No Fear vs. Fear of No

Fear scrabbleThe emotions of fear cover a wide spectrum from mild concerns to absolute paranoia. Everyone experiences fear to some degree at some point, ranging from childhood fears like being afraid of what lurks beneath the bed, to full blown adult phobias. Fear can be as real and tangible as physical pain.

A vast array of fears and phobias exist. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders appears to be fairly common while Scopophobia, the fear of being stared at, seems rare and obscure. Regardless of what you’re afraid of, fear is a powerful motivator. You probably don’t think of fear as a motivator. It is though. Not a motivator that inspires or sparks achievement, but one that creates hesitation, wavering and even paralysis. As William Arruda and Deb Dib so poignantly stated in their book Ditch, Dare, Do “The more you fear, the worst fear becomes”.


We loving hearing people tell us “Yes”. Yes is uplifting, it’s exhilarating. Author Jeffrey Gitomer wrote an entire book on having a “Yes, Attitude!” because yes  is so powerful. Dig through the archives in your memory and experiences where you were told yes are sure to surface. The greatest yes I ever received came on a tropical beach in Brazil, as I got down on one knee, with my knee in the sand and a diamond ring in hand. The memory of that “yes” still ignites a wave of emotion and excitement even 17 years later.


On the contrary, “No” is frightening. No represents more than merely the absence of yes. No incites sentiments of rejection. No feels personal. That’s why no scares us. In much the same way as yes, hearing no can leave a lasting impression, albeit a devastatingly negative impression.

  • “No, you didn’t make the team”
  • “No, you didn’t get the job”
  • “No, you’re not getting a raise”

No feels awful, it’s heart-wrenching. Consequently, people frequently avoid asking in order to steer clear of being told no.

A negotiation and persuasion class I took in grad school gave out an assignment to overcoming the fear of no. The assignment was simple, students were required to ask for things at home, at work, wherever… until they got 10 “No’s”. Each request was to be documented along with the answer received, either a yes or no. The assignment continued until the student received 10 no’s.  For most students, getting 10 no’s proved far more difficult than initially anticipated. The class quickly learned that when you have the courage to ask, you’re told yes more often than no.

Try it. Start asking for things until you get 10 No’s.

You might be surprised how many Yes’ you’ll receive. Then, share your experience.

One key to overcoming the fear of no is not taking it personal. It might take a few no’s to get to yes, in which case each no signifies one step closer to the next yes. The reward of receiving yes far outweighs the disappointing of a few no’s. It’s said that Director Peter Jackson was told no by several studios before New Line Cinema said yes to the Lord of The Rings movie project.

Although no feels risky, the greatest risk lies in not acting, doing or asking at all. Author and thought leader Seth Godin said “playing safe is very risky”. Maybe we should be afraid of not speaking up or not asking at all.

What is the fear of “no” holding you back from achieving?


5 Reasons Why You Don’t Want an All-Star Team

Bigger is not always better
Bigger is not always better

All-Star teams are exciting; gathering the most talent individuals onto a single super team. There will be no holding them back. The team will be unstoppable. The competition will tremble in their presence. People will flock from the world over to marvel at the team’s greatness. Yes, creating an All-Star is an excellent idea… in theory.

Most sports team All-Star games barely pass as a scrimmage and probably resemble horsing-around more than anything. It’s a nice break for players and boosts already sky-high egos. Winning is nice, but rarely is there an urgency to do so.

In America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) a different approach has been taken to the All-Star game. For the past several years the MLS All-Stars play a foreign club team. Earlier this week the All-Star festivities concluded with the All-Stars playing Italian club AS Roma. AS Roma is a decent club that finished in the top half of the Italian Serie A league last season.

So how’d the game turn out? AS Roma dominated with a 3-1 win. The All-Stars only scored in the waning moments of the game. Some people will argue that even the best talent in the US league doesn’t match the average talent in Italy. I disagree. It’s not a league or talent issue; it’s an All-Star issue.

Whether it’s a sports team, your sales team, or the staff at your office attempting to put together an All-Star team might not be the best idea.

Here are 5 reasons why you don’t want an All-Star team:

  1. All-Star teams are not teams at all. They are simply a group of big-name players.  Yes, very talented players, but a bunch talented people does not make it a team. You will always have to balance personalities, strengths and weaknesses, but to have a truly effective group it needs to be a team and managed as a team.
  2. All-Star teams have no role players. You need role players. Not everyone can take the final shot of the game. Every team needs good, solid role players. Role players are crucial to the success of the team’s overall success even if they play a lesser role in achieving team goals. This doesn’t mean role players aren’t valuable. It just means they have a different function on the team.
  3. All-Star teams are not sustainable long-term. When everyone is a super star with super ambitions and desire for recognition, people soon want more. It doesn’t take long before everyone wants to go somewhere else where they can get more recognition, more money, more… whatever.
  4. You’re not the Yankees. Most teams, companies and businesses don’t have unlimited budgets. Paying an entire staff of All-Star players simply costs too much.
  5. All-Stars win games but not championships. Championships are won not by a single spectacular game, but by consistently being the best team over a long period of time. Whatever the proverbial championship is that you’re trying to “win” it will be accomplished by having a great TEAM and not by just having a bunch of All-Stars.

It’s awesome when you find an amazingly talented person to hire. You should only hire that person however if they also contribute to the team culture and chemistry you are working to build. Finding the best team player will pay off far more than just finding the most talented All-Star.