Are you more "yes" or "no"?

Walter lives a couple doors down from me. He is a tall, slender gentleman in his 70s who lives alone. His house and landscaping are impeccable. He has a 40s era Studebaker that he rebuilt years ago. From time-to-time he tools around the neighborhood in it. When I walk my dog in the cool, dark morning, I frequently see his front door partially open, and hear classical music drifting from his Victrola-style record player out onto the street. He’s happy, talkative with all neighbors, and is known to sit on his porch and have a martini on pleasant afternoons.

Further down the street is Victoria. Also in her 70s, she lives in the house where she was born. She’s friendly as well, but only comes out of the house to walk her dog or go to the store. It is almost a certainty that a conversation with her will quickly lead with the lament that she is alone, and how much she misses her brother whom she lived with, but passed away many years ago. Her lights are never on, and other than the two occasions I mentioned above, she never leaves her house.

These two vastly different approaches to life got me thinking more about the power of “yes.”

In improvisational comedy, there is a technique called “Yes And.” The idea is that by having the mindset of “Yes And” you keep the improv alive. It effectively stops the “no” from appearing.

Much of how Walter approaches his life is “Yes And.” He leads an enjoyable day-to-day existence (I’ve asked him). There’s no doubt he’s dealing with things one deals with as they age, but by and large he’s pretty content. Victoria, well, not so much. Her behavior aligns more to “no.” Her day-to-day involves nothing but lament. She is closed off from the world for the most part.

The point of all of this is to encourage “Yes And.” When an idea or concept is presented, force yourself to automatically think “Yes And.” When you do that, you expand the possibilities, which may lead to new options that wouldn’t have discovered had you started with “no.”

Clearly, saying "yes" to everything has a downside as chronicled in this excellent post by friend and former colleague Lesley Kim Grossblatt. So I'm going to try and keep this approach to concepts and ideas.

And before you break out the flaming torches and pitchforks, note that I’m not pretending to be a self-help guru that has it all figured out. This article is as much a “note to self” as it is an article for you. It’s just that I’ve found that as I get older I default to “no” too quickly and too frequently. And every time I’ve done that it shuts down so many possibilities. I simply wanted to share and here’s to “Yes And.”

Barry EnderwickComment