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Book Club: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Updated: Apr 14, 2022

Each month as part of our Intentional Growth Club, we read a book and hold a discussion night to talk about our takeaways from the book.

A copy of the book Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes laying on a patterned background

This month, as part of our theme to “Be Boldly You,” we read Year of Yes by renowned television writer Shonda Rhimes.

In the book, Rhimes tells a story about a time when her sister told her, “You never say yes to anything.” This sparked a “year of yes,” where Rhimes became determined to say yes to the things that scared her and get out of the introverted shell she had built around herself.

She delivered speeches, made television appearances, became healthier, and even cut out bad relationships. By the end of the year, she didn’t want it to end, so she kept going and found herself happier than ever because she was willing to say yes.

Here are my top 3 takeaways from the book:

1) Being Open to Opportunities Makes You Happier

It’s so easy to say no when the opportunity to do something new comes along. Whether you’re too busy or afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, saying no is the "safe" option.

But when you say yes, it opens up the possibility of new and exciting worlds. When Rhimes chose to say yes in her book, she gained confidence, made new connections she never thought possible, and developed a better work/life balance. You can visibly see in the pictures she shares in the book how much more genuine her smile is after her year of yes.

So I want to challenge you to boldly say yes to new opportunities too. You will no doubt learn something new, meet amazing people, and gain confidence. I think you’ll find yourself happier too when you’re willing to get out of your cocoon of comfort and do the scary thing. I bet you’ll even find it wasn’t so scary after all.

2) Even the Best of Us Don’t Do It Alone

When you see a successful and powerful woman like Shonda Rhimes, it’s tempting to think, “She must be so much better than I am to have it all together like that.” Of course, we all know that it takes a big crew to run a successful TV show, but it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that successful people are somehow “better” than us because they have seemingly mastered the perfect balance of work and happiness.

I appreciated that in this book, Rhimes was very open about not doing it all herself. She even dedicated a whole chapter to talking about parenting and her nanny, Jenny McCarthy (not that Jenny McCarthy).

In that chapter, she tells a story about when she was a teenager, she spent hours trying to get her hair to look like Whitney Houston’s, only to be frustrated every time when it didn’t work. As an adult, she told this struggle to her hairdresser, who laughed and said that Whitney was wearing a wig the whole time. Of course Rhimes could never have gotten her hair to look that way!

She writes, “But, I have to admit, there was also a small sense of relief. Because now I knew: I had not failed. I just didn’t own the wig.”

So when you feel like you’re failing as a mother, as a spouse, as a friend, or in whatever capacity you may struggle with keeping in balance - remember that it’s unlikely that everyone else is just better at it than you are. You’re not failing, you just don’t have the wig.

3) Lean On Your Support Network

When you’re ready to take a big leap and do something bold like the Year of Yes, you need a good support network to help you.

Shonda Rhimes devotes many pages of her book to talking about her family, especially her sister Delorse, who was the one responsible for spurring Shonda into action. She also has a close group of friends she uses as a sounding board.

Rhimes’ persistent publicist, Chris, is also key in prodding her into saying yes to things she never would have before, like giving speeches or making television appearances. Her other coworkers and employees are also there cheering her on, from the stars of her shows to her stylist.

As we’ve talked about this past month, it takes a lot of courage to make a bold move. It’s easier to find that courage when you have a group of people at your back with their (metaphorical) pompoms in hand.

Your support network could be anyone - from your parents to your dentist. It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as they are someone who is wholeheartedly on board with your goals and desire to change.

An image of a red dress on a pole with the word YES written in bold letters on top of it

Year of Yes was an entertaining read about Shonda Rhimes journey to happiness by saying “yes” to the opportunities she normally would have rejected. But beyond the fun of Rhimes’ writing is a wonderful message about taking the plunge to improve your life, even when it’s easier to just stay on the couch and eat brownies. That might make you happier in the moment, but long term, it only leads to misery.

If you weren’t able to join our book club discussion for this month, I hope you will take the time to read Year of Yes to get inspired toward your own big goals, whatever they may be!

Join us next month as we read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Our discussion night will be on February 22nd, so keep an eye out on our Intentional Growth Club page for the registration link.

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