Are you the type of person who says Yes?
The other week I was listening to extemporaneous speeches given by our students in a leadership development program. We’ve been working with them on storytelling and presenting skills. Their charge on this morning was to randomly pick a card that had a question. Some of them were silly, like what is your favorite cereal.
But one of them was about accomplishments, as in, which are you most proud of?
J got that one. He started off a little rough and I could see the ideas swirling in his head until he lighted on one and, voila! It clicked. He explained that he preferred to look forward instead of backward on things he’d already done. His thoughts were on what accomplishments can he still strive for. And then he said, “I like to say Yes.”
That phrase struck me like a thunderbolt. It was a jump not everyone could make. Most of us would have simply answered the original question and chosen some sort of accomplishment from our past that made us look good.
But here, J was thinking on a higher plane, more philosophical than analytical. I loved it. Probably because like all good stories, his made me look internally to ask myself, what do I say yes to?
The answer was, not enough.
I have a big birthday coming up and that always makes one more reflective. There is the issue of time and how quickly it moves. (Is the year really almost half over already?!) There is also the issue of my responsibility to the world, to my friends, and to people I don’t know but feel I should be helping.
Recently, I had the good fortune to see Secretary Hillary Clinton speak in my neighborhood of Uptown in Chicago. It was so close to my home that we walked to the venue on a beautiful May evening and I was feeling optimistic. At one point in the interview, Clinton was asked what still gets her excited after having accomplished so much in her life.
She sat up a little taller in the chair and said, “what gets me up every morning is thinking about how I can make people’s lives better.” Coming from someone else, that answer would sound trite. But she was so damn excited to talk about what energized her and to give us a few examples that the rest of us in the auditorium started thinking about what we can do and what gets us up in the morning.
Hillary Clinton is a woman who says Yes. I want to be like Hillary Clinton.
When I Say No
A simple phrase like I like to say yes can be tormenting to those of us who feel we should say yes to everything but in actuality say yes to seemingly little. Part of it is the introvert in me. I like spending time alone or staying home instead of going out to a fancy restaurant. I’m a writer, after all.
But I am also a citizen of this world and take that responsibility seriously. It can be overwhelming trying to solve the world’s problems and I understand I can’t do everything. But where can I make the most difference?
I am very concerned about individual “creative confidence.” Now that AI is actually a thing, I worry even more that people who think, I am not creative will just accept that notion and use AI to write and pretend-think instead of finding their own way.
But what if instead of sitting alone in your office staring at a blank screen when you’re supposed to be writing a message or scripting a video, you were looking at a colorful screen with lots of voices to urge you on?
Collaborate To Be More Creative
If I don’t include, “eat this chocolate sitting in front of me,” many of my yesses involve talking with other people. Collaboration is an art form that requires a yes. Unlike improv when saying yes is crucial to keeping the scene moving forward, collaboration doesn’t always require a true yes, more of an agreement to talk and argue, to try things on, to offer up a completely different direction and see where that takes you.
Who I Say YES To
Individuals looking for meaningful work or creative projects
I get requests from people looking to change their line of work from say, data engineer to something in the arts. I love talking to these folks and am happy to fire off ideas and ask challenging questions. Their excitement (and anxiety) fires me up to take a few risks of my own.
Small business owners
Having run several small businesses of my own, I have a special place in my heart for anyone crazy enough to do their own thing and try to earn a living at it. Talking about running and marketing a small business is so exciting to me because there are few rules. In large companies you are almost always playing according to someone else’s playbook. Sure, owning your own business is a crazy financial roller coaster, but once you accept that fact, then the doors are open to give any creative or crazy idea a shot.
But working alone is tough. Even if you have staff, a small business owner isn’t always able to include them in all decision making. I love being that sounding board and offering up stories from my past…mostly about failure because those are often: a. more interesting, and b. more instructive.
I don’t really have a stake in whether or not this company succeeds, and my participation is purely selfish. I just love playing with ideas.
Collaboration Is Life
I love to brainstorm. One of my consulting programs is called Against the Wall. As in, you can hire me for an afternoon to brainstorm and throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks. Whatever comes out of my mouth that day, you get to use.
I love this because I never fear that I will run out of ideas. Especially if I am working with someone to toss those ideas back and forth.
Collaboration Community…Community Collaboration
I know, community is becoming a C.R.A.P. word. But even overused, practically jargon words can still hold meaning. Beth and I collaborate with one another as a manner of being. We don’t really know any other way to work together. It’s fun, even working on an assignment we’re not particularly fond of.
Because we work hard to create that sense of “community” in all our programs and among our students, it was an easy leap to want to open that door wider, invite more people into the circle so that everyone has a chance to collaborate and get energized, even if they are the sole “creative” working in an office alone.
Sure, the internet has wreaked a lot of havoc in our lives, but it has also made connecting with people we don’t know easy and less frightening. Especially if those opportunities are in an online setting where there are no jerks and everyone is a collaborator, ready to offer ideas and ask for help when needed.
Story Mode Circle
We have just given birth to the Story Mode Circle, an online learning community that is all about collaboration. It’s the next logical step to bringing the gospel of good storytelling to more people. More than this, it’s our way of making connections possible, creating a space for anyone who communicates at work to push each other, to try new techniques, to find camaraderie, to complain, to brainstorm, to chat, to learn, and to just be with others who are also searching for the right way to say what needs to be said.
Nothing makes us happier than seeing a group of colleagues push each other in untried (sometimes uncomfortable) directions in order to find the exact words or images to make their story real.
We want to make it easier for you to say Yes.
We know this online learning/teaching community will make people around the globe more successful at their jobs and feel better about their creative selves. Still, there is always that drop of doubt when trying something no one else has done before. To me, this is the exciting part.
What will I always say Yes to? I will always say Yes to trying the untried, to experimenting with an idea, especially one that brings people together.