Saying yes means allowing room for opportunity. It means giving myself permission to try and to fail, while knowing you’ll be changed afterwards having learned something new. Saying yes, can be terrifying, but if you say yes, you might be surprised at what is possible.
The first time I realized the power of saying yes was when John Turturro asked me if I would choreograph his feature film, Romance and Cigarettes. Without hesitation, I said yes. I had not choreographed anything except my college comp class, but I knew I could do it. I knew I would do it. It was terrifying. I was terrified, but not uncertain. Those are two things I want to differentiate. I held fear and certainly simultaneously. So I went home and learned the music and made the steps and choreographed my first feature film leading me to a career of directing, writing and choreographing film, television and theater. And I got to work with James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet. I could never have dreamed I would be given an opportunity like that, but by saying yes, an entire world of possibility opened up to me.
The second time saying yes changed my life, was when motivational speaker and thought leader Petra Kolber asked me to direct her TEDx Talk. I figured it would be just like directing any other one woman show, but what I didn’t know just how amazing it would be working with her or that it would take me down the road of starting a new business of working with public speakers. Just like before, I had no experience. I was not familiar in the art of public speaking or TED, but I did know how to analyze a script and direct actors. So I held that as my certainty and filled in the fear part by doing my research. I read Chris Anderson’s book The Ultimate Guide to TED, in one sitting. I became obsessed with the art form of TED and TEDx and I watched talks that were good and bad, becoming an expert.
Both times I rolled up my sleeves, did my homework, trusting that if yes led me to fail, I could always get back up, dust myself off and say yes to the next unknown. And that’s exactly what I did when I did fail. Oh and add in the hefty legal fees.
I said yes to a project that I knew, in my gut, was not right. I had a feeling about it from the beginning and I didn’t listen to my intuition. I was hired to create a show for someone. The content was very interesting to me and very meaningful. That is what got in the way of me saying no. I said yes to the possibility of changing lives with this material. This person ended up stealing the show, my writing, my choreography and taking full credit for it. It was very painful, but the damage was minor. This is very important, saying yes, means being open and taking risks, and being willing to try again. But it’s not about being stupid or putting yourself at risk. This project ended up costing me money and the loss of my work simultaneously, but nobody got hurt.
When you say yes to something that you aren’t fully prepared for, run, don’t walk to the nearest computer. Start doing your research, your note-taking and learn fast. Be ready to deliver and deliver hard. You have one chance when you say yes to something you aren’t ready for, so you must over deliver. When you do that, you are the one they call in the future fully confident in your ability.
People always talk about boundaries and how being comfortable with saying no is so important. I think saying no to an invitation to a dinner party is absolutely the right thing to do, if you are spread thin. I say no to invitations all the time because I go to bed very early during the week and I know that if I’m out late on a weekday I’m not at the level of productivity I want to be at, so I’ll say no.
What I say yes to are my needs in that moment. It may sound like I’m saying no to an invitation to the theater, but I’m really saying yes to getting a good night sleep and having a highly productive next day.
You can start saying yes right now. Wake up and say, yes, I’m going to hit the gym. Say yes, to how amazing you are each day. Say yes to a project that is out of your comfort zone and blow it out of the water. Say yes to trying something new and surprise yourself at the joy you feel. Say yes to staying at home with a good book because you are that important.
Say yes to having the biggest life possible, because your happiness will create happiness in others. And when you say yes in business, people will be attracted to you by your willingness to say yes and your ability to back it up with expertise.