My oldest son turns 30 in a few days. As a gift to him, I’ve written out 30 memories from his life. You’re right, it’s more of a gift to me than to him — because walking down memory lane is so sweet. Every other day, I write out 5 memories and mail them to him. A memory I have not yet mailed (don’t worry, he’s probably not reading this) has to do with his outrageous creativity. He was born creative. We all were. His was more obvious — it could not be held back. I, on the other hand, had a very narrow view of creativity and felt I lacked it.
When my sons were preschoolers, a friend said something to me about the way I fostered creativity in them. To be perfectly honest with you, I did not! I did not foster creativity in them. They had it and most of the time I was standing in the way of it — constantly saying, “NO. That’s too messy.” “NO. That’s too time consuming.” “NO. That takes too many supplies.” “NO. That requires too much energy.” Thankfully, their creativity could not be limited no matter how hard I tried. Finally, I came to the conclusion the answer should always be yes. Because I was prone to say no, I challenged myself with this question: what if you just said yes? And so I did. My no always came from a place of fear. Saying yes required confidence.
One of my favorite people is Bob Goff. He and his friend Doug love to prank each other. If you know anything about Bob Goff, you can imagine how elaborate these pranks are. Bob had spent four months looking over his shoulder, waiting for Doug to pay him back for the last prank when the phone rang and a man with a heavy accent identified himself as the Ambassador from Uganda. Immediately Bob knew it was Doug and decided to say yes to everything Doug said. By the end of the conversation, Bob thought he’d agreed to be the lawyer for Uganda. He was amused. The conversation was abruptly ended with the promise of another call in two months. Two months is a long time and Bob had forgotten the entire thing when the phone rang again and the same gentleman identified himself. Again, Bob decided to agree to everything. Bob was asked to meet him in New York City. And so he did. As he was getting out of his cab, Bob laughed thinking of all he’d done to play along with Doug. He entered the lobby of the fancy hotel expecting to find a note from Doug.
As Bob was milling around the lobby, an entourage pulled up with little Ugandan flags waving above the headlights. Several members of Uganda’s government entered the lobby. Ambassador Kamuninwire gathered the dignitaries around Bob and announced he was the new counsel for the Republic of Uganda. They were asking him to be a diplomat, not a lawyer for Uganda. Bob never entertained the idea that this was all real until the scene in the lobby unfolded. There was never an opportunity for fear to enter into his decision making which meant the answer was always yes.
Are we limiting ourselves with the word no? Does your no come from a place of fear? What if you said yes? Or perhaps, said yes to different things? The next time something requires a tough decision or courage, consider saying yes.