“Strategy is what you say no to. Every product team needs to make an active choice about the game they are playing so that they can win it.” – Source

I saw this quote the other day and really liked it. I think I like it for a few reasons, so that to expand upon my thoughts.

First of all, the idea that figuring out what you want to say “No” to is critically important is something I am learning to appreciate more and more. As I have written before, learning to say no is a big thing for me. I think…as I was younger…I always feared not having enough things to say yes to. I always feared not getting invited to the party, or finding the job, or getting into the right school.

I think that is a real challenge and something that plagues many people.

Though, I think, now, my biggest obstacles are not finding enough “yes-es,” but rather finding the right things to say no to. I actually say yes too much. And in strategic planning, whether it be for building products or making life decisions, I need to learn to say no.

Secondly, I like this quote because it basically says that we all have options (albeit some of us are luckier/more fortunate to have more options). But most everyone, in the free world, has a choice. (I definitely want to emphasize that the variety of choices varies and there are biases that restrict people’s choices).

But back to choices.

We all get them.

We have to create artificial scarcity though – I guess not really artificial – but we all have a finite set or resources, be it time, money, etc. We can only do so many things in a day, week, year, lifetime, etc.

That is a hard line for me to come to terms with because, as so many of us think, I never want to run out of time. The reality, though, is I will not have time to do everything I want to do in my life.

Thus…unless I feel an urgency or scarcity, I will run out of time. I will lie down, about to die, still wishing I had tried harder and done more.

The same is true for companies. We can only do so much with our time. We have to prioritize.

Companies die because of a lack of focus. Humans do not get anything done when we do not focus.

Strategy is about focus. Strategy is about understanding when to say no and choosing the “right” game to play.

I tend to focus on short-term planning and strategies because I find that predicting the future – long term – is really really hard. Nonetheless, my thoughts around this have changed over time and I only expect them to continue to change as I expose myself to more and more new experiences.


Also published on Medium.