Three Things I Learned from My Readers about Saying Yes

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My readers are awesome.

Two weeks ago I posed this question to you:

Saying Yes is risky. It can take you places you never could have predicted. Got an example from your own life?

I got dozens of responses, and reading them was holy ground for me. Thank you all for sharing your experiences. Your wisdom will make Improvising with God a better book. I’m humbled by your candor and courage!

Three themes emerged from the stories you shared:

1. Every important No comes from a larger Yes. A few of you wrote to tell me about going through divorce, and the pain that comes when a marriage ends–even if it’s ultimately the best decision. In some ways, the end of a relationship may seem like a profound No. I asked folks if it felt that way at the time: did it become a Yes only in retrospect? Yet each of these people shared that actually, at the time, it absolutely felt like a Yes. For some it was a Yes to doing the healthy thing for oneself and one’s children. For others, it was a Yes to exploring one’s own inner life and how they contributed to the difficulties in the relationship.

These comments helped me think about Yes and No in a deeper way. I’ve been reflecting on the civil rights era, for example, and how protest movements have a strong sense of resistance to them: No, we will not go to the back of the bus. No, we will not be second-class citizens anymore. But even that No comes from a much stronger Yes–a thirst for justice and freedom, for example.

2. Yes really does come with a risk. Many of you shared stories of saying Yes and having the gamble pay off. But not all of you. One person in particular wrote poignantly about having his heart broken by putting himself out there and having that vulnerability rejected. It’s hard for him to see anything good that will come out of what happened. I appreciated this perspective so much.

Many self-help books like to talk about creative risk in very glowing terms. But sometimes our Yes crashes down to earth, and that impact hurts. It’s spiritually dishonest to suggest otherwise.

3. This work needs to continue. The volume of responses I received has been great motivation to keep going with the book. What do we do when life doesn’t go according to plan? What does it mean to step out in faith? How can the tools of improv help us navigate this great improvisation called life in brave and creative ways? I can’t wait to dig into these and other questions.

And before I sign off, a bonus link. I love this season of the year because of the commencement speeches that get passed around on the Internet. Sure, many of them are boring and cliched, but hey, you’re not a captive audience on social media–you can skip those! But a few of them are stellar.

This speech by Sheryl Sandberg, an executive at Facebook, is first-rate. You may remember Sandberg lost her beloved husband David about a year ago from sudden cardiac arrest. She speaks from that terrible heartbreak in powerful ways.

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Read the whole thing, but especially what she has to say about Plan B. For anyone who still thinks my interest in improv is about performance or on-stage comedy, let Sandberg’s words put that to rest. What she’s describing is the ultimate life improvisation.

Peace, joy and Yes to you.
MaryAnn

2 thoughts on “Three Things I Learned from My Readers about Saying Yes

  1. Ted Chadeayne

    That is an excellent speech by Sandberg! I especially liked the line: “It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are.” It’s not only important to say “Yes,” it’s also important when you say it — to say it at the hardest times, to say it when it might cost you the most. Your readers saying “Yes” to divorce and a way forward, or the civil rights activists saying “Yes” to standing against injustice, they didn’t choose those circumstances. They were thrown out of their plans and their security, but they took that awkwardness, that vulnerability and sought out the opportunity within it.
    All that made me think up an expression: “Say Yes, when the world says No.” I think I’ll make an image meme for that! But the image can’t be some peaceful meadow or scenic wonder. It would be an image of hardship and anguish. That is where a person is challenged and renewed.

    Reply
  2. Mamala

    That commencement speech by Sandberg makes me want to read her book. Just when I thought I was at the age where I was more “Lean On” than “Lean In” I may be wrong. We’ll see.

    Reply

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