I am on an airplane that suddenly starts descending. It’s losing air pressure rapidly.

“Oh, shit.”

The oxygen masks are released from overhead. Before I put on my own mask, I want to help the person next to me. I struggle to help them put on their oxygen mask.

My oxygen-saturation levels drop to a perilous point and I become weak and disoriented.

I pass out before I am able to help them…

Probably not the smartest move — I should have really put myself first in this situation.

Especially when it comes to breathing.

When you focus on your own actions and manage your time properly, you prioritize yourself first.

That means you’re saying “no” to a lot of things in your life. You’re saying no to a lot of people that aren’t worth your time. You’re saying no to a lot of tasks that really don’t get you where you need to be.

As they say, it’s only by saying “no” that we can really focus on things that are important.

At least that’s what I think now.

But when I started my first job, this concept was foreign to me.

I was a yes man.

Every time someone asked me to lunch, I would say yes.

Whenever a customer would request to meet me 1 hour away from the office at 8pm, I would “waste time” and inevitably go to the meeting.

When my boss would ask me to do something I would accept without hesitation.

Whenever a colleague asked me for help, I would drop everything I was doing and help them, neglecting my own work.

Some people said “no” to working late hours. I didn’t care about that. I was first man in, last man out.

I had an annoying grin on my face and was always “happy to help.”

On one of my ordinarily late evenings at the office, the phone rang.

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There were three people in the office including me. Nobody wanted to pick up the phone, and it kept on ringing.

So I picked it up, naturally.

A man with a strong British accent was on the other line. He was calling from across the world and wanted to know if he could become our client.

Yes please, I’d love to work with you.

Finders, keepers. A new account fell into my lap.

Two weeks later we signed a contract and eventually the account resulted in $180k USD in revenue. I had my biggest sales quarter ever and I was promoted.

Of course, I could have been drinking with friends or watching X-Files re-runs that night and then somebody else would have gotten the account.

There was a very big aspect of luck involved. There always is.

But I’d like to think that we create opportunities for luck to emerge. The more we put ourselves out there, the more things will come our way. The more phone calls we pick up, the more they could make all the difference.

Here’s the thing:

It makes sense to say “yes” to everything when we don’t know what we are doing.

That pretty much sums up my first year on the job. I think it’s the same for most people who are starting out in a new career or new industry.

You have to say yes and learn the ropes first before you can start making your own decisions. Over time, this changes. 

A little boy on a farm was gathering eggs from the chicken coop. He ran across the farm and dropped all of the eggs, breaking them.

His father yelled,

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!”

Why do you think all of the financial advice you read in books tells you to “diversify”your portfolio?

eggs

The authors know that most people are not going to become financial experts, so they are giving them the most practical advice. Professional traders cannot beat the stock market in the short term so they are not expecting the average person to do so either.

Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger don’t diversify their portfolios. They make long term investments over decades, and they win. They are worth billions. They say NO to a lot and yes to a few, key investments. Because they know their shit and they’ve been doing it for a very long time.

“Diversification is protection against ignorance. It makes little sense if you know what you are doing.” – Warren Buffet

When you diversify you pretty much say yes to a lot of things. The less you diversify, the more confident you better be in your choices.

When you first start a new job you are a sponge. Sponges don’t say no. Sponges just soak it all in.

sponge

You need to say yes to everything in order to know what works and what doesn’t.

Then and only then should you start being more selfish and selective with your time. It’s important to experience everything at least once in your job role so you know how it feels.

But how do you know you’re doing it right?

At first, your new job or role should feel like a roller coaster ride…Until it doesn’t.

If you’ve been on the same roller coaster a few times you’re going to eventually going to get used to it.

When your face looks like this, it means that you’re used to the roller coaster ride.

mrbean

Trial through experimentation has been the most successful technique for me.

As I gained the foundation the first year of work, I began to notice patterns.

I was a lot more effective when I planned my schedule days ahead of time. I was a lot more efficient when I planned all my meetings near by the office, instead of going all the way across town.

When I told my colleague who needed help that I could get back to her at 3pm later that afternoon, she wasn’t upset at all.

I was calling the shots and I was making my schedule, because now I knew what I was doing.

I figured out what “yeses” were valuable and what yeses were not.

Until I got there, of course, I had to say a yes a lot.

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