Wed, 9 May 2018
Shonda Rhimes, the creative powerhouse behind Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder, wrote a book a few years ago called Year of Yes that really resonated with me. I’m sharing five takeaway lessons that have impacted my personal and business life in a pretty major way.
First, let me set the scene for you as to why Shonda even wrote this book. Shonda and her sister were in the kitchen getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner way back in 2013, and Shonda was telling her sister about some parties, talk shows, and conferences that she'd been recently invited to, you know, the Hollywood type stuff. She was talking about how she was too busy to do any of it, and without blinking an eye, her sister said something to her that day that became the wake-up call that Shonda needed to transform her “busy life”, and those words were:
Her sister knew that Shonda was hiding behind being too busy to avoid doing things that scared her and would take her out of her comfort zone. Her sister also knew that Shonda had ZERO balance in her life and she was actually miserable. Now, would the outside world have known that she was miserable? No. However, Shonda knew that her sister was telling the truth. She’d been called out and it was the truth.
This brought on an epiphany that something major had to change in her life. She wrote in her book: "This could not possibly be what having it all was supposed to feel like, could it? Because if it was, if this is what I spent all this time and energy working so hard for, if this is what the promised land looked like, what was success ... was what success felt like, was what I sacrificed for ... " And then she trailed off, telling the reader she didn't even wanna go there.
This was her aha moment! And the reason I bring it up here is because I think many of us are working our tails off, hustling to the core, and if we're not careful, we're gonna work ourselves into the ground, and then one day we're gonna pop up and say, "Wait. Was this what I was working so hard for, to feel burned out and overworked and tired?” We’ve got to be really mindful of this. I know we're creating businesses we absolutely love, but just don’t work yourself into the ground, okay?
Before we get into the lessons, I want to ask you two questions:
With your answer to those questions in mind, let’s dig into the five lessons I learned from Shonda’s book, Year of Yes.
In Shonda’s book, she told a story about when she gave a commencement speech a few years ago at her alma mater, Dartmouth. (I’ve included the video for you here, but save that for later when you’re in your pjs and can settle in for 25 minutes.) In her speech she was encouraging the graduating class to be DOers, NOT dreamers. She would say things to them like, “You want to be a writer? Guess what? A writer writes everyday. Start writing.” “You want to travel? Sell your crappy car and buy a ticket and go to Bangkok.”
I love this! It’s not that she’s bashing on having dreams, it’s good to dream and have big goals, but if you keep your head up in the clouds, you're going to get nowhere.
Shonda talked about dreaming of being author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Toni Morrison. She said she did a whole lot of dreaming...from her parents’ couch! She then realized, “Wait a minute! Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up!”
Can you relate?
Have you ever dreamed of being so and so, or having so and so's business? You look at someone else's business online and you think, "I want to be them. I wanna have what they have." It reminds me of that quote, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken." Words to live by, right? You've gotta do you!
Now, I've always pretty much been a person that digs in and gets stuff done. I'm definitely a doer. But this lesson about doing instead of just dreaming does keep me motivated and on track in my business. Every single day I take action toward my goals. And if at any time I feel like my head is in the clouds, I've gotta pull it back down and say, "Okay, where's the plan?" And to get really specific, I’d ask myself: Where are the action items for my plan inside Asana?”, the project management tool I use. If I don’t put it in Asana, then I'm just dreaming it.
Where are your action items written down? Your notebook? Your project management tool? Just make sure to get it written down.
Speaking of being actionable and writing stuff down, I’ve got an awesome freebie for you today. There’s an exercise in there that's going to help you take some of these ideas in your head, get them on paper and make them more actionable so that you do more and dream a little bit less.
For the record, I'm not going to tell you to find more balance in your life...I feel like that's a cliché. Way easier said than done! But Shonda explains this in a very practical way. In her book, she talks a lot about finding a good personal and professional balance. And when she's talking about it, she not only had a super important big job, but she also had three little ones, and I mean little, at home. I've only got one teenage son, a dog, and a husband, and sometimes I don't even know how I get through it all!
Achieving a perfect balance between work, social, and family is impossible. We all know that right? So perfect should never be your goal. In her book, Shonda dropped a nice little truth bomb when she said, "Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life." The reason I love this woman so much is because she tells the truth!
What Does Real Life Balance Look Like?
If you’re a Grey's Anatomy fan, then you will never forget Sandra Oh's last scene. It was epic! (Sandra Oh is Christina in Grey's Anatomy.) Anyway, watching that last scene LIVE was of huge importance to Shonda because, for 10 years, she had put her heart and soul into that character, to develop her and to make her the person that she was. So, it was the last hurrah -- this would be Christina’s last scene before going off the show.
SPOILER ALERT: Shonda wasn't there to witness the last scene!
Why? Because guess what else was important at the time? Her kid's school musical that was going on at the same time. She chose her daughter's school musical that day over something incredibly important at work. Now, this is what real life balance looks like. There's not going to be a perfectly easy solution every single time.
She also admitted that if she was working late on a script for one of her shows like Scandal, she'd probably end up missing bath and story time at home, which if you’re a parent, you know that is an important time. So you see, Shonda doesn't always give up the work stuff for the family stuff, she flip-flops back and forth. She found her own sense of balance, and obviously, the choices were not always easy.
As entrepreneurs, we are no doubt living full lives. And to achieve some sort of balance, there's gotta be some give and take. Yes, there will be hard decisions to make, but it's up to us to make daily choices through a balance type of lens that each of us is going to have to individually define. Your balance only needs to make sense in your world. Even if that looks or feels something like you hopping from one foot to the other to maintain that sense of balance, that's okay.
People always ask me how I keep everything in balance and I got a lot of those types of questions when I recently recorded the 20 questions episode with my husband, Hobie. Well, the truth is, I don't do it very well. My goal is to have that balance, but then I also know it's never going to be perfect, and I need to be okay with that. I have to remind myself that I am the only one that defines my balance. I talk about a couple of examples of this with my son and my husband in today’s episode.
Let’s agree that even though we may be a work in progress, we are making progress in this area. I’ve got a good exercise for you in the freebie I mentioned earlier in regards to defining your own balance. I think you’ll find it an empowering exercise!
I could've lumped this lesson into the whole lesson about balance, but I'm not going to, because without clearly defining boundaries for yourself, or sometimes for others in your life, you're going to have a hard time creating any sort of balance that truly benefits you. Think of it this way: boundaries are the framework for your very own definition of balance. Boundaries are just the rules or guidelines to what you will or won't do, and what you will or won't allow.
In Shonda’s book, she talks about some of the most important boundaries she put in place during her “year of yes” and I think these may be some of the very boundaries that you, my dear reader, might need to put into place too. I know I’ve had to!
There's a great part in the book about Shonda attending some school meeting, and a room-mom was telling everyone to bring cookies to some event, and that they had to be homemade. Well, Shonda about lost her mind when that came up. She actually blurted out a profanity in voicing her disbelief. Can you imagine? I would kind of die! No one was going to tell her that she couldn't bring Costco cookies. Let's be honest...we all know that Costco cookies are kind of amazing!
Notice that she wasn't saying that she wouldn't bring cookies to the school event. She just wasn't going to stay up late into the night baking. That didn't work for her. And the other scenario of going to buy the cookies, showing up and being there for her kid, that worked.
Believe it or not, when I read some of the boundaries that Shonda had put into place, I actually felt a sense of permission to do the same in my life. Besides working on “no” being a complete sentence, I’ve also decided to try and take Fridays off and not work on the weekends. Some weeks are better than others, but I would say I get it right about 60% of the time. It helps that my team knows this is my intention, too, so they don’t schedule anything for me on Fridays. My task management tool, Asana, that I mentioned earlier, and my Google calendar are real lifesavers in the areas of boundaries, too, because I schedule work and personal and if it’s not in there, I’m not doing it.
I know! This totally sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it!?
Hold on now, just listen to this nugget of wisdom that Shonda shares about having difficult conversations: “No matter how hard a conversation is, I know that on the other side of that difficult conversation lies peace. Knowledge. An answer delivered. Character is revealed. Truces are formed. Misunderstandings are resolved. Freedom lies across the field of the difficult conversation. And the more difficult the conversation, the greater the freedom.”
Ahhhh….Peace, knowledge, answers, freedom. Can I get an AMEN on having a little more of these in our lives!!
You may be thinking, “Sounds good, Amy, but I hate having difficult conversations and I’d just rather avoid them at all costs!” Believe me, I don’t love having them either! AND, I actually think that as women we struggle with them more than men. Ladies, can we just resolve to fix that?!
One thing I’ve found is that if I can sort of have a loose “canned plan” in place in the event I end up getting into a difficult conversation. In her book, Shonda gives some really great examples of these type of statements that we can equip ourselves with. These are ones that you’d use these when it looks like you need to just draw the line and shut the conversation down, instead of rambling or giving in. So, you might say:
It might take some practice, but you’d be surprised at how empowering it can be to break out one of these statements at just the right time!
And, guess what? There’s a silver lining here! The more we engage in difficult conversations, the easier they get.
I really struggle with this one! I tell a story in today’s podcast about that struggle. What I love about Shonda is she decided to start taking the compliments that she was getting, like a boss. In her book, she wrote:
"I'm going to say yes to accepting any and all acknowledgments of personal fabulous awesomeness with a clear, calm, 'Thank you,' and a confident smile, and nothing more."
Fabulous awesomeness. I love how she says that. But for myself, I can't even imagine if someone were to give me a compliment and just saying, "Thank you," with a smile. That feels very awkward to me, but in an effort to take a compliment like a boss, I’m going to try and do it going forward, too.
How about you? You on board with me?
Lesson 1: Don't just dream it, Do it!
So, there you have it! I hope these five lessons I learned from my mentor, Shonda Rhimes, have given you a new perspective on how to live a more fulfilling life and to run your business from a place of empowerment and truth.
Don’t forget to download the freebie I created for you. It’s a worksheet that is going to walk you step-by-step through some exercises that go along with the lessons I talked about today. It's a bit of a journaling type of exercise, but believe me, it will make everything you learned more actionable.
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Direct download: Online_Marketing_Made_Easy_Podcast_Episode_210.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am PDT