How to receive more by refusing more

Have you heard the old story about the student and the tea cup?

A young man who’s very proud of his existing knowledge seeks to learn even more from an older, wiser man, but the student’s pride and arrogance are getting in the way of him learning anything new. So the wise teacher finds a way to make it clear that the student needs to approach the learning differently.

Are you cluttering your plate with the wrong clients?He offers tea to the student, but, rather than fill the cup only part-way full, he keeps pouring until the cup overflows. Then he tells the student, ‘Just as the cup is too full to hold any more, so is your brain too full of what you think you already know. You need to be willing to learn with a student’s open mind.”

I’m reminded of this story when I hear myself mentally muttering, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I already know that” when I read about the need to clearly define your ideal client. It’s even more challenging for me to accept the corollary: refuse to accept anyone who doesn’t match that profile. (After all, I know I can help them!)  And when you’re launching a new product or service and are hungry to get the first paying client for that new offering, it’s pretty tempting to operate on the theory that “any revenue is good revenue.”

But if you do that—if you accept as a client anyone who has a pulse—then you’re making yourself unavailable to the people that you will adore working with because your skill set is so exactly what they need.

Are you settling for less than you’re worth?

What sort of outcomes do you think you’d experience if your day weren’t filled with low-payoff activities? What could you have more of if you had less in the way of energy-sucking people and activities? What if you said “No” to things like:

And on the flip side, what would you enjoy if you said “Yes” to things like:

When you refuse the things that don’t serve you, it gives you the space and the capacity to receive more and act on those opportunities that present themselves. Which approach are you going to choose?


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