Muscle for life

If It’s Not a “Hell Yeah!” It’s a “Hell No!”

If It’s Not a “Hell Yeah!” It’s a “Hell No!”

Our time is too limited. Our life too short. Why waste either with people or work or activities or even entertainment that are less than fantastic?

I know that sounds cliched, but seriously. Why?

If the thought of taking that job or going on that next date or learning that instrument doesn’t make you want to push all your chips into the middle, then why bother? If you’re not sprinting out of the gate, how far do you really think you’re going to get before you run out of steam?

Too many people embroil themselves in lukewarm relationships and pursuits and wonder why they’re never excited or fulfilled. Or they betray their personal sense of the fantastic and try to feed their egos or live up to someone else’s tastes or standards and are equally disappointed.

Here’s a lesson I learned early and well:

If you want to save yourself all kinds of trouble, avoid all half-hearted commitments.

This means saying “yes” to less, and it makes all the difference.

If you want to wake up excited every day, then search out jobs, partners, activities, and pursuits that make you say “hell yeah!”

Anything else is a no.

It’s not hard to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn when you know you’re going to spend the majority of your time doing things that turn you on with people that fire you up.

This binary approach to living makes you weigh your options more carefully and inevitably helps you make better long-term decisions. It means less groping, worrying, fighting, and crying, and it helps you achieve a calm, quiet type of confidence that can only come from living in harmony with yourself.

The Rule of Hell Yeah also helps you with what I like to call “strategic quitting.”

Quitting anything comes with a stigma because we generally see quitters as weaklings and losers. Quitting out of laziness or fragility or fear is one thing, but sometimes quitting a person or path is the right play. Thomas Edison had to test and scrap over 10,000 ideas before he could get the lightbulb to work the way he wanted. Much of life is trial and error.

The key to quitting like a winner is knowing when it’s time to bail and then doing so as quickly as possible–before you get too mired in a relationship or situation that is going to be forever cold, windy, and gray.

And when is it time to bail?

When you know, with certainty, that, on the whole, the undertaking in question simply isn’t going to wow you. Sometimes your conception of someone or something makes you say “hell yeah” but reality doesn’t match up. It happens. And it’s a good reason to move on.

For example, earlier this year I decided to take up learning another language. I didn’t really care which and as my wife is German, that was an obvious choice. Several factors made this a “hell yeah” for me: the mental challenge, the ability to speak with my wife and her family in their language, the opportunity to raise my son in a bi-lingual home, and the simple desire to be able to do something slightly unusual and cool.

I attacked the project vigorously, spending upward of 1 to 1.5 hours per day doing German audio courses while I drove, cooked food, walked my dogs, did cardio, etc. Every day I looked forward to my next lesson and things were rolling along smoothly.

Once I had about 100 hours of coursework done, I started to notice that my general understanding of the language was decent but my vocabulary was severely lacking. I simply couldn’t speak about anything I actually cared about and the courses I was doing all seemed to cater to tourists (I don’t care where the damn tour guide is or what time the restaurant closes).

I carried on and spent another ~200 hours making it through two extensive German learning programs, doing and redoing several lessons until I had it all perfect, and I still had the same problem: decent grammar and comprehension skills with a shallow vocabulary.

At this point I had to reassess my situation. I had put in a few hundred hours of attentive, diligent work and I didn’t feel anywhere close to the type of fluency I was looking for when I started. I was spending a LOT of time that could be spent on a different high-value activity like working through my “to-read” list, which is 90% work-related non-fiction titles that help me better do my work and live a better life, and it was now clear that reaching my original goal of speaking German fluently was going to require a new approach and another large chunk of time.

Once I weighed all the factors, learning German was no longer a “hell yeah” activity. It was going to take too much additional time away from more valuable activities, so I dropped it.

Do I regret quitting or the time “wasted”? Absolutely not. Since quitting I’ve gotten back to my preferred reading pace of 1 to 1.5 books per week, the learning experience was still enjoyable, and I now can have simple German conversations with my family, including my son. And if I want to have another go at the goal of conversational fluency, I know exactly what I will need to do (and what not to do).

I worked hard, did well, and earned my hall pass. I played it with a clear conscience and new insights into how to best go about learning other languages.

This is how I try to approach everything in my life. I turn down business opportunities that don’t excite me. I don’t hang out with people that bore me. I drop books and TV shows that don’t wow me.

If I don’t rate something a 9 or a 10, I rate it 1 and want nothing to do with it.

This might sound a bit cutthroat, but the net effect is I spend the majority of my time doing things that truly interest me with people that truly matter to me. And if that isn’t a recipe for happy living, I don’t know what is.


What are your thoughts on the ? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


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  • Dusty

    Mike, I saw once where you said you were using the Pimsleur audio course for German and didn’t really like it (I tried the Spanish for a while and didn’t like it either). Later you mentioned the book “Fluent Forever”, just curious how did that turn out?

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I went through all of Pimsleur’s German courses and was disappointed with the vocabulary they teach. Very tourist oriented.

      I found Fluent Forever after and have tinkered with it that’s exactly how I would approach it should I want to take it back up. It aligns much better with the type of fluency I wanted to achieve. Wish I would have known about it in the beginning, haha. 🙂

  • T

    I’m going to start applying the Rule of Hell Yeah! Love it.

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! 🙂 Glad you liked the article.

  • Brian Farner

    Mike, thanks for the insight and the perfect timing. I am readying your book “Awakening your Inner Genius” and thoroughly enjoying it! Thanks for continuing to share your inner genius!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Brian!!

  • Helen

    Hi Mike, I stumbled across this whilst searching for something else, but was intrigued by your articles. It is great how you respond to comments. I’m doing a 30 day challenge with some Facebook friends, just to get into a habit of consistency, which has been my undoing in previous weight loss attempts.

    I like the simplicity of the hell yeah/hell no test.

    I had a question about your fasting training – will a small protein shake do as an initial substitute for BCAA before my morning walk/run?

    On the language learning, now that you have your grammar structure and the language has ceased to sound like one long incomprehensible word (although German is in fact full of long incomprehensible words) there are a few things which can help build your vocabulary and comprehension. The first is reading a daily newspaper in the language – I find the pictures can often help with the context plus you will see the repeating patterns of sentence structure etc. The next is watching a German news program on TV, similar to the newspaper approach. The last is reading a novel in the language. You will need a dictionary handy for the start, but you would be amazed at how quickly your vocabulary improves.

    Anyway, off for day three of my Facebook group challenge!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Helen! Cool on the challenge!

      Whey will break the fasted state. Check this out:


      Those are great tips and my wife has told me the same. I was just hoping I could reach my goal with audio alone because I didn’t want to take time at night away from my work and other reading, haha.

      • Helen

        Lol. There’s nothing like having a conversation in a foreign language you’ve learned though. I speak about 4 and am learning Spanish at the moment, so I understand the crankiness when you put all this work into learning the basics and still can’t order a coffee!

        • Michael Matthews

          I can totally see that. You’re inspiring me to get going again. 🙂

  • Mike

    Fantastic..can take a bit of courage to live this way, but so worth it. Right on time as I am considering dropping a contract with a client that frankly is exhausting me. I can spend the time on something that excites me. I had that excited feeling at one point and I know we accomplished the goals we set out to. There are seasons in life for relationships and purposes of any kind. I think the unsettled spirit is God’s way of trying to redirect us to the best in life.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Mike and I agree that life seems to move in “seasons.” Hinduism expressed it nicely: student, then family & social duty, then seeker of truth.

  • Steve


    Great article and as far as the German goes Alles Gute fur die Zukunft

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Steve! 🙂

  • Roy Moreno

    You have Wise Perception. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. As for learning German, may I suggest writing down a sentence or two and letting your wife help you. I bet it would be a blast and like you said, Trial and Error.. Keep up the Awesome work you are doing.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Roy!

      Yup that’s going to be the way to go. Along with the Fluent Forever method.

  • Ivan Stipetić

    Brilliant article, one of the best to finish a great year for Muscle for Life, you are becoming one of my role models. Keep on going in 2015!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ivan!

  • Atila

    Hi Mike!

    Could you share your to-read list? It would be very nice.

    Nice vibes from Brazil!

  • Nathan Hanak

    Mike, did you happen to see this article? http://markmanson.net/fuck-yes . Yours is the PG version.

    Though I’m not sure I can totally agree with this one. When I started dating my GF, it definitely wasn’t a “hell yes”. It wasn’t anything about her, but rather just where I was in my life, I wasn’t ready for a relationship for a few personal reasons. I had actually read Mark’s article and seriously considered ending it for a while. But I didn’t, I decided to let it ride and just take it slow to see where it went, and re-evaluate later. A year and a half later, it is easily the healthiest, relationship I’ve had to date. Things between us blossomed and I’m glad I stuck it out through my indecision for a while, the reward was pretty great!

    • Michael Matthews

      Yup that’s the article that gave me the idea!

      That’s great with your relationship. I don’t pretend to be a love expert so I’m not sure how good Mark’s dating advice is but I liked the concept for how we spend our time outside of our love lives. 🙂

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  • Amy

    Hell yeah! Love this 👊🏼

  • Rahul George

    Hi Michael
    In case you haven’t come across Tim ferriss he’s a great option on short circuiting language learning. There’s a ton of stuff on his site and his tv content as well as on YouTube.

    • Yeah I have, thanks. 🙂

      • Rahul George

        Good to connect here on the interweb Michael 🙂

        We are all on the same journey even if we choose different paths.

        Love how we all connect like this randomly and have the same spirit of changing the world.

        Knowing that it all begins with us.

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