The Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes is well known for her slate of highly acclaimed Shondaland television series. She is a hit maker of the highest caliber producing around 70 hours or television a year. In 2015, Shonda surprised fans with her book Year of Yes where she forced herself to say Yes to everything that scared her for a year. Public speaking? Yes. What about acting? Yes. She talked about her experiences and the important lessons learned in this Ted Talk. The very act of doing the thing that scared her undid the fear. Shonda expanded the practice to saying yes to the requests of her family. When her small children wanted to play? Yes. To throw an impromptu kitchen dance party? Yes. She credits Yes with changing her life. There is a genuine benefit in the intentional practice of pushing past fears and excuses to find your own place of yes.
The Upside of the Opposite
We are a nation of people who love the word yes. Entire photo albums are filled with the Yes! moments of our lives. But – there is as much to be gained from the word No. Recognizing when to use the word no is empowering. It lets others know what to expect from you. For those in our industry who built careers on saying yes to all the difficult assignments, working all the extra hours, and taking it home when finally leaving the office, no feels like a negative thing, almost like a dirty word – something taboo. NO can feed the fear that it reflects badly on you.
The Honesty of Boundaries
I encourage you to re-examine the story you may be telling yourself about the word no. Saying yes when the real answer is no – is a lie. And you are the person that is telling it and doing harm to yourself in the process. The martyrdom of taking work home with you and laboring until late at night only to begin again before the starting bell of the next day only serves to perpetuate the problem. It disguises the true cost of doing business and contributes to personal burnout, which can be the hardest place to come back from. Telling yourself that you don’t have a choice is probably another lie. There are almost always choices. The other choices can feel scary, but as Shonda said, doing the thing that scares you undoes the fear. I shared a vlog on this topic last week with some tips on saying no.
Saying no sets reasonable expectations. It creates and supports appropriate boundaries. The answer might be “No, I can’t do that today, but I can fit it in later this week.” which provides the person making the request with the power to either accept your revised timeline or to find another resource to do the work. It isn’t magic but it does have the power to change your life and to reorder your priorities. No gives back time in your life – time to spend with loved ones and to pursue the things that bring you joy.
Yes is important. It can expand your experiences and each bit of personal growth builds on the last. It forges new relationships and enriches the ones you already have. But, yes is at its very best when it is balanced with the judicious no.
In his Oscar acceptance speech for his role in The Gladiator, Russell Crowe famously said, “…dreams like this seemed vaguely ludicrous and completely unattainable. For anybody who’s on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage – it’s possible.” It is true that most of us won’t win an Academy Award. We are each one nonetheless capable of stretching towards a destination that seems impossibly out of reach. Somewhere between where you are today and your impossible dream lies a journey filled with incredible lessons and stories worth sharing around the firepit.
In the quest to achieve your ambition, I offer you a few nuggets to keep, use, or toss along the way.
Failure is Inevitable
You will fail. Not completely – failure is only complete when you decide it is. From a quiver full of arrows, only some will hit the mark. The rest could be called failures, but I prefer to think of them as practice shots.
Set your Big-Hairy-Audacious-Goal. Then set some more – realistic near-term goals. If your goal is to win that Oscar, you can’t get there without attainable, actionable goals. I wrote about this topic ten years ago in this series. Even Russell Crowe had to start somewhere. Take an acting workshop or class. Volunteer at your community theater. In the world of multifamily, that could mean signing up for classes wherever you can find them – Internal L&D departments, LinkedIn Learning, or in any of the countless free webinars made widely available by vendors across the industry.
Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
Embrace nervous anxiety. Lean in to it. Greatness was never found hiding in the blanketed cocoon of comfort. Willingly put yourself into uncomfortable situations. Reach out to someone you don’t know to ask for a call or video chat to talk about your project. You may be surprised by how often people who have achieved success are willing to share their time and stories with others on the way up.
Be True to You
Be accountable – to yourself and to someone else. There is a reason people hire personal trainers or life coaches. It’s because those people hold you accountable to your commitments. It’s incredibly hard to duck out of a 6 am workout if you know your trainer got up early to meet you at the gym. Accountability is key.
Repetition Builds Muscle Memory
Put in the reps. It can feel boring or pointless at times but in every endeavor, practice the reps that build up your skill, strength, and confidence. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a teenager when he started lifting weights and learned the fundamentals of completing and marking the reps. From Mr. Universe to Governor of California, the practice of repetition served him well.
Measure and acknowledge your progress. It feels like fuel in your tank to have reached even the incremental markers of progress towards your bigger goal. Dave Ramsey has a debt snowball philosophy that helps people get out of credit card debt that involves paying off the smallest balance first. It feels good and it frees up cash to put towards the other debt. Celebrate your progress. Tell the world. Share it on your stories. It’s powerful stuff.
Celebrate the Win
When you achieve your big goal – take it in. Breathe the moment of accomplishment. Then – set your next goal even as you turn around and help someone else who is just getting started on theirs. For every person who heard you out, cheered you on, and celebrated the markers with you, pay it forward.
Congratulations – you’ve reached the upside.
Through the Looking Glass
In 2015 The Metropolitan Museum of Art was busy preparing for the Costume Institutes Spring Exhibit: “China: Through the Looking Glass”, a focus on Chinese imagery in art, film, and fashion. The annual Met Gala is known for its excess. Influential people with big smiles and bigger wallets clothed in couture gowns and designer suits are photographed and broadcast around the globe as attendees strive to outdo themselves and everyone else.
It takes months to put together each event. In the lead up to the 2015 gala every decision about the exhibit was parsed and examined. Where to put the vintage clothes on display? The artwork? Lighting? Seating? Guest List? Logistics? In the midst of this high dollar chaos, Wong Kar Wai, Exhibition Artistic Director for the MET, is quoted as saying, “Seeing too much is seeing nothing.” He’s not wrong.
I am certain that I will never attend the MET Gala, but we play out the theater of property management and leadership every day. Attended by an audience of thousands (of residents and team members), everything we do has significance. It’s not a stretch to say that poor performance in our industry is also photographed and broadcast worldwide.
I think it’s possible to get a little lost because we are seeing too much. Primarily, too much global information all the time. It’s distracting and not productive. We don’t see what’s right in front of us because the buzz, beep, and tune notifications call our attention away. In that moment of interruption lies the interrupted moments. We miss the chance to actually connect with our customers or to engage with our team members. We lose the opportunity to listen. I am not advocating that we force a cell phone bucket at the door policy and prohibit use of phones during the workday – that’s not practical for many reasons. But there are a couple of steps between everything and nothing that might serve us well.
The first one is easy and often causes alarm when I advocate for it, so brace yourself. Turn off all notifications. In every app. In a world addicted to Likes and Comments, this is a hard first step. It is also the most liberating. I find that people default to the worst-case scenario – but my child, my significant other, or parent might need me. But of the ten thousand clicks a day, how many are really for direct communication with your loved ones? Not shared memes or TikToks – but genuine, direct, person to person communication? Right. So – keep your phone. Turn off the notifications. Your loved ones can still leave a message or send a text. It’s possible that you may find that you lose some of the compulsion to check it every time you hear a buzz – because the buzz will be silenced.
The second step goes with the first. Set a calendar reminder to check your phone. Some of that anxiety related to FOMO can be assuaged by knowing you have an appointment to re-engage with your pocket tech. Take a few minutes, check on the family and even how many posts likes you have.
Then, set another calendar notification to put the phone back down. Seeing everything is seeing nothing.
What are your thoughts on this topic? We love to hear them so share your experiences below.
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