Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just say ‘yes’

The end of the year is the time that many of us are thinking about how we can improve ourselves in the future, how we can have more fun or be more effective. The space between the two years, that seems to come from nowhere, gives us ample time to consider ourselves both in the present and in the future. And so it was on Christmas eve, while driving to the butcher to collect a six kilo Turkey, I heard an interview on the radio with a very natural and enthusiastic sounding person – the interviewee was telling how a simple piece of advice had changed his life.

His girlfriend had left him a while ago and his life had changed in a way that he hadn’t expected. He became insular, staying at home, turning down invitations and avoiding unnecessary social contact. Until one day a friend told him that he should ‘say yes more’. He said “it’s not good for you to stay in so much”. The interviewee thought about it for a while and decided to take his friends advice literally. He also considered that ‘just say yes’ would make a good title for a self help book, and so it was that he decided to give the advice a try.

He started to say ‘yes’ to literally everything; Yes to buying a secondhand car he didn’t need, yes to learning Flemish, yes to invitations to parties and yes to offers of daring and adventure and even yes to mundane activities. And all the while he documented his experiences and set about writing his book.
Several months later the phone rang, on the other end of the line was a film producer (apparently the maker of the Harry Potter movies) – “I have read your book” he said, “very interesting – I think a broader public would be interested in it, may I make a movie of it?” Of course the answer was ‘yes’. I don’t know the name of the interviewee or the exact title of his book but I do know that Jim Carey is playing in the movie and his ex girl friend in real life is being played by a famous actress.

The moral of the story is pretty obvious I guess but I thought it worth pondering for a while. Especially while considering ones New Year resolutions and how to stick to them. However, in my case, I am going to do the opposite. In 2007 and 2008 I said ‘yes’ to too many people with the result that I overstretched myself. In 2009, I am going to concentrate on what I know and do best, in environments where I have influence, in situations where I can be most effective. And, if I can have some fun at the same time, then so be it. My five year strategy plan is going well and all I want to do in the difficult months ahead is to try and keep it all on course.

So here’s wishing all my readers a very happy new year and a successful 2009!

Best wishes,


RHoK said...

It is funny that I read this post from Harley just after having seen the movie yesterday. And "yes", you should say yes to everything but you should say "yes" to life. With this perspective I would like to share with you some extracts of a very nice article and the latest "Psychologie" magazine which touched me profoundly.

Gratitude, it makes you feel good

Neuroscience shows that practicing gratitude on a daily basis is a sign of good physical health and relationships. Giving yourself after having received helps us to resist to stress, but also to realize that we need others to exist.

More often we search for reasons to be thankful, more easily we find more. In addition, the more we express our gratitude to the other, the more they are grateful to us, therefore they are more friendly, so we have more reason to be grateful, and so on.

How does it work? Gratitude "helps a person to direct its attention to the happy things in his life and to divert of the missing." The goal is to move "from the harshness - I want it - in gratitude - I am happy that I have." That's what makes Michael McCullough said that the appreciation could be a welcome alternative to the materialism of our society.

Gratitude is by definition antihero, it is not my talent, my strength or my originality. It rests on my ability to be "vulnerable", ie to accept to be helped and to be happy to receive this support.

So for me, 2009 will the year of gratitude. And to start with, I would like to thank you Harley for the very fine discussions we had together, these were great moments for me!

matthew said...

Harley, after some pondering you decided that:

- You are going to say yes only to what you know and do best, in environments where you have influence, in situations where you can be most effective.
- You want to try and keep your five year strategy plan on course.
- You don’t want to overstretch yourself.

All three are interrelated. If your five year strategy plan is realistic and attainable than you must be able to realize it without overstretching yourself. However, you wrote that your plan is going well while overstretching yourself in 2007 and 2008. Therefore, I am not sure whether your plan is realistic and attainable.

Your first decision worries me more. It looks to me that you are going to focus on the predictable (without surprises) and not on uncertain situations with a risk-averse and not an adventurous attitude. I do believe that with this kind of behavior you won’t succeed in realizing your plan.

Your decisions on saying yes or no are related to giving or taking. They depend on how you want to be perceived and in the end remembered. I personally do like the modest, listening and giving Harley more than the one anticipated by me after these decisions. For instance, there is a risk that you are going to say yes only when there is something in it for you.

Although I know that your strategy plan is not only about business, I do recall that the most successful managers are those that are modest, listening and giving (Level Five managers, From good to Great, Jim Collins). This is in my opinion another reason that you will be less successful in realizing your plan.

Therefore, I do hope that you will ponder a bit more.