“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs
We all have this meter inside of us. This is our 'yes' meter. Each time we say yes, our meter depletes. If our 'yes' meter runs out the quality of work will start to decline.
By saying yes to too many things I found that I either needed to accept that I was going to be only mediocre at some things, or I had to say no to something else.
"The Strategic Question: If You’re Saying Yes to This, What Are You Saying No To?" (Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit)
The Coaching Habit is a great read and this is probably my favourite question. The idea is to ask others this, but I find it useful to ask myself whenever offered a new opportunity or problem to solve.
Steve Jobs isn't talking about saying 'yes' to projects though. He is taking The Strategic Question and turning it on its head:
By Saying No, we get closer to the right Yes
This is about product development. Stripping things away to the essential to find the next great leap. Jobs did this when returning to Apple with his Pro/Consumer|Portable/Desktop matrix.
These are two applications of the same lesson: remove the unnecessary to be great at the absolutely necessary.