Applying “HELL YEAH Or No”

Derek Sivers has a very short, very popular, and very timeless post entitled No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.”

The gist of it is:

When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

Derek discussed this in more detail in this great Tim Ferriss Show podcast if you’re interested in learning more about how he came up with this approach. He does mention that when you’re just starting out in your career this is not a great idea, that you should probably do the opposite: say yes to as many opportunities as possible because you never know what will come of them.

I’ve subscribed to Derek’s blog for years and had read that post before, but it wasn’t until after the Tim Ferriss interview that I really took it to heart.

I think I’m at that point in my career, and Detailed Image is at that point in it’s life as a business, that I (usually) know a good opportunity when I see one. We have a lot of good things in the pipeline, so we’re very cognizant of the opportunity cost of changing directions. There are things that I am super excited about doing to grow Detailed Image and Pure Adapt. Projects that I cannot wait to tackle. That’s where I want to spend my time.

So that, I think, makes total sense. It’s a great tactic to apply to your career if you’re in a good spot and you feel like you’re becoming too busy or overwhelmed.

What I’ve really found myself doing after listening to that talk with Derek though, is applying this to my personal life. It’s a variation of navigating the sunk cost fallacy. If a book, movie, podcast, article, video game, event, trip, vacation, etc etc doesn’t excite me, I opt out. That sometimes means stopping mid way, or flipping through a magazine I typically love like Wired without reading anything.

Here’s what I’ve found after doing this for a while: there’s ALWAYS something else interesting and exciting out there, so there’s no sense in wasting time on something that isn’t compelling or delightful or fascinating or provocative.

4 comments on Applying “HELL YEAH Or No”

  1. Tim says:

    Caveat – I did not listen to the Tim Ferriss podcast, just the original Derek Sivers piece.

    This is one that I struggle with, I conceptually get it, but it seems really selfish and narcissistic the more I think about it. I get it on the superficial level, not digging a book, don’t waste any more time, not feeling a song, click next… Makes sense.

    At the next level, I kind of get it on the business front, don’t dive into any truly new business that you don’t absolutely love, BUT the reality is for nearly everyone, even those who love what they do, they can’t apply this across the board without some sort of other huge consequence.

    On a personal level is where this fails for me, and has the most significant impact. Hypothetically, I don’t want to go see my wife’s family, not a “meh, I’m not sure” it’s a flat out “NO!” but that’s not something that will work without consequences far greater than dealing with going.

    This strategy paints a very black and white view on things, it’s either a plus or a minus, and depending on your mood at the time, that bar can move with you. If I truly didn’t give a shit about other people or was in my 20’s again (kind of the same thing now that I think about it) I’d say it could work. In reality, most everyone has commitments outside of what they want to do and saying no to anything else will almost certainly not fare well long term. The outliers who are wildly successful in their field can maybe pull it off, but the 99.999% of us who are not the elite, ultra successful, business tycoons may struggle with this if we have social/personal relationship with other humans.

    I don’t think it’s as simple as hell yes or no, even though I wish it were true.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      All fair points Tim. It’s certainly not a blanket tool to be applied to all decision making. I find myself thinking about it most when listening to podcasts or reading (especially books), as well as when I’m contemplating a new large work project vs all of the other great projects we already have lined up. Something new that just comes along has to really make me think “hell yeah, this is great for the business”, otherwise it’s not worth bumping other things. That’s just how I interpret it. I certainly don’t use it as an excuse to not do important business or personal things that I don’t feel like doing.

      • Tim says:

        I take things too literally sometimes, I struggle to separate things like this, as in the rule applies to one aspect of life but not the other, my brain lacks the ability to apply a rule with conditions like this. I’d just tell everyone hell no and become a lonely alcoholic 🙂 Which probably misses the mark of what Derek’s trying to accomplish.

        • Adam McFarland says:

          I’d just tell everyone hell no and become a lonely alcoholic 🙂

          Haha, I have to fight that urge myself sometimes. I’m naturally an introvert, I think that comes with the territory.

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