Posted on: March 17, 2020 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By: Matt Gordon

When at an impasse on an action or decision, be willing to say “yes.”

Each day there are 67,324 seconds. Each year there 709,745 minutes. And each sentence of this post, thus far, has failed to offer any actual precise math whatsoever. Timed correctly or not, the point remains: time is limited. (Far too limited, in my opinion, to painstakingly measure out seconds or minutes or seek online for a person who has.)

I wonder just how much time I spend making decisions? I also wonder how many of those decisions actually matter? Do I post this blog Monday or Tuesday? Do I send this email now or later? Do I buy a hat for my son’s Easter basket today or tomorrow? Do I go to work this month or not?

Okay, so that last one matters a little (or, at least, it did before the Covid-19 chaos ensued). And actually all these decisions matter—decisions are very important and in everything meaning can be culled. But often the weight of importance is not dependent on what we decide. So the decision-making process (the why, the how, and even the when) actually matters more than the decision itself in most cases.

Like just last week, I went through this. A person asked me if I wanted to get breakfast on Thursday to talk something through. I didn’t really want to, if I’m being honest. My calendar said “yes”—a glaring blank space currently occupied Thursday’s prime breakfast hours. But then I have to pick what place we go to and make some small talk and finally get to the brunt of what we are meeting about, and there is very little payoff. The person in question is serving me with information I had requested, but it isn’t information I care about deeply. It is like that book on the Top-100 Greatest Books of All Time List that I always say I want to read, but haven’t ever read. Sorry, War and Peace, if it hasn’t happened yet it probably just isn’t in the cards for us.

So I stare at the email invite and stare at my calendar. This goes on for, again I am approximating here, about thirteen years. Okay, it doesn’t. But really how many seconds is this truly worth? And if I were to add up how much time I waste waffling about saving $.18 on one grass-seed versus another or that I spend trying to decide which book to check out from the library or which movie to watch or . . . you get the point; and the answer? Well, it is a lot. Probably a decent portion of my daily 67,324.

Now how does this rule help me? Well, take this breakfast invite again. With the rule in mind, I looked at my calendar, it was open, so I said—and I know this is groundbreaking—“Yes.” Instead of wasting time and mental space dilly-dallying with indecision on a thing that isn’t momentous, I just say yes.

And more and more, I try to do this with just about anything. If I don’t have a really good reason to say “no” or “wait”—reasons like: I’m double-booked; this person is likely a murderer; this would be an affront to someone I love; this costs a lot of money; this would display poor character; etc.—then I just say “yes” as quickly as possible and dive in.

The other thing I’ve found with this is that opportunities typically begin with “yes.” Some here will say that every “yes” is owed to a “no” said to something else. While true in sentiment, it can also be debilitating: we can delve into deep analytical atrophy on anything. If we are always guarding our “yes” for the future, we miss out on the only moments we actually possess—this pristine present moment. Of course, we need to steward our “yes” well. But I also need to steward my time well, and when there is friction between those two ideas, I save the time and say the “yes.” In doing so I’ve met friends, learned things I wouldn’t have otherwise, been placed in some uncomfortable (and good) situations. In just the last few weeks alone this has allowed me to speak in front of a few large groups, take on a writing project of which I was wary, play soccer with a bunch of strangers past my bedtime, take my son outside, try a new restaurant, and, yes, set a breakfast for Thursday. What have I gained from all the instances of “no”? Well, I can only speculate—it is like pointing at the invisible.

Growing up, drug prevention programs drilled into us: Just Say No. I can totally get behind that when discussing cocaine. But when it comes time to help someone, meet someone, or learn something, I want to live toward a contrary maxim.

When at an impasse on an action or decision, be willing to say “yes.”

(Quick Virus Application (QVA-19): Since many of us are stuck in a perpetual haze of “no” just now—no social gatherings, no bars, no restaurants, no hugs—I want to apply the rule even to this season of my life. This means getting to some things I’ve been putting off like: reading a book my friend suggested—Yes! Fixing the light that had been bothering my wife—Yes! Taking some time to write some things down—Yes! Developing some new things in my work—Yes! The pandemic is actually creating some new opportunities for “Yes.” Unless, of course, I say “No” or, fixated on my threatened status quo, fail to see these unique opportunities altogether.)

This post is part of a series about creating and testing rules to live by. Click here to head to the first post and see the list of “rules.”

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