Yes Yes Yes No No No

When is an idea or decision worth saying yes to? I can think of 6 ways a decision can go:

1. Yes—I would love to do this.

For the majority of the time, these are the easiest decisions to say yes to. These are the decision’s we should say yes too, but there are quite a few situations that often make saying yes to what we love extremely difficult.

The first reason is bad timing, luck or lack of self-awareness — which I’ll discuss as #4.
The second reason being fear—which I’ll discuss as #5.

2. Yes — but you want to say no.

There are our most innocent and humbling decisions. Whether out of love, force, pity or magic, we agree, but would rather say no. As innocent as they appear, these types of decisions can quickly take over our entire lives. This the number one regret of the dying, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” It’s great to help others, but if you are only living your life by the expectations of what others want for you, you aren’t making decisions for yourself or living at all.

Sometimes we say yes, but don’t know we should have said no. This is tricky because now we’ve said yes and are beholden to that choice. If there’s an opportunity to get out of it, do it. There’s no sense wasting our time on something we clearly don’t want to do. But if you’ve backed a yes with your word and reputation, see it through. We never want to waste our time, but we also want to make sure our actions also align with our words.

There’s a version of this type of yes that I’ve personally experienced. (Well, I’ve experience all 6 of these types of decisions, but this one was a real doozie.) Sometimes when you say yes, but you don’t want to (or you eventually figure out you don’t) AND then you keep doing it anyway—out of fear or obligation etc.—then you are on a short unfortunate path to burnout. There are many flavors of burnout, but one of the surest ways to burn yourself out is to continuously do something you don’t want to do.

Eventually you hit a wall and you’re body forces you to stop. That’s what happened to me anyway. My body’s response was—“Oh, I see. You’re going to keep working at this even though you know we don’t want to? The Nerve of this guy. He think’s he’s the boss. We’ll show him whose the real boss around hear.” Don’t let yourself be steamrolled by a decision you don’t even like doing.

3. Yes — but your future self won’t.

These’s are also painful decisions, usually based around an event, agreement or project in the future. It sounds so lovely (and distant), but when the moment arrives you completely dread it to your core. Ugh! Why did I agree to this?!

The key is asking yourself what your future self would want to do. “If this thing (that I’m about to agree to) was tomorrow, would I still want to do it?

It’s great to plan for the future, but keep decision locked in the immediate.

4. No — but you want to say yes.

In essence, you wish you could say yes, but the timing isn’t right or you’ve already committed and said yes to another earlier opportunity. Decisions like these aren’t worth your time dwelling over. Stick with what’s in front of you, and keep learning about yourself and your dreams. The better we know ourselves, the more accurate we can be in our decision making.

5. No — not right now.

This is a slight variation of the last decision (#4) and again comes down to timing. There’s only so many things we can say yes too. There’s only so much time to go around. If the timing isn’t right, it’s better to say No—not right now. And try to revisit it later.

For me, there’s a million-billion things I want to learn and experiment on, but if I tried doing them all at the same time, I’d make no progress on anything (and likely go insane). This idea is often called your “not right now list”. A list of things you want to do or see, but right now you are prioritizing other things instead.

6. No — I’d rather get dirt.

Knowing when to say no might be the hardest decision of them all. But saying no is also the most exhilarating and uplifting decisions we can make. It’s easy to say yes. It’s easy to say yes to things we want to do AND don’t want to do. But it takes training and discipline to say no.

No free’s up our time.

No gives us room to think, dream and play.

No opens up more opportunities.

In a backwards, up is down, left is right sort of way, by pursuing less, we end up gaining more.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #875

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Related:

No “yes.” Either “HELL YEAH!” or “no.” | Derek Sivers

8 Ways to Say No Without Hurting Your Image | Adam Grant

Getting Results

“Superhuman effort isn’t worth a damn unless it achieves results.”

Ernest Shackleton

Baking is a very precise skill. If your math is off, it will likely be noticeable. The classic expression is “cooking is an art, baking is a science”. Honestly, you could argue that both cooking and baking are in some ways an art AND in other ways a science. But I’m not here to mince words. (…pun intentional.)

Decision making is also as much as an art as it is a science. I’d like to say that it’s as simple as actions equal results — if I do x, then y will happen — but life is rarely that binary.

Action is extremely important. Small decisions add up to uncomfortable truths or successful outcomes depending on the decisions we are making (or trending towards) over time. One tragic example is getting in with the wrong crowd and getting busted (often in life-changing ways) even though you technically didn’t do anything wrong. Guilty by association.

But there’s also a lot of other factors at play.

I could be the best painter in the world, but that doesn’t mean my work will sell. Painting is one skill; Selling is another. (Again both have an art and science to them.) There are hundreds of examples of creatives in history who only became renowned after they were long dead and buried. And there are likely a million other examples of unknown creatives who never sold anything and never become known for their work.

Great results are more about probability. The more you do x, the more likely y will occur, but you should never assume y is inevitable.

Q: What can you do to make the outcome you want more likely?

The key is stacking the deck as much as you can in your favor. In Thinking in Bets, Annie Duke, American Professional Poker player breaks down decision making as the result of a great process, and “improving decision quality is about increasing our chances of good outcomes, not guaranteeing them.”

Does that stop luck, (mis)fortune and other people’s decisions from sweeping in and creating a negative outcome? No. Ultimately these things are not in our control. However, by “making better decisions starts with understanding this: uncertainty can work a lot of mischief.” If we expect the unexpected from the get-go, we will be more likely to think quickly on our feels and improv our way through unexpected events.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #865

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Questions for Important Decisions:

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Important decisions usually don’t come with a whole lot of time to think about them. Going with our gut is always the better move, but knowing what your gut is saying is not always easy. The mind gets in the way.

It takes true courage to say no to a great opportunity. Every opportunity we have the chance to take is always a mix of hard work, timing and chance. Take two opportunities, but in an equal amount of hard work, and one will fail because of chance and the other will success because of chance. That’s why it’s important to follow our instincts. We might fail, but at least we followed who we are. Failure hones instinct just as sharp (if not more so) than success does.

Here are some questions we can ask to prompt an gosh darn honest response from ourselves:

Would I want to do this if it started tomorrow?


Does this align with my values and dreams?


Does this benefit everyone, or is this one sided?


If money needs were met, would I say yes to this?


If I say yes, what other things do I have to say no now? (Or what am I giving up by saying yes and is it worth it?)


Would my childhood self be proud if I did this?


Does this give me what I need, while also tickle my curiosity?


Take one or two you find useful. Or let these spark your own questions.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #708


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The Default Option

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.”

Chauncey Depew

Decisions are never easy. Even the ones we have certainty and conviction on can still leave us with doubt and uncertain in the back of our mind. ‘Is this a good idea?’ ‘Should I really do this?’ ‘But what if I fail?’ There’s very little certainty in creativity and life.

But there is one thing I’m certain about: The default option is never a great idea.

Defaulting is deciding not to decide. It’s meeting a fork in the road and deciding to do nothing. Sometimes, deciding to do nothing can work out in our favor. Being Switzerland (neutral) and not taking a side in other people’s conflicts has its benefits. However, when it comes to decisions that will personally affect our lives, staying inactive is not a great idea.

Doing nothing is also a decision. It leaves the outcome to chance, or worse — other people’s desire for what our life should be, without considering what we personally want our life to be. There’s little upside to non-decisions in life. The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action and potential failure.

Do we want to do nothing and get nowhere, or do we want to try something and possibly fail or embarrass ourselves? I think I’d rather embarrass myself than hold myself back from who I am or the dreams I’m pursuing.

Default is an option we can make. The question is do we really want to live our life in default mode?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #699


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Smarty Pants – 4 – yes, no, or not right now

Being Brilliant is knowing when to say yes, no, or not right now+

I can’t tell you what you should say yes, no, or not right now to.
I can’t tell you because the answer is tailored to you.
Your answer depends on who you are, and who you want to be.
Your answer is up to you to decide, not me.

Others can give you advice (and is a smart thing to ask for), but you have to make the call.

I can’t tell you to take the job, or date the hottie, or make the purchase. I can give you advice, but it’s up to you to whether to take it or not.

This is about making decisions – BIG or small – branches in your path of life.

Unless you can see into the future, you’re not going to know if it’s the right decision until way later. Hindsight’s 20/20.

However, I can tell you what not to do. 
Don’t make indecision your answer. Don’t say maybe, or whatever, or I don’t care.

Remove Maybe and Whatever from your vocabulary.

If a yes and a no had a baby, it would be a maybe. 
A maybe is letting someone else make the decision for you. They’re pushing who they are – good or bad – onto who you are.

Indecision is the answer you don’t want

because it takes you away from the path you want (even if you are unsure of where that may be)

I made a bad decision of picking where I went to college. I didn’t know what I wanted so I let someone else choose for me.
Good or bad (honestly both), I am where I am because of that.

Even if you’re not sure what you should do, a yes or a no will get you somewhere else, whether that’s somewhere important is determined by if you listen to your true self or not.

For every decision, you must make, remember to pause and respond with yes, no, or not right now.

#KeepPursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

‘Brevity is the soul of wit.’  Email me your thoughts on this post. Can you reduce the essential idea further?

related wisdom

“Maybe! Maybe! Maybe if your aunt had a beard, she’d be your uncle.” — Alvah Bessie

 

“A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.” — Grantland Rice

 

“Saying ‘yes’ to one thing means saying ‘no’ to another. That’s why decisions can be hard sometimes.” — Sean Covey

 

“Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the furthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness: a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say ‘no.’ But saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow.  — Stephen Colbert