“Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes
Book review written by: Danielle Woods
If you’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal or Getting Away With Murder on ABC, you are already familiar with Miss Shonda Rhimes. The single-by-choice mother of three is a not only a writer and producer of some of the most highly rated shows on television, but she’s also, as she describes herself, a first, only, different. What she is referring to is that fact that Rhimes is the first and only black, female, mid-40’s producer to ever find success in the prime time television market. So how does a mere mortal manage to own Thursday night television with three hit TV shows, raise three young girls as a single mom and lose 100 pounds in the process? It turns out Shonda gets this question a lot, so this self-proclaimed recluse chose to answer the masses by penning a book, “Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person,” that is now on the top of many must-read lists, and for great reason.
“Lucky implies I didn’t do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn, that I did not work hard for. Gentle reader, may you never be lucky. I am not lucky. 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.”- Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes.
Shonda explains early on that the person she was a few years ago said “no” to absolutely everything from dinner invitations, to Hollywood parties, to award shows. She does not relish the limelight like so many people do and began turning to seclusion and food to form a barrier between herself and the ever-growing number of people who longed to know more about her as her show’s ratings climbed. When her sister flippantly said to her at a holiday get-together “you say no to EVERYTHING,” Shonda reevaluated her life and decided to spend the next year saying “yes” to absolutely everything that scared her. She could have never guessed what would happen next—by doing all of the things that were out of her comfort zone, she found out who she really was. “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.”
Year of Yes is full of pulse-pounding examples of how the word “yes” brought this amazing writer to face her fears over and over again. Commencement address in the Ivy League, check. Oprah interview, check. Dinner with the President and First Lady, double check. The way that Shonda so beautifully explains her transformation from “veal practice” as she calls it to being the toast of the town is relevant to each of us as we make the important decisions about what we fit in our schedule and what is tossed to the side. Life really is an amazing ride when you take all of the exciting exit ramps and trust yourself enough to get lost.
I really enjoyed reading about Shonda’s journey as she answered the questions so many professional women have—how do you pursue both a demanding career and a family? How do you tap in to your purpose? How do you share your passion when your natural tendency is to be a couch dweller? For those looking to learn more about how her hit shows are created, you’ll definitely find some of that. “The goal is that everyone should get to turn on the TV and see someone who looks like them and loves like them. And just as important, everyone should turn on the TV and see someone who doesn’t look like them and love like them.” If you’re curious on her highly publicized weight loss, you’ve come to the right place. For those of us who are wondering how in the world she manages three daughters and three hit shows simultaneously, she’s honest about that too. “I don’t. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in. If I am accepting a prestigious award, I am missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade-off.”
The reason why so many readers are suggesting this surprisingly honest title to the women in their life is because it explains the ordinary in an extraordinary way. Shonda knows that at the end of the day, she’s a working mom like the rest of us, only she knows a secret that we don’t. The things we want the most often take a ton of hard work to get. Not everyone in our lives are worthy of the position. When something scares you, you are probably on the right track to finding your purpose. Life is about finding out who you are and owning it—no apologizes, no sitting in the back of the class, just owning it. And hey—it’s okay to admit that we need a nanny to help us keep it all together.
I highly recommend this surprisingly fun read for all the ladies in your life who deserve to find the best version of themselves, but feel too busy in their everyday lives to do it. Courage comes from saying “yes” to one terrifying idea at a time, even if you have to say yes while multitasking dinner, emails and carpool. After all, they made the audio book version for a reason.