What is a ‘Yes’?

“It is very important to know who you are. To make decisions. To show who you are.”

Malala Yousafzai, Activist

I’ve been learning some Solidity lately, which is a C++, Javascript type language for making smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. Once you start dipping your toes into the cryptocurrency shallow pool, you quickly start getting into some deep philosophical questions, like “What is money really?” and “What is value?”

Money is a transaction of value. It’s a collective idea that drives economic systems. Why do we want colorful paper in our slim wallets or digits on a website held by an entity humanity calls “banks”. Food, clothing, shelter, nice things, sure. But really money is time. When you have enough to sustain the lifestyle you want, you have the freedom and flexibility to pursue what you find meaningful and fulfilling. That depends heavily on your environment and the kind of lifestyle you can (want) to afford.

If you think about it, decisions are a type of currency too.

Every ‘yes’ given to someone or some task is a value transaction. A ‘yes’ is a time commitment to something you or who you are saying yes to values. That could be saying yes to a job you love (or yes to a job you hate or are reluctant about). That could be saying yes to a new project or to a coffee date or business event. Each ‘yes’ takes time to do. The amount time varies, but there’s a cost to every yes.

Decisions are a type of currency.

Sometimes the cost is worth it because of what you get out of it. For example, putting in consistent time for exercising pays dividends on your health, happiness, and energy. But if you backtrack, or flake after saying yes, then you get slapped with a ‘ convenience fee’ on your reputation.

No’s are like savings or investment accounts for your time. Every ‘no’ leaves you more time down the road for ‘yes’. This could be saving for better yeses, or temptations of mediocre ‘yeses’.

This is why it’s vital to be intentional about our decisions. Making bad calls inevitably happens, but the more we are intentional about our time, the more valuable our time can be.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing — Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1290

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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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