9 min read ⌚
How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person
Are you saying “no” to too many things in your life?
Well, it’s time to change that.
Let Shonda Rhimes help you to kickstart your life-changing “Year of Yes.”
Who Should Read “Year of Yes”? And Why?
Do you like Grey’s Anatomy?
Considering the fact that the show is on TV for about 13 years now, we bet it’s safe to assume that not many would answer that question in the negative.
Well, this is the story of the person behind its success: Shonda Rhimes.
So, if you are a fan of that show, don’t miss this book.
Don’t miss it if you want to be the person behind the next Grey’s Anatomy: there are many lessons here for aspiring TV writers.
However, don’t expect all of them to be encouraging: there’s more to life than being successful. In fact, that’s lesson number one.
About Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Lynn Rhimes is an American screenwriter and television producer.
She is best known as the creator, writer and executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy and its spin-off Private Practice. She is also the creative force behind ABC’s political thriller Scandal.
In 2017, Netflix purchased the streaming rights for Rhimes’ shows and made a multi-year development deal with her, according to which her future productions will be Netflix Original series.
Year of Yes is Rhimes’ only book so far.
“Year of Yes PDF Summary”
Even if you don’t know who Shonda Rhimes is, you certainly know what Shonda Rhimes has so far done. Because she is the creative force (both writer and producer) behind three top-rated TV shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scandal.
However, if you think that Year of Yes is a book about success – think again! It’s actually much more a book about happiness. And it’s not so much about what you should do to be happy, but about what you should don’t.
It’s also a highly personal account of how Shonda Rhimes became Shonda Rhimes – and what she would have done differently if she could go back in time. And what she actually did the minute she faced her regrets.
Born in Chicago as the youngest of six children to a college professor (her mother) and a university administrator (her father), Rhimes was (expectedly) an introvert.
Her favorite hobby was playing pretend with food items. She had a habit of hiding in her mother’s pastry and developing stories in which the green beans were ruled by the yams, and the tomatoes plotted an overthrow.
She was, in every sense of the phrase, a storyteller from birth, homo narrans.
Unsurprisingly, after attending Marian Catholic High School, she went on to earn a BA at Dartmouth College in English and film studies.
It was here that she started dabbling in much more serious make-believe games, joining the Black Underground Theater Association and directing numerous student productions. She also acted in some of them, writing fiction in the meantime.
It was the beginning of the 1990s, so it’s only natural that Shonda dreamt of becoming the next Toni Morrison, the first black woman to win a Nobel Prize.
Interestingly enough, after Shonda became Shonda Rhimes, she had the privilege to have dinner with Morrison.
The thing they talked about?
Now, how did that happen?
How does one evolve from just a regular person dreaming a dream to an exceptional one living inside it?
Shonda has pretty straightforward advice:
They tell you: Follow your dreams. Listen to your spirit. Change the world. Make your mark. Find your inner voice and make it sing. Embrace failure. Dream. Dream and dream big. As a matter of fact, dream and don’t stop dreaming until your dream comes true.
I think that’s crap.
I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? They are busy doing.
In other words: dreaming is easy; it’s doing the work necessary to turn that dream into a reality that is difficult.
However, that’s not what Shonda learned during this process of becoming one of the most respected people in the film industry; what she did is actually a much bleaker lesson: that success doesn’t bring you happiness.
In fact, it may be the very opposite: it’s what prevents you from being happy.
For two reasons:
First of all, if you want to be successful in Hollywood, you can’t allow yourself a break; however, if you are a writer, that usually means many solitary sleepless and stressful nights. After all, it’s not like you don’t know that even Muses need to take some rest from time to time.
The second reason is even scarier. Namely, no matter how lonely and insecure you feel, you mustn’t show this before anyone. Because nobody has the time to deal with an anxious person with panic attacks in a world where new episodes must come out each week and new TV shows are constantly created and produced.
Well, the obvious one: gobbling up her feelings.
And, of course, after she realized that this method gained her some weight, she felt so sad that she had to start eating some more.
You know it: the vicious, vicious circle.
And then, one day, her sister and her publicist all but ordered Shonda to accept an invitation for dinner with then-U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Lady.
Suddenly, Shonda realized that there must be another way. In other words, you can, instead of watching the world go by in front of your very eyes, take participation.
And just like Jim Carrey in Yes Man, she decided to say “yes” to everything.
You may remember 2015 as the year you did nothing in particular, but in Shonda Rhimes’ vocabulary, 2015 was her “Year of Yes.”
The first thing Shonda said “yes” to was her social life.
And this led to a few memorable experiences, such as being photographed by Annie Leibovitz and being interviewed (for the first time) for Good Morning America!
In addition, she organized a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. And she didn’t reject the offers for a friendly hangout by the cast of her shows.
The second thing Shonda said “yes” to was her family.
Rhimes adopted her first child back in 2002, and her second and third in 2012 and 2013. However, before her “Year of Yes,” she didn’t have that much time for Emerson, Beckett, and Harper. In 2015, however, she decided that that’s not a way to live your life.
So, she started saying “yes” every time her daughters would ask her to play with them. And she stopped working during the weekends so that she can dedicate herself fully to her family for at least two days a week.
It wasn’t always like that.
When she adopted her first child, a friend of hers asked her whether she had started interviewing for a nanny. Rhimes was furious: “Why would I want to adopt a child if I plan to make it someone else’s problem?” – she yelled.
However, soon enough she realized that real life doesn’t work the way movies do. In real life, it is quite tricky – and almost impossible – to balance family and work.
In comes Jenny McCarthy.
Though she has written some books about parenting – no, we’re not talking about that Jenny McCarthy.
It’s Shonda Rhimes’ supernanny who, in Rhimes’ words, helped her both realize that it is impossible to do it all and, ironically, actually do it all. (Your friends are an extension of you; and you are an extension of your friends. Never forget that.)
This helped Rhimes feel much more confident and act with much more assertiveness. And it inspired her to say “no” once in a while – when that secretly means saying “yes.”
Because a “no” to self-depreciation is actually a “yes” to compliments. And a “yes” to compliments leads to just the perfect amount of self-love.
And that – as Rupi Kaur points over and over again – is the only valid starting point of love.
Not to mention health, as well!
You see, Shonda Rhimes lost 117 pounds during 2015.
Now, you can say that it’s because of exercising and dieting and you won’t be wrong. However, the real, underlying reason is something else.
A newly discovered capacity for self-love.
Key Lessons from “Year of Yes”
1. Unhappiness May Be the Price for Success
2. The FODs and the Bad-Asses
3. The One Rule of Happiness
Unhappiness May Be the Price for Success
Most people know that happiness and success are intricately related. And they instinctively agree that the former must follow from the latter.
OK, let’s agree with that. So, you can’t be happy if you are not successful. But can consider yourself successful if you are not happy?
As Shonda Rhimes found out during her “Year of Yes” – no, you can’t. And, unfortunately, success may be an obstacle on your road to happiness.
Because you may have to sacrifice many things so that you can become successful. And because, during the process, you may forget that you wanted to be successful only so that you can enjoy those exact same things.
You know – the plotline for every romantic comedy ever.
It turns out it’s much too real.
The FODs and the Bad-Asses
Shonda Rhimes thinks herself a FOD, that is “first, only different.”
Well, you know: not male, not white, and yet highly successful.
Since she’s a rare kind even today – did luck have anything to do with her success?
“I am not lucky,” answers at one point Shonda Rhimes. “You know what I am? I am smart, I am talented, I take advantage of the opportunities that come my way, and I work really, really hard. Don’t call me lucky. Call me a badass.”
Other people you can call badasses: Julia Child, Serena Williams, Oprah… Wonder Woman. And Brené Brown.
If you want to, that is.
The One Rule of Happiness
Remember the Anna Karenina Principle?
If not, maybe the first line of that brilliant Tolstoy novel will refresh your memory: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
In other words, in order to be happy, you need to check all the checkboxes. You can be unhappy, however, if only one (any one: love, friends, family, work, etc.) of the checkboxes is left empty.
Obviously, this explains why it is so much more difficult to be happy. But, what it doesn’t say is how you can be happy.
Shonda Rhimes, however, thinks that, in fact, it does.
Because, if there are so many things that influence our happiness, and if each of us is different – then the only way to happiness is your way.
There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people.
You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize, don’t explain, don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.
And that’s the one rule of happiness: don’t listen to others telling you how you can make yourself happy. It won’t work – because you’re a unique individual. Follow your inner voice should work. Even if that means having no family of your own or being less than successful in your profession.
For some people, happiness is having a coffee with their high school friends once a week. And why shouldn’t it be?
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“Year of Yes Quotes”Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Click To Tweet ’Don’t let what he wants eclipse what you need.’ ‘He is very dreamy,’ she says. ‘But he is not the sun. You are.’ Click To Tweet Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change. Click To Tweet Losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one ‘no’ at a time. Click To Tweet If I don't poke my head out of my shell and show people who I am, all anyone will ever think I am is my shell. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Year of Yes is – to quote a review – “as fun to read as Rhimes’s TV series are to watch.”
So, if you enjoy rapid-fire dialogue, poignant moments, great punchlines and unforgettable life lessons – you’ll enjoy this memoir as well.
Raw and revelatory, Year of Yes is as life-affirming as its title.