Year of Yes By Shonda Rhimes: 5 Kick-Ass Takeaways

Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes was showing up everywhere on my social feeds last year. Truth be told, I didn’t know who Shonda Rhimes was; I just knew she wrote a book that a lot of people were paying attention to. I hadn’t really been a T.V. person until Netflix entered my life in a big way last summer so that might explain why I was one of the few people on Earth who hadn’t watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (Don’t worry: I’ve rectified this situation by binging episodes since last week. I am totally in love with Dr. McDreamy and well on my way to collecting dark circles under my eyes to satisfy this obsession). What inspired me to give Grey’s a try was reading Year of Yes.

What I Learned from Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes: How to Dance it out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Threaded throughout this memoir slash personal development book was Shonda’s creative process, and as a writer those bits thrilled me. What I took away from this book, besides a curiosity for her shows, has become a part of my own personal and creative life. If you haven’t read this book, I gave it 5 stars on my Goodreads app which means you need to get your hands on these pages and read them – stat!

Here are my 5 kick-ass takeaways from Year of Yes

1. Own your badassery and get your swagger on. When Shonda talked about how women react to being given a compliment, I was like, that is so me. If someone tells me they loved something I wrote, I will do any number of the following: look away, cast my eyes downward, shrug my shoulders, shake my head, mumble something, or say: “oh…huh…” and giggle. Since reading that powerful section on badassery and swagger in Year of Yes, I will now look the person in the eye and say, “thank you” (because if nothing else, that is just polite!) and ask them a follow-up question to engage them in conversation about the topic. Or I say something like, “I really appreciate you reading. It was important to me to put that out there.” I do value my readers – so much! – and writing is a lot of work. I don’t want to undermine either important fact.

2. The 5-mile run. I’m not a runner but I understand the ‘5-mile run’ writing process that Shonda describes. I  have since borrowed this metaphor for my writing classes. The 5-mile run in writing is that process of pushing on, keeping on, ignoring the distractions, knocking down those demons, shushing that voice that says ‘someone else has written this better than you’, and writing, writing, writing until you conquer those 5 miles of cobwebs and are now…in the zone. That is the sweet spot for a writer (and I guess for a runner!) and it’s where we want to be every day. But it’s a practice. The more often you run those 5 miles or write through the junk in your head, the better you get at it and the faster you get to the zone. Really, this applies to anything. You can’t get to where you want to be when you’re looking everywhere else.

3. Recognize and love your inner child. Shonda talked a lot about her little girl self in a way that encouraged my own little girl self to start showing up more. Either that or I just started seeing her more. I’ve always been attached to that awkwardly-dressed, big-eyed dreamer who I know still lives inside me – a permanent 7 year old who follows her more adventurous friend through the woods to play, who sings in an imaginary band, reads everything she can get her hands on, and collects notebooks. She’s nervous in new situations, is unsure about whether she’s doing things ‘right’ but absolutely knows what she loves. She’s a wonderful companion to me when I’m writing, and always.

4. The Year of Yes is also about ‘no’. I didn’t jump to get the book when I heard the title because I’m trying to be more conscious about saying ‘no’. I say ‘yes’ to a lot of things (it’s how I carve my entrepreneurial path). But I know that to live an authentic life, I have to identify what’s important to me – not just so I can create time for those things but so I can take back my energy from what’s not important. The deeper I got into this book, the more I realized that this is exactly what Shonda recognizes, too. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult. For me, it sometimes comes with guilt or the worry that I will look like  a bad person. But if I always keeps my own values in the forefront, the ‘no’ is just a ‘yes’ to what’s more important to me.

5. You can’t do it all at the same time. This. Is. So. True. The way Shonda explained it, if she’s winning at work, she’s losing at motherhood. Or winning at motherhood and losing at work. Put your hand up if you can relate to THAT?! I remember this one day, in particular, just after I read that section of the book, I had this amazing work day. I checked everything off my to-dos and even started on something for later that week. Like, I rocked that work day. I picked up my kids after school, and I was humming and smiling and practically skipping from the car to their classrooms. Straight from school, we drove to the swimming pool where all 3 kids had lessons at the same time. Yeah, because I’m a kick-ass mom who managed to get lessons for all 3 kids in 3 different levels at the same time. As the kids changed into their swimming gear, I realized…I forgot to pack them towels! Which meant that in 30 minutes I would have two soaking wet kids, shivering, with no towel. And 15 minutes later, their older sister who had a longer lesson would join them. Talk about a mom fail! And of course, the pool wasn’t close enough for me to go back home, grab towels and come back. I’d be cutting it tight and risk not being there when my 3 year old came out looking for me. Also, I don’t like to leave the building when my kids are in swimming. So, I was stuck. And then I laughed because…I WAS JUST LIKE SHONDA RHIMES so how bad could that be? I shared this in my IG stories; it was the perfect example of how you can’t win at everything all at once! (Thankfully, the pool let me borrow a towel so nobody was actually forced to put their street clothes on soaking wet).

These takeaways from Year of Yes quickly gave that book ‘game changer’ status for me. It’s one of those books I could read again and stand to benefit from often.

Have you read it? What did you love about it? On another note, are you a Grey’s fan? Don’t tell me anything about it! I’m only on season 2!

taslim jaffer writer

6 thoughts on “Year of Yes By Shonda Rhimes: 5 Kick-Ass Takeaways

  1. This is a fabulous breakdown of the book. I’m about halfway through and my favourite parts are always when she talks about herself as a child.

  2. I have re-read this post a couple of times. I have not read the book but you have motivated me too. I loved all 5 of the points and I can relate to each of them. The first one is my fav though. I always downplay the piece I am being complimented on. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Hi Husna – it can be difficult to just accept a compliment because we’re also ‘told’ in our society to be humble. But when it gets to the point where we are playing small, that’s a real shame. I think we can still be humble but gracious when we accept compliments. And I also think it’s an act of self-love when we take credit when it’s due. If you read the book, let me know what you think. There is so much more than these 5 points in there but they were my fave.

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