Let 2021 be the Year of saying Yes. As I write, it is towards the end of 2020. And it’s really, really appropriate to be doing this particular blog because it’s focusing on 2021. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as you know, I’ve experienced it, you’ve experienced it. It has been one hell of a year in 2020. And so I want us to start focusing on 2021.
And the way I want to do this is by sharing some of the inspiration by the most amazing book that was written by Shonda Rhimes. The book is called The Year of Yes. I read it Well, I didn’t read it. I actually listened to the audible version of it, where Shonda Rhimes read, which is even better, because there are a couple of parts in it. On one occasion, she’s invited back to her old University. And another part she’s invited to be a guest on a chat show. And you actually hear those particular speeches live, which is so inspirational.
Now, she is the most incredible woman. She now has her own production company, which is called Shonda land. After her name, of course, she is a scriptwriter and producer and she has written and produced many really, really incredible TV programmes, which we in the United Kingdom can access on Netflix, things like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder. If you are listening at the end of 2020, you will be able to access her latest thing, which is called Bridgerton. At the end of December 2020, on Netflix.
What makes it particularly interesting all of her productions are that she has a diverse background of actors. They are not exclusively white people. There are people from all racial backgrounds that are playing all sorts of roles in all of these different productions. And she has been a spearhead for changing people’s perceptions of which actors to use the sorts of roles being colourblind to the audition process. And she has done more in this area than organisations organisations like the Oscars. In fact, she says in the book that so often, she is the first black woman to do this first black woman to do that . So she is really, really changing the world. She’s had many global awards. You know, the Shondaland production company is quite extraordinary. And it’s worth your while going back to her Wikipedia page, and seeing what actually she has achieved. She’s got three children that she has adopted. And, you know, on the surface, you felt that she had the most incredible life.
“You never say yes to anything”
But it was one day that one of her sisters and she’s the youngest of six children, said to her, the words that actually challenged her to look at her life differently. She said, “You never say yes to anything.” And Shonda obviously took a deep breath and spent some time thinking about that and realised that although on the outside, she was doing all of this incredible work in a way it was in the background. Although she was creating it. Other people were taking starring roles and getting recognition for it, which she was happy about. But she was out of the limelight.
She was living in the shadows, whilst other people were stepping into the limelight, she would decline invitations, she was constantly being asked to be interviewed on the TV, to go and speak, to be at events. And as she said, she had in her mind that she would have some sort of faux pas, if she went to a cocktail party, or she would be worried that she would trip up on the stage when she was going on when she was going to be interviewed, or that she would forget her lines when she was speaking.
She needed to change her mindset to saying yes.
But she realised that she needed to change her mindset. And instead of staying out of the limelight, and being in her comfort zone with her children, that she needed to step out of the shadows, to shine herself, because everybody else wanted her to shine. And everybody else wanted to share their love for her work with her in person.
So in the book, and in the audiobook, she shares everything that happens in the year, and she begins to recognise that she has avoided doing lots of things. I think that this is a great time for us, as a community to start thinking about what we do, whether in fact, we are all saying no to things, because we’re frightened, when in fact, they could be yes.
Are we saying No because we are frightened instead of yes?
Now, I think in this context, there’s an element of other people asking us to do things. It might be particularly if there are people that you really trust, or they really admire you that they can actually see the your potential, they can actually see that you should be doing this or that it’s a possibility. And I love the idea of the art of possibility that what happens if you do what happens if you fail? What happens if you fail? But what happens if actually, you do it, and you thrive?
And I want to twist this round and twist round our mindset around it. Because it could be a great way to start 2021 saying yes to these opportunities. In the last few weeks, I’ve started considering things that people have asked me to do in preparation for this blog. So in conversations, people have asked me, are you going to apply for this opportunity? And as soon as they said that, I recognised that instead of saying no, I needed to say yes. Are you applying for any awards this year? “Yeah,” I think I probably am going to be doing that. Do you want to go for this particular job? This opportunity? Yes. Instead of saying no, I’m too busy. Because it can be very easy to hide behind all of those excuses.
However, I’ve also been asked, for some business things, one recently was, would you like to come on our course? £10,000 . Now, in that case, you need to step back and consider? Is it worth my while going overdrawn? In order to do this course, what are the benefits? And it might be that it actually it’s somebody selling this to me, rather than it being an actual opportunity.
Another one recently, I was asked to do was to join a consortium for some PR that we would do together and we’d have a PR professional that would do the management of this for us. And I said yes, because it was really, really important. I could see that this would push my business and my profile to the next level. Yet there was that little voice saying all this is going to cost me money. You’re not big enough to do that. The others are far better than you. But I said yes.
Volunteering: saying Yes could be a great opportunity.
So let’s think about it. A couple of ways that you could be saying yes, rather than No. One of them is volunteering something I share in the Raise your Visibility for Career Success online course.. Now, obviously, we are not in a situation where we’re working in offices. So these are virtual opportunities. In the last few years, I have interviewed various people who are very successful. And a number of them say that if they are asked if there’s a volunteer to do a specific piece of work, they will say, yes, only a couple of weeks ago Vanessa Valley, who’s the CEO of We Are the City and incredibly successful, an inspirational woman said, if your boss asks for a volunteer to do a particular piece of work, you say yes, because even if it’s one of those pieces of work, that isn’t as glamorous that it’s destined to fail, you are going to learn some skills from it. All right. And I think that’s a really useful piece of advice. Likewise, Matthew Lester, who is the former financial Chief Financial Officer of the Royal Mail, said to me, that whenever when he was lower down when he was younger, if a boss said, Is there anyone that’s prepared to fly out tonight to deal with this problem? He’d say, Yes, I’ve got my passport with me. When’s the taxi coming? He would grab those opportunities. So he was known as somebody that was very reliable, he was getting additional skills and experience, what a great opportunity is that?
I would also say that there are often situations, but perhaps with committees, perhaps with organisations, perhaps even within your organisation where they have an alignment with particular charities, they might be looking for trustees, people to help run the organisation, or it might be a professional organisation. They are always looking for volunteers to go on to the committees, to assist with running events, to assist with fundraising, to assist with the general running of these organisations. This is an opportunity to say yes. You will get great experience from it, you will also learn a lot on how these organisations work, it will be more specific experience that you get. And you will be getting to know different people. If it’s an internal organisation, it might be that you meet people from different departments, you meet people from different levels, so might be people that are very much higher up than you are. And that is a great way for you to get known a massive opportunity. That is a real Yes.
Likewise, if it’s perhaps a professional organisation, you will be beginning to get to know people outside your organisation, you will be building up your network of people that you can start to get to know in other organisations, you don’t know if you’re going to need their advice at another point. So that is a really, really good tip.
Another one is awards. Now, I’m one of those people that has shied away from awards, it’s quite difficult to blow your own trumpet. And I would say two things about this. I pledge every year that I recommend and nominate three business women every year for awards. And likewise, two people did that for me this year, which was overwhelming. But I believe that it can almost be easier if you can get a third party to do it for you. So if you do hear about awards, if someone says, Why don’t you apply for that award, if you feel overwhelmed about doing it yourself, see if you’ve got a business buddy or a colleague at work that wouldn’t mind due to doing it on your behalf. But this is a really, really good thing to do because it can push you whatever happens. You will learn something from the experience.
Another one might be presenting, it might be that you actually are somebody says who would like to present this to the team, and if you say yes, you will have the opportunity to be seen by the other people, you will be able to share your opinions on this, you will be a bigger person for it. If you need some support to do this, why not book a session with Susan who will coach you.
Another one might be jobs. You know, there are jobs that could are going to come up, it might be a few months because of the situation as it is at the moment. But instead of when somebody says, Why don’t you apply for that job? Or no, I can’t do I haven’t got the experience there. The fact that somebody’s saying that to you, in fact, it’s quite rude if you say, Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. You’re actually saying to them that their opinion isn’t valid. But Guess what? Why don’t you take a deep breath and say, yeah, I’ll have a go, whatever happens, I will have applied. Because you don’t know what will happen. You don’t know if you’ll be successful. But whatever happens, you will have stepped up to the next level.
If you say “No” to someone who has taken the time to advise you, they might take it personally.
There are loads more things that we can do with saying yes, I’ve only come up with a couple of them. But I want you to go away and start thinking about what other people say either in emails or text messages to you or in the spoken communication. What are they asking you to do? Are they asking you and actually it’s an opportunity, they see the potential of you? In which case you need to start saying, Yes, start looking at when you say no. Is there a pattern attached to this? Is it actually because you are scared of stepping outside your comfort zone? Or is it as I mentioned before, because the opportunity actually costs you £10,000, and that’s out of your budget? Think about it.
I’d love to know how you get on. I think that I will come back to this probably in April May to see how people are getting on. And I will share some of the yeses that I have done as well. So remember, think about when you say no. Could it actually be a yes? Could you be missing out on an opportunity? Could the person that has asked you see your potential, but you are closing the door to that potential.