Say “Yes” to Everything

Recently, I saw an interview in USA Today with Cynthia Rowley, a well-known fashion designer. I’m not exactly up on fashion, but I liked what Ms. Rowley had to say when she was asked “What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?” She replied, “Andy Warhol said, ‘say yes to everything.’ If you say no, that’s the end of the story. If you say yes, you never know what might happen.”

Great advice. “Yes” is my default answer to requests. Saying yes has served me well in my life and career. Several years ago, I was asked to take charge of my company’s United Way annual drive. The company was a big United Way backer and pushed hard for 100% employee participation. I said “yes.” As soon as that word was out of my mouth, I thought, “Look what you’ve gotten yourself into now, Bud. Nobody likes to be hounded for money.”

But I had said yes, so I did my best to put on a great campaign. I got 100% participation and exceeded the previous record for dollar amount pledged. Then something surprising happened—I got a promotion. Due to the company’s commitment to the United Way, divisional presidents sat in on the information sessions I ran. One of them was so impressed with how I handled the session, he offered me a job as the Learning and Development Director in his division—the largest and most profitable in the company. That was quite a feather in my cap—that began with saying “yes.”

Shonda Rhimes, considered to be the most powerful woman in Hollywood, also knows the power of saying “yes.” She is the creator of the popular TV shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and Executive Producer of How to Get Away With Murder. She is also an in-demand interviewee and speaker, but she used to say no to most requests. In late 2013, her sister told her that she “never says yes to anything.”  Shonda decided she would spend a year saying yes. That year changed her life. She wrote a book about it called Year of Yes, then the TED Talk, “My Year of Saying Yes to Everything.” It’s been viewed more than three and a half million times and subtitled in 29 languages.

“Yes” can open a lot of doors, while saying no closes them. Rhimes noted that year helped her get her “hum” back. And I’ve learned that when I say yes, interesting things happen. And who knows what good things might happen from there?


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