Hell Yeah or No – Derek Sivers

Hell Yeah or No - by Derek Sivers
Hell Yeah or No – by Derek Sivers

ISBN: n/a READ: May 2021

A book about a way to live your life. What’s worth doing? Only you can answer that, once you have your priorities set. Learn to say NO to things you are not 100% interested in. Time is valuable. Beautifully written in short digestible tidbits. This is a book you buy in large quantity to give as gifts. Couldn’t recommend more.


Notes from Tom Hombergs

Updating Identity

  • what’s left if you stopped doing everything you did for money and attention? (i.e. don’t let your work life define you)
  • your actions reveal your values
    • your small actions make up who you are and thus may change who you are
    • “How you do anything is how you do everything.”
    • your character predicts your future
  • if you think you want something but haven’t started yet, either
    • stop lying to yourself that you want it, or
    • start doing it to see if you really want it
  • “Success comes from doing, not declaring.”
  • if you don’t keep doing the same job, you shouldn’t keep the same job title – we shouldn’t pretend to be something we aren’t anymore
  • make sure to know what you value most so you can align your decisions with your goals and values
    • always be able to answer why you’re doing things
    • but: “Old opinions shouldn’t define who you are in the future.”
  • no matter what your preferences are, someone will always say you’re wrong – knowing your preferences will help you handle that
  • ideas need not be 100% original – you can copy others and still provide value to the world
  • your public persona doesn’t need to be yourself – that’s inviting stress
  • we often don’t understand other people because we’re biased in our own little bubble of the world – we should try seeing things from their perspective
    • This is also emphasized in the first chapter of “The Psychology of Money”: everybody has a different background, a different history, has grown up with different values and different opportunities, so we shouldn’t expect everyone to share our opinions.
    • a rarely recognized axis of difference between people is being future-focused vs. being present-focused – try to use this to understand other people

Saying No

  • if you don’t feel like “Hell yeah!” about an opportunity, don’t do it – it will free you up for the next “Hell yeah!” thing
  • create an environment that makes it easy to say “no” to distractions (hide your phone while working on something, close the door, close your browser tabs, … see my notes on “Make Time” for some more)
  • we focus so much on being useful that we have forgotten to do things for ourselves
  • it’s ok to be a “slow thinker” – manage other people’s expectations to not expect immediate answers to their questions (I definitely fall into the category of slow thinkers – there’s little I hate more than people expecting immediate answers from me, I always need to think things through first)
  • motivation is delicate and can be influenced by subtle tweaks – find the tweaks that improve your motivation, even if it’s a bit inconvenient to other people
  • if you get too comfortable, it may be time to let go of something you love doing to gain freedom for change
  • before you start something new, think about the ways it might end – maybe it’s better to say no
  • “Empty time has the potential to be filled with great things. Time filled with little things has little potential.” (This is something I’ve been trying to teach my kids – being bored for a while is a great opportunity, not a great loss)
  • when you’re feeling down, raise your bar and say no to everything that doesn’t help you feel better

Making Things Happen

  • there’s no speed limit on learning or creating something – the only limiting factor is yourself
  • instead of going full-on 100%, dial back to 50% and compare your results to earlier – they may be almost the same as if you went 100% and you just gained time for other stuff!
  • disconnecting from the internet and from people gives room for doing one’s best work
  • when feeling unmotivated do some of those boring but necessary chores to get back into doing something
  • compare to the next thing below your situation, not the next thing above your situation – you’ll feel gratitude for what you have instead of envy for what you don’t have
  • “Great insight comes only from opening your mind to many options” – there are usually more than two options – make a list
  • “Asking advice should be like echolocation” – bounce ideas off people to get the whole picture
    • don’t trust a single source of advice
  • first, try many different things, then, when you’ve found something rewarding, focus on that, and it will probably pay out
  • “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years” – think long term, you have a lot of time (hopefully)

Changing Perspective

  • assume you’re below average and you’ll be free to learn and ask questions (I think this is a good way to get into a Growth Mindset)
  • don’t think that everything is someone else’s false – instead, assume that it’s your fault and you have the power to change it! (this is a core tenet in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – change yourself instead of trying to change others)
  • “Amazingly rare things happen to people every day” – thinking about this will change your perspective

What’s Worth Doing?

  • “Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them” – but they’re often amazing to others
  • if it makes you happy and it’s smart for your long-term future and it’s useful to others, it’s worth doing – drop one of the three attributes and it might not be worth doing
  • “If you have too much stability, you get bored. If you don’t have enough stability, you panic.”
  • “Do something for love and something for money” – don’t mix them – the two halves will balance each other out
  • ask “what do I hate not doing?” instead of “what do I love doing?” to get a new perspective
  • “Learning without doing is wasted” (yes! Also see my notes on “Pragmatic Thinking & Learning”)
  • make decisions as late as possible to because you’ll have the most information
  • don’t start a business until people are asking you to – prove a real demand first

Fixing Faulty Thinking

  • “We don’t get wise just by adding and adding. We also need to subtract.” – unlearn things that don’t work (anymore) (that’s why I unlearned JavaScript, but it came back!)
  • read books and apply the general lessons to your life – don’t get hung up on examples in the books that most likely have nothing to do with your life
  • “To make a change, you have to be extreme.” – to change habits, do an extreme to have a better chance at changing it

Saying Yes

  • some people are born with talent, but you can also become talented with long years of practice
  • “Judge a goal by how well it changes your actions in the present moment.” – a great goal makes you take action immediately
  • “Inspiration is not receiving information. Inspiration is applying what you’ve received.”
  • “You grow by doing what excites you and scares you.”
  • whatever scares you, go do it – you won’t be scared by it for long


The book is full of very small chapters that encouraged me to think about my decisions and how I’m spending my time. Most chapters tell a story from the author’s life, so they’re not directly applicable to our own lives, but they’re still very inspirational.

The book has a high density of inspirational quotes – I’m still thinking about how to make the most of them. And it’s a quick read. In summary, I strongly recommend reading this book.


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