The Power Of Hell No

I was clipping my toenails on the porch when my 7-year-old son announced he couldn’t find his shoes.

“They’re there somewhere,” I said over my shoulder. “Keep looking.”

A few seconds later: “Dad, I can’t find them.”

“Keep looking!”

More scuffling. Then: “Dad, I checked my room and the shoe closet and the hallway! I don’t see them anywhere!”

“Son, if they aren’t where you think they’ll be, you have to look where you DON’T think they’ll be.”

There’s this catchy phrase going around:

If it’s not a “hell yes,” it should be “hell no”

There are many variations, but all have the central idea that you should only take on projects and opportunities that EXCITE YOU.

While this is a heartwarming idea… it’s all backwards.

For this idea assumes we are naturally courageous.

It assumes we are not slaves to fear.

In the real world, if it’s not a “hell yes” it’s “hell no” merely reinforces our own status quo thinking and acting. It becomes the justification that keeps us glued to our paths of least resistance.

If you find yourself clinging, grateful-yet-sickened, to a small set of pleasant, dead-end tasks each day… stuck in comfortable routines that inoculate you against true breakthrough… then if it’s not a “hell yes” it’s “hell no” will merely deepen your dead groove.

It will only bury you faster.

No. You must flip the formula:

Distrust the “hell yes.” It comes too easily.

Follow your HELL NO.

Force yourself to step over the tasty sugar of “hell yes,” and sink your teeth into the dark meat of “hell no.”

Don’t follow your excitement… follow your fear.

See where those terrifying, bloody paths take you.

As you work to make true, breakout progress in your business, your wealth, your health, your relationships, your happiness… of all possible actions you could take, which strikes the greatest fear in your heart?

The darkest shadow that rises to the surface… that is your next action.

That is the HELL NO that becomes your HELL YES.

That is the unmarked trail, jutting off into pitch-black bush.

So make the dreaded phone call.

Execute that marketing campaign that is utterly out of your comfort zone.

Hire that perfect-fit employee who is nothing like you.

I know it feels unnatural. I know it feels “wrong.” In your very bones.

But your instinct… it’s broken. It’s stuck on preservation mode, not expansion. You must break the glass and wrench the setting.

If “hell yes” led to the promised land, you’d be there by now.

When your shoes aren’t where you thought they’d be, you must look where you don’t think they’d be.

If the actions that come naturally fail to move the needle, then you must take the actions that do NOT come naturally.

So burn your old to-do list.

Jump your cozy groove.

Follow the dark paths.


Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper

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