It's a Hell Yes! or a Hell No! is a catchphrase that emerged from the Tim Ferris podcast with Derek Sivers in 2015. The quote immediately stuck with me, and I took it into my set of core principles. Whenever there are tough decisions to be made, it triggers me to think of this saying and include it in consideration.
The principle has its light and dark sides, and I'd like to describe both in this blog article briefly.
The essence of "Hell Yes! or Hell No!" is not to do things half-baked.
For me, it's often in situations where I have employees or startups pitching their ideas and products. Quite often, some pitches are not wrong and where I intellectually understand the sense and logic of the concept, but I find it hard to categorize it correctly and find an approach to get it started. My gut feeling is in the nirvana between yes and no. And since I don't want to disappoint my counterpart, I often end up with a half-baked yes.
This does not have to be bad per se because there is the chance to clarify the open points of conviction in the following steps - something valuable could come out of it. In reality, however, it is often the case that topics with only a half-clear yes ultimately peter out.
"It's a either a Hell yes or a Hell no"
The Hey yes or hell no principle triggers me in these instances to make a conscious decision: Do I want to give a pitch a chance or not? And I make myself clear that my "Hell yes" means a commitment of my time, energy and resources and that I will contribute to the topic until it is up and running. The Hell no, however, means I don't give it another thought anymore.
The "hell no" can seem very harsh, but if you receive a clear no, that's also a good thing: you know where you stand! I once read in a negotiation book that it is an excellent tactic to turn a half-yes into a clear no first so that you have a solid starting point to develop the no into a yes. The naysayer then has less emotional pressure and a sense of obligation and accepts logical arguments more openly.
From an organizational perspective, half-baked yes can become a real productivity quagmire. Over time, change ideas accumulate that are half-dead and half-alive. Like Dutch riders, they keep coming up but are never decided or implemented. "Somebody ought to do/decide something!" is what people like to call in these situations. This paralyzes an organization enormously, especially when defending existing business (from disruption by new market players) or developing new business areas, conditions where an actual change is indispensable.
"It's a either a Hell yes or a Hell no" should not mean that nothing new is tried and explored.
There is the danger of a fallacy attached to this core principle. If you took the saying too literally, you would never try anything new!
Because: you will only have a hell yes in your head to things where you know from experience that they work. The experience may come from other contexts or combinations, but it's something you've seen or done before. This means that if you don't have a clear no in your head, you will always have a half-clear yes in your head at first, with everything new and unfamiliar. If you take the "Hell Yes! or Hell No!" too literally, you would have to choose the "Hell no" and reject the new and unfamiliar. In this way, however, you will never develop further and remain in the status quo.
Therefore, it's essential to understand that a half-baked yes doesn't imply an immediate no-decision but rather that you consciously consider whether you can/want to invest the effort (time, willpower, and resources) to turn the half-yes into a clear yes or a clear no.
If you keep this in mind, this core principle can become an essential tool in your mindset toolbox and help you live a more straightforward life where semi-decided topics don't slow you down like glue.
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