What Is a Yes-Man?
Society always tells you that you never want to be a “yes-man.” Yes-man is a moniker reserved for the spineless dredges of society. These cowards are afraid to speak their minds and agree with any idea tossed their way.
But what if society got this one wrong?
I previously volunteered that I’m a staunch “no-man.”
There was a period in my life that saw me take life advice from the unlikeliest of sources – Jim Carrey.
Circa 2008, I wasn’t too happy with how my life was going, and I was in the midst of a creative crisis. One evening, I watched Jim Carrey’s movie, Yes Man, and I had the crazy idea to emulate the plot of the movie.
Every time I said, “yes,” I felt like I was shouting a 3-letter curse-word, and it made me want to wash my mouth out with soap.
It wasn’t going to be easy.
Are You Sure?
I can still remember the night as if it was only yesterday. I had watched Yes Man earlier in the day, so I was already feeling inspired. That evening, a friend of mine called me unexpectedly and asked if I wanted to go to a Soca concert in the city. Without hesitation, my mouth blurted out, “no.” It was a reflex. My friend asked me, “Are you sure?”
That one question changed everything for me.
I immediately remembered the life-lessons Jim Carrey had taught me earlier that day. I had promised myself that I would say yes to every opportunity that came my way, and you can’t break a promise to yourself, because the consequences could be dire. At least that’s what they said in the movie. Ultimately, I corrected myself and said that I’d go.
That decision lead to a great night. I ended up meeting someone who would play a vital role in keeping my creativity alive, and that was only the beginning.
A Thousand Times, Yes!
If one night of saying yes could be that fortuitous, imagine what an entire year could bring!
After the events of that evening, you couldn’t stop me from agreeing to do things. I was fully committed to seeing this yes-man thing through and I wasn’t letting anything stand in my way.
I was staying out later than usual, going to parties that I normally wouldn’t, frequenting music industry events that I would normally have no interest in, going on trips, and a host of other activities. Clearly, I was in my full yes-man glory.
That year didn’t see me accomplish much by the way of writing or publishing content, but I plugged into New York’s young professional crowd and saw creativity full bloom. I was attending mixer events and listening to all of these young people talk about their dreams and how they planned to realize them.
I always learned something from meeting people at those events. Be they from stories of failure, resiliency, or success, I always came away with pearls of wisdom. I loved listening to other young professionals talk because I felt as though they were put there to speak to me personally. They were speaking to the creative part of me that was trying to fight its way back to the surface.
Write It Down
One of the best lessons I learned on the mixer circuit was to write down my ideas. Even if I wasn’t going to do anything with them immediately, I needed to write them down. I had a ton of ideas in my head, but until I wrote them down, they’d only be fantasies.
I’ve filled and lost 3 notebooks with ideas of things I wanted to create or learn. I’m currently working on notebook number 4, and it’s full of business ideas, business models, and content creation ideas.
My notebooks and the notepad app have become my favorite tools. Inspiration can strike at any moment, and you’re bound to forget something sooner or later. You don’t want to rely on your brain to remember all of your great ideas.
Whenever I have an idea, I generally write down the topic along with detailed notes about how I felt at the time. This process is like a time-capsule in that it allows me to recapture my thoughts when it’s time to work on a particular idea.
Roughly 9-10 years ago, I wrote the words, “Jaded ’80s Baby” down in a notebook. That phrase captured how I was feeling at that particular time in my life. I was sick of the status quo, but I didn’t know what to do about it.
For me, the status quo was me feeling stifled creatively. I had other problems in my life, but my dying creativity was chief amongst them. That’s how Jaded ’80s Baby was ultimately born. I finally realized that I wanted to had to do things on my terms. It’s just how I’m built.
I took lessons learned and inspiration gained during my year as a yes-man and finally applied them. I wasn’t ready at the time, but I had always hoped I could find something to stoke the creative flame within, so I held onto those notebooks and those ideas for as long as I could. It’s about time I make it all pay off and do something.
Anyone who truly knows me can tell you that I hate questions that start with what if? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I’m not as good as I think I am? Creatively speaking, what-ifs serve no purpose other than to create doubt and stop us in our tracks. I’m through using them.
The way I see it, I’ve wasted enough time on what-ifs. I’ve let too many great opportunities slip through my fingers by asking myself what if. A yes-man doesn’t have that problem. Yes-men react without hesitation and live with the consequences of their choices.
For them, there’s only one answer, yes.
I’m not going to completely abandon my no-man ways, but I’ve recognized that I need to find more of a harmonious balance.
Reflecting on my year as Jim Carrey, the most valuable lesson I learned was to get out of my own way. You are often your biggest critic, and you can be your biggest hurdle.
I’ve finally removed mine, and now it’s your turn.
A Jaded ’80s Baby