with offers that aren’t exactly in your wheelhouse or not what you expected. Should you say “no”?

My belief is that you should continue to say “yes” anyway.

You probably don’t have a lot of money coming in, and you still have considerable leeway in your calendar. Most of all, these experiences will cause you to grow. Sure, they may challenge you and put you outside of your comfort zone. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to become more than you are right now.

I’ve done a lot of things through the years that either weren’t in my wheelhouse or I wasn’t good at. I’ve been a laptop salesman, a theater tech, a caretaker, a beverage server, and more.

I may not have been good at those things, but I learned a lot. And, I also found that I got better at some of those things over time.

One of the realities of success is it may not come in the neat little package you expect it to. I talked about this a little bit in episode 97 of the podcast, but I really want to drive this home – you may not end up where you thought you would, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved success.

You may not end up where you thought you would, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved success. Share on X

So, getting back to this idea of saying “yes” – you should keep saying it until your personal bandwidth is stretched.

Now, most people will feel uncomfortable at this point and pull back. They’ll say, “I’m spread too thin”. They’ll let go of one of their commitments.

But if you’re at this point, I believe you should maintain all your commitments for several months if not several years. That may sound crazy, but the projects and tasks you’re engaged in will form the foundation of your financial stability.

If you’ve got debt to pay off, you should keep doing what you’re doing.

But there will come a time when you need to start saying “no”.

You may not know when this moment arrives, simply because you’ve been saying “yes” for so long, you’re not even seeing the forest for the trees anymore. And, if you tend to be a people pleaser, and you’ve been in the habit of saying “yes” for a long time, it’s going to be hard to start saying “no”.

The key thing to recognize at this point is that 80% of your results are coming from 20% of your effort. There are going to be opportunities in your life that are disproportionately better than others. Likewise, you’re going to have many that are disproportionately worse than the rest.

There are opportunities in your life that are disproportionately better than others. Likewise, there are many that will be disproportionately worse than the rest. Share on X

Here are a few criteria you can use to determine which are still worthwhile:

  1. Income. Some projects are almost certainly helping you make more money than others, and it’s better to focus on those that help you achieve your financial and lifestyle goals.
  2. Fulfillment. Some projects are going to energize you, while others are going to drain you. The projects that energize you are the ones you should dedicate more time to.
  3. Relationship. Some people are more enjoyable to work with than others. In time, some are going to emerge as your greatest supporters while others are going to stay the same or be less involved in your life. When I’m working with people I like, I know I’m going to see better results with the projects I’m working on and I’m going to enjoy myself more.

This year, I’ve had several opportunities come my way that I’ve turned down. At this point, everything I take on has the chance to take away from existing projects and relationships.

This doesn’t mean I won’t consider new opportunities. There are always exceptions. Some short-term projects may only require a small amount of my time. Some may offer good financial incentive. Others might take over the existing ones simply because they are more aligned with what I want to do, how I want to live and how much money I want to be making.

But at this point in my career, I’m appreciating the power of “no” more than the power of “yes”. I need to be saying “no” to the good things so I can leave room to say “yes” to the awesome things.

It was hard saying “no” at first, but once I started doing it, I went through a bit of a mindset shift. I value my time more, and in most cases if a project doesn’t pay or isn’t aligned with my goals, I will turn it down.

So, where are you in your career right now?

If you don’t have a lot on your plate, maybe it would be better to say “yes” and sacrifice a little bit of freedom in the short-term for a solid, long-term payoff.

If you have a lot on your plate and you’ve been at it for a while, maybe it would be better to say “no” and get a little freedom back.

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