Five Lessons I Learned From Shonda Rhimes' 'Year of Yes'


Admittedly, I'm not a Shondaland fanatic. I fell behind watching Grey's Anatomy after I graduated college and now that I'm not responsible for editing Scandal recaps, I watch when I can. How to Get Away with Murder? I don't think I got past the first two episodes. But I respect and admire Shonda Rhimes, the mastermind behind #TGIT and the author of Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and be Your Own Person because she's a FOD (first, only and different) and she's a BOSS. But when I heard about plans for her memoir, I was initially skeptical. As it were, I said yes way too often and I was trying to learn how to say no. "What could this book offer me?" I asked an acquaintance over coffee. And she informed me there was an entire chapter devoted to saying yes to saying no. Huh?

Another thing you should know about me: I suffer from a severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). As every magazine I read mentioned Year of Yes, I took it as a sign from the universe (or great marketing) to finally order it from Barnes & Noble.


Long story short, I LOVED it! To be perfectly honest, I've never actually heard Shonda talk (in my defense, she'd only recently started doing interviews as prompted by her self-imposed "year of yes"), so I read the entire book in a mashup of Dr. Grey, Olivia Pope and Annelise's voices. You know, the fast-paced monologues that make your head spin and make you wonder "how do they memorize all those lines?" Just me? Okay. But you know exactly what I'm talking about.

So, without further ado, here are my top five takeaways I learned from Year of Yes.

1) "No is a complete sentence." Because I've embarked on a year of saying no to others and yes to myself, I was particularly interested in this chapter. When Shonda (because we're on a first name basis now) talked about losing friends because she finally said yes to the difficult conversations and, as a result, seeing people as they really were, I nearly cried on the bus. I'd recently said "no" to two people I'd considered close friends and, quite frankly, it sucked. I bawled and I tried to "fix" it, but eventually I learned that I'm better off without them. There's no more room for toxic people in my life. Buh-bye!

2. We need to stop the war on moms. For reals. I'm not a mom (yet), but I'm already tired of hearing about breastfeeding vs. bottles, spanking vs. timeouts and stay-at-home moms vs. working moms. Look, the mother who stays at home to rear her children is no better than the mother who goes to work every day and vice versa. They're both women with the same goal: to love and nurture their children so they grow up to be good citizens of the world. And if a women needs to stay home/go to work/hire a nanny to help her "do it all." So be it. Let's agree to stop the shaming, shall we? We have enough to worry about without stabbing each other in the back.

[Tweet "Let's agree to stop the shaming, shall we? We have enough to worry about without stabbing each other in the back."]

3. My Black is beautiful. Okay, so technically I knew this before I read Shonda's book, but that didn't make it any less significant. Mainstream media have a field day with Black women. We're "too this" and "too that" (Beyoncé's "Formation," anyone?) until a White girl comes along and does the same thing. Then all of a sudden, it's trendy (Iggy Azalea, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner...the list goes on and, unfortunately, it's not limited to the Kardashian-Jenner clan, though they seem to have a stronghold on the market.) All the braids, bronzer and booty injections won't make you a Black woman, so please stop trying.

[Tweet "All the braids, bronzer and booty injections won't make you a Black woman, so please stop trying."]

4. "Anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar." During one of the busiest seasons in my life, people often asked me, "how do you do it all?" And I responded honestly, I don't. Because if I'm killing it at work, chances are I'm late coming home for dinner. Or if I'm at the gym, I'm neglecting my #SideHustle. It makes me feel better to know that a woman as smart and talented as Shonda struggles with work-life balance as well.

5. Don't take life (or yourself) so seriously. There's always going to be something that needs to be done. That's just the way the world works. But if you commit yourself to "all work and no play," you're going to miss out on the simple parts of life, which are more often than not the best parts. You don't want to blink and miss out on the best years of your life or your loved one's lives.