Saying Yes is Easy, Learning When to Say No is Hard.

If you're an ambitious person, it can be really hard to accept when something shouldn't be done.  You have a new idea for a product, a feature, an event, an organization, or maybe even a far fetched sales lead and you can't help but get excited about it. You explore what it's going to take to pull it off and while it certainly isn't going to be easy, maybe it's not as impossible sounding as you first thought? When you begin to make the calculation about whether to pursue it, sometimes you'll find that the reason something shouldn't be done isn't because it can't be done, it's because of the opportunity cost.

It's a frustrating life lesson I was reminded of quite recently. I had a potential keynote speaker for Demo Day this year I thought was perfect. (Shameless plug: StartFast Demo Day is on Thursday August 9th. Sign up for our newsletter to find out more!) The prospect could easily draw a big crowd, I had a direct connection to get to him, and I even found our first sponsor. Things were shaping up well all things considered. It was at that point however that reality hit and things got aggravating. I had a conversation with one of my mentors who reminded me about opportunity cost.

I already have a very full plate and when I take a realistic view of where "finding a key note speaker" should fall on my priority list it's not at the top. It's frustrating enough when you have an exciting idea that simply isn't feasible. If you're an ambitious person like me however, its doubly frustrating when you have an idea that is feasible but you know you just can't afford the time and effort to spend on it. It's an important lesson in time management that thankfully on this occasion I did not need to learn the hard way.

Unfortunately though, too often I meet with entrepreneurs who seem determined to do just that. "We had a great meeting with this potential partner who thinks they can help us access this huge market." How many of you have heard, thought, or even said something just like this before?

More often than not, the same lesson applies here. It's quite possible that relationship could pay off, but does it truly justify the opportunity cost to pursue it? Startups are inherently time and resource constrained. You can be incredibly overwhelmed just trying to do one thing really, really well. If you say yes to every "opportunity" that comes your way, you are bound to spread your team too thin to ever succeed. As Nasir loves to say, "the best startup's are an inch wide and a mile deep." If an opportunity arises that is inline with you core objectives, appears promising, and is reasonably feasible then pursue it. Otherwise, maintain your focus and don't let every opportunity create a distraction.

James Shomar
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