Say no to everything

Make time for exciting things by using the thumb rule of “Hell Yeah Or No”. Book by Derek Sivers.

Say no to everything
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

This week I finished reading a short book, “Hell yeah or no: What’s worth doing” by Derek Sivers. Well, the title kind of gives away the core message of the book. That is, we should say no to almost everything unless something is truly exciting. But it is a short book. So, I decided to read it end to end.

We want to do many things in our life. The problem is that we never have time to do them. Our time is consumed by doing the mediocre activities that are not truly exciting. Some of those things are not something that we hate doing, but are also not so great. These activities are hard to detect. It is not just limited to activities we do, but also applies to the people we spend time with. We spend far too much time with people that we don’t hate. This reduces the time we get to spend with the people we truly love and care about.

But there are things that are truly exciting. We have experienced them at some point of time. The problem is that we don’t find time to do them frequently. We don’t want to miss out on great things because we are busy with mediocre.

The solution is to use the thumb rule of ‘hell yeah or no’. Don’t agree to doing something just because you don’t hate it. Have higher standards. Say no to everything except the things that are truly great. This starts to free our time and mind. When we say ‘No’ to almost everything, it also makes our ‘Yes’ more powerful.

Although, Derek says that we should not use this strategy when we are starting out. We want to diversify our experience and get more exposure. So, in such cases, saying yes as a default answer might be a good strategy in such scenario. I relate it with the concept taught in Reinforcement Learning called, “The Explore-Exploit Dilemma”.

But what should we say yes to? How do we find the truly great things? How do we find what we are truly passionate about? Well, these are also hard to answer questions. There are many things we would love to do. Derek suggests asking a double negative question to get better answers. The question we should ask is: “What do I hate not doing?”. If we were to stop doing everything we love to do, what would we miss the most? This question might produce better answers than finding what we would love to do.

Another way to find exciting things is to look for things that scare us. Fear is a form of excitement. If we are scared to do something, we should do it. That would be exciting. Something we would really enjoy. It will also come with the side benefit of benign able to brag about overcoming our fears.

Finally, the third way to find our true passion is to do a mental exercise. Assume that we have enough money and fame (or social recognition). In that case, what we would do? Or what we would stop doing? This is a fun exercise. I did this as a part of my odyssey plan. If you don’t know what odyssey plan is, I suggest you to read my earlier blog: Lifestyle design with Odyssey Plan.

In the book, Derek has more tips on how to get things done after we find a list of exciting things to do. But the core message of the book was about filtering activities. We should know why we are doing something. The ‘hell yeah or no’ is a great filter for that.

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Quote: “The question you should be asking isn't, 'What do I want?' or 'What are my goals?' but 'What would excite me?'” ― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek