The case could be made that “yes” is the most powerful word in the world.
This is a thing that took me too long to learn in my life. Shortly after college and deep in the places where having a skeptical (okay, fine, cynical) outlook can take you, I knew about this “yes” thing, but I wasn’t interested in it. “No” was a lot easier. Only two letters, after all. One consonant, one vowel; there’s a beautiful balance there. And it had the power to ward off all kinds of uncomfortable situations.
“Is today the day you start writing that novel?” No.
“How about going for a run?” No.
“Maybe call up an old friend, or think about enrolling in a class, or even just step out of the house and do something different today?” Nope. I’m good.
No keeps the world in check. Keeps things level, even, and easy.
But yes is inherently unbalanced. Two consonants and a vowel, none of no’s lovely symmetry. Not only is it unbalanced, it’s unbalancing. “Yes” shatters the status quo. “Yes” breaks the mold. “Yes” floods your comfort zone with pepper spray and forces you to get the hell out of there.
“Working on that novel today?” Yes.
“Gonna do some research on publishers, too?” Yes.
“How about exercising a little? Reading a book instead of watching TV all day? Try something new out at work?” Yes, yes, yes.
“Maybe elect an orange dude with tiny hands and a rampant narcissism to run the most important democracy in the free world?” Apparently, yes.
(Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t. Couldn’t help it. Just slipped out. But my point stands: we are shattering the status quo.)
Point is, “no” lets you stay where you are. It lets you grow roots into the floor and get comfortable. “Yes” keeps you moving. Not always forward — if only life were so obliging — but always onward.
I teach drama, and one of the things I spend a lot of time on is improv. For the uninitiated, improv is that crazy thing actors do where they go in without a script, take on suggestions from the audience, and attempt to roll with it. Sometimes the scenes crash and burn, sometimes they soar. But always, the scenes are interesting. Even a scene that crashes has interesting tidbits lurking in the rubble. Anyway, the cardinal rule of improv is: “say yes.” Your partner brings to you a strange suggestion. “Let’s go see what’s in that cave.” That’s an opportunity. For you, because you get to embark on an adventure that you didn’t even have to come up with. For the audience, because now they want to know what’s in the cave. If you say “yes,” we all get to go on the adventure. If you say “no,” not only do we not get to go on the adventure, but we have to come up with a new idea. Not to mention, you piss off your scene partner, which is never a good idea. Actors are jerks.
So, let this little spiel fall into the pile of things I would have said to a younger version of myself. Say yes. Go on the adventure. Try the thing that scares you.
You know. Except for the whole voting for the orange guy thing. It’s okay to say “no” every once in a while.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.