Yes, And … and sometimes No

It was around New Year’s 2020, and I was feeling a bit stagnant. Bored. Uninspired. Yep… all of that. I needed a change, and I was ready to take some risks. After a few Google searches late one night, I landed on a stand-up class downtown just a few miles from my office. I had always liked public speaking and I was out of practice. And heck, I was kinda funny. At least my mom always said so. Without really thinking much about it, I signed up for the next class. It was set to begin in April 2020. I dreamed of that showcase. Would I be more of a Steven Wright, a George Carlin, or a Paula Poundstone. Definitely a Steven Wright.  

I’ll give you one guess what happened to that class.  

Cancelled.  

Just one more thing to add to the 2020 disappointments.  

Later that year, I’d realize I still needed a change… I needed change at work. In a series of events that all happened just how they were supposed to (hindsight is a beautiful thing), I worked out an exit strategy with the CEO where I served as VP People Operations and decided to launch Recruiting Experiences. The company didn’t actually have a name yet, just a notebook full of ideas. The exit marked the beginning of my journey to saying “Yes, And” more often and learning to say No without guilt or judgement when an opportunity or activity wasn’t aligned to my values, my interests, or my why.  

Today, I’m almost 3 years into my Founder’s journey leading Recruiting Experiences. My oh my, it has been a journey. Like a Tale of Two Cities… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The entrepreneurship journey is a topic for another day though.  

Life has a way of serving up what you need when you least expect it and delivering lessons if you take the time to slow down and absorb them. Life presented me with an opportunity in October 2023. I was at a networking event when I ran into a friend who recently opened her own consulting business. She simply said, “I just signed up for an improv class. You should join me.” Politely, I said, “Thanks, I’ll check it out”.  

How many times have we all said something similar in response to ‘see the movie’, ‘read the book’, ‘go on the trip’, or ‘take the class’? Countless.  

In that moment though, I needed a win. I needed to feel new again. I was one year past a surgery that took me out of commission for over a month. My business was performing at less than half the revenue from the prior year due to the tech downturn. I needed a change. Again. So back to Google I went. I checked it out. It looked fun. I had done improv before. Sure, it had been 20-something years ago but I could do this. Heck, I was kinda funny. I signed up. I said Yes.  

Yes… And, it was great. I found something I loved again. I reconnected with my left brain – I had missed my left brain. I then enrolled again and signed up for a workshop. I’ve now completed two courses with two successful showcases and I’ll be sharing how improv can IMPROVe your HR skills with my colleagues, Jessica Stephenson (the one who said ‘you should join me’) and MeChelle Callen. The three of us will take the DisruptHR Indianapolis stage on April 18th to share three key takeaways for HR practitioners: 

  • Improv teaches active listening skills – listen for understanding first 
  • Improv teaches HR to pivot – you never know what’s coming next and you’ll be ready 
  • Improv helps you to embrace a ‘Yes, And’ lifestyle and solutioning position 

While I’m enjoying the opportunity to retrain my brain in all of these areas and in rebuilding my positivity muscle by embracing the ‘Yes, And’ lifestyle, I also want to share my personal journey of learning to say No.  

As a Certified People Pleaser, I have always been a joiner. A Yes Person. Sure, I can do that. I briefly mentioned above that I had a surgery in late 2022. The surgery came directly from not listening to my body and not taking care of myself first. On the plane, the attendants always remind you to put on your oxygen mask first. As a leader, I had chosen to put my clients, my team, my family, and even general networking above myself. I was not putting my mask on. Heck, I couldn’t even find my mask!  

I am now a recovering People Pleaser. I’m learning to say ‘Yes, And I need to consider my own needs’. Sometimes that means I need to say ‘No’ or ‘Not now’. When a good friend asked me to join a morning networking group, I said ‘Probably not – I’ll try it for 1 month and let you know if I want to continue’. Two weeks later, I said, ‘I’m out, this isn’t working for my morning routine and I need to prioritize me’. She fully understood. No hard feelings. I was the only person making it a big deal.  

The conversations in our head and the anticipated reactions are almost always exaggerated in our mind. The reality is that we all need to prioritize ourselves and most people will respect you for putting your needs first. For me, balancing my needs with the ‘Yes And’ lifestyle has allowed me to try new things, do more of the things I enjoy, say No to activities and work not aligned with my needs and goals, and to reclaim the journey to find the best version of me.  

As a leader, it’s imperative to find your best version too. What are your non-negotiables? What values will guide your decision-making? How will you find the right balance of saying Yes, And to life and No to the things which no longer suit the best version of you.  

I am not a full time coach but I do enjoy Career & Leadership Coaching as an ancillary service of Recruiting Experiences. If I can help you find your ‘Yes, And’ while reclaiming your journey to fulfilling more of what you want, I’d love to be a part of your journey.  

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