Every year I have a few quotes or memorable sayings to try to live life by. They are, on purpose, not
universally beloved or well known. They have always been random nuggets of wisdom, dropped on me
at random. I write them down in my bullet journal (thanks, Jessica!) to refer back to later. Being on the
lookout for these gems helps me to notice and appreciate what is happening around me, while taking a
moment to honor another’s words by writing them down.
Choosing just one phrase to think about for this blog post has been difficult, since I’ve been collecting
them for a while and, frankly, my friends are smart, caring, wonderful people who say brilliant things all
the time. But, a teammate once tweeted “Say YES to every weird opportunity.” I don’t remember the
context, but it spoke to me. Like in the Leadership Minor where we talk about the power of the ASK,
saying yes to weird opportunities is simply making that Ask of yourself. We ask leaders to take risks -the
more times you do something risky the easier taking a risk becomes. We ask leaders to set an example.
We expect leaders to have experiences and understanding of things that are different than they are –
saying yes to weird opportunities allows you to live a more robust life.
Take a moment to reflect on what weird opportunity have you said yes to? Imagine what would have
happened if you had said no? How has that positively or negatively changed your life? How do you
Benefits of saying yes: Saying yes to weird opportunities gives you far more exciting or interesting
stories out of your life. Saying yes puts you in the company of others who also said yes. Saying yes gives
you a great excuse to do the things you have been afraid of. Saying yes might earn (or save) you some
money. Saying yes might help you find a new friend or romantic partner. Saying yes makes you more
confident. Saying yes gives you a reputation of a person who says yes to things, which inspires others to
ask you to do more weird things you can say yes to!
Saying yes gives us the opportunity to get out of our comfort zone and experience growth. I’ve been
thinking a lot about how and why to intentionally practice vulnerability and risk, particularly without
dumping our entire emotional baggage out on the floor, which is what most people think when we ask
them to be vulnerable. We ask leaders to be vulnerable and take risks but it’s often unclear HOW we can
teach or practice that or why it is important. How can we make this a part of our core belief system? The
willingness to be uncomfortable – to be embarrassed, wrong, or hurt – in lower-stakes environments
allows us to later take action when it really matters, often when it is less emotionally safe to do so. I’ve
met people who are embarrassed by what I think are simple things like asking a stranger for directions
or asking for a bank fee to be removed. If you can’t tell the barista your coffee order has been made
incorrectly, how will you be able to stand up for what you believe in circumstances that are more
consequential? Being a person who says yes moves us from being an aspiration of who we want to be
into the actuality of who we are.
Imposter syndrome can be a real barrier to this philosophy. If I have been struggling with self-
confidence, feeling closed off, wanting to be seen as “cool,” being asked to do something I feel
unqualified to do, or trying to do something that scares me, I think of this tweet. (When I was asked to
write this blog post it was the thing I reminded myself of to inspire me to be brave.) Say yes now and
figure it out later – trust the future you!
Stephen Sondheim write a song in Anyone Can Whistle called “Everyone Says Don’t.” One of my favorite
lines is: Make just a ripple. Come on, be brave. This time a ripple. Next time a wave!
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLK7JZO4EYM – Jenn Colella at MCC Theater’s MisCast Gala)
Be brave. Say yes.