There’s a time when Tom Hanks didn’t have the fame and fortune that he has today. He has opened up about the time he had to figure out how to support his family on a budget of $45 a month and had to borrow money from producers for rent.
Of course that was a long time ago. Fast forward to today, and Hanks has become one of the most recognizable movie stars in the world.
But before Hanks got his first sense of accomplishment and offers started pouring in, the actor said he learned an important lesson — one that can benefit entrepreneurs, freelancers and other small business owners as their work and reputation begins to grow. He talked about how he got to a place where he could make the films he really did searched close. To do that, Hanks says, he had to learn to say a very difficult word to people.
“The weird lesson from this is that I figured out how you end up doing the good work that you do,” Hanks said in an interview. “If you say yes, then just work. But if you say no, you’ve made a choice about what kind of story you want to tell and what kind of character you want to play.”
There is much wisdom in these words. When it comes to my own work, they have helped me set my own priorities and start a business that helps me achieve my own personal goals.
I like to call this lesson the “Tom Hanks Rule.”
(If you find value in the “Tom Hanks Rule,” you may be interested in my Complete Emotional Intelligence Course – which includes 20 more rules to help you develop your emotional intelligence. View the full course here .)
Getting more out of work and life means learning to say no
The Tom Hanks Rule helps you develop self-management, an important facet of emotional intelligence. It simply says:
Every time you say yes to something you don’t really want, you’re actually saying no to the things you’re doing.
It’s important to remember this because it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. You could get into the habit of saying yes to any request for a favor just because you want to be helpful. Or you accept any work that comes your way—even if it prevents you from achieving your goals.
If you remember the Tom Hanks Rule, remember that every decision has consequences and that there are only a certain number of hours, days in the week, and weeks in the year in the day.
This is especially important as your business becomes more successful. As an owner, you might resent the idea of declining certain work. But part of the beauty of running a successful business is that you can become more selective about how you spend your time.
You don’t have to work with every client; You can focus on the customers you enjoy working with.
You don’t have to spend time doing tasks you hate; You can hire others to take care of them and focus on aspects of the business that leverage your strengths.
You don’t have to work sixty or seventy hours a week if you don’t want to; You can build your work schedule around other things that are just as important, if not more important, to you.
Of course, you shouldn’t say no to everything. Part of relationship building, and probably what helped you build a successful business in the first place, was helping when you can.
But every day you are faced with difficult decisions about how you will allocate your time and energy. Remember the Tom Hanks rule: keep your emotions in check and just say no to the things that don’t matter to you…so you can spend more time doing the things that do matter to you.