Why ‘Yes’ Is the Most Powerful Word

This article is an installment of the Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior series, which features advice, key interviews, and tips for living a life of consistent impact, continuous growth, and continual learning.

What’s the most powerful word in the English language? While this may generally be a hotly debated topic with competing schools of thought, that all changes today because it’s time for a definitive answer. The most powerful word is yes—and here’s why.

Over the summer, a friend texted to ask if I’d join her for a shooting competition called The Tactical Games. It was barely 8 a.m., I knew nothing about the event, and we’d only have four months to train—so, of course, I said yes.

Despite what you’re thinking, I’m not a glutton for punishment. Good, bad, or indifferent, I avoid saying no when opportunities and challenges arise. From an early age, my mother taught me never to put myself in a position of having to say could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. This mentality has made all the difference in my life. Don’t get me wrong, saying yes doesn’t always work out—and it has meant helping to move more couches than I’d care to admit—but that’s a small price to pay for a fulfilling life.

Female soldier climbs across a rope bridge over water.
guruXOX / Shutterstock


As is often the case, life got busy after telling my friend I’d join her for the shooting competition. Time slipped through my fingers, and our four-month training plan turned into a few sporadic trips to the range.

The big day arrived, and we were determined to give it our all. Over the next three days, we completed physical and tactical tasks, tested our skills, and pushed ourselves to the limit. Did we do well? No, but it was humbling to realize that even with 17 years of military service, I was no match for these highly trained competitors. It was clear to everyone that not only had I stepped into a different arena, but I had arrived unprepared.

Outdoor grassy range with a line of targets.
shaxlinegraphy / Shutterstock


After the dust settled, I realized that being humbled was the best-case scenario. While challenging and embarrassing, the experience helped me grow and gave me valuable insight. That simple yes back in July resulted in a slightly better version of myself driving home after the event.

Why is yes the most powerful word in the English language? Because it’s much more than just an adverb or interjection. It’s the embodiment of our potential and growth. In her novel Change of Heart, bestselling author Jodi Picoult writes, “In the space between yes and no, there is a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you thought you could be and who you really are.”

The next time a friend asks you to try something new, remember the path you want to take and the person you hope to become. Then take a step toward those ideals by embracing the power of yes.

Lisa Jaster is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and made history in 2015 as one of the first three females to graduate from Army Ranger School. Along with skillfully juggling her civilian career, family life, and personal interests, Lisa is a partner and senior leadership development consultant at Talent War Group

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