Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Lost Art of Saying Yes

I recently completed Tina Fey's wonderfully acerbic memoir Bossypants. If you haven't yet made the time to read it, I highly recommend that you do. It is wonderfully written, laugh out loud funny in spots, and the kind of read that we all need once in a while to escape the dreary and drab. Tina Fey is anything but dreary and drab. One section of the book is entitled The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat. Tina writes:

"The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and Say YES." She goes on. "Now obviously in real life you're not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to 'respect what your partner has created' and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.
As an improviser, I always find it jarring when I meet someone in real life whose first answer is no. 'No, we can't do that.' 'No, that's not in the budget.' 'No, I will not hold your hand for a dollar'. What kind of way is that to live?" 

Brilliant, yes? I have come to discover lately that our lives are filled with people who say no and attempt to diminish our possibilities. Politicians are forever telling us what can't be done rather than what can be done. They sit in their ivory towers, fully divorced from those they claim to serve, wed to untenable positions of dogma that can never allow for a YES. We sit in business meetings and school meetings and club meetings and there is always at least one soul saying no. I understand pragmatism and cynicism as well as anybody, but from where will the next great idea be hatched if we are forever living in the negative? Where are our out of the box thinkers? Where will the next Tina Fey come from if she is constantly told "Oh no you can't"?

Let's try a little experiment. Let's try to work with the possible. Let's sit in our next meeting and use Yes as the default before we rip proposals apart. I am not naive. Not all ideas have merit and not all thoughts are brainstorms, but won't it be fun to ferret out the possibilities? Yes is a hell of lot more fun than no and frankly it makes the work far more interesting.

Next to my treadmill I have put up posters of some of Claude Monet's greatest work. (I love the Impressionists and viewing these images during a workout is quite calming, but I digress.) One of my favourites is Cliff Walk at Pourville painted in 1882. The Husband and I had the pleasure of viewing the original several years ago at The Art Institute of Chicago.

I am absolutely certain that hundreds of painters have been to this location and painted this exact spot, but none like Monet. He saw a different perspective, a different angle, a different vision. He saw the potential and he created art. We may not be Monet, but let's say yes to the possibilities and restart our creativity. The world desperately needs it.

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