Suck at Saying No? Listen to this.

Jenna Kutcher 

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December 23, 2019


Listen: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

No. Nope. No, thank you. No way in heck. Those are a few options you could use to turn down an opportunity that doesn’t quite align or interest you… But this guest is an expert in setting boundaries and saying no lovingly. Saying no with love. What does that sound like?

Darrah Brustein is an educator, coach, entrepreneur, and she’s an expert in lifestyle design. Her coaching is centered on the motto, “design your life, build a business to fund it, and a network to support it.” This episode is focused on that first part — Designing your life by filling it with the right opportunities and learning how to set boundaries and say no to the ones that don’t align.

I like to think I’m pretty good at setting boundaries and saying no. Actually, my calendar last year was as empty as it’s ever been. But Darrah’s template for saying no that she developed after getting rejected from Brene Brown is something I’m ready to steal for my own life and business.

What Do You Value?

Darrah’s story is rich with moments that directed her towards her true path. Finding that path was a process that spanned over a decade. The first lesson she learned after failed careers and abandoned employment was, “Other people’s definition of success do not have to be yours.”

But she didn’t just jump into to entrepreneur life. She said, “I let society tell me that I was just this little millennial who needed to wait her turn, climb the ladder, and learn from everyone else before I could trust my own instincts enough to do for myself… I was in my process. It took me eleven years to say there’s something else for me.”

How do you discover what you’re meant to do? Start by analyzing what you value. Darrah asked herself, “What sparks jealousy in me, which means I want that because I see it in someone else? What angers me in this world that I want to help make better?”

The key to saying yes to the right opportunities is determining what you value. As Darrah put it, “What is it I actually value? What is it I say are my priorities but what am I actually doing with my time? If you do a time audit for yourself you will see transparently what you value versus what you say you value.”

Darrah took the value analysis to the next level and it’s something not many people do — she assigned a monetary value to each of the things she said she valued and wanted for her life, even the “priceless” things. Press play to hear about this exercise and why it is key in reverse engineering the things you want in life.

Boundaries Start with Systems

“Of all the things to aspire to, freedom of time is the ultimate,” said Darrah, and I wholeheartedly agree. Freedom of time starts with setting boundaries, but it’s not an easy thing to start.

For Darrah, running a credit card processing company meant being accessible almost 24/7. Her clients would call her in the middle of the night if their system went down and she felt like she needed to answer those calls to serve her clients the best.

That no-boundaries always-on life only ran her ragged. So she started doing experiments in her life. What would it look and feel like if she started taking three day weekends and traveling (she identified in her value audit that travel was important to her).

On the first trip she learned that her business didn’t crumble with her absence. All she needed was a system that allowed her to be away, so she created that system. Each time she stepped away from her business to give energy and time to the things she said she valued most, she discovered the areas that needed systems or processes to run effectively without her.

Try this in your own life and business. Can you experiment in a way that will reveal areas that would benefit from systems or automated processes?

No is an Acceptable Answer

Do you fear saying no? Darrah explained that although she feels she is a direct, straightforward person, saying no scared her. To Darrah, saying no felt like burning a bridge, missing an opportunity, and falling out of favor with someone.

“If you’re coming from a true, authentic place of good intention, and you’re answer is no to someone’s question, that’s acceptable.” Darrah challenged us all to respect when people say no because want them to respect when we say no.

Press play to hear Darrah tell the story of pitching a social movement she’d started to Brene Brown, and how Brene’s team responded in a way that Darrah called, “saying no gracefully and beautifully.”

Darrah suggests everyone create a “No Template” in their email. Use the template to gracefully turn down opportunities that come your way that don’t seem like the right fit or that pull you away from the list of things that you value the most.

More from This Episode

What common phrase does Darrah want to eradicate? What can you do get back into alignment when your yeses aren’t actually aligning with the things you value? Darrah stands so firmly in her truth and because of that, she brings grounded advice that I believe everyone needs to hear right now. Press play above for the full episode.


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  1. […] Episode 321: Suck at Saying No? Listen to this. […]


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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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