I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying YES for one year changed her life―and how it can change yours, too.
With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the uber-talented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say NO when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.
And there was the side-benefit of saying No for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.
Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say YES to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed―and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life―and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.
A combination of memoir and self-help book, The Year of Yes was a quick and easy read. It is written in a very conversational tone (unlike many books in the self-help genre) and that may put off some readers. So help me, I had absolutely no idea who Shonda Rhimes was and I must confess that I have never seen any of her TV shows. The writing in this book left me wondering about the writing for the shows—she must put on a different hat for writing those, for I can’t imagine this style producing award winning programming.
If you are looking for a little inspiration to get out of any ruts that you have become comfortable in, this book may be helpful. I might warn you away from it if you are unemployed, as her obvious enjoyment of her high-powered job could be a bit hard to take. But I do think she shines a much-needed spotlight on some particularly female career problems, namely being able to claim our success without embarrassment and not shying away from telling our workmates exactly what we want and need. I’m sure that non-caucasian readers will benefit from reading about Rhimes’ experiences with being asked repeatedly about being a successful African-American woman.
One chapter which younger readers will potentially find useful was the one on sorting out real friends from hangers-on. Not all of us are successful enough to have hangers-on, but I think we all at some point or another realize that not all the people we hang out with are really our friends. They are there for what they can get and when you actually ask them to give in return, you will see their true faces. To bravely purge these people from your life is a liberating experience and Rhimes describes it well.
I admired Rhimes’ honesty regarding her refusal to get married. As she said, when she was engaged, she received more approval from friends and family than she did for all of her other achievements (not inconsiderable) combined. Why does society still do this to women? You may have a full, wonderful life, but if you aren’t married, you quickly get the message that nothing else matters. As one of those rebels who refuses to marry, I very much appreciated her description of her decision to break off wedding plans, despite the disappointment of her family. She has chosen to adopt children, which I find admirable.