The power of saying yes

With Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes reminds us of the importance of seizing opportunities and being our own person.

By Julia Migné

Starting a discussion about abortion, intersex babies, IVF, or even rape on national TV is something that doesn’t scare Shonda Rhimes. Through her hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, the acclaimed TV producer never shied away from difficult topics and always made sure to bring diverse voices to showcase the complexity of those issues.

Though there is a long way to go, today we see more women of colour, LGBTQ+ characters and working mothers with high powered jobs breaking out of the age-old career versus family cage as leading ladies on TV and in films. But this wasn’t the case 15 years ago when the African American producer brought the cast of Grey’s Anatomy to life. Over the years Shonda Rimes has been acclaimed for bringing more diversity to our screens.

Having various LGBTQ characters such as Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins playing lead roles in the series was something that had barely been seen before. Similarly having an Asian woman such as the brilliant surgeon Cristina Yang being a multidimensional character instead of the nerdy sidekick also seemed at the time revolutionary.

Seen as a trailblazer, Shonda is a TV-show producing powerhouse who has managed to take over an entire evening of television on none other than the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). ‘Thank God it’s Thursday’ (#TGIT) showcases the best TV shows produced by Shondaland including Grey’s, Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder.

But one day, despite her incredible success, Shonda came to realise that she actually felt utterly miserable. This sudden breakthrough came to light on Thanksgiving Day when her sister Delorse uttered the six words that would change her outlook on life dramatically: “You never say yes to anything”.

Shonda Rhimes surrounded by some of #TGIT’s brightest stars Viola Davis and Ellen Pompeo. © Walt Disney Television at Flickr.

Realising that her sister was right Shonda decided to take drastic action and threw herself into what she would later turn into a book ‘Year of Yes: How To Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person‘.

The Year of Yes meant a full year of saying yes to any opportunities she was presented with, be it a commencement speech at Darmouth college, appearing on Kimmel or playing with her daughters whenever they asked for it.

Be brave. Be amazing. Be worthy. And every single time you get the chance? Stand up in front of people. Let them see you. Speak. Be heard. Go ahead and have the dry mouth. Let your heart beat so, so fast.

Of course some of these glamorous opportunities won’t resonate with everyone and most of us are unlikely to get a call from Elle Magazine but Shonda touches on topics that will ring true for many.

She dives into the difficulty of balancing an intense career and a family, the complete panic that takes over her whenever she is asked to do any sort of public speech, the difficulty of handling toxic relationships and even her struggle with her weight and body image.

Used to writing for the TV industry, Shonda’s style is raw, laugh-out-loud funny and honest and will take you on her journey of self-discovery. She reminds us that we all have the power to make certain changes in our lives for the better and that fear is often the one thing holding us back.

She also emphasises on the fact that nothing comes easily in life and that change requires hard work. She did not become the powerhouse she is today by chance, she worked, and worked, and she won’t be stopping anytime soon!

Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

Seeing Shonda’s evolution through the book is a powerful reminder that our minds are powerful and a change of mindset can have enormous repercussions. So if you are ready to do the hard work then this book might give you the push you need to start your own Year of Yes!

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