Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

3 Lessons You’ll Learn By Saying Yes to New and Scary Things

If you’re anything like me, saying no to new things just feels comfortable. There have been plenty of times when I defaulted to it over the course of my career. Sometimes that’s meant turning down a job because I was nervous I was underqualified, or sometimes that even meant saying no to a candidate because I was afraid I was making the wrong decision for my company.

But here’s the thing: Saying yes will often yield you much better results in the long run. Even when—no especially when—saying no’s easier. Here are three lessons I’ve personally learned by stepping out of my comfort zone and making myself say yes.

1. You’ll Open Yourself Up to Awesome Opportunities

When I left my job as a recruiter last year, I assumed I’d go back to something similar. Or, I thought I’d go back to something else I had done in the past, even though I didn’t always enjoy those jobs. On at least two occasions, I thought I had jobs waiting for me, only to find out that due to a number of unfortunate circumstances, I wouldn’t be receiving an offer. The one offer I received? My first freelance writing gig.

Of course, it was something I enjoyed doing, but I was unsure of how I’d pay the bills consistently every month if I pursued that lifestyle full-time. And that scared the living daylights out of me. So, I almost turned it down, fearing that if I focused too much on my freelance work, I’d run out of money and everything would be ruined forever. Of course, nothing was ruined forever and I’m really excited about the work I’m doing now.

The point of all of this is pretty straightforward. Sometimes saying yes to an opportunity that could threaten your financial peace-of-mind or any other comforts you have are often the ones you should jump on ASAP.

2. You’ll Teach Yourself Things You Never Thought You Could Learn

OK, so there are times when someone asks you to handle accounting duties for the day, except he’s forgotten that you’ve told him on a number of occasions that you don’t know the first thing about Microsoft Excel. If that happens, it’s probably a good idea to say no to that request (although you should also consider looking for ways to learn more about Microsoft Excel). However, let’s say your co-worker asks you to help her sell a pair of running shoes. And in this instance, you’ve never sold anything before, but you run five times a week and know a lot about running shoes. It would be easy to respond by saying, “Sorry, I’m not a salesperson,” but consider this:

You’re undoubtedly a smart person. And in this example, you know quite a bit about running shoes. Think about how you learned all you know about those fancy stability shoes you swear by. You went online, did some research, identified the best resources for that information and eventually became an expert on your own. Believe it or not, that’s a transferrable skill. You’ve taught yourself how to pick out a pair for yourself, and you’re smart enough to teach yourself how to sell them. So, after you wrestle with the fact that you’ve said yes to this thing you’ve never done, you’ll figure out where to learn how to sell things.

And then, you’ll probably go out and sell that pair of shoes. After that customer walks out happily with her new pair of speed-increasing sneakers, here’s what will happen: You’ll take a huge breath, think about how much work you’ve done just to learn how to sell a pair of shoes, and then realize that if you can do that, you can basically do anything you want to learn how to do.

3. You’ll Grow Professionally and Personally

So, you’ve just sold your first pair of running shoes. And suddenly everyone wants your help, because you are the resident expert. That’s great, but the reality is that at some point, you’ll fall short. Maybe you’ll sell someone a shoe that’s fashionable when that person really needed something with more padding. Or, you’ll suggest a pair of shoes that’s completely out of a customer’s price range. In any case, you will make a mistake.

And that is pretty scary.

However, think about how much you’ve learned in your short career as a shoe salesperson. You’ve figured out how to help runners pick out a great pair of sneakers that suit their needs. And you’ve learned even more about what makes a good pair of shoes than you ever thought you’d need to know. But more importantly, you’ve experienced what it’s like to send someone home with a pair of shoes that will negatively affect their running. And it probably doesn’t feel all that great.

However, as cliché as it is to say you learn best from your mistakes, there are a number of things you might take away from this experience. Because you’ve said yes, you’ll either learn from this gaffe and hone your skills for the next sale, or you’ll realize that you don’t like selling shoes and should really focus on your duties running the marketing department for the store. In any case, while saying yes initially put you in an uncomfortable situation, your resiliency was tested and ultimately got you through a tough situation.

We know it’s not easy to walk up to someone and tell that person how brave you are, so let us do it for you. While it’s usually easier to default to saying no to certain things, sometimes saying yes—especially when things seem too difficult for you to tackle—is worth taking the risk. So be bold and start saying yes to more things. We know you can handle it.

Photo of happy man courtesy of Shutterstock.