Mental Model

In the early stages of life, it’s good to say “yes” as often as you can to expand your perspective and gain experience. But as a successful, driven person there will come a time when choice and saying yes consumes you. You live a life of the trivial many and not the important, meaningful few. Say “no” to everything until it’s a “hell yeah”.


Many of us are conditioned to be kind and helpful to others with a bias to say “yes”. We want to please and not disappoint them. We can often find ourselves in scenarios when at the moment it’s easier to say “yes’ than feel the discomfort of saying “no” to a person. The issue is that by saying “yes” to something we are simultaneously saying “no” to something else. Our time and energy have limited capacity.

Reaching our full potential in life is saying “yes” to things that align with our top goals and the person we are seeking to become.

Warren Buffett states this one simple habit separates successful people from everyone else:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything. Life is full of choices, and there have been plenty of times where I was undecided after a lot of analysis. If you can’t decide, say NO.

As you gain success in your career, a superpower will be your ability to say “no” to almost everything. This will free up your mind and time to focus on the activities that align with your career plan and realize the highest impact. The day-to-day opportunity cost of things you said “yes” compounds over time.


1 – Document Your Criteria For Saying No.

Write down the conditions and scenarios that you will say “no” to.

Internalize this list to condition your mind to easily so no.

Use this list with stakeholders to de-personalize the “no” message and maintain the relationship.

2 – Use Space and Time Before Saying Yes.

In a negotiation, delaying a decision rarely has repercussions.

Recognize it’s a bad situation when people are pressuring you to say “yes”.

Calmly tell people that you need space and time to think about the decision.

3 – Say No to Almost Everything

Use “no” as your standard response to prevent people from manipulating you for their personal gain or agenda.

Say “no” when you are undecided.

Life is too short for mediocre experiences.

Experiment With This

  • Write down your criteria for saying “yes” to something. These are generally specific to specific areas of our life such as accepting a job, being in a relationship, etc. Clarifying in advance makes the decision process easier, non-emotional or personal to who is asking for the request.
  • We can be trapped into saying “yes” because it’s far in the future or we do not want to hurt a relationship. What is something that I recently said “yes” to that I now regret?
  • Are there people in my life that strongly influence me to say “yes” to things that are not in my best interest? If so, what changes are needed to ensure I am protecting my well-being?


Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday (Part III – Say No)

Hell Yeah Or No: What’s Worth Doing by Derek Sivers (Chapter: Saying No)

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson (Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No)

Diana Chapman — How to Get Unstuck, Do “The Work,” Take Radical Responsibility, and Reduce Drama in Your Life (#536) – The Tim Ferris Show (Listen to the content on the “full-body yes”)