I don’t know how often you can say that a Jim Carrey movie changed your life, but that’s how I feel about Yes Man. It didn’t have that impact right away. When I first saw the movie, I laughed at Jim Carrey’s typical physical silliness and longed after Zooey Deschanel’s quirkiness, but subsequently dismissed the movie from my mind. It wasn’t until I began my 40 B4 40 project that the movie’s message returned to my consciousness: say yes!
I was a few months into my project and my yeses when I heard the quote “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (Neale Donald Walsch). This rang so true. Sometimes my 40 B4 40 adventures were outside my comfort zone and sometimes they led to other experiences outside my comfort zone, but the discomfort was always worth it. I felt more engaged with life. This reminded me of Yes Man and I rewatched the movie, enjoying it as more of a philosophical statement. It reaffirmed my commitment to the project and saying yes more.
I’ve certainly stepped outside of my comfort zone this summer: saying yes to quitting my job and three months of wilderness. As I selected reading material for my trip, I found a copy of Yes Man (the book that inspired the movie) at the thrift store and said yes to adding it to my stack.
Upon reading it, I was surprised to learn how loosely the movie plot is tied to the book. Despite the differences, though, the message is the same: move beyond your comfort zone. I was three-quarters finished with the book when I realized that the narrator’s name is the same as the author’s. Wait? What? Was this not a fiction book? Nope. The story of Yes Man is true as told by Danny Wallace. This made it all the more powerful and relatable.
Some of my favorite lessons from Yes Man:
On saying yes: “It [has] the power to to change lives and set people free . . . It [has] the power of adventure. Sometimes the little opportunities that fly at us every day can have the biggest impact.”
On saying no: “Some people go through their whole lives saying yes over and over again - yes to things that allow other people to take advantage of them . . . Some people need to learn how to say no. Because every time they say yes, they say no to themselves.”
On fear: “People sometimes go through their lives having fears . . . People are always saying no to things, aren’t they? They’re frightened of change, used to routine, used to doing things a certain way. . . They don’t realise they’re putting a real limitation on their lives.”
On change: “When you think about it, probably some of the best things that have ever happened to you in life happened because you said yes to something. Otherwise things just sort of stay the same.”
On control: “[Let] your Yes moments lead the way. Because actually we don’t even have control in the first place. It’s a myth. In life absolutely anything can happen.”
On coincidence: “Coincidence does not exist! . . . The world knows what it is doing . . . There are connections everywhere. Sometimes we are brought to certain points and we do not know why.”
My 40 B4 40 project ended last November and I fell out of the yes habit as I prepared to leave my job and planned this summer sabbatical. Sometimes, you need to say no in order to focus on a goal. But that’s got to be balanced with some spontaneous yeses, and reading Yes Man reminded me that this is the time to “say yes more.”
Wallace, D. (2005). Yes Man. New York, NY: Simon Spotlight Entertainment.