It’s something I heard often as a kid, but something I find that I have a hard time expressing. Nobody wants to hear no, but yes will kill you.

If my parents said yes to everything, I would have 43 versions of the spiderman action figure, 6 million pogs, and every pokemon card imaginable. Yes means I would have ingested every flavor of ice cream for every meal. Yes would mean there were no boundaries; that’s a bad thing.

Boundaries build great products. They keep you on track. The more you say no, the more you create definition. Definition trickles down in your product, services, attitude, etc. Sure you may want the “everything-machine,” but has no definition and because of that it tried to do too many things — it is barely any good at any one of them.

The more you say yes, the more it gets you into trouble. If you say yes to every feature request, you get a boatload of features of mediocre quality. If you say yes to everything, you lose uniqueness. You lose quality. You lose individuality.

The best software in the world has less features and they have less features because they are good at saying no. No allows you to do less, better. It prevents you from getting lost in a sea of yes’s because each yes is something extra you have to do (that you didn’t plan on). “No” defines your product. In marketing they have a way of saying that less is more; it’s true.

It hurts to hear it and it’s hard to say it but it will save you. It’s sometimes demotivating and it’s not always well received.

The opposite of yes is doing things at a better price. It is preventing burdons. It is is defining. It tells others clearly that you will not. There’s no beating around the bush and you can stay on track. No is hard.

Saying yes is easy. Saying yes avoids confrontation, guilt, and it gets messy. The more you say no the easier it is to make the things you say yes to better. If you’ve seen my post Money follows friendships you understand the power of friendships. You’ll hurt those friendships if you are an asshole so say no like you would to your friends. If you’re saying no there’s a reason and you need to share that, politely.

Save yes for the best and say no often. Wouldn’t you rather have a few great things rather than a lot of crappy ones?


Matt is the cofounder and CTO of Sidestep – a company that lets you pre-order concert merch and skip the line. He's a serial entrepreneur who worked at Apple, Rockadoo and Cofactor software.

San Francisco, CA
Real Time Web Analytics