Highly Successful People Don’t Decide Between Yes and No

by Dec 15, 2019Leadership

When most of us are faced with making a decision in business or in our personal lives, we tend to frame it within a context of yes versus no, and that’s a huge mistake.

When most of us are faced with making a decision – in business or in our personal lives – we tend to frame it within a context of: yes versus no. It seems pretty straightforward, right? You ask yourself if you should do it or you shouldn’t and then, whichever way you’re leaning, you make your decision.

I admit this is how I went about making decisions – at least until recently. That’s when I read Tim Ferriss’s new book, Tools of Titans. One of the lessons Tim shares in the book comes from a conversation he had with the entrepreneur Derek Sivers about how they make decisions differently than the rest of us.

The lesson I learned from Tim and Derek is that life is short. Not only do we not have enough time for everything we want to do, our lives quickly get cluttered with plenty of other things we don’t really want to do. That’s because we say yes to things too easily. But how can you make more time for the things you are excited about at the expense of those you’re less enthusiastic about?

The key is to reframe how you make your decisions. Rather than using a scale of yes or no, reframe the decision in a way where you either think – Hell yeah! or No. And if it isn’t a Hell Yeah!, it’s a No.

For example, I was invited to participate in a big game fishing tournament off the coast of Cabo San Lucas where prizes are awarded for catching giant marlin and sailfish and the profits are used to fund cancer research. The catch is that I am not a fisherman. Plus, the trip would be expensive and I’d have to take a lot of time off from work. But when I thought about whether I wanted to accept the invite, I quickly arrived at – Hell yeah I want to do this! Who wouldn’t want to catch a giant Marlin (at least once in life)? I was so energized by the idea of the trip, that the decision was an easy one.

Contrast this with another decision I made before I read Tim’s book. I had been asked to accept a leadership position at a non-profit that I like. I was really lukewarm about taking on that level of commitment, but I really respected the people who were asking me to take on the new role. So, I debated whether to accept the offer and I ultimately accepted. Big mistake.

While I served my role as promised, it hasn’t been a very fulfilling experience for me because I was never 100% excited about it. I just wasn’t great at it and feel like it has sapped me of energy instead of creating it within me. I was not the best version of myself. But when my term came up, I was asked to stay on for another year in the same position. I bet you can guess what my answer will be: No! While I hated to leave an organization I love, I had an immediate increase in energy when I decided to leave it.

While the concept of saying no to anything that doesn’t qualify as a Hell yeah! The decision may seem simple – it’s also profound. Think about someone who is debating whether they should spend the rest of their life married to someone else. Do you think they should say yes to someone that gives them a pause of doubt versus a Hell yeah! I want to marry you.

This is also a great tool for making decisions in your business. Whether you’re deciding on whether to hire someone, introduce a new product, or expand into a new geography, your answer should be no, unless it’s an obvious Hell yeah! decision.

This definitely also applies if you’re looking to sell your business – which can be one of the toughest decisions any entrepreneur faces. If you find yourself wavering on the decision, then the solution should be obvious: just say no. On the other hand, if you get an attractive offer where the price is right and you love the culture of the company making the offer and you’re feeling in your gut – Hell yeah! – then pull the trigger.

I challenge you to try this new tool out right away and see how it changes your life and the way you make your decisions. I’ll bet that you’ll find yourself in more situations that you’re excited about with few regrets to show for it.