A book that changed my life.
I’ve been thinking, as I often have when I am sat around the house doing very little, about what I should write about next and as I have moved house recently, I’ve turned over the proverbial rocks of my personal life and thought about many of my possessions and what they mean to me.
This has left me with a truly wondrous source of information to write about, and that is;
The (something) that changed your life.
I’m going to start with (one of) the book(’s) that changed my life, Danny Wallace’s “The Yes Man”.
I don’t know if you have read it or not, if you have great, then this will be straight forward, if you haven’t…brief overview, Danny gets dumped by his girlfriend, finds every excuse in the world not to spend time with his friends and after a chance meeting with a stranger, to whom he explains his life, the stranger simply suggests he “…say yes more.”
It would have been a rubbish book had Danny simply said yes more often, but its not a rubbish book because Danny decides to say yes to every question that is put to him. Without spoiling the book too much, Danny ends up in all manor of crazy situation simply because he can’t say no when people ask him to do something.
When I first started reading “The Yes Man”, I too had recently been dumped by a long term girlfriend, and I had also recently moved into a flat on my own. There was something worryingly familiar going on as I thumbed through the first few chapters, reading about Danny avoiding his friends, not going out and generally doing anything to keep himself locked away in his own little bubble, coming up with ridiculous excuses not to do things. In fact, if I’m honest with myself, it was far too familiar. It had become the way my life had been going in the few months post break up. Any sensible person would read the funny book, have a chuckle, feel happy, put the book down and carry on with their life.
I am not a sensible person.
As I continued to read, Danny’s stories of strange opportunity and merriment made me feel like I was missing out on the same chances in my life. I remember discussing the book with a friend and saying, “It would be stupid to say yes to everything, so lets take a few chances, if I have no good reason to say no, then the answer has to be yes!”
We debated the logic (what little there was) and came to the conclusion, we would welcome opportunity in all shapes and sizes, not just those that are asked of me. If I recant all the strange things that happened it would make this a slightly less poignant read, and more a list of stupid things I’ve done. So here is a short list….
I went to a Christmas Carol concert, where the orchestra where dress in period Victorian clothes. (A friend saw the poster and said it would be ‘funny’ to see something like that, so we put on suits and went to a carol concert.) I went to Birmingham because someone I hardly knew said I should go visit her. I saw Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performed by a troupe who try to re-create Shakespeare as it would have been performed in his time, in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, whilst it rained. This was a particularly strange experience as there was only 6 people in the whole group, so a change of hat, meant a change of character. (I was stood outside the castle and someone gave me a flyer for the event. It was a sign…) I went to Buddy “The Musical” and confirmed for myself that I really don’t like musicals. I went to the Chinese State Circus. (A bus stopped in front of me with a poster on it, the ticket office was on my way home, I bought 4 tickets) I played baseball with food. Hitting a watermelon with a baseball bat is only slightly less satisfying than hitting a yoghurt. (An advert for a Gordon Ramsey show featured him doing it and I thought, I’ve never done that). I woke up with no plans on a Sunday morning, phoned a friend to ask what they were doing, “We are off to Birmingham. Why, what are you doing?” (Surely you can see how this ends? Well, the trip involved a swimming pool, animal plasters, staying up all night, getting the first train back home to try and make a uni lecture that got cancelled.) My friend bought a welder, he had no idea how to use it…this story ends in his garden with a pile of scrap metal welded together, some melted cheap cutlery and blow torched toasted cheese sandwiches.
There were plenty more normal things, I went out with my friends more often, went further afield to gigs, took up running, went on a few dates, took a chance on a relationship that didn’t work out, took a chance on a relationship that did work out (for 5 years)…
The funny thing was, when I finally finished the book, it was hard to read quickly and do all these daft things, Danny’s revelations were much the same as those I was having. Saying yes to everything can lead you down some odd paths, but it can get expensive (I almost ended up on a 3 day trip to LA on my own).
The thing to learn is…
If you are saying no, with no reasonable grounds of experience, then that is exactly why you should say yes!
It’s a mantra I still live by to this day and it has continually lead me to some strange opportunities, simply by saying yes more. It changed my outlook on life almost completely. I used to think about what could go wrong and perhaps what went wrong, now I constantly try to see the best in every situation, because I am always looking for a reason to move forward and see what the future holds.
Thanks Dan. Seriously, you changed my life.