Hell Yeah or No

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The title of this post isn't an original thought on my part. Author and blogger Derek Sivers coined the phrase, and you can find the original post from 2009 here. He also wrote a book with the same title, and maybe I'll do a book review on it in the future.

I learned about this motto from one of my favorite podcasters and bloggers, Tim Ferriss. Although the podcast is mainly about cryptocurrency, you can jump to time stamp 1:41:06, where his guest Katie Haun talks about how she applies the "Hell Yeah or No" motto.

So the idea is old, it's not mine, and plenty of bloggers since 2009 have already written something on this motto. So why write about it now?

The "okay" opportunities

"Hell Yeah or No" is pretty simple: If you're not 9 out of 10 excited about a decision in front of you to say "Hell yeah, let's do it!", then the answer to that opportunity is "No, let's pass on it."

The problem with opportunities isn't choosing between the good ones and the bad ones. We're pretty good at sussing out the bad options and appropriately saying  "No" to those.  For example, you find a high-stress, low-paying job opening; or see a sketchy Facebook Marketplace post for a used car; or maybe your financial "advisor" is selling you an investment that seems too good to be true. We sniff these out for what they are, politely say no, and move on with our day. The real and more difficult decisions to make are on the "okay" opportunities. These are the safe bets with a decent likelihood of a good outcome. But you're not 9 out of 10 excited to take these opportunities on.

The problem with these safe bets is that we have limited time, energy, and attention.  Let's call these resources, and, like with most resources, we're limited in what we have.  If we spend all of our time, energy, and attention resources on just the safe bets, just the "okay" opportunities, we'll be so busy with these that, when a real opportunity comes around - a "Hell Yeah!" kind - we'll have to pass on these things that we really want to do.

Say "no" to almost everything

The way to get more "Hell Yeah" opportunities: Say no to almost everything. Don't get caught up with the workaday busyness. Go back to your Eisenhower matrix and make sure you're working on only the important things in your life. Outsource, automate, avoid, or get super-efficient on the rest. Do as little as needed on the things you have to do but aren't "Hell Yeah" things and say no to the rest. Saying no more often will give you the time and space to make sure you're working on those "Hell Yeah" opportunities.

A caveat

Now one of my children subscribes to my blog, and I need to add two caveats. First, let me be clear: The language of this blog post is inappropriate. You can also say, "Heck Yeah." Second, when you're starting out, you actually want to say "Yes" to lots of things. This gives you experiences and opens up other opportunities because we don't know what the future holds. Eventually, something will stick, and this sticky thing will be our "Hell Yeah" opportunity, but we have to get there first by trying out lots of different things.

Write your own script

I'm starting my own business. This is my "Hell Yeah" opportunity. As unknown as entrepreneurship is, I'm excited about the prospect of business ownership and optimistic about the future. The work of starting up, figuring out my offering, and finding that first, paying client is exciting and energizing. That energy makes it easy for me to work on my "Hell Yeah" opportunity.

After 20 years of government service, the script for many after the military is to get a handful of certificates, throw it on your resume, call yourself a project manager, and then get that government civilian or government contractor job. It's a tried and true path with thousands of retirees before me being successful and making it work. And sure, I fit the mold and can follow that script; but it's not for me.

So with each government job opportunity, the answer is "No." (But not "Hell no," because the smart move is to have a fallback position.) Right now, I'm writing my own script and taking my "Hell Yeah" opportunity.


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