March E-Reads: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

"Yessssss. Use snake sounds."

If there was a token quote from childhood, it would be that. My parents were big on manners as many parents tend to be.

As we all get older, most of us stay pretty obsessed with manners, sometimes without noticing it. We say thank you when the Starbucks barista gives us our morning fuel. We hold the door for the person walking behind us. We write thank you cards for birthday gifts.

But it doesn't end there, does it?

We don't just use our manners when we are supposed to. We use our manners all the time, even at our own expense. We would rather trek five miles up hill, carrying everyone else's baggage, while wearing high heals than allow for someone else to think we are selfish or that we are in some way a bad person.

The disease to please is real and it's everywhere.

I knew that before reading Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes that I was infected with the disease to please. Heck, I could be its poster girl. I apologized for everything. I avoided conflict as if it were a deadly plague. I tip-toed around everyone's feelings. And boy did I over analyzed everything.

I walked into Christmas Eve at my aunt's house emotionally exhausted. It had been a stressful year, quite possibly the most challenging year of my life. I had mentioned to my cousins that I wanted to read Shonda Rhimes' new book. We did our Secret Santa shindigs and I unwrapped what would be a transformative experience.

I wanted to read Shonda's book because, I mean, she's Shonda Rhimes. She practically owns Thursday night television with her shows Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. I had watched her Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah and I had a feeling the book would be good. I wasn't expecting something phenomenal. I put very few books into that category.

But if anyone can write a book that throws your heart strings through a washing machine a few times–flip them around, shake them up, cleanse them from the rubbish–it's Shonda Rhimes.

To make a long story short, Year of Yes is about Shonda agreeing to make intentional choices to say yes to the things she wants in her life for a year after her sister said to her, "You never say yes to anything."

In the classroom of Shonda, here were the top three things Year of Yes taught me.

1. Your Yeses Are Crazy Powerful

I'm a fan of the word yes. Remember? Snake sounds? It's engrained in me. It's engrained in most of us.

But I never understood how powerful a yes was. When we say "yes," we are agreeing to allocate energy of some sort to something. We are agreeing to give up part of our short, precious lives for that yes. Whether that yes is, "Yes, I'll wash the dishes," or "Yes, I'll go to grad school," or "Yes, I will go on a date with you," that yes means something. That yes means time.

Think about how many yeses you have said without thinking about it. Or worse, saying yes when you want to say no. How much time–your most valuable resource–have you wasted?

Shonda Rhimes' lesson: Stand in your yeses. Recognize their power. Own your nos. Don't apologize.

2. You Can Lose Yourself In Your No

"No, I can't pitch my business idea. I am not smart enough."

"No, I am going to pass on meeting that person. I'll be awkward."

"No, I am going to prioritize everyone else today and not think about myself at all."

Saying no is easy when it is saying no to something for yourself, especially when the yes makes you uncomfortable in one way or another. The crazy thing is, we don't even realize how often we say no to getting to know ourselves. In the process, we slowly wither away into a mere remnant of who we really are.

One of those look-up-from-the-page-in-shock moments for me was when Shonda said, "Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one no at a time.

So I tried to notice how many times I say no in a day. I was terrified by the number. And it isn't necessarily saying no verbally. It is in your actions. It is in your thoughts. It is in your language outside of just the word "no."

Shonda Rhimes' lesson: You can lose yourself in your no and you can find yourself in your yes.

3. You Can Just Say Thank You

Shonda talked about this awards show she went to for Elle, where the Editor in Chief listed off all of the achievements of the women who were being recognized. Shonda noticed that with each recognition, each woman essentially swatted the mention away from herself, as if it were a pesky mosquito instead of something she actually accomplished. Not a compliment. An accomplishment. A fact.

But humility is a good thing, right? Well of course, but there is a limit. You can just say "thank you." When someone says, "You did a great job at (insert something you did)" or "You have the shiniest hair," you can just say "thank you." That's it. Thank you, period.

That sounds pretty basic. Just say thank you more. But it is what the thank you stands for is what matters.

By just saying thank you, you are saying yes to how great you are. It shows that you have insane confidence and it allows you to recognize your power. Not only that, it gives others permission to own their awesomeness, too.

Shonda Rhimes' lesson: Say yes to your awesomeness and wear it as a badge of honor.

As I closed this book, I thought about how I was going to actually benefit from this book. I'm a big believer in a book being a waste of time unless you intentionally look for a takeaway, some way these teachings can positively impact your life.

Shonda Rhimes Told Me To Say Yes to...

  • Going full throttle towards exactly what I want to do, no matter how risky it may seem.
  • Being a little more selfish and a little less obsessed with other people's feelings.
  • Being okay with being a little uncomfortable in the unknown, whether that is a meeting, an opportunity, or the future.
  • Owning where I am, what it took to get here, and where I am going.
  • Surrendering the having it all/overall best tunnel of pure insanity.
  • Accepting that I don't have it all figured out.

Here's to using snack sounds. Yesssssss.

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Tune in to our Spire E-reads Book Club chat on Periscope on March 22 at 9:00 pm EST. Follow us on Periscope at @SpireAndCo.