6 Lessons I Learned From Year Of Yes

Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes was the first (and last) book I read in my very own (very small) book club I had with my mother.

Ironically enough, I was reintroduced to the book when I decided to join a local book club last month.

The first time I read the book, I found myself wanting to say yes to everything. I was aware of Shonda Rhimes before reading Year Of Yes, (Hello, she’s the Queen of #TGIT) but I wasn’t aware of Shonda Rhimes the person.

So, I decided to revisit my notes and participate in the discussion at the book club to see how much my ideas (if they have) changed in the past year. I found that Year Of Yes is very much relevant to my life now.

So FYI, the following post contains book spoilers, no #WhoKilledWes spoilers here (I promise):

  1. I’m A Liar

Shonda Rhimes is a storyteller. The first sentence in the book “I’m a liar” resonated with me. As storyteller, we’re liars. We create stories, characters and fictional experiences.

I’m constantly in dream-mode. No one realizes it, but I’m always thinking of new writing prompts, scenarios, etc. At the end of the day, I’m a writer.

After reading the introduction, I found dreaming can have consequences (if you want to call it that):

Names are forgotten, details of one event are switched with another, a crazy story I am sure was told by one friend was actually told by someone else. The insides of my brain are a fading photograph, stories and images drifting away to places unknown. Leaving patches of nothingness where a name or an event or a location should be. – Hello, pp. xvii

Recently, I’ve been telling people a childhood memory that never actually existed. I felt I was the liar Rhimes kept reiterating throughout the whole book. How did I create this memory in mind? How did I find it so realistic?

2. I’m An Introvert

I didn’t need Shonda Rhimes to tell me I’m an introvert, but she did help make it more acceptable. I was surprised how someone as successful as Shonda can get overwhelmed with public speaking or just overall public outings.

We’re so quick to judge people based on money, opportunities or any thing about a person’s life we can’t achieve ourselves. However, we failed to realize there’s always an untold story.

But being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. She had the chance to be comfortable in her own skin and her boundaries.

3. Step Out Your Comfort Zone

We’re so custom with sticking to what we know and staying in our own bubble. The word ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are used for minimal purposes, but we should decide to use them to test our boundaries.

You never know the outcome if you don’t take a chance and simply say yes, but you should never feel guilty to say no to a friend, a partner or even a boss if you don’t feel comfortable about a situation, decision or opinion:

No is powerful. It’s a big weapon to have in your arsenal. But it is a very tough weapon to deploy. – Chapter 11: Yes to No, Yes to Difficult Conversations, pp. 216

Shonda realized she had to say no to family, no to coworkers, and no to people who believe they can walk all over her. As an introvert, people believe we’re only observers who stay quiet. They fail to realize we take that energy to stand up for ourselves.

4. Dreamer vs. Doer

I’ll admit, I spend a lot of time dreaming. I create goals, but half of them are left just ideas. I want to be a doer, but I’m left in-between the two.

However, Shonda brought up a good point:

Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change. – Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth, pp. 78

It goes back to stepping out of my comfort zone and simply doing the goals I wish to accomplish. I spend time worrying about the outcome instead of just taking a leap and dealing with how positive it can turn out.

5. How ‘Woke’ Are You?

….But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing into your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show… – Chapter 5: Yes to Speaking the Whole Truth, pp. 84

This quote speaks for itself. I’ve come to a realization that I can do more than just use social media as a way to stand for a cause. It’s great to be involve and engage, but it’s even better to create change.

Whether it’s calling your representatives or participating in a march. I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts and I hope that it continues to be engrained in my mind as a goal for 2017.

6. Normalizing > Diversity

I started to cringe at the word diversity after reading this book. Everyone is always fighting for diversity. Brands, companies, people…

Okay we get it. You basically want normal.

Here’s a woman who is making television normal. She’s basically presenting every day life with every day people. She creates shows with different backgrounds: gender, sexuality, religion and more with complex stories. Shonda is giving powerful roles, breaking away from typecasting and overall providing a voice to many different people.

A year later and I still feel strongly about what I got out of the book. I see Shonda, not as the creator of the most popular shows on television, but a human being that learned to love herself and spend a year taking risks in order to build a better her.

We should all take a page out of her book.

Photo credit: Dharmaleon



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