How I Use the “Hell Yeah or No” Rule to Guide My Decision Making

Read about how I make social and buying decisions. If it's not a "hell yeah" it's a "no".

A few months ago I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, and was introduced to Derek Sivers’ decision making rule, “if it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a no”.  McKeown applied this rule to decision making at work, but I’ve been using this rule to guide my decisions about social engagements and purchases.

To read my full review of Essentialism, check out my April Reading Report.

Some Background on the “Hell Yeah or No” Rule

Derek Sivers is an American entrepreneur who is best known for starting CD Baby, an online music store for independent musicians.  He has written books and done TED Talks on the topic of entrepreneurship.

McKeown stumbled upon Sivers’ “Hell Yeah or No” rule by watching one of his TED Talks, and many other people have gone into great detail discussing the benefits of the decision making rule.

Here is a link to a cute little video that Sivers has up on his blog explaining the idea.

How I Apply the “Hell Yeah or No” Rule to My Own Life

Over these last few months, I have used the “Hell Yeah or No” rule to help make decisions.  I find it particularly useful when deciding whether or not to attend a social event, but also use it to help make buying decisions.

Politely Declining Invitations

I enjoy hanging out with friends, but I have no problem saying no to invitations, as well.

Recently, I was invited to a bachelorette party, and it did not take me long to decide to decline the invitation.  Money and the closeness of our friendship were a part of the decision, but ultimately it didn’t feel like a hell yeah (not really my scene), so it was a no.

After a day of hiking, Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I did not feel like having a late night, so we declined an invitation to go out.

Not Spending Money at Mediocre Restaurants

We are very lucky to live in an area with some great restaurants, so we have a very hard time spending money at a chain restaurant or a mediocre establishment.  This is not to say that we only dine out at expensive restaurants.  I like to say that if I can cook something better at home, I’d rather do that.  If it’s not a hell yeah, it’s a “let’s make something at home”.

I also apply this reasoning to making the decision about whether or not to order lunch with my coworkers.  I enjoy eating with my work friends, but I don’t like spending $10 or more on an overly dressed salad or soggy sandwich.  Of course, I make the exception for my favorite local Mexican joint a couple times a year.  Burritos are a HELL YEAH for me!

Only Buying Clothes that are Absolute Favorites

Over these past couple years, I have been trying to get rid of a lot of clothes, and I’m trying to be more intentional with purchases.  If I’m buying a new shirt or a pair of pants, I have to absolutely love them or I’ll end up returning them.  Clothes need to fit my personal style (classic and comfortable), as well as fit my body.  If I don’t feel 100% comfortable in an outfit, I won’t wear it, so it’s better to not spend the money in the first place (or in my case, get my money back since I mostly order online).

Let Go of the Guilt

We all are obligated to do certain things.  These could be work related or family obligations.  It’s hard to apply the “Hell Yeah or No” rule to those areas of your life.

The “Hell Yeah or No” rule has helped me let go of the guilt in declining social invitations.  Rather than feeling guilty about spending money that I hadn’t planned on spending, or going out to something that I’m less than excited about, saying yes to things that are a hell yeah and no to everything else helps me to feel really good about those decisions.

When I decline an invitation to something that I was not looking forward to attending, it feels like a weight has been lifted.  My free time is precious, so I choose spend it doing the things that I’m really jazzed about.

As a bonus, by only choosing to do the things that I really want to do in my free time, I am not spending excessive amounts of money on entertainment.  In fact, some of my most favorite past times do not require spending any money (nature is free, folks).

What Are My Hell Yeahs?

Just so you don’t think that I’m a total Scrooge, cheapskate, or [insert your description of choice], here are some of the things that I usually say “hell yeah” to:

  • hiking
  • snowboarding
  • traveling
  • good food
  • good drinks
  • seeing my favorite bands/artists live

I make exceptions for new experiences, as well.  Sometimes you don’t know if it’s a “hell yeah” until you try it.

Could you live by the “Hell Yeah or No” rule?


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Read about how I make social and buying decisions. If it's not a "hell yeah" it's a "no".

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  • I’d heard of this rule through the Tim Ferriss podcast as he’s got Derek Sivers as a regular guest. I’d always thought of applying it to business opportunities, but hadn’t thought to apply this to everyday things like you’ve done here. Awesome idea!

    I could definitely do a better job of this with eating out – we’ve spent enough money on date nights and family outings at so-so restaurants.

    I’ve done a pretty good job of this with clothes for quite some time though. The only caveat is that I just don’t get excited about clothes, so almost nothing is a Hell Yeah 🙂 My rule of thumb is that I’m only willing to buy a piece of clothing if I could see myself choosing to wear it every day (weather permitting). If I couldn’t make that commitment, it doesn’t make the cut.

    • I like that rule of only buying clothes that you could see yourself wearing every day. I wear the same two t-shirts on the weekends, and I’m pretty sure if it would fly at my job, I’d wear them every day. When I read Essentialism, I had a hard time relating it to my job, but the “hell yeah or no” idea really stuck with me for decisions that I make in my free time.

  • I get the concept but it just doesn’t work on some decisions. This morning when the alarm went off at 4:40 AM for my wife and I to get up and take our Saturday morning 8 mile run, I thought, “Oh Hell!” as usual, but I got up and am glad I did. Some of my volunteer work is not thrilling but it matters and I’m good at it.

    • Thanks for reading! Yeah, not everything we do is a “hell yeah”, especially if it involves waking up early! Volunteering is tricky too because you know it’s important, but working for free in your free time is not always something to get excited about.

  • Funny, I’ve had a lot of issues lately around me not being able to say no to people. This usually applies to a request of some kind.

    I was asked to do a speaking engagement in Bakersfield a while back. I immediately said yes! But I really meant no. In the end I caused myself a lot more trouble emailing that person back to “let them down easy.” Thanks for the reminder that my life goes smoother when I’m direct about my no.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Elsie! It is harder for some people to say no, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. Sometimes I have so much anxiety about saying no to something, but once I do I feel like a big weight has been lifted, and I have yet to experience any sort of negative reaction from the other person. Of course, this only works with certain requests.

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