The Power of a Well-Chosen “Yes!”


Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk

curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight,

or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

E.E. Cummings


Last Fall my friend, Lyn (all names changed), popped down from Seattle for a visit. We’ve been friends since frosh year at Fordham University.


Lyn came to visit not just me. Earlier in the year she reconnected with a fellow she had served with in a volunteer organization known as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Lyn and Bob had not seen each other in almost 40 years.


When she told Bob she’d love to spend time with him and his wife during her LA visit, he readily said, “Yes.”He shared, though, that he’s battling pancreatic cancer and is on chemo.


I’ll admit, I’m not sure if I was in Bob’s position I’d want to visit with someone I hadn’t seen or heard from in 40 years. Would I want to make the effort if I were preoccupied with such all-consuming health issues?


Lyn and her husband, Brian, found an Air B-n-B near Bob’s and over the course of two days Lyn and Bob picked-up where they had left off oh-so-long-ago as friends and fellow volunteers in a remote area of Alaska.

On the third day of their visit, I picked-up Lyn and Brian at Bob’s home. He and his wife, June, offered me warm hospitality and soon I, too, settled into hearty conversation with strangers who quickly felt like old friends.


Because of his health, our visit was less than an hour. Towards the end, though, Bob expressed gratitude to Lyn for making the trek down to visit. He enjoyed their time together just as he did when they were in Alaska and seeing her again was tonic for his spirits.


He admitted, though, that he almost told her not to come. His first thought was, “why bother after all the time that’s passed?”


He then smiled and said something remarkable. He said, “At this stage in my life, I’m resolved to say ‘yes’ to every invitation that is extended me. I want to remain open to being surprised.”


To be open to surprise.



Ever since hearing Bob quietly, with grateful conviction, share this resolution, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.


I understand you may be thinking that you’re over-extended, over-committed – to the point we’re you want to be committed to a rest home! You’re struggling to juggle calendars chock-full of family demands, work demands, self-care demands. And that neurotic boss of yours doesn’t help.


I get it. Really, I do.


BUT – there’s this guy Bob who I can’t stop thinking about.


He explained that he said “yes” to Lyn’s visit because he didn’t want to deny himself a possible pleasure that he could not anticipate.


And, no, this is not simply about FOMO.


It was something else – a willingness to risk being surprised.


If you’ve read other of my postings, you’ve heard stories about my “unusual” family. My parents approached all invites from a place of suspicion because the world was a dangerous place with people of dubious motivation.


And so, my knee-jerk reaction to an invitation is all too often – NO.


Yep, old habits sure die hard.


You might be thinking, well, Bob is dying so what else does he have to do except say, “yes.”


That’s the thing. I didn’t have the sense I was in the presence of a dying man. I was in the presence of a man who was living life. In the companionship of his wife and with the loving support of three grown children.


He chose his “yes” carefully in that he didn’t want to say “no” out of habit or laziness or convenience.


My client Steve was recently offered the option of taking on a new assignment that required he quickly get-up to speed with a different system and protocol – both of which he’d been wanting to learn for more than a year.


His first reaction was to say “no” and turn down the assignment. Too much trouble, he claimed, even though it had some attractive upsides.


When we talked, it came out that his real concern was, “What if I fail?”


Legit question.


I then asked him an equally legit question –

“What if you succeed?”

As you know by now, this whole Business of Confidence “thing” has many different shadings to it.


Bob reminded me – confidence is about choosing who and what we allow into our precious lives.


Sure, a “yes” can lead to a waste of time – BUT – when chosen not out of guilt or obligation, a “yes” can often lead to someone or something that refreshes, renews, reinvigorates for however brief a time.


Confident people know the power of a well-chosen YES.


now THAT’S the business of confidence!


PS: Steve has taken on that new assignment. A lot of work – and more satisfaction than he ever imagined possible. . .



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