Each Friday, Simon and Schuster send out a promo email advertising temporarily discounted books. You can snag great Kindle reads for a couple of dollars. If you’re not on their mailing list, you can right that travesty by going here. Trust me, you want to be on this list.
That list is how I found Shonda Rhimes’s 2015 book Year of Yes. I’d heard about it, of course, but I’d never gotten around to reading it. If you don’t know who Shonda Rimes is, she’s the creator of the hit TV shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and more recently, Bridgerton. She’s a brilliant writer.
I love strong women who don’t give a shit what anybody thinks of them, which is why I adore Shonda Rhimes’s characters. When I grow up, I want to be Olivia Pope, minus the bad eating and drinking habits. That’s because I’m a recovering people pleaser. People like me, we need models to demonstrate what not giving a crap looks like, how to actually do it. (Apparently, so does Shonda Rhimes, which is why she created them in the first place.)
So, here’s the premise of Year of Yes.
At one point, Shonda Rhimes had three concurrent series for which she was “laying track”. A self-ascribed type A, obsessive, workaholic control freak, she’d forgotten how to do anything but keep her head down and type. She’d gotten into a rut, refusing all media opportunities, award banquets, parties and such. Criticized by her sister for cutting herself off, shunning fun, Shonda decided to spend the next twelve months saying “yes” to every invitation that came her way.
If you’re socially awkward, dislike the spotlight, and despise small talk—raises hand—you may appreciate the setup, the discomfort it promises. Ruts that involve spending a lot of time by yourself? Mighty comfortable. Lots of personal attention when you’ve got no scripted role to play? Not so much.
The book is the culmination of all those yeses, the final act of allowing herself to be seen.
See, I am an introvert. Deep. To the bone. My marrow is introvert marrow. My snot is introvert snot. Every cell in my body screams continuously at me with every word I type that writing this book is an unnatural act….And that, dear reader, is the point. It’s the whole thing. Which is why I am writing it anyway. Despite the twitching and the laughing and the breathing.
Being too comfortable is what started all of this in the first place.
With each yes, Shonda became more and more comfortable being herself. Yeses to talk show interviews led to taking care of her health, then to dealing with conflict, something she’d always avoided. In other words, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable transformed Shonda’s life. In essence, she learned to own and embrace herself.
I’ve found myself wondering what saying yes would look like for me. Yes to speaking on more podcasts; asking questions and offering my opinion in my mastermind group, where I rather like playing Sphinx. Showing up for unscripted conversations on Clubhouse, the very idea of which makes me cringe. Making more videos. Finishing my memoir and publishing it after all these bloody years. Going to conference after-hours events instead of fleeing the room…
Who would I become after a year of this?
What would saying yes look like for you? Writing that book you’ve been talking about since time immemorial? Starting that business? Doing that talk the next time you’re invited?
Who could you become after a year of yes?