Last November, Bellingham hosted its very first TEDx event, Here by Choice. Many terrific speakers made this an unforgettable day and though I didn’t plan ahead well enough to attend in person, I did watch most of it via live stream on the Intertubes. I was inspired, moved, educated, motivated.
One talk still resonates with me these many months later: Galen Emanuele’s Improv to be a Better Human Being which you can watch here. I didn’t come away from watching Galen thinking I would make a great sidekick to Wayne Brady, Drew Carey, or Ryan Stiles. I came away with a newfound respect for the power of the word Yes.
Galen begins his talk by asking the audience a few simple questions: would you want to increase joy in your life if you could? Do you have someone in your life, who, when you tell them you are going on vacation, they say “aw man, you suck!” Is there someone else who shoots down every passionate idea you come up with?
Negativity, Galen tells us, sucks the energy right out of great ideas. Saying no halts progress and destroys an idea. According to Galen, the principles of improv offer a better approach. Improv depends on the principle of “yes, and” and operate on a handful of basic tenets:
- Say yes
- Make others look good
- Be positive and optimistic
When I finished watching Galen’s presentation (back in November and just now, for a refresher), I determined that I would begin the New Year with a commitment to saying yes. I decided I would not let no be my default answer, the first response that crossed my mind and my lips.
Saying yes can be scary. The first thing I consciously said yes to was to The Haiku Room—Yes, I would accept the invitation offered and agree to write a haiku a day for the entirety of 2014. I’d never written a line of poetry in my life. I did not see myself as any kind of poet. What if I failed? What if the real poets laughed at me? I said yes anyway, in spite of my fears. Now, I cannot imagine these past four months without my haiku family, real and virtual. What a gift saying yes to haiku has been.
The next thing I consciously said yes to was an invitation from my friend Cami to run in a 10K race the first weekend of January. I hadn’t been running in four months as I was trying to recover from some heel injuries, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to jumpstart my way back into running with a 6 mile race. And Cami runs marathons—I’d never be able to keep up. She cajoled and then I remembered my commitment to say yes. I had a great race—I loved running with Cami, and that run launched me to another level of running. We finished that run in about an hour and 7 minutes.
My friend April is training for a half marathon next week and asked if I wanted to do her long training runs with her. I’d never run more than seven miles, but I said yes to a 9 mile run, and then I said yes to an 11 mile run. I just ran a 10K this weekend in 54 minutes because I said yes to running this year.
Not everything that I’ve said yes to has turned out to be amazing and awesome, but nothing has been awful either. I’ve had experiences I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I’ve stepped way, way, way outside of my comfort zone and discovered that, huh, nothing bad happened. I survived no worse for the wear and maybe even a little wiser.
I’ve made friends. I’ve written more than 50 blogs (because I said yes to two blog challenges) and more than a hundred haikus. I’ve discovered that I can run around Lake Padden twice and even three times and that really, it’s not a bad run from Squalicum Harbor to Fairhaven Park and back again. I’ve learned that I can be honest, tell my truth, stand my ground and that the world will not crumble. In fact, just the opposite happens—I find renewed strength and support.
So, give Yes a try—commit to saying yes, to being positive, to building others up. I highly recommend it. Take 12 minutes and watch Galen Emanuele’s TEDx Talk—say yes. You’ll be glad you did: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhkcmN-CCYw