Saying Yes

“The answer is yes. What is the question?”

I was sitting in a professional development seminar 18 months ago, led by a woman whose energy, charisma, and career path I desperately wanted to emulate. She recounted a story of being in a restaurant with a friend where it became evident from the start that something was very different. Every time she or her companion asked for something, from a soda that was not on the menu to a temperature change, it was granted. The soda materialized in a bottle that had clearly been purchased in a nearby store. The waiter could not change the temperature of the restaurant, so he brought the diners pashminas. Finally, realizing how unusual the constant stream of “yes” was, she asked her waiter. His response is at the heart of this entry: he said, “Our philosophy is that the answer is yes. What is the question?”

It’s easy to say no. It means that we don’t have to do anything differently from what we’re currently doing. It means we don’t have to try harder, or change strategies, or put aside our own priorities for someone else’s. It is much more difficult to say yes. Yes opens us up to criticism, heartbreak, ridicule, and disappointment. It positions us to have to say “I don’t know” or “I can’t” or “I need someone’s help.”

Yes can require us to listen to someone else’s desires over our own - to truly listen, rather than wait for our turn to speak. It requires us to acknowledge another person in our environment, and to potentially let their request disrupt the delicate balance we have created in our own ecosystem.

But yes also opens us up to joy, success, love, and adventure. It is scary. But sometimes it’s scarier to continue doing what we’re doing exactly the same way. Sometimes the status quo is just the devil we know seeming to be better than the devil we don’t know. What if the devil we don’t know isn’t a devil at all, but a great experience? What if it isn’t even great, it’s just different and new to us and helps us see one thing in our lives with a little more clarity?

Let’s challenge ourselves to say yes more and see what opportunities arise as a result.