Year of Yes details famous TV-show creator Shonda Rhimes’s change from introversion to socialite by saying “Yes” to anything for a full year and how she was finally able to face her fears and start loving herself.
In case you’ve never heard of Shonda Rhimes, she’s the mastermind behind blockbuster TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Being an introverted workaholic, most of her public image came from the empowering statements she made about minorities (with a focus on women, and black women in particular), for example by finally putting them in the spotlight in her TV shows with lead roles.
On the inside, she wasn’t happy though. A hurtful, but true comment at a Thanksgiving dinner woke her up in late 2013. “You never say yes to anything.”
For the following year, Shonda decided she’d say yes to anything – and what she learned along the way ended up in this book.
Here are 3 lessons from Year of Yes:
Sometimes you need other people to push you, even if you don’t want to.
No (wo)man is an island: say yes to things without asking too many questions.
Just accept compliments, without playing it down.
Hope you’ve been practicing your “yes”, you’ll need it!
Lesson 1: Sometimes the only way to get you going is to have others push you.
Her sister’s comment at Thanksgiving stung Shonda, but the one who finally pushed her over the edge was her publicist. When getting an invitation for a fancy dinner party, to which even the president and his wife would show up, she simply accepted for Shonda.
She made the painful realization afterwards, that, without her publicist, she’d never have had an amazing night, because she herself surely would’ve declined the invitation.
This is what ultimately stopped her from letting life pass her by and the plan to say yes to anything that scared her for a full year, in order to learn what else she’d been missing out on.
What’s the lesson? Sometimes, you simply can’t cross a certain line. And that’s okay, because if you’ve got a few true friends, they’ll push you over the edge – even if it means upsetting you. The best thing you can do is hope for this to happen and don’t get mad at your friends when it does. Wait and see what happens, and then thank your friends for pushing you beyond what you thought you were capable of doing.
Lesson 2: No (wo)man is an island: say yes to things without asking too many questions.
The biggest lesson is of course to say yes to things. I’m a huge fan of focused efforts and quitting lots of things, but in order to know what to focus on and what to quit, you first need to do a bunch of things.
If you’re in that initial, figuring-out-what-to-do-phase, set a period of time in which you’ll say yes to anything that comes your way. Don’t ask questions, don’t complain, don’t deliberate. Just say yes and see what happens.
Once that time is up, take a look back. What new passions have emerged? Which things really were as bad as you’d imagined them? And what will you keep on doing?
This is especially true for introverts. We’re social people too – we just have a hard time admitting it. By running a year-of-yes experiment, you’ll learn a lot more about how social you really are. It’s probably more than you think.
Lesson 3: Just accept compliments as you get them, instead of trying to be too humble.
One valuable lesson Shonda learned about loving herself is to just accept compliments. Before she would react with modesty and play it down every time someone complimented her. Now she realized that it’s okay to take a bath in the sun sometimes.
When Bill Clinton praised Shonda on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, her assistant made a t-shirt for her saying “Bill Clinton loves ANYTHING I do.” She’s usually really shy, but decided to embrace the compliment and wear the shirt all day long.
If a compliment makes you happy, it’s totally fine to just accept it and celebrate it with pride for a little while. Of course you shouldn’t become a show-off and beat on old accomplishments over and over again, but being able to accept compliments is an integral part of a strong self.
It shows you that sometimes, you come first and that if others already love yourself, so should you.
My personal take-aways
I’m not sure if this was just a poorly written set of blinks, or if they reflected the book accurately, but the first word that comes to mind to describe this is shallow. It felt like the blinks were scratching the surface of topics that have been covered over and over, without any real new insights.
However, this is an autobiography, so no summary can do it justice. I’m sure Shonda’s messages are packaged and delivered in a lot clearer way inside the book itself and that I stand 100% behind the big message of the book: figure yourself out by saying yes to things.