Nearly all successful people will tell you that mindset is everything. Here are a few practical ways stay centered and balanced amidst the chaos of entrepreneurship. My life has changed for the better by making the choice to practice three cognitive skills that I’d like to share with you.

1. Eliminating “Should”

Whenever I catch myself saying to someone “you should do…”, I remember how it feels when people tell me what I “should” do. Then, I try to find a way to make my point without telling them what to do. For instance, instead of “you should talk to so and so” I might say “when I had a similar problem, I talked to so and so and that made all the difference”. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Black Belt: Try eliminating “should” entirely from your vocabulary, even when applied to yourself.

2. Replace “No” with “Yes! And…”

This one comes from an improv class I took once. Here’s the move:

  • Them: “I’d really like to talk to you about my brilliant idea to create better widgets”
  • Me: “That would be fine once my schedule clears up after my big deadline. Check back with me in 3 weeks and we’ll schedule a 10 minute call to see if I can help you somehow.” Always keep your mind and opportunities as open as possible.

3. What if it is possible?

Our human brains evolved in a time of scarcity. In those times, it was more important to eliminate uncertainty than to go exploring. Unknown paths could lead to danger. However, in the information/creative economy we live in today, that self-preservation instinct can become our biggest roadblock to success.

Always remain clear with yourself that mental exploration is just that — exploration, not commitment to action. What’s wrong with “going there” from time to time? After all, what if it is possible to live forever?

What do your cognitive workouts look like? Sharing the thoughts or practices that keep you sharp can be helpful to others and serve as a great reminder to yourself!

About the author

Rafe Furst

Rafe Furst

Rafe is an entrepreneur, impact investor, writer, producer and poker player. Beginning in Silicon Valley in the mid-1990s, Rafe has founded, invested in and advised dozens of startups, including Pickem Sports, Full Tilt Poker, and Crowdfunder. To date, his companies have generated over $1 Billion in revenue and $450 Million in liquidity to stakeholders.

An avid poker player, he’s won a World Series of Poker Championship, produced an award-winning instructional video, and has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer prevention and other charitable causes. Rafe is a pioneer in Quantitative Venture Capital, a nascent field based on the convergence of equity crowdfunding, complexity economics and securities law reform.

  • strakaJA01

    I literally just read “The Power of Language” article! I completely agree @nick ahrens! It really is all about how you say something! You can make the nastiest of words sound nice with just the way you say them. Rafe, thank you for the tips! I will definitely use them! You are very right with your explanation of saying “should”. I think I say “should” too much in my life. I will pay more attention to it now. Do you have any techniques for remembering these 3 tips?

  • Kyle Schiedemeyer

    I couldn’t agree more with this article! This applies to me directly as an athlete. Mental strength on the football field is just as important as physical strength. If you are going against a team that is bigger, faster and stronger than you and before the game you convince yourself you’re going to lose anyways, you will. I am a firm believer in mental strength and mental training. I agree with you when you say, perception is everything because it is. You can control how you look at life, stay mentally strong and you will be a whole lot happier in life, and many more opportunities are going to present themselves. Thanks for sharing this information, great article!

  • Alexandra Helena Marie Nicolof

    This is an article that I should review frequently. Mindset is everything when it comes to accomplishments. It’s simple to fall into the pattern of saying “no” when we are stressed or feel like there isn’t much wiggle room in our schedule. I find myself guilty of telling myself “no,” when I become swamped with studies and work, so I’d like to take a gamble at what it’d be like to replace with a simple “yes!”

  • laurenkraft

    Thank you for sharing this article. I was curious as soon as I saw this articles’ title. I thought to myself what this could be about. I am happy I read this. I needed a pick me up and this sure helped. I liked that you shared these three simple skills. Yes I said simple, something so easy as to not saying no and by simply making time for someone could change your mood and theirs as well. it’s the little things in life. I will for sure try some of these skills. Especially the stop saying no one. What do you do when someone comes a second time around with an idea and you absolutely have no time. Do you still give them the chance?

  • Jessica Mendoza

    Love this article! it was short and straight to the point. These three cognitive skills can be life changing if I follow them. I am going to review this article frequently. This applies to my everyday life as a student and an athlete. Mind set is key when it comes to both things. My biggest problem out of all three of these skills is saying “should”. I say should WAY to much when I know I should. Saying should is comparable to second guessing myself. Thank you for writing this article! I am thankful that you explained these skills so that it can help me to use them in my every day life.

  • pinsolera

    Thank you for posting this article. I totally agree with the three points in this article because without being positive and constantly pushing yourself to be better, an individual will remain stagnant and become frustrated, or possibly quit. For those like me who are trying to do better in life, especially in sports and being an entrepreneur, this is article is for you.

  • Jansscor16

    This is a very good article, your advice is fantastic and something to think about. I saw a video (not sure when or where), but the gentleman tried not to have a schedule. When someone asked to set up a meeting, the gentleman always said “well what about now?”. That way if another person was to need him during the scheduled time he would have made, he would have been busy. Now he is open and available to help me. This of course may not work in all situations, but I thought it was something very cool and a different way to say “yes”. These are great points that we can pass on by doing them ourselves. I hope to put these into practice!!

  • This is such a good read! Thank you so much for sharing. I really like the first and second point. The way one delivers a message comes far more important than what was said in the message. I completely agree with everything said in this article. In my opinion, the first two points are some of the ways to effective and efficient communication. Thank you for sharing!

  • pinsolera

    Exactly, definitely agreed. Also, I believe that the first two points eliminate any excuses for not getting something done. If it is truly important, someone will eliminate “should”, no, and if to get matters taken care of.

  • treehugger90

    I agree eliminating should us a good idea because I catch myself using the word should too. It also sounds so much better when you don’t tell a person they should do something because then sometimes that specific person that’s saying they should do something, looks like a smart ass. I know I probably come off that way sometimes. I think eliminating should is a great suggestion!

  • Kait Harman

    Thank you so much for sharing. These concepts can be relatable and should be changed in every ones daily lives. I plan on being a future teacher and I have been told you should never tell children “no” or your wrong but explain or get them to dig deeper. How can not saying no help in other jobs?

  • Angela Hoch

    Howie, I also always have a tune playing in my head as well. I feel that music is my therapy and a way to unwind. It clears my head and allows me to get my creative side show as well.

  • Jake Eckhardt

    That’s great advice to get rid of “should” and replace no’s with yes’s. I hate when people tell me I should do something, and I know I’ve done it to other people as well. I also hate when people tell me no with no other details like when they will be available next.

  • Jake Eckhardt

    I agree. You’re not going to accomplish a damn thing with a defeatist attitude and believe you’re going to lose before you even take a step to accomplish something.

  • Kay

    I liked this article. I tend to say “should” to the others and myself. But every time someone tells me “you should do ~”, I feel like a little bit nervous, and it means that I make someone nervous when I say “you should do ~.” So, I’ll try not to say “should” to people around me.

  • Csayban

    I love these tips. I try to give others advice whenever I can. I realized after reading this that I always start with “you should”. I never thought about it sounding like I am telling someone what to do. I am definitely going to try and eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary. I have heard from many successful people to eliminate the word “No” I try my hardest at all times. This article is just another reminder of how important it is to keep an open mind and give everything a try.

  • Nathan

    Thanks! The best tip is the “should” one, everyone can try and eliminate that word. When people use the word towards my I usually don’t listen because I don’t need to hear what I “should” do. It will be very difficult to eliminate that word from my vocabulary and even more difficult to convince others too.

  • priperotti

    These are really great tips! I found that the first one is extremely important. I hate when people tell me what to do, specially when they don’t put it in nice words. I think you ca convince a person better giving them an “advice” rather than just telling them what to do and sound bossy.

  • ZecCepeidaConner

    Positivity is the tool that motivates and drives people to success. The right mind set will get you where you need to go and this article is perfect for helping you find that mindset.

  • Skowronssj06

    These are great skills that I can apply to my life! When you said to eliminate the world “should,” I just realized that I use that world a lot in my vocabulary, usually when procrastinating something. Or like you said when people tell what I “should” be doing. I think everyone gets annoyed when they are told what to do whether it’s the right thing or not. But by eliminating this word, it can change a lot- how people feel toward you and how you feel toward people. Keeping an open mind and practicing these skills can only help us as we grow.

  • Jessica White

    This is great advice. Think about the opportunities that you may have lost by saying no and how many opportunities you will gain just by switching that no to yes. Simply by saying yes is giving the opportunity to believe that things are possible isn’t it?

  • HelpHealth002

    Thanks for writing this article Rafe! I think these are great tips any future entrepreneur should read! I especially like the point you made about possibility. I agree that a lot of people will shove ideas off as ‘impossible’ and forget about them a minute later, when they could actually have a successful idea! If every inventor said their ideas were ‘impossible’, we wouldn’t be where we are today! Do you think part of the issue is the confidence a person has to make their idea a “possibility”?

  • Charles Fischer

    I like the article, it is similar to the don’t use the CAN’T word in the gym, it is a self fully, and a negative mind set. Take on a positive attitude and then you look at the glass half full not half empty.

  • BastarKm06

    I like this article a lot. If you think negatively, you will probably perform negatively. My softball coach always use to tell me “If you think you cant, then you’re right, you cant”. Your brain controls everything you do, so why not try and stay positive.

  • BastarKm06

    I completely agree. I hate when people tell me what I should do. Give me advice. Telling me what I should do makes them seem bossy and controlling. Advice is a way better way to go about it.

  • gaulrappkj17

    We are always trying to make our lives easier on ourselves. We are always looking out for ourselves and what will benefit ‘me’. We need to start thinking, and thinking hard. Because we seem to go through life as a fog, and so no to a lot of experiences that we really should be saying yes to.. I know, I just said should, but it is a mind game that we play. We need to want to do things, and sometimes we do not want to so it makes it harder.

  • Caroleigh Perkins

    Awesome advice! I never really thought about the word should and it’s negative impact. I like how you avoided saying no in your example in number two. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed and shoot down anything that comes your way, but that is risky because you could be missing out! Lastly I love the analogy of a cognitive workout! It’s easy to forget that people can do things to improve their thinking similar to how people can get bigger biceps by lifting weights.

  • AndreaOlsen22

    These three skills could change your life for the better. I know it may seem silly how a couple simple words and an outlook could be life changing, but it’s true. With the use of these skills, more opportunities will await you. The example in this article of replacing “No” with “Yes” shows us how we don’t have to accept an opportunity right there and then or on the spot. Learning how to not just say “no”, even if you’re pretty sure the certain opportunity isn’t for you, why not keep your options open? You never know if you’ll end up benefiting from it, or enjoy it, until you really sit down and think about it and maybe do some research. Asking the person tp check back with you in a few weeks is a good idea because once you have a better understanding what is asked of you, you can be sure about your response. And who knows maybe you have no other options available.

  • DuchAM21

    I really enjoyed reading these three tips. One thing that I want to work on is replacing “no’s” with “yes’s”. My schedule is so busy in college, it is so easy to blow people off, for “me” time, but really I could make extra time in my schedule. Life is all about connections and learning, and by saying “yes” more often, I think this could lead to a lot more opportunities that I would not regret later in life. Thanks for the tips, Rafe!

  • Tawni Meyer

    Ourselves can be a very big obstacle, bad habits of saying i cant do this and negative thoughts really build up and provide a downfall. For eample replacing nos with yes is realy important, and is a great step to overcome yourself.

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  • Erin

    These are great tips. I really liked the first one, taking “should” out of your vocabulary. I’ve never even thought about that and after reading about it I completely agree. I feel like I say I should do this or I should do that to myself all the time. And I also agree that it isn’t what you say but it is how you say it. The way you say something can completely change the context of what you are trying to say. Taking out saying no is also a great tip because any opportunity is helpful in some way. Whether it is was a learning experience or a life changing one.

  • Thumbs_up

    Again, those are great tips. It is true that most of people always try to improve their physical skills and usually forget about the mental ones. The positivism is something which I should try more. We never think that our words have so much power until we read something like this.

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  • Tyler Hebert

    Eliminating the word should in your vocab is a tough, but very smart thing to do. My high school coach always told me to do that and I never really took what he said and went with it, until I got to college. Talking about how you are going to do something instead of how you should be doing that shows confidence and yes, there is a possibility of failing, but confidence is key.

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  • Yaromil Olivares

    Rafe, thank you for this timely reminder. I try to listen for recurring phrases sneaking in to my vocabulary and try to examine their value or service to my growth. The mind is powerful and we can leverage it or feel disempowered by it.