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

Going With Your Gut

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

Saying ‘no’ to opportunities is one of the hardest* things we face in life. (*Relatively speaking. Is it up there with facing cancer or a death in the family? No. But what we say yes and no to ultimately determine our paths in life.) But unbeknownst to most, saying ‘yes’ to EVERY opportunity is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable. Juggling is fun. Being stretched like a rope in a game of mud tug-of-war is not.

No — as hard as it can be in the moment — should be our default when it comes to giving away our time and resources. This requires sharp instincts and agile decision making skills which we can hone through practice and having clarity in what we want in life. If it’s not something that aligns with your goals, brings value (directly or indirectly) to you and others, or brings you joy and makes you feel alive, then no is the way to go. Sometimes that means making compromises and passing on good things.

But remember why you are saying no. You are passing on good things because you have great things lined up, or currently occupying your focus. (If you don’t, then saying yes to an opportunity that comes your way might be the best option for what you have to work with. Go with your gut.)

Call it what you will — sacrifices, opportunity costs, hedging, mitigation — great things require us to say no to a lot of fun good things.

Great things require us to say no to a lot of fun and good things.

Particularly when the fun / good things distract us from our true passions and goals we ultimately want (and would like) to say yes to.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner

Daily Blog #663

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Death By Opportunity

I’ve talked about how I️ went through some difficult failures and setbacks on a recent post here. My solution? When the world keeps slapping you with No’s, you start saying yes to opportunities.

Your No’s could be a job loss, a bad breakup, financial meltdown, health problems, crippling fears, burned bridges and everything in between.

It is Imperative to say YES to every* opportunity when you’re going through rough times and setbacks.

(* the exception being it’s a good opportunity, not a stupid opportunity that can get you killed, maimed, or worse)

How do we say yes to opportunity?

  1. Go out and look for it. It’s like when you want a particular car and then you start seeing that car everywhere — so too, with opportunities. You’re not going to find opportunities sitting alone in your room watching Netflix. Break up the mundane by going out and doing things you don’t normally do.
  2. Create it. Start building your idea muscle. Pitch ideas to business and friends. Taking classes in something you’ve always wanted to learn. Find groups and organizations you can join. Talk to people who do something you admire or would like to do yourself.
  3. Ask for it. There’s nothing wrong in seeking help, by that socially or professionally. In fact, asking for help will not only keep you sane, but it will also shorten the gap between having no opportunities and finding an abundance of opportunities. When I️ was feeling burned out, I️ asked my friends for advice. When I️ was going through some financial problems last year I️ ask friends if there were any work opportunities they knew about.

How can we expect something to happen if we don’t go out looking for it, asking for it and creating it? 

The closer we can align our mind with our actions the better our life will be.

However, when you’re life becomes less volatile, there is such a thing as too much opportunity. If you say yes to everything, regardless of whether it aligns with your values our not, you’re setting yourself up to overwhelmed. (dun dun daaaaaah)

Too much of a good thing will kill you.

Saying yes to more and more opportunities at once will split your time and attention into a million different directions and will keep you from doing what you’re passionate about.

When should I say yes, when should I say no?

I️ can’t tell you whether to say yes or no to a dancing opportunity versus a traveling opportunity. Ultimately, that decision is up to you based off what matters most to you. Once you choose, never look back. (Alternatively, sometimes there are ways to make both opportunities work if you can find a clever solution. It’s like Peter Diamandis says, “When given a choice – take both!”)

I️ can teach you one thing I️ learned recently from Kyle Maynard in Tim Ferriss’ book, Tribe of Mentors. Kyle is the best selling author, award-winning mixed martial artist, entrepreneur and ‘known for becoming the first quadruple amputate to reach the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Aconcagua without the aid of prosthetics.’

Here’s Kyle’s solution: 

“My biggest shift came after listening to a successful CEO talk about his philosophy of hiring people. When is the company grew and he ran out of time to interview people himself, he had his employees rate new candidates on a 1– 10 scale. The only stipulation was they couldn’t choose 7. It immediately dawned on me how many invitations I was receiving that I would rate as a 7 – speeches, weddings, coffee, even dates. If I thought something was a 7, there was a good chance I felt obligated to do it. But if I had to decide between a 6 or an 8 it’s a lot easier to quickly determine whether or not I should even consider it.”

When you’re facing an opportunity does it lean towards a 6, or an 8? Again, this is a fantastic way to make sure what you say yes to align with what actually matters to you. What does gut say?

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner