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.