No Fun. Not Ever.
As a kid, I thought that all the fun things in life started with “No.” No running, no jumping, no diving. I spent my half-naked Texas summers being cruelly reminded, no shoes, no shirt, no service. As I got older, things didn’t change much: no swearing, no talking, no spitting. And let’s face it, as I got even older the song remained the same and became more depressing: just say no, no sex before marriage, no minors allowed. Leaving my “no”-filled youth behind and contemplating what to do with my life, the two-letter refrain was never far from my mind. After all, no money, no honey. For some reason, I even read a few self-help books on how to say “No.” “No” had become so ingrained in my psyche that it was a go-to response. Only it was couched in the language of “I can’t because…, I’d love to but…, I would if it weren’t for…” Then, I just followed it up with an excuse about the lack of time, or money, or whatever seemed appropriate. At some point I realized what I had known as a kid: “No” is no fun.
Though at times necessary, “no” can be limiting, because when you say “no” you pretty much know the outcome. When you start out with “no,” you’ve closed the door and all the possibilities behind it. But when you lead with a “hellz to the yeah,” who knows where it will lead and how many other doors will open. Wanna run through some hypotheticals and see what I mean? If you said “No,” this is totally backfiring.
- When you’re asked at the last minute to take down one gallery show and install another at a new venue the same day, even if it means giving up a weekend and working until 3am the day before the show opens, don’t worry about that and say, “hell yeah.” Monday, your work may be hanging through March in Austin, Texas, at Upper Crust on 45th and Burnet. (Many thanks to Ree and Lowell Reynolds for their “hell yeahs.”)
- Even though you hate public speaking, if you’re asked to give a presentation about your artwork to a hundred plus students alongside a professional animator who’s sure to upstage you, say yes, and spend a week working on your presentation (but pretend that it took one hour). You just might give the animator a run for his money and get invited back the next year.
- One day, a writer friend of yours may tell you he’s leaving his creative writing group and ask if you would like to fill the open spot. Even though you know you’re outclassed and will mostly embarrass yourself, focus on the benefits and say, “abso-freakin-lutely, I’ll do it.” Then work on fooling yourself and everyone else into believing that you belong. You may just pull it off.
- Or, while traveling in a different country, you could become friends with a native of the country who invites you to his hometown to see a major religious ceremony that hasn’t been performed in forty years. Even though you’re exhausted from traveling and you know that agreeing to go means that you will have to spend the afternoon arranging transportation and changing pre-arranged plans, and you’re keenly aware that when you arrive, you will stand out as the lone foreigner and inevitably make a fool of yourself, you should say something stupid like, “Would I like to go? Does a bear sh* *t in the woods?” When you get a puzzled look, try to explain the rhetorical idioms of your mother tongue in a language that’s not your own. When you get that same puzzled look again, change course and say, “Hellz to the yeah, I want to go.” Somehow it’s universally understood, and though you won’t sleep, you may just leave the next morning with photos and memories you will cherish for a lifetime.
I’m not advocating doing something that isn’t for you for the sake of saying “yes.” I’ll turn down commissions or freelance projects if I don’t believe I’m the right person for a job. I mean, when you’re in East Asia and you’re asked to perform in a talent show as “Michael Jackson come back to life” because you’re the only non-Asian around and people “will think it’s so so very funny,” I believe it’s okay to pull the “Aw, hellz naw” card from your back pocket. Otherwise, try leading with a “hellz to the yeah,” because, really, there’s probably more to gain than to lose. So, if you’re ever in Japan and you’re asked to appear in a town-wide pageant wearing a crown of candles and a slew of white (probably flammable) robes whilst playing the roll of a Legendary Russian Snow Queen, just give it a good, old-fashioned “hellz to the… yeah?” and be the best damn Russian Snow Queen that little Japanese town has ever seen. Every once in a while, if you don’t say “no,” you may just get to be a hero.