Year of Yes

Years ago, I came across Shonda Rhimes’ book, Year of Yes. It is truly one of my most favorite books. I couldn’t put it down, and I have referred back to my notes often so I thought I would share them with you.

Shonda Rhimes is a critically acclaimed and award-winnng creator and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder, The Catch, Station 19, and Bridgerton. She has built the Shondaland empire and is kind of a big deal.

Often times we hold ourselves back. But why not say “yes”? Why not say yes to the things that scare you?

Here are my favorites (which there are many because the book is so good):

I said yes to something that terrified me. And then I did it. And I didn’t die.

Cristina has learned what she needs to know. Her toolbox is full. She has learned to not let go of the pieces of herself that she needs in order to be what someone else wants. She’s learned not to compromise. She’s learned not to settle. She’s learned, as difficult as it is, how to be her own sun.

YES should feel like the sun.

YES does feel like the sun.

Shonda, how do you do it all? The answer is this: I don’t. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I’m probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I am probably blowing off a script I was supposed to rewrite. If I’m accepting a prestigious award, I’m missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade-off.

Who you are today . . . that’s who you are. Be brave. Be amazing. Be worthy. And every single time you get the chance? Stand up in front of people. Let them see you. Speak. Be heard. Go ahead and have the dry mouth. Let your heart beat so, so fast. Watch everything move in slow motion. So what. You what? You pass out, you die, you poop? No. (And this is really the only lesson you’ll ever need to know.) You take it in.

You breathe this rare air. You feel alive. You are yourself. You are truly finally always yourself. Thank you. Good luck.

I might as well say yes to being me.

I am going to say yes to everything that scares me.

That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.

Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies toward making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest that doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s just good karma.

My dreams did not come true. But I worked really hard. And I ended up building an empire out of my imagination. So my dreams can suck it.

You can wake up one day and find that you are interesting and powerful and engaged. You can wake up one day and find that you are a doer.

I am a hot-mess mama.

You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. I’m a mother forever. Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation. Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us. Being a mother brings us face-to-face with ourselves as children, with our mothers as human beings, with our darkest fears of who we really are. Being a mother requires us to get it together or risk messing up another person forever. Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages.

Emerson put her head against my chest and listened until she heard my heart. Then she looked at me solemnly. “You are still alive.” Yes, I am. Days like this, I am still alive.

It’s just something we forget. We could all use a little more love. A lot more love.

I change the bottom of my email signature so that it now reads: “Please Note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 pm or on weekends. IF I AM YOUR BOSS, MAY I SUGGEST: PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.” And then I do what seems impossible: I actually stop answering emails that arrive after seven p.m. I have to turn off my phone to do it. But I do it. I have incredibly expert people working for me who run our sets. Learning to step back and let these people have the pleasure of doing their jobs without my peering over their shoulders has been great for them and for me both. I make a vow to come home by six p.m. every night for dinner. If an issue is happening at work, I can find a way to come home from six p.m. to eight p.m. to be with the kids and then hop on my computer and work from home after that. Technology should be making it easier and easier for this to happen. I’m not perfect at it.

… Yes is about giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what’s good for you over to what makes you feel good.

Uninterrupted is the key: no cell phone, no laundry, no dinner, no anything. You have a busy life. You have to get dinner on the table. You have to make sure they get homework done. You have to force them to bathe. But you can do fifteen minutes.

At work, I am a badass warrior. I’m competitive. I work hard.

I work hard—that’s how I succeed. That’s how ANYONE succeeds.

Lucky implies I didn’t do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. Gentle reader, may you never be lucky. I am not lucky. You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.

Badassery, I’m discovering, is a new level of confidence—in both yourself and those around you. I now feel like I can see so many amazing things about myself and the people around me. It’s as if before, by hiding and worrying and being unhappy, I was not looking at the people around me and seeing how truly gifted and amazing they are. There was certainly nothing in me that could have been positive and uplifting or inspiring to them. Not when I was so busy hiding and trying to be smaller and a nothing. I’ve started to think we are like mirrors. What you are gets reflected back to you. What you see in yourself, you may see in others, and what others see in you, they may see in themselves.

They never apologize for their marvelousness. They do not make themselves smaller for anyone. And they too make up their own words. That is some amazing incredible badassery. (Referring to her daughters.)

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up,” I whisper to myself in the shower every morning.

Saying no was a way to disappear. Saying no was my own slow form of suicide. Which is crazy. Because I do not want to die.

Time was up. The year was done. But I was not. Which is how the Year of Yes went from twelve months to forever. I can do that. I can change the challenge if I want to. It’s mine. Besides, I’m not running on regular time anymore anyway. Have you checked my clock? I am fully synced up with Badassery Time. Saying yes . . . saying yes is courage. Saying yes is the sun. Saying yes is life.

I am a work in progress.

No is powerful. It’s a big weapon to have in your arsenal. But it is a very tough weapon to deploy. Everyone knows how difficult it is to say no.

I realized a very simple truth: that success, fame, having all my dreams come true would not fix or improve me, it wasn’t an instant potion for personal growth. Having all my dreams come true only seemed to magnify whatever qualities I already possessed.

I grew more courageous; I shed some shyness, some awkwardness, some social fear. Each time I said yes, I gained new friends and new experiences and found myself getting involved with projects that I never would have dreamed I could be part of.

I laughed more. I was bolder. I was brazen. I spoke my mind and spoke it loud. And as busy as I was, I felt like I had more free time than ever; I realized I’d been wasting a huge amount of time and energy on complaining and feeling sorry for myself, being dark and twisty me. Now I wasn’t interested in being that person. Not when it was so much easier to just open my mouth and talk.

This Cristina that we made was a revelation. She was never silenced. Never small. Never too insecure to make good on her natural gifts. The Cristina of our collective dreams is larger than life and sure of her genius. And, as drawn by us, while often afraid, our Cristina was able to overcome her fears through sheer strength of will. She made bold choices. She felt fearless even when she was terrified.


So many of these quotes resonate in me. They are empowering. Do they speak to you? You can always find a way to say yes. Are you ready to say “yes” to the things that scare you? I am.

xoxo, Jane Anne

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