In the 2008 movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey portrays a man unhappy with the recent events in his life so he challenges himself to just start saying ‘YES’ to every opportunity that presents itself to him. Of course, hilarity ensues, as we would expect from the famous comedic actor, but there’s a lesson that can be learned from this movie that also applies to artists.
Now, I preface this with saying that having healthy boundaries and saying no is just as important as saying yes. Where my theory comes in, is that when you are saying ‘no’ too much out of lack of confidence and fear, you may be missing out on things that could be leading you closer to the path you want to be on.
Finding the courage to say yes to opportunities didn’t always come naturally for me. In fact, I used to chicken out of things all the time, because I was afraid I wasn’t going to live up to the other person’s expectations or even my own. In fact, I was bordering on being a complete flake with the number of times I half committed to things, found a reason at the last moment not to do it, or worse, just ghosted the invitation by not responding at all.
What I’ve learned over the last few years especially, was that by saying yes to things that were good opportunities, even though they scared the heck out of me, I started to gain more confidence to continue taking opportunities that came my way. Your ‘yes’ doesn’t have to be a huge offer to publish a book or show your art at a major gallery. It can be as small as taking a job because you need extra money, and realizing it will then give you customer service skills that will be valuable to running your business later on. It could even be keeping in touch with that friend from college who will eventually recommend you to a great new client based on your consistent long-standing personal relationship.
Saying yes is about being an active participant in your life and to opportunities that are sometimes scary but could have immediate or long-term benefits. When I was asked to write for COLORED PENCIL Magazine, I was filled with mixed emotions. On one hand, I was elated and also totally checked my email to make sure it wasn’t some cruel spammy joke. I was also terrified because I didn’t consider myself a real writer so what if I totally failed at it!? Despite the whirlwind of excitement and hesitation, I went for it anyway. Almost 3 years later, I think of all the opportunities I have had since because of that one ‘yes’, that I’m not sure I would have otherwise at this point. That one particular incident, however, was also preceded by many other scenarios where a simple yes to either myself or someone else would all lead to the magazine opportunity.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s also a time to say no. This is the obvious stuff like situations where you may be putting yourself or others in the path of danger. You don’t want to blindly say yes to everything because that can have bad consequences too, as our friend Jim Carrey learns through the course of his journey in the movie. Sometimes your gut is saying to you very strongly not to do something, and a lot of the time it’s completely right. What you want to do is be able to separate the legitimate concerns from fears based in lack of confidence or untrue beliefs you have about yourself. As much as this can be a hard pill to swallow, failure is often also part of the journey to success as well. In fact, most successful people will tell you it’s a crucial part. There’s power in learning from your failures, and part of that is taking the risk, to begin with.
Much like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, every choice you make leads to another path, and another and yet another. If you’re expecting an endless Bandersnatch scenario then you’ll likely let your fears paralyze you from any opportunity that comes your way. If you take the leap, however, and start saying yes to small things, it will eventually make saying yes to the bigger things a lot easier. Remember that if you someone is presenting you with an opportunity, it’s because they already believe you are able to succeed at it. If for some reason you don’t though, refrain from letting that crush your spirit. Learn from your mistakes and move forward. You never know what chain events will lead you to fulfilling your wildest dreams, all from a simple YES!
Do you know someone who needs more ‘YES’ in their life? Share this blog post with them!