163: [Solo] Should you have a bias for saying Yes or No to new opportunities? on the TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

ep163 SOLO should you have a yes or no bias for new opportunities The TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

Should you have a bias for saying Yes or No to new opportunities?

Many high performers (including myself) struggle with this choice: should you have a bias for saying yes or a bias for saying no to new, unexpected opportunities?

Opportunities show up all the time. Some are a good fit and some are not.

On this solo episode of the TalentGrow Show, I discuss the criteria by which to assess whether you should say Yes or No to new opportunities. After all, we want to be open to new opportunities, but we also want to avoid jumping in the direction of every shiny object or passing squirrel.

Take a listen, weigh in with your own opinion, and share with others!


  • Many high performers struggle with the competing desires to be open to new opportunities and staying focused on their goals to completion

  • There are three key criteria that we can use to measure whether an opportunity is one that we should pursue or not

  • Halelly shares two different scenarios that should cause you to choose very differently, depending on your stage in your project or current goal pursuit

  • A bias for Yes or No lead to different results, and should be used differently depending on career stage or project stage

This short solo episode is focused on a question I think about a lot and I actually get asked, “Should you have a bias for saying yes to a new opportunities and requests, or should you have a bias for saying no?”

Opportunities are everywhere

In general, opportunities show up all the time. Some of them are a good fit and some of them are not.

Some of them are a good fit because they match our interests, our skillset, and our goals. Sometimes they’re not a good fit because they don’t match one or more of those criteria. They’re either not aligned with our goals or not aligned with our interests or not aligned with our skillset.

I think that to some degree, some people have a bias where they generally say no to everything except for very specific, perfectly-matched opportunities. Whereas, some people say that you should have a bias to saying yes to everything because you never know what you might learn or how it might open new doors or lead you in a direction you might have otherwise never discovered because you were closed off to it. So being open allows you to see opportunities and follow opportunities that lead you in interesting and great new directions.

Should you have a bias for Yes or a bias for No? It depends…

This is a really hard one for me to advise on both because I personally struggle with this and because I think it’s ‘both.’

One helpful factor is to think about all three of those acceptance criteria mentioned above and also about where you are in your career and your development journey.

Let me explain.

Say Yes!

When you are early on in your career or trying to create a new opportunity and move into new areas – in other words, to branch out from where you are now into something totally different and new – I think that you should have a bias toward yes.

You should be in an open mode, scanning the environment for new opportunities so that you can be open to them when they do show up, rather than be the person who misses them because they’ve got their head down and are really super focused being “inside of their lane.” You should be accepting of new opportunities with the bias toward saying yes, even if it’s not a perfect match for your current ideas of what you’re looking for.

This is especially true if the main challenge is that it’s not a match for your current skillset. In other words, if you have a goal and this opportunity could serve that goal of, let’s say, moving in a new direction, starting a new career, learning new skills in a particular area, then even if you don’t yet have the skills that you need for that opportunity, you should say Yes.

True, you’re not yet a good match for it because you’re not yet fully skilled – but it does match your interests and potentially your goals, so you should still say yes, because you can always build up the skills, like the saying goes, ‘building the plane while flying.’

You can start and that will give you a great motivation and the push to build your skills. Sometimes we just sit around waiting until we’ll get around to it and nothing ever happens.

Say No!

But, I think that when you have a set goal and you’re moving in that direction and you need to become more specialized, or more discerning with your time so that you can really be focused and accomplish what you’ve set out to do, then you don’t need to be in as much of an open, seeking mode. You need to be in a less divergent and more convergent mode.

In other words, you’ve done the divergence, you’ve done the brainstorming, you’ve done the seeking, and you’ve found what you want. Now you need to work in a focused, uninterrupted, single-minded, single-track kind of way and maximize your time toward achieving that goal.

In these instances, you should follow the advice that I learned from one of my favorite podcast authors and bloggers, Tim Ferriss, that he learned from Derek Sivers: unless it’s a “Heck yeah!” then it should be a no.

If you are in that mode where you’re trying to accomplish a big goal and you already have everything you need, you just need to focus your time and attention, then you should not be saying yes to anything else. It’s kind of like that “Shiny Object Syndrome,” or “Squirrel!” syndrome, where being distracted by every opportunity or every exciting new thing that comes onto your horizon is going to pull you away from being able to move toward accomplishing that goal.

I agree with Derek Sivers in this case, where you should be super discerning and have a major bias toward saying no to everything unless you know that it absolutely moves you in the direction of your goal.


  • What’s your biggest A-ha or takeaway from this episode?

  • What other ideas do you have for dealing with new opportunities?

  • Would you like to submit a topic for a future solo episode? You can use the voice messaging widget right here on the website and then I can even play your audio (with your permission, of course) on the episode! Or you can send me an email, or a ‘contact us’ form on this site, or a comment-based question, or a tweet…. You get the picture. Anyway you like it, I would love to hear your question!

About Halelly Azulay

Have we met? I'm Halelly Azulay. I'm an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. I am the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. My books, workshops and retreats build on my 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

I am the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion that want a more proactive, strategic approach to leadership development. We specialize in growing leadership capabilities, improving communication skills, building stronger teams, and upgrading emotional intelligence. TalentGrow develops leaders across all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, emerging leaders, and individual contributors. People hire me to speak at conferences and meetings and to facilitate leadership workshops, but what I love most is to help fast growing organizations create a leadership development strategy and approach.

I'm a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. I was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. I blog, publish a leadership podcast (um, hello?!), and have a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – so you should definitely sign up at www.tinyurl.com/talentgrow.

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Intro/outro music: "Why-Y" by Esta

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