If you’re not saying HELL YEAH about an opportunity, say NO.

I learned this decision-making heuristic from Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. 

I returned to New Zealand in 2020 after living in Nth America for almost 12 years and adopted the HELL YEAH rule as my filtering mechanism for considering inbound opportunities and invitations e.g.

  • Attend a meeting?
  • Take a 30-minute phone call?
  • Catch up for coffee?
  • Attend an event?
  • Give a talk? 
  • Collaborate on a project?
  • Write another book?
  • Get involved with a startup?
  • Take on a new consulting client?
  • Help a company solve a problem that is slightly outside my core expertise?

There is always an opportunity cost, even for small commitments. Whenever you spend time or money committing to something, you lose the opportunity to spend that time or money doing something else.  

I’ve always liked this quote attributed to Warren Buffett, “The difference between successful people and very successful people, is that very successful people say NO to almost everything.”

That’s all well and good, but how do you figure out what to say NO to?

Start by creating a clear set of Core Values to guide your decision-making. You probably have core values for your company, but have you created the same for your personal life? 

It helps to rank your personal values in priority order. For example, my #1 personal value is “Health and family come first”. This filter makes many things easy for me to say NO to.

I also created a “User Manual” to let colleagues and clients know my personal preferences in a work context.

The trickier decisions are when there are significant potential upsides to an opportunity and my FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in. That’s where the HELL YEAH filter really helps me. An opportunity may seem financially or socially attractive, but is it a HELL YEAH? 

Using this filter, I’ve been saying NO a lot more and saying it faster. It’s very liberating. I think it’s more respectful to the other party too. A firm but polite “No thank you”​ is a kinder way of responding to an invitation than a weak “Maybe?”, or “I’ll think about it” in my opinion.

I try to imagine the baseball batter analogy: I don’t want to swing at every pitch that gets thrown my way. I’d rather wait for a perfect ‘fat pitch’ in the middle of the strike zone and then swing for the fences. 



Until next time…