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Going to Extremes

going-to-extremes

On the flight back from South America last week, the airline was showing Yes Man, a film starring Jim Carrey. Left to my own devices, I rarely finish a movie, but I watched the first two-thirds of this one and thought it was great.

The premise of Yes Man is that a guy who usually says no to everything – requests from friends, growth opportunities at work, and so on – has to make a sudden switch where his default answer becomes yes to any request he encounters.

As he says yes instead of no, his life dramatically changes. He gives away money on the street, signs up for guitar lessons, talks a suicide jumper down from the ledge, and so on. Like most movies created by committee in Hollywood, it’s highly formulaic – but I liked the message: instead of saying no to opportunities, why not find a way to say yes?

As powerful as that message is, however, I couldn’t help thinking about the vast majority of people who have gone to see that movie. The question I zeroed in on was, “What do you think most of those people thought and did after they left the theatre?”

Here’s my speculation. I think they thought to themselves:

“That was a nice movie. Jim Carrey is a good actor.”

And here’s what I think they did:

Absolutely nothing. As in, nothing different than before they saw the movie.

To them, the idea of saying yes to life is just a movie. That’s why movies like Yes Man are so popular: they offer a Cinderella fantasy for the practitioners of life avoidance. It falls in the same alternative universe as Spiderman – a good world to be immersed in for 109 minutes, but none of it is real, right?

Part of me wants to grab these people as they leave the theatre: “Hey! What if it wasn’t just a movie? What if you really got up tomorrow and decided to live that way? This is your wake-up call!”

Of course, I know that wouldn’t go over well. Some people are comfortable with living vicariously through Hollywood. It’s an easy, safe, comfortable choice, and I’d rather preach to the choir than evangelize the unconverted.

***

In the Rock-Paper-Scissors game of life, every day we have endless choices. Door A or B, blue or red pill, etc. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Hope beats fear
2. Abundance beats scarcity
3. Yes beats no

A few years ago, I started saying yes to things. It wasn’t a gimmick like the movie, and I didn’t say yes to everything – but I went from looking for reasons to say no and started looking for ways to say yes.

  • Round-the-World trip while I’m still in school? OK.
  • Climb Table Mountain in South Africa when I’m supposed to be working? Alright.
  • Go running in the middle of the night in Sri Lanka? Sure.

Conventional living is all about being balanced, well-rounded, risk-adverse, and safe. The problem is that well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting. Balanced people don’t usually change the world.

The alternative is to truly live, and come back tired – even if you’re not traveling. Be better than you have been before. Give more than you take. Embrace the extremes. Say yes.

Final Thoughts

That thing you’re working on today – will it matter one year from now? If so, great. Keep doing that. If not, why are you doing it?

Here’s wishing you well from my new home (for this week) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I hope all is well with you, wherever you are.

###

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89 Comments

  • Pierre says:

    I think the project I’m working on will matter a year from now, but only time will tell. That uncertainty is daunting and probably prevents many people from trying something new. Hope beats fear is a good rule to invoke in that situation. Maybe we could add “Creating beats consuming”.

  • annie smidt says:

    Great post! The alternative rock-paper-scissors formula might have to go on a stickie where I can see it often.

    I can’t really bear watching mainstream/Jim Carey movies either, but I did appreciate the premise of this one when I saw the previews a while back.

    There is, also though, sometimes as much danger in always saying “yes” as always saying “no”. You can get subsumed and walked upon by always saying “yes” to the wrong things — like some of the things I’m working on today which aren’t going to matter a year from now (but pay the bills). “Yes” can hold you back when used injudiciously. “Yes” can protect you from Real Living as much as “No”.

    Nonetheless, there is still something brilliant about “Yes”. I used to think of it as “jumping off the cliff” (in a good way): you’re standing on the edge of some possibly great opportunity out of your comfort zone and although everything in you is saying, “say no, step back and run away!” you say “yes” instead, and make the leap.

  • Chris, I think you’re a model for the message in this movie. And I took from it a (somewhat laughable) battlecry, “Yes-man! Yes-man!” that my partner and I like to tease each other with, when tempted to turn in, instead of heading out.

    Re: Mr. Carey, I actually thought he looked haggard and old. And I realized later in the film that that was probably intentional, that he might transform into looking less haggard with all his yessings. But a dangerous move for him as an actor, because that stuck with me. (Who knows if that read on your flight screen.)

  • Bill says:

    “What if it wasn’t just a movie?”

    It wasn’t. It was loosely based on Danny Wallace’s book about what happened to him when he did just that.

  • Ned says:

    All very well to say “yes” to various options when you are young, after all, why not? you have little to lose and experience to gain.
    However, speaking from the other side of 35 I can inform you that the questions and options change! (give birth in a mud hut without any medical backup? start paying into a pension? default on the mortgage and run away to Istanbul?)
    Increasingly, to say yes to one option is to reject another, a positive answer is not necessarily a positive move….

    still, i enjoy your posts!

  • I think “balanced people don’t usually change the world” is my new favorite quote. I’m going to conjure that one up whenever that little voice in my head starts telling me that I should be more normal… thanks for the inspiration!

  • John says:

    Hey Chris,

    I haven’t seen ‘Yes Man’, but I’ll definitely try and watch it. In regards to the more important message in this post, what I’m working towards will definitely matter in a year. I’ve said yes to MYSELF (giving myself permission to pursue my dreams) and I haven’t looked back.

    Can I still maintain a blog while I’m in college? Yes.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Theun says:

    I read the book by Danny Wallace on which that movie was based several years ago. It changed my life in a very good way.

    At first I was often rejecting my friend’s invitations to go out and do something, because I didn’t feel like it… Stupid reason of course. After reading that book, saying yes more, my life was enriched. I went to Italy to learn Italian, travelling through the country, meeting interesting people. I went out more, having some crazy experiences. I learned Chinese, going to China again this summer. And afterwards I’m going to Milan to study for half a year.

    Still, a post like this is a good realization for me again. Cause I’m wondering… Why do I want a balanced routine life??

    Thanks.

  • Hi Chris,

    Thank you for this very energizing post, and very inspiring at the time I am improving my copy for the contest, it’s not difficult to write a good post, actually….

    About movies, I never consider them as only movies. And before I was only watching very “cinephile” movies. Today I found a lot of deep and inspiring wisdom in the most popular movies.

    I would change the way the movie is done, the style to aim a change from the viewers, but the film industry don’t want to change people, not even a bit, only wants a bit of their money…

    I am watching a lot of movies this days, to inspire me to write all the small stories I am writing for a book. and in order to change the world, we need to stop being spectators and start being actors, actors of our own life…

    have a great time in your travels, lucky happy man, my heart is with you

    Vincent

  • This very subject has been the topic of emails with my brother, a philosophy professor in China, and myself recently. Having to do with saying yes and stepping way outside the comfort zone. It means both of us have lived really interesting lives and done a lot of odd things. At least in the opinion of most people. A few get it, many don’t. The bar of being average is pretty low, but so many people don’t step over it. They don’t realize what they’re missing.
    Best, Sandra

  • J.R. says:

    I watched the movie and really enjoyed it.

    The premise of the movie is about how Jim Carey’s life changed for both the good and the bad through saying yes constantly. For those who have posted and haven’t seen it, he ultimately found that he could only say yes in moderation in order to live reasonably. If you say “yes” to everything, according to the movie, you’re likely to end up naked in a room with thousands of other naked “Yes Men.” So Chris’ post, in my opinion, speaks to that as well… not a blind charge for us to say yes without hesitation.

    Yes is powerful and scary, but we should use it more!

  • This post really hits home for me for a couple of reasons Chris. I was working on a giant project at work that was consuming all of my time for the last year. Just before we launched I realized that if everything worked well it still was a year I would not get back and the payback was not really worth it at all for all of the time invested (wasted). This caused me to really rethink everything that I do in life and whether what I do is really making a lasting influence.

    The other thing was this movie. I tend to be full of talk but after that first aha moment and then seeing the Jim Carrey movie I have started to refuse to accept what societal norms are telling me is acceptable and what is pushing the envelope.

    I have no idea where this leads and I do not even know if this is just a north american thing but I can not go back now to living for 60 or 65 retirement, I can’t even go through a day without questioning what value to me the actions that I am taking are leading going to lead to.

  • MagsMac says:

    AWESOME post Chris.Your Rock-Paper-Scissors is being printed and handed out to the office today 🙂

  • Nate says:

    Very inspirational post as usual. I saw Yes Man a while back and had basically the same reaction of you. I really appreciated this quote: “That’s why movies like Yes Man are so popular: they offer a Cinderella fantasy for the practitioners of life avoidance.”

    These “practitioners” need some kind of wake up call, and eventually it will come; hopefully sooner than later. I will never forget the day I had mine.

    Wonderful post once again and hope all is well with you!

  • Thanks for the great post Chris (and reminder to act with purpose)!

    Twenty years ago I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and said yes to an invitation to travel to Europe (I had never left the West Coast before) and ended up giving away most of what I owned back home to extend my stay. The people I met and the experiences I had altered the course of my life.

    However, over the last couple of years I have found myself needing that spark to strike once more. Your article came at the right moment to encourage me to light the fire anew!

    Thanks again!

  • I love Jim Carrey and I loved this movie. And while I’m not saying yes to every opportunity that comes along (and one lesson of the movie is that you shouldn’t) I certainly try to remember that great things can happen when you say yes to opportunities. It’s even more important when you’re trying to get a business going.

    Lucky for me I’m young and I have a safety net and I’m happy with being different, so it’s a lot easier for me to say yes.

  • Judah says:

    Wow…really enjoyed this post this morning. “Well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting” really caught my attention; I’m going to enjoy pondering on that one all day. Thanks for your inspiring words.

  • Glen Allsopp says:

    I have been up Table Mountain about six times now, absolutely love it. I wonder if we were nearby one time 😉

    Great post Chris and very well written. I’m not sure your shaking after the movie would go down well.

  • andrea scher says:

    This was an ass kicker of a post Chris… wow.

    What you said here: “Conventional living is all about being balanced, well-rounded, risk-adverse, and safe. The problem is that well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting. Balanced people don’t usually change the world.

    The alternative is to truly live, and come back tired – even if you’re not traveling. Be better than you have been before. Give more than you take. Embrace the extremes. Say yes.”

    Words to live by.
    Thank you…

  • GiGi says:

    I saw this movie on a bus ride while in Peru about 6 weeks ago. I agree that the movie itself is very Hollywood. Did you know that the film was based on a book “Yes Man” by Danny Wallace, the true story of a man who lived a year saying ‘yes’? When I found that out I was really interested in the concept.

    My life is in somewhat of a rut. I spent the last year working 2 jobs to pay off all my debt and I still live a fairly simple and frugal lifestyle. This is good in many ways but I now I feel I need to “get out there” more and do more.

    I decided to make some changes and that includes saying ‘yes’ to more things. I often say ‘yes’ but then change my mind and back out. I’ve been trying to do this for a few weeks now and it is hard but I think the more I do it the easier it will become.
    So….this movie (and book) did affect one person, at least :o)

  • Steve Cherches says:

    Great post, Chris. Saying “yes” is something I’m trying to do more and more these days. The things I say “yes” to today are things I couldn’t have imagined 5 or 10 years ago. These experiences and opportunities have changed my life in so many ways.

    That said, it is not an easy thing to do. Changing your mindset and your behavior is hard. And you constantly have to battle that voice that says “No.” The most important part for me is trying to determine whether or not that negative response is valid, or if it’s just an excuse.

    Thanks for the observation and the inspiration… Steve

  • Etsuko says:

    Chris,

    Great post!
    I think the point is not that you say “yes” to everything that comes your way, but learn to say “yes” to the opportunity that will make you happy, or bring you closer to your goals. It takes knowing what is it that you really want (Chris’s “the most important question in the universe #1”). If you know it, then it’s easy to say yes/no to whatever comes your way, because you’ll know what to do regardless what’s being presented to you. It also ties into Chris’s “walk away number” (see his other post about “sufficiency”) If you make your decision based on this rule, then even when you are saying “no” to other people/thing, you’ll know that you are saying “yes” to yourself.

    Right now I’m working on saying “no” to continuing my day job because that will allow me to do the things I really desire.

    Etsuko

  • Super post. My favorite line, “The problem is that well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting.” My high school guidance counselor kept telling me I wasn’t well rounded, that it would be harder to get into a good college.

    I always questioned that. Why not be unique or square-rounded?

    thx
    Giulietta the muse

    p.s. I got into a very nice college.

  • Rob says:

    I think it’s a good motivating philosophy for us and others to hear the word “yes” come out of our mouths; however, after saying “yes” to something, we should also remember to pay attention to how we feel about the “thing” we say yes to. If we’re happy with the decision, then great! If not, we might have to consider saying “no” next time. The “yes” philosophy is a good start at getting us to experience new things, but ultimately, I believe it’s all a matter of us knowing who we are and what we want.

  • Joy says:

    I saw this movie, and the Mr. and I looked at eachother and exclaimed, “Yes! This is how we live!”

    My way is a bit more thoughtful than the movie character’s, but Yes is just a general way of viewing the world. It effects everything from how I interact with my daughter (“Yes, of course you can have ice cream. Finish your spinach, and we’ll plan a bike ride to the shop tomorrow.”) to whether I should open a yoga studio on a whim (I did), or extend radical compassion to people I encounter.

    Yes requires creativity and thought, and I think more people are becoming open to this kind of living. I suspect everyone secretly wants to be thise way; it’s just a matter of doing it.

  • Sean says:

    Despite mediocre reviews, I actually really enjoyed that movie for all the reasons you mentioned. If you just open yourself up to the possibilities that are out there, you realize how many opportunities you really have. I especially liked the idea of showing up at the airport and hopping on the next available flight. While I am not sure Nebraska is the ideal choice, they made the best out of it and showed that life is worth living unconventionally…

  • Frank says:

    Some individuals have problems precisely because they can’t say no, or can’t break out of the environment they are constrained in. For them saying yes, means making the hard choice of what to give up and how to start saying no.

  • Andi says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! This is how I have been living my life for the last 5 years. The interesting thing is that it has brought me a lot of happiness, and yet those around my unhappiness. I believe it’s because they wish they could adopt my attitude about life as well, but they are too scared and therefore project that on to me when they see me smiling and listen to my awesome stories. I refuse to let life’s extraordinary oppurtunities pass me by. And if people want to judge me for that then bring it on.

    By the way, I almost said no to hiking Table Mountain as well, as I was exhausted from cage diving with Great White’s the day before, but I said yes and it was life-changing!!!

    Thanks for this inspiring post. 🙂

  • Most the time we don’t even realize that the default is no. Momentum is so hard to build from a dead stop unless you’re willing fight from the position of yes. This often identifies great project leaders, because they have the goal in mind and force critics to argue against Go instead of the leader arguing for Go.

  • Cynthia H says:

    Hey Chris! Great post, but I had to comment on your statement that balanced people don’t change the world.

    While I can agree that it may be true in most cases, there are exceptions. My human rights, environmental and poverty related activism (and most other things as well!) came to a screeching halt four years ago when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Added to already existing disabilities it curtailed most activities.

    Finding ways to balance my life with my challenges has been key to becoming “alive” again. It has made it possible for me to move out of isolation, to rebuild my life, to work towards becoming a healer and to renew my activism.

    To me, balance is healthy! Perhaps if I had lived with more of it in my life I wouldn’t have become ill…

  • I haven’t watched the movie, but after reading this, I’m going out to rent the DVD!

    Previously, I said No to almost every opportunity that came my way even without realizing it. E.g.

    – Opportunity to work in a Fortune 100 company, but I said No.
    – Opportunity to work with a fast-growing business, but I said No.
    – Opportunity to grow a real business under a successful network marketer, but I said No.

    God knows how many countless opportunities I’ve missed. Perhaps now I wouldn’t be just barely scraping by.

    It’s only recently where I start becoming more of a Yes person. And as I accept opportunities, I’m finding more coming my way. I’m expecting to earning twice as much in this next half of the year as compared to the first half!

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

  • Craig Tobin says:

    Another great post Chris. Nice kick in the pants. Very motivational speaker-ish 😉

    I totally agree with your sentiment about people not acting on the inspiration. Same thing happens with going to see/hear motivational speakers or reading a great book or blog post (hopefully not this one). You get all fired up in the moment, but if you don’t act on it, it gets lost. I fall victim to this myself.

    Love your Final Thought. Really puts things in perspective.

  • Brandon says:

    Chris,

    Great post. I had a life changing event about two months ago and have ever since been trying to say “yes”. I limited myself for years because there were so many expectations put upon me and I felt responsible to fulfill the expectations. Since I started living for myself and saying “yes” to previously unthinkable decisions, I have met outstanding people and have had great experiences. Thanks for the work you are doing.

  • First off, I love Sandra’s comment above: “The bar of being average is pretty low, but so many people don’t step over it.”
    Second, great article, Chris!
    We work so hard on finding ways to justify our saying no, that it is so refreshing to finally be able to say yes, because it is so simple. I would guess that this also works in attracting interesting experiences to you, and the more yes you say outloud, the more opportunities there are.
    And yes, many people won’t take those opportunities and we can waste breath and life moments convincing them to try. But I have also found that simply by our existence, we are gatekeepers and guides to those who are on the fence, tweetering between living their own lives and those that have been scripted for them. At one point, when they decide to jump off the ledge, we’ll be there waiting – that in itself I think will matter a year from now.

    pia

  • Heather says:

    There’s a tension here that lots of commenters have, uh, commented on. It’s great to say yes to new experiences (assuming they’re not too unhealthy) but you yourself have written on the value of saying no, and seem to use the two in balance yourself – for example, no to too much consulting work, no to affiliate marketing except where you think it’s worthwhile. It seems to me to be a question of whether the choice is actively responding to life or taking the easy route, and that can be a no or a yes in either case.

  • Ann Boreson says:

    As always, a wonderful post and great reminder to stay positive instead of falling short into negative beliefs. Thanks for your inspiration.

  • Neil J Lloyd says:

    I haven’t seen this movie but I agree it is all too easy to default to saying ‘no’ to great opportunities. I know plenty of people whose lips seem to form a ‘no’ before they’ve even given their mind a chance to evaluate the best option for them.

    Of course saying yes to everything, no matter what, is not something I’d advise. We need to be able to discriminate between what would be best to say ‘yes’ to and what would be best to say ‘no’ to and also explore what other options there may be.

    Having said that, I have found that in most circumstances where there hasn’t been any significant negative consequences, saying ‘yes’ has definitely turned out to be fun.

  • Ken Cousino says:

    Chris,
    Wow! I did see that movie and love it for the idea of what his life became. He wasn’t tied down by the mundane things that don’t really matter. I live the life he lived, before YES. I hope (although I am afraid) too live with more passion. I am tired of living in the daily machine! Thank you for inspiring! I hope some day our paths will cross and we get to chat for a while!

    Ken

  • Mike Rohrig says:

    I read the book, which was significantly better than the movie, and it did change my knee-jerk reaction to say no to things.

    Like many new ideas and habits we need to be reminded. I have fallen out of saying yes as much as I should.

  • I love all the comments this post has generated! I have been working on saying Yes more in life, to stretch beyond what I “think” is possible, to become more pro-active in choosing my life rather than just getting through the day. It’s scary but exhilarating!

    I wonder though, in the movie he says Yes to EVERY request that comes his way? (I haven’t actually seen the movie.) For women this is all too often what we already do. Say Yes to everyone else’s requests rather than listening to our hearts and saying Yes to our own heart’s desire. We try to balance the needs of our partner, children, family, friends, work… so perhaps the moderation needs to come in always saying Yes to others, and instead, pump up the volume in saying YES for ourselves!!!

  • Colin Wright says:

    I love the idea of trying to figure out ways to make ‘yes’ a possibility in any situation. It’s probably smart to not go to such an extreme that you harm yourself or others (giving all your money away to someone that asks, for example..not ideal), but it’s true that people who lead conventional lives don’t change the world.

    Still haven’t seen the movie, but I might have to now 🙂

    Great post!

  • Karen says:

    Hey Chris,

    Great message… I actually watched this movie (or 3/4 of it, too) on a flight a couple months ago. I love the concept of positivity going mainstream, even if it is in the form of a Hollywood movie. You are so right… you can shift your perspective, just like the movie, and work on saying ‘yes’ to life. It’s a dramatic change… thanks for the good thought for the day! 🙂

    Karen

  • It’s funny but when I first saw “Yes Man” (on a plane of course), I thought of Chris.

    I try to do similar mind games on myself. Not why, but instead turn it into why not. I also think it is good to be often doing stuff that is outside your comfort zone.

  • John says:

    Like the posters above, I was lucky enough to have read Danny Wallaces’ book before I saw the film. IMO, the film was dire, formulaic and pandered more to Mr Careys’ acting skill than attempted to honestly pass on a message.

    Not to slate Jim Carey – he’s a great comedic actor with fantastic timing, but this film was more a comedy than something meaningful.

    Read the book – it’ll touch your heart and inspire you more than the film ever did!

    best regards
    John.

  • Liz says:

    As an added benefit to always being up for things, you’ll end up being the person to call when a friend wants to do something interesting but needs a little encouragement or a little companionship. Lots of adventures come your way through those channels!

    I employ the “say yes” practice particularly on those days where I’m not particularly energetic or motivated; 99% of the time, I’m grateful that I got my butt off of the couch when a friend (or could-be friend) called with an invite. (And in the other 1% of the time, I’m free to head back to the couch and a good book.)

  • Andrew says:

    The thing that strikes me about saying yes all the time, is how it can occassionally be counterproductive.

    Example:
    Do you want fries with that? Can you come to this time-wasting meeting? Etc.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily as black-and-white as yes and no, one all the time. There are instances where the other is appropriate.

    I believe that we should say yes to our opportunities, but no to unhealthy excess.

  • Peter Gulka says:

    Today I said YES to avoiding more anti-depressant medication and trying out Kava kava as an alternative therapy. In my life and situation thats a big deal. Baby steps from reading this blog have changed my life.

  • Jx2 says:

    This statement does not sit well with me:

    “Conventional living is all about being balanced, well-rounded, risk-adverse, and safe. The problem is that well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting. Balanced people don’t usually change the world.”

    I see the point you are going for, but do not agree that well-rounded people are dullards who do not affect their environments. In fact, a well-rounded person would be one to intentionally take a risk, be it a calculated one, because that’s part of being rounded; not subscribing to an extreme of inactivity or total activity. This seems to glamorize rash risk taking and irresponsibly lifestyle choices.

    Jx2

  • Ryan Eliason says:

    I watched this movie 2 days after I arrived in Thailand — my first trip to Asia. I was there for a month. I used the movie as inspiration to say yest to all kinds of weird, wild, wacky things I wouldn’t have said yes to in the course of my life-as-usual. Of course, being on holiday in an exotic land made it easier to live that way. Back home, working, it’s more difficult to live with that sense of adventure.

    Movies that inspire are great. It’s even better to have friends who push your comfort zone. If you have a friend that tends to invite you to step outside your comfort zone, and you keep saying no to them, guess what, they’ll stop inviting you. My challenge to you is to say yes the next time you have an opportunity that scares you — just for the sake of facing your fear and breaking your pattern.

    I am a life a business coach. I support people to make powerful, scary, decisions every day. Having a coach is another way to get the support you need to step outside your comfort zone.

    By the way, it’s just as important to say no. I often ask my clients to commit to saying no to absolutely everything that is not in alignment with their highest good. Saying no to all the things that don’t serve you makes it easier to say yes to the things that do.

  • I haven’t seen this movie Chris but like you, often think about the practitioners of life avoidance. It’s so easy to say ‘no’, instead of stepping back for a moment and searching for the possibilities a situation may hold. In my humble opinion, saying ‘no’ is just another reflection of the mediocrity that permeates so much of life and society. Posts like this encourage people to be more open, and maybe even, to say ‘yes’.

  • I loved this, Chris. It makes so much sense. I lived a traditional life for so many years doing everything you were expected to do and accomplished everything you were supposed to want. In the end, I was left wondering……”This is it?” It all seemed so hollow and not very inspiring to say the least.

    My mission is now to be the very best me and stretch and explore all the talents and gifts that might not have been nurtured by established society. I’m going to do what I want to do. What a concept!
    I am choosing the Art of Non Conformity. One last thought: “Who made all these rules and why is everyone following them?”

  • Clint says:

    I think a more effective method for me to use is to replace “I can’t” with either a straight yes or no. I’ve found that you can create a lot of feelings of helplessness by going with can’t instead of owning the responsibility of agreeing (or not) to something.

  • Chris, love it. One of my favorite movies and one that I recommend to my clients who need to believe in the power of yes. Just last week I gave this exact assignment to a client. Keep spreading the word about the yes man.

  • Right on Chris, you rule….
    always great and inspiring comments….
    thanks for what you do and bring to the world!

  • Steven says:

    Well, I haven’t seen the film.

    I have had one almighty bitch of a day and then I read this post. This got me:

    “That thing you’re working on today – will it matter one year from now? If so, great. Keep doing that. If not, why are you doing it?”

    No.

    So, walked right out of that day and got me a taxi to something worthwhile.

    Thanks Chris – Day 1 of the rest of my life begins at 8.00am tomorrow.

  • Chris, I think you underestimate the courage of “ordinary” people. I know people who have been inspired by “Yes Man” – and it doesn’t need to be a life-altering revolution to be significant. Sometimes it means opening up in a small but meaningful way in their daily lives. Shouldn’t we also celebrate this?

    I watched this movie shortly after I had decided to leave my cozy job as a videogame producer, and travel the world. It was very impressive for me, as it corroborated the way I had just decided to live my life. I found it uplifting, even if it had all the pretenses of a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy.

    A while later, talking to my brother, I suggested the movie to him. I thought it would lead nowhere. But when he saw it he vowed to say “yes” more often. He went trekking with friends and returned burnt out and happy. He said yes to me when I invited him to backpack in Hungary for a week.

    My brother might not end up doing something that will transcend his life experience. But for a few days, he did try it out, in his own, significant way. And for me, that makes it all worth it.

  • Love this post, Chris.
    What I also got from the movie is that we can’t say YES to everything without getting overwhelmed and tired. Maybe like, ‘You can have anything you want but not everything.’
    But, like you say, the main point is to start saying YES more than NO.

  • Lo says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Lately I really need a rallying cry to follow, and this is it: The alternative is to truly live.

    Also, I rented Yes Man specifically because I thought it would be inspiring. Completely ignored the Hollywood. I’m still a year away from saying yes, but already working on being free of the fear that’s always caused me to say no.

  • Tedi May says:

    Dear Chris:
    Your words of being a “Yes” are wise and true.
    I have seen from being a yest that my life has been blessed, and I have blessed the lives of others..
    I have led my life being a yes, because I was told early on by my inventor Father that I could do anything I thought I could do, and I believed him..Being a Yes creates space for possibility, fun, joy, and creativity for us all.
    PEACE n LOVE, Tedi May, Dirt Road Delight

  • “Practitioners of life avoidance”. That is a brilliant phrase, and aptly describes the vast majority of those who say they should be doing this, should be doing that, but end up “should”-ing all over themselves.

  • Mallory says:

    There is strength in saying no, but there is power in saying yes! I liked this article. I am trying to say yes now more than I say no. It costs me sometimes, but the costs have been worth it. In terms of will it matter in 5 years, it may not matter much, but what I do will matter.

  • I’m so glad you posted this, Chris. Serendipitously, today I talked with a woman who runs a nonprofit that funds law enforcement agencies in their investigations of Internet crimes against children. She had me in tears with details, and I keep thinking I really don’t want to write these stories… but now that I know, I can’t really not. Thanks for reinforcing my instinct to walk away from “safety.”

  • I used to be the person that finds a way to say “no” to things too. I realized I was really living in fear. I knew I didn’t want to live in fear, so the first thing I did was join Toastmasters. I forced myself to get up in front of people and speak. It scared the crap out of me, but now I’m building a speaking career because I love doing it.

    I still say no too often, but I’m working on this issue. As of right now I’m finding more ways to say yes. I needed this post tonight. Thanks!

  • Peter Mis says:

    Chris,

    Great post! I agree that the vast majority simply enjoyed the movie and then went home. I admit that I, too, have seen inspirational movies that never inspired me. It wasn’t the movie’s fault…I was the one that simply never got it! Leaving what you know means leaving safety behind. At a time like this, many are being forced to leave what they know behind, simply because what they know isn’t what the world needs right now. They can either embrace the opportunities that exist in the new world, or maintain their oblivious-victims-of-themselves life status.

    AONC, to me, is a case study of the possible. Sadly, many don’t live in the world of possibility. They have survived in mediocrity. Many simply have no idea how much they can actually achieve…have no idea of the inner greatness that they possess!

    Perhaps someday the light will switch on and people will understand who and what they really are. Their inspiration may come from a movie or from a blog. Let’s hope they get there!

    Thanks for sharing your gift!

    It’s a great day to be you!

  • BarefootFord says:

    I think over all the world would have less grocery stores and more ice cream shops if everyone always had to say “yes.”

    Andrew

  • Mike says:

    What if “balance is where you find it”?

    You write (or I understand what you wrote) as if balance itself is a proxy for mediocrity or conventionality, and of course this depends on your view of the term balance. The idea that “Conventional living is all about being balanced, well-rounded, risk-adverse, and safe.” seems wrong to me.

    You can have unconventional goals and lead an unconventional life and still be balanced, imo. The difference is you decide to put the fulcrum for your balance in an unconventional place.

  • gwyn says:

    Great post! You make a very good point about how the public takes in such messages in the form of Hollywood. They pretty much don’t, which is a shame. It is up to those of us that “get it” to put the messages out there through our actions, which you do. However I have a comment on the use of balance in your post. I understand what you are saying, but balance can be defined different ways as it applies to many facets of life. While it is important that we open ourselves up to opportunities (even crazy ones) by learning to say yes, we must also know when to say no. For many of us that is as big a lesson.

  • Chris, You understand! I smiled at the comment about being on the other side of 35, I am on the other side of 60 and just yesterday decided to get my PhD. I will probably never use it for financial gain, but it will be a complete source of personal satisfaction which will way outweight the $50,000 it will cost me.

    Now, your post here gave me a boost to look for those grants and scholarships I have been hesitant to look for…because no one would give a grant to an old lady . Thanks

  • Genevieve says:

    Great article I will forward. Doors open when you say yes, when you stay open to all fields of possibility even if they don’t seem related in the conventional sense with what you think you should be doing. I recently said yes to running a marathon and fundraising for a charity organization–it’s been a terrifying journey into the unsafe realms for me (asking friends, family and strangers for money). But it’s opened up new doors in ways I could have never imagined before.
    We all should say yes, everyday, to something we don’t normally do. It expands the psyche!

  • Great insight Chris, I just watched this DVD last week. I loved the part when he started speaking Korean fluently.

  • “The problem is that well-rounded people rarely do anything interesting. Balanced people don’t usually change the world.”

    Absolutely brilliant! That is exactly the kind of thing I believe in so deeply. Thanks for putting it into such succinct language. Great post.

  • Katie says:

    Awesome Snippet:

    “truly live, and come back tired”

  • Amen! Focused on 3 year strategies today, so yes, my hope is it’ll matter in a year. We shall see!!! Solid question to ask on a regular basis!

  • Hope your travels are going/went well, Chris. I love the end of your post with the question – will the thing you’re working on matter a year from now? Helped me really analyze my current projects, and rework what’s been working for me and not as I continue down my own creative journey. Looking forward to your next post soon!

  • teevee says:

    I saw this movie recently and thought the same thing, so finding someone write about it and ask the questions in my own head just tickled me.

    One of the basic principles in improv is “Yes, and!” I have studied and applied that principle in my life as much as possible.

    If the actors in improv say no to ideas as they are being presented than the scene stalls and dies.

    I suppose at the end of the day, the idea is to be a Yes(Wo)Man to life and open yourself to the possibilities that are presented to us. Both good and bad.

  • Tabitha says:

    This article is incredibly refreshing, especially that I’m reading it so early in the morning. I agree 110% with it. Most of us think of FEAR right away before trying things out, which make them miss the great adventures of life. I always try to motivate people in taking that first step of just saying “yes” and making them experience the things that follow after that and not regretting a single moment.

  • Amy says:

    Maybe the reason you list is why I don’t really like watching movies. I just feel it’s a waste of time. I like the really good movies – I could watch Amélie a million times over. But the bulk of it is just a way to waste your time. One of my friend doesn’t get that – she absolutely doesn’t understand why I could not like watching movies.

    And to answer your question at the end: my personal project is that I’m organising and uncluttering my place, and trying to save up more and more money every month – I want to go to China next year, and I just want to get rid of all the useless stuff now, so that storing my useful stuff & packing will be much easier in a year from now 🙂 & a decent amount of money in your pocket (figuratively speaking) wouldn’t hurt.

  • Elaine says:

    Just last week my partner Ted asked if I wanted to watch the “Yes Man” DVD with him.

    I said No.

    Now you’ve got me thinking…

  • Nichole Moses says:

    I had the exact same feelings when I saw the movie. How many people realize that they can literally change their lives by doing things out of the ordinary once in a while, or breaking away from their comfort zone. If you want to make a change in your life, you must do something different.

  • Joe_mx says:

    I totally agree with you about this movie. YES MAN, well a formula, but for people like us, who strive for something bigger, better, beautiful, a great story of life, the message is so clear, because we are open to them, to the learning experience of every person, movie, song, mistake, what ever.

    I so refreshing from time to time to come here and read you, and all the people that follow you. It makes me remember my commiment to my life, to my goals.. to “why not see it all, do it all, we are here until we get to go”…

    thanks again Chris for your thoughts, time and enthusiasm to life

  • Cara says:

    Excellent post Chris, though I have to say that I disagree with you on one thing, though I suspect that it is a definitional problem more than anything.

    I will join with the contrarians that being well-rounded is not the same as being boring, nor is it the same thing as dipping your toe in each little part of the pool, but never diving in anywhere. In other words, I being truly well-rounded isn’t what your high school guidance counselor thought it was.

    Being well rounded and balanced is about being curious about the world and taking off the blinders that keep us focused on our own lives and careers. It doesn’t mean that you don’t dive in to your work or hobbies with a passion, but that you engage with the universe with enthusiasm, gratitude, and wonder to find out more beyond yourself and your norms.

    Of course, my entire blog is devoted to being well-rounded, so I have an interest. Thanks for what you do and for sharing it with us.

  • monica says:

    I loved that movie. It was sort of a wake-up call for me..I’m trying to be more open-minded and say yes to more opportunities!

  • Kaitlin M says:

    [That thing you’re working on today – will it matter one year from now? If so, great. Keep doing that. If not, why are you doing it?]

    That final thought was very powerful, I think if we all just stopped for a moment everyday and asked ourselves, is what I am doing right now, helping me get to where I want to end up? We would be better off.
    So instead of getting to the end of the year and thinking what have I done with all this time, we would know and the question wouldn’t even enter our head.
    Thanks for the great article.

  • Nathalie Arsenault says:

    I agree with most of what was said, except for this statement: ‘Balanced people don’t usually change the world’. If Gandhi wasn’t balanced in mind, body and soul, do you think he could have achieved all the great changes he has?

    You must be balanced within yourself before changing anyone else or anything else. Work on the foundation before building a home. Balanced doesn’t mean ‘boring’, it just means that you understand yourself fully and you follow your own true feelings. When you understand this, you can change the world, for the better that is.

  • Terry Okono says:

    I haven’t see the movie but i think its a great movie from all what has been said. I’ve been trying for a while to “get out” of my “comfort zone” and your post has added much energy to my ‘urge’. I sure need to see the movie as only then can I comment reasonably.

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