I’ve recently read the stunning book called “Year of Yes“, it is like listening to your long-distance BFF tackle all the bad vibes in her life — insecurity, self-doubt and less-than great relationships — and ultimately come out the other side stronger and even funnier, all while wielding a celebratory bottle of red wine.
Though it might seem like Shonda has her life together, she’s painfully honest about both her personal shortcomings and early financial struggles. Our fave memory has to be when she’s broke and deciding on her grocery essentials: “Sometimes the toilet paper does not win. Sometimes a broke woman needs the red wine more.”
She focuses on her strengths and forgave her weaknesses. In an interview with Robin Roberts, Shonda revealed her original career goal was to become a literary author. One disastrous novel draft later, she realized, “I am not Toni Morrison,” and that was okay, because she had other talents. Instead of aspiring to be someone else, Shonda dedicated herself to her strengths — television writing — which ultimately led to her success.
“Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer.” In 2014, Shonda revisited her alma mater to deliver a commencement speech. While the entire speech is worth a listen, one of her best pieces of advice is her approach to dreams. She urges Dartmouth graduates to focus on concrete actions, rather than lofty dreams, so that their goals actually stand a chance at coming true.
She owns her work. Once she found success with her shows, Shonda stopped taking network notes — she had a vision and she was prepared to execute it. In an interview with The New York Times, she told them, “What was great for me about Scandal was I had earned a lot of political capital with the network… I had done Grey’s, I had done Private Practice. What were they going to do, fire me? I wasn’t worried about what anybody else thought. This one was for me.” While accepting criticism can be helpful, it’s important to know when to draw the line, so that it doesn’t derail your creativity.
The greatest lesson from Year of Yes is that saying “Yes!” to new experiences, the goals that you’ve been too scared to pursue and honesty in your relationships will be life changing. Instead, she said “NO” to her fears of speaking up and “YES” to championing herself. She writes that before the year of yes, she was afraid to be herself in interviews, until the challenge made her realize, “If I say nothing of substance, tell them nothing, share nothing, give them nothing… why? Why am I even there? What am I afraid they will see if I am really myself?”Shonda’s biggest “Aha” moments didn’t come from saying yes to crazy activities like bungee jumping off a cliff or sky diving.