The Unique Bill Murray Technique for Saying “YES”

how to say yes

I can’t say “No”.

If people ask me for something, it’s really hard for me to balance their needs with my own.

Like, if I need to spend time with my kids. Or I need to read or work on writing or business. But people are asking me to do X, Y, or Z.

This is why I had to write a book, “The Power of NO“. Because of my many problems saying no and taking care of myself.

But then Bill Murray taught me by example how to say “Yes”.

The Four Layers of No


At first I would lie to people if I said “no”. Like: “I broke my leg so I can’t go to your wedding.” Yes, I’ve said that.


Then I would just not respond to people. I’m going to use the wedding example again.

I lost my best friend because I couldn’t say “no” to him when he invited me to his wedding.

So I just never responded. He called, he wrote, he asked, “I don’t understand,” he said. And I just never responded. I kept feeling more and more guilty. We haven’t spoken since. I’m sorry.


Then I’d try to give an explanation. “I can’t go to your wedding because I’m having a hard time getting through a divorce.”

Which is a rationale I gave ten years ago to one invitation. But those people are not my friends now either.

And there’s never a point where they can explain why they are not my friends. They just hate me.

People tell me: Well they weren’t good friends in the first place.

Which is nice to hear, and makes me feel good to think about. But then I’m sad I can’t talk to them anymore anyway.


The fourth layer of “No”, and the only one that really works for me is to just say “No, I can’t do that.”

No explanation needed. I don’t need to argue my case in the court of friendship.

Does this work?

Not really. People still get upset. And I still feel bad. But it’s the quickest and sharpest.

It’s a hard world: people want your time from 6 in the morning to ten at night. They want their demands and needs met. They want your hands on their dirty messes.

This is cynical. So let me put it another way.

When you say the right “No” it gives you the air to find your very personal and important “Yes”.

Bill Murray says “No” to most things. People ask him to act in a movie. 99% of the time he says, “No”.

People ask to take their picture with him. He says No. People ask to partner with him on their restaurants. He says No.

Does it mean he’s selfish? Of course not. You can’t be selfish if the things you say “Yes” to are unique to you and uniquely change the world in the way only you can do.

This is the essence of choosing yourself. Not to be selfish.

Only when you unravel and reveal the very unique YOU, can you have impact on the world. Having impact today changes the future tomorrow.

Here is a Bill Murray yes:

One time he was in a cab for an hour long drive.

He started (like he does) talking to the cab driver. He asked the driver what he does when he’s not driving a cab.

“I like to play the sax”.

“How often do you practice?” Bill said.

“Not very often. Busy driving this cab.”

“Where’s the sax now?”

“In the trunk.”

Bill told the cab driver to pull over. Bill said, “Guess what. I know how to drive a car also.”

They got out and Bill said, “Get the sax”.

Then they switched places. Bill drove the rest of the ride.

The cab driver sat in the back and played the saxophone for an audience of just one, the new driver.

This is a Bill Murray “YES”.

How often can you take a moment in time and sculpt that moment into a beautiful work of art.

Art that has your unique signature all over it.

“Yes” you can.

  • I got a really nice no letter from Bill’s lawyer when I wrote him about a film I was producing at the time.

    • Byron Shank

      So the “No.” got outsourced!

  • James Buechler

    I am a man who has it all. Sitting in my 93 Del Sol drinking coffee listening to the Buddha Bar genre of Pandora and reading these wonderful words. And seeing myself as Bill Murray end peeling off hundreds of dollar bills to give to that cabbie.

  • Glen Hartigan

    I have no idea how I started getting your emails but I check them out and find some very informative. This is one I enjoyed and I appreciate your willingness to discuss your difficulties with the issue. I relate to your experience and appreciate your suggestion for the “no” response. But I do not understand how the cool Bill Murray story relates to the issue(unless it doesn’t matter because it got me to read the post….is that cynical of me?). I am glad you found your niche by writing and that you are genuinely interested in so many things. Keep doing what you enjoy and I will continue to enjoy what you are doing.

  • St

    I just don’t understand – why were you so averse to going to a good friend’s wedding?

    If he was *YOUR* friend – why would you want him to feel the unhappiness of you not attending?

    • Josh

      Wedding are always awful.

    • Stimpy

      Yeah I remember inviting some people I thought were friends to my daughter’s wedding. I found out who my friends were that way.

      • Mike Quinta

        Some people are introverts to an extent that attending a large function for hours (wedding, reception, etc.) is simply too much for them. People are wired differently. I know extroverts who attend a stranger’s wedding and go uninvited to business meetings within their companies just for the opportunity to hang out with other people.

  • Linda Sand

    It helped me a lot when I learned to say, “I have other plans.” We all know you aren’t supposed to cancel plans just because another offer came along, right? My plans may be to stay home and read a book but they are my plans and I deserve to have down time.

  • What a beautiful story. Eight years ago, I turned 40 and I made a very conscious decision that from that point on, I would say no to anything that didn’t produce the outcomes I sought for my life. And importantly, I wouldn’t explain why. Life is too bloody short to do favours you don’t want to do, or attend meetings you don’t believe in, or learn something you cannot use. Learning to say ‘no’ makes the ‘yesses’ so much more exciting because you own them. Living deliberately is the only way to go.

  • Joseph Greene

    I’m here solely for the purpose of pointing out one of the scams that James is trying to run. If you look around his site you see this link that says you can “Download Now” a free checklist for self-publishing. Not only do you not get to download that checklist, but he gets to sign up for an email list and then tries to sell you books.

    There’s no checklist. It’s BS.

    • Hi @josephgreene:disqus

      The self-publishing checklist should be sent to the email that you provided. If you can’t find it in your inbox, sometimes it goes to spam.

      If you can’t find it anywhere, just contact and they will get you a copy right away.

      • Joseph Greene

        Tried twice more, then emailed customer service, and still nothing. It seems like everything you do here doesn’t deliver the free option and pushes for something paid.

        I really like a lot of your ideas, but I’m not spending a penny until the free things show up like they’re supposed to.

        • Joe

          Here’s a checklist.

          1. Stop being a troll
          2. Go work for the government, they have lots of checklists for you…

          • Joseph Greene

            Kudos on literally contributing nothing of importance to anyone at any point in your life.

            I’m simply asking a big talker to deliver on something for once.

            As far as being a troll goes, nice try when you’re the one who created a fake account just to make this one comment. Is that you James? Are you hiding behind a fake account now?

          • Joe

            Says the guy with a shaka as his photo…

            Your best bet is to stop following James because obviously you’re not a fan. All of his fans (some who haven’t bought anything from him, including myself) have gotten tremendous value through his blogs, ideas, and podcasts…

            Maybe your girlfriend cheated on you, or your boss yelled at you today… I don’t know what battle you’re dealing with that motivates you to being such an idiot with your comments.

          • Joseph Greene

            And now you’re blocked James.

  • Mark McKeever

    Is there a fifth layer of no the nice no?
    Every time I get an invitation to an event that I don’t want to go to I reply with “I really appreciate the invite but unfortunately I am unable to attend.”
    It doesn’t seem to offend because I always get repeat invitations to further events.

    • I’ve profited 104,000 thousand dollars in last twelve months by freelancing on-line a­­n­­d I manage to accomplish that by w­o­r­k­i­n­g in my own time f­o­r 3+ hrs every day. I followed a business opportunity I came across online and I am so happy that i made so much money. It’s so user friendly and I am just so happy that I found out about it. Here is what i do…

  • I’ve used the following scripts and it works like a charm all the time without creating any room for the other side to retaliate and try more persuasion tactics.

    1. “No/Sorry, I don’t do this (anymore).” – This one lets me hang out in any social event sipping water while others are getting drunk and I get to observe their habits.

    2. “No, that doesn’t work for me.” – Polite way to be assertive in business and negotiating like Chris Voss

    3. “Thanks.. But I’ll pass.” If they ask “Why”, I use #1.

  • This makes no sense, Bill Murray didn’t even say yes or no to anything in this example, and the taxi driver wasn’t a friend asking him for something. Completely irrelevant anecdote that’s the whole point of the post

    • Hitin

      I think there was a hidden questions in there. Cab driver shared he like to play sax. May be he wanted to play and let Bill judge if he was good or bad at it. May be he meant I play sax, would you like to hear me play? May be he was trying to tell him that inside he an artist too, just like Bill is.

      It’s like a kid telling their new friend “I can play guitar! Would you like to see me play it”

      To which Bill replied “Yes” in a unique way!

  • 1USPatriot

    The problem of not saying “no”. Someday you end up completely overwhelmed. You feel like you’re in a very deep hole, and after years of ‘not keeping score’ and not worrying about reciprocation. Finally your thinking of how overwhelmed and alone you are and you realize… These friends, you haven’t talked or had interactions except when they have asked for a favor or needed something… maybe 5 times in 18 months. And This friend over here, only interacts when their schedule works out; except you only get 48 hours notice, and they are begging you to drop everything to get together… every time, two or three times a year for the past 3 years at least. So you always say yes, and you always drop what you’re doing, and then you find yourself all jumbled up, and nobody ever knows how difficult they made things for you. Until you are completely overwhelmed and you have to say no. Then what do you realize? You really haven’t had any real friends.

    • Alisha P

      Real friends wouldnt care about that they would know what type of person you are and cone help you sort out the mess. Yeah there isnt alot of those people around i did have one friend like that turns out he went bat shit crazy in the end . wore womans underware and started to dress just like me. Caught him stalking me once but it was banananas what im really trying to say here is mustard helps to keep your ham moist

  • Alisha P

    If I could have a bill Murray and James sandwich I think I could die a happy girl ! Hahah OK just to hang out now that would be epic so epic. Remember that scene in Mr deeds when everybody broke out singing David bowie . Ground control to major tom they sang all over that airplane. I was going to marry Bill Murray . Ghostbusters was the very first movie I seen in thetere . Bills acting is legendary when I do humor in life he’s at my core . Five years old with a Bill Murray poster where the monkeys should have been .