The Flip Side of “HELL YEAH!” Or No – How About “HELL WHY NOT!”


“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world.

How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.”
– Jodi Picoult

Derek Sivers is no longer saying “yes” to projects he’s only sort of interested in – it’s either “HELL YEAH” or “no.” Now that’s a mantra to live by -“HELL YEAH” or “no.”

Do what you love.

Work on projects you believe in.

Be passionate about everything you do – and don’t commit to anything you aren’t prepared to fully throw yourself into.

His philosophy is simple, and I love it because it falls in line with my latest push to let go of some commitments.

Before applying it to every decision, though, I want to discuss why Derek Sivers undertook this new philosophy and then consider this – does this philosophy lead us to pass up opportunities we really should be saying “yes” to?

Where It All Began – Why “HELL YEAH” or “no”?

The whole premise of “HELL YEAH” or “no” is Sivers has “taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.”

The specific example he used was three conferences that were going to require 12 days of his time, along with expensive flights and hotel stays.  After initially committing to these conferences, he later realized wasn’t that excited about attending them. My read of his analysis was as follows:

  • He had signed up for three conferences and “had said yes to all of them out of habit or obligation” (“yes”). He later realized he was not completely enthusiastic about attending, and that they were going to suck up valuable time and money for him to be there.
  • He had another project he was passionate about and really wanted to work on (a “HELL YEAH”)
  • He found time for his project by canceling his attendance at said conferences (“no”)

Laid out like this, I agree with his analysis and can see the reasoning behind his actions.

When Is “HELL YEAH” or “no” Appropriate – And When Is It Not?

If you’re busy, overwhelmed with commitments and have trouble finding a moment to breathe in your jam-packed day – then I absolutely agree you should ask yourself whether that new project is a HELL YEAH.

If you’ve already got a ton of things going on, there’s no reason to commit to yet another project if you’re not passionate about it – there’s no way you’ll find time for it.

On the other hand, if your time is not being utilized at a high rate, before using HELL YEAH (or a lack thereof) as a determining factor, ask yourself – am I going to do something productive with the time I save by not taking on this project, or is this just a cop out?

You don’t have to say yes to everything that comes your way – but I would at least consider dipping your toes in if you don’t have a better option.

Don’t Write It Off Just Because You Don’t Think It’s A HELL YEAH

I don’t advocate everyone attempting to do everything – but I do think it’s important to choose to live your life.  We do a great disservice to ourselves when we shut out opportunities, just because we assume we would not be interested in them.  I have a number of personal examples, and I’ll share a few.

When I first started running, it wasn’t a HELL YEAH – it was just something I tried out for a couple weeks. Now for years I have run 3-6 times a week and love using it as an excuse to take a break from my computer to go get some air – and inspiration.

When I first started developing software as a hobby, it wasn’t a HELL YEAH – it was just be fooling around with some code and programming. That led to me majoring in Computer Science, earning a Master’s degree in Computer Science, and having a successful career as a software engineer where I’ve met incredibly intelligent people and been part of some amazing projects.

In fact, just about every important hobby in my life from guitar to yoga to weight training started out as something I had a small interest in, and grew into being a part of who I am.

If you want to really consider what might never have been, you might be interested to know that even Steve Wozniak, Steve Job’s cofounder, didn’t initially want to leave HP to start Apple:

“…I told Mike and Steve that I wouldn’t leave HP,” recalls Woz. “My love wasn’t starting a company and making money, it was designing computers and writing software. Things I could do without a company. I loved HP and wanted the greater job security. Steve went into a frenzy and had my relatives and friends call me and convince me that it was OK to start a company and just be an engineer.”

The Flip Side To HELL YEAH – Time For HELL WHY NOT

So, don’t commit to projects when you can’t do them justice – and if you are overwhelmed, then I think a “HELL YEAH” or “no” analysis is the right choice for you.  Until you get to the point where you simply cannot spend even a few moments trying something new, however, I say ask yourself instead:


  • “Hey, want to meet up for some coffee?” “Oh, well I’m kind of in the middle of some things…HELL WHY NOT, sure I’ll come.”
  • “Hey, let’s go check out this band I like.” “It’s really not my thing…HELL WHY NOT it’s just a concert.”

If you don’t have a HELL WHY NOT, maybe it’s time for you to start saying yes.

Even if it is just a meek yes.

Even if it is just a “let’s see where this goes” yes.

You never know what opportunities are passing you by – so grab them when they come your way and see where they take you.

Share This?