When I was younger, I look back at fun years of playing basketball and sitting in front of a computer wasting time on video games. Those were good times, but I’m also reminded of when I’ve said no to fun. I’ve said no to hiking up a mountain. I’ve said no to beach trips. I’ve said no to going out to clubs to meet new people. I’ve said no to rock gigs I’ve wanted to watch. I’ve said no to almost anything that forced me to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve said no because saying yes meant waking up early.
In college, I missed out on so many things. Even during the year Ateneo won the championship, I never watched a live basketball game. When my dorm mates organized a trip to Enchanted Kingdom, I didn’t go. I lived four full years in Manila and I never explored that big city, much less learn a word of Tagalog.
I said no to a lot of things.
I don’t regret any one specific thing, but I regret that attitude of not looking for more experiences. Even today, that bad habit continues to pop out every now and then. But for the most part, I’ve changed.
If you are young, cooped up at home, comfortable and content, try something new. Do something to broaden your horizons. Hike up Osmena Peak. Go wakeboarding. Try a new sport. Say yes to your friends. Or just walk through an unfamiliar street.
Once you try enough things, you will know what to say no to in the future. You won’t be wondering what it must be like to try the rides in Enchanted Kingdom. You won’t miss the feeling of being in a crowd of a tense basketball game.
You’ll realize what is important and what isn’t.
When I broke my leg, it put things into perspective. I couldn’t do anything. Something as simple as going up stairs was difficult. Never mind going to gigs or climbing mountains. When it would rain outside, I couldn’t even walk out on the tiles in fear of slipping and falling. If you go through an injury like that, you become grateful for the small things.
Breaking my leg was a situation where I was forced to say no to many experiences.
If you are laying on your couch watching TV on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon, what are you doing?!?!? Why?!?! Get out there. Call a friend. Go out of your house and make an adventure out of it.
When I was younger I used to live in a village right next to a golf course. One day, a powerful typhoon passed through and wreaked havoc. We woke up to find the wall dividing the golf course and our village destroyed. You could see the path towards the manicured lawns and the giant trees. Here’s one time I said yes to experience. I went to two friend’s houses. The first friend said yes immediately. The second… Well. He literally said he was defragmenting his hard drive. So we left him inside his air conditioned house and walked through the golf course of Cebu Country Club.
This happened nearly twenty years ago. We still talk about it.
Having had a little more experience under my belt, I still say no to a lot of things. The difference today, for the most part, I say no to experiences that I won’t be talking about twenty years from now. I say no to what isn’t going to ingrain itself in my memories for years to come. I say no so I can say yes to the experiences that matter.
Today, I abide by the “Hell Yeah! or No” philosophy:
If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.
Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no.
That’s an excerpt from the blog post by Derek Sivers. He coined the term “Hell Yeah! or No”.
But how do we know what to say no to? If I could change the past, I would say yes to almost everything. I would watch that basketball game and go to Enchanted Kingdom. The more things I experienced, the faster I would realize what I enjoyed and what I didn’t. Then as I got older, I would know when to say Hell Yeah! or No.
Think about it. How many experiences are you half-heartedly saying yes to? What would happen when you cut that out of your life? What would it be like if you were to replace that chunk of time with Hell Yeah! experiences?
I’m guessing it would be wonderful.