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How One “No” Led to a Lot of Great “Yeses”

When I was asked to become an Illuminate thought leader I immediately thought: “Me? What in the world do I have to share that’s worth reading?” The fact I thought I had nothing to share prompted a moment of reflection: how often do we consider ourselves having “nothing to say” or “worth sharing?” I owe my education to a solid 10 people who boldly raised their hands in every class to ask a question or share an insight I was too afraid to. It was my own hesitation that pushed me to say “Yes.”

Earlier this year Lena Dunham, the star of the hit HBO Series GIRLS, wrote “Don’t Take it Personally When I Tell You ‘No.’ I’m Using It on Everyone This Year.” Highlighting the culture of Yes, the glorification of busy, and the banes that can come from constantly living in the affirmative, I couldn’t help but think of how the two simple words carry worlds of a difference.

The plan for me was to study hard, take the right classes, go to law school, become filthy rich, then I could do what I really wanted to do, and make the difference I really wanted to make.

As I write this piece, I realize the only reason is because I said no to something I would have usually said yes to. The plan for me was to study hard, take the right classes, go to law school, become filthy rich, then I could do what I really wanted to do, and make the difference I really wanted to make. And if I was lucky: fall in love, buy a pet corgi, and still manage a “work-life balance” while working 80+ hours a week and gallivanting the streets of some city. I definitely had a plan, but did I ever take a moment to stop and ask whose plan it was?

Weeks before graduating from Santa Clara, I looked at the big envelope on the floor of my apartment and realized it had nothing to do with what I was passionate about. Weeks later I said no to what I normally would have said yes to, and for the first time I asked myself: what do I really want? It was definitely one of the most freeing and terrifying moments of my life. And I’d do it all over again.

One way I have discovered what I want is to get an understanding of, and have the courage to look at, what I don’t. Now nearly two years later, I get to create the impact I’m committed to making in the world (check out my previous work with InHerShoes, HomeRoom, Youth Assembly, Students Lead Now etc.) and I have no intentions of stopping.

one “no” led to an entire new world of delicious “yeses” waiting for me

So why do I share all this as my first post? There’s nothing special about my story, nothing unique, or particularly jaw-dropping. What I want to leave you with is one “no” led to an entire new world of delicious “yeses” waiting for me. Our lives consist of infinite webs of yes’s and no’s, if only we were courageous enough to discover where they lead to.

What are you saying yes and no to?

Education
Career, Personal Growth, Pop Culture, Santa Clara, Social Impact, Illuminate

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