Tell yourself “Yes – and…” to develop your next career



“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing, than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives.… In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”   These are the words of the brilliant and charismatic physicist Richard Feynman.

When you are moving your career forwards: advancing, transitioning, whatever – there is nothing more valuable than curiosity and openness: the habit of saying yes to yourself.

There is a foundational principle of actors’ improv that is called “Yes…and.”  This is the spirit of acceptance that says that when anyone feeds you a set-up line you never squash it. You always pick up on the idea and see where you can take it. You say “Yes…and…” and you catch the verbal ball and advance it. Whether you are continuing in a straight line from the suggestion or not is up to you.  You may not know where it will eventually lead, but you don’t shut it down. In improv a “no” is the end of the line – ditto in career exploration.

I propose that you shake off all your ingrained years of pre-conceptions about what you like and what you hate and what you can do and what you can’t do.  You may not even have realized you had them – but I am quite sure you do. Be open to the possibility that something you hated 10 years ago may be just the ticket today.   Take pleasure in being curious.  Take pride in being open. Something that may not have been a viable business idea 5 years ago very well may be a great opportunity today. Too many ideas and suggestions and routes of exploration are cut short and not given a chance to blossom because of the way we have labeled ourselves and our interests and told ourselves – “oh that’s not me,” or “I tried it once years ago and didn’t like it” or “I once met someone who does it and he was a jerk” and so on. Give every idea a chance – advance it just a bit, be open to where it will take you  and see where it takes you. Just don’t say no! And keep right on.