Learning How to Say No

Last Updated Sep 26, 2011 2:15 PM EDT

Once you've made some money on the PGA Tour -- my salary is out there for everyone to see -- the requests start coming in. In the last couple of weeks alone, I've probably received more than a dozen requests for help via my time, my money, or my access to the PGA:

Will I support healthcare for needy children?

Will I donate to multiple ministries, and many other worthy non-profit causes?

Can I score PGA tickets and parking passes for friends and friends of friends?

Maybe for some people this isn't a problem. But it is for me. I like to make people happy -- I'm a pleaser -- and I genuinely like to help others. Saying no feels almost against my nature.


The other problem is that until now, I've made myself very accessible to pretty much anyone who wants to reach me -- on my cell phone, email, Facebook page, etc. I've done this on purpose. I'm no celebrity. I don't need someone to manage my personal interactions. But it does mean that it's harder to respond to these requests when my Tour schedule is especially busy. I can find pockets of time to respond to these sorts of things, but it becomes a problem when it starts to affect my sleep or my practice schedule, or the amount of time I have to spend with my wife in the evenings.

One thing that has helped me navigate these situations is sitting down with my wife to decide where to focus our efforts. We decided that if we're fortunate enough to be able to support other organizations, we'd focus on five causes in particular to which we have a strong connection. We would consider other causes but we'd have to really believe in the mission behind them.

That helped give me some direction. But it still didn't make saying no any easier or solve the problem of when exactly I would respond to these requests.

It took a bombardment of people asking for my help during an especially stressful time on Tour, which then caused me to blow up unnecessarily at at one in particular, to convince me that something needed to change.

I needed help.

So I met with my agent and my financial advisor. We talked about how to create some kind of a buffer so that what were essentially business requests -- things like opportunities to donate or show up at a charity event -- didn't become so personal. Now the two of them act as a filter, telling me about the requests that fit my interests and saying no to the ones that don't.

There are still people and requests that I insist on handling personally -- I can't delegate everything. And I still need to get better at saying no when something isn't in my best interest. But it's also clear to me now that I can't respond to everything, play well, be a good husband and son and brother and uncle, write this blog, make everyone happy, and stay sane at the same time.

I'm learning how to manage it all, but it's still a work in progress. Have you dealt with this issue in your business? What's your strategy?