In response to Darcy’s comment here, I’m exploring the matter of building community. There is so much to talk about, I’m focusing on one aspect at a time. Today’s idea is around finding our yessayers.
My friend Raj was struggling with a person who continually blocked Raj’s ideas:
- “This won’t work because…”
- “You won’t be able to pull that off due to…”
- “You wouldn’t want to try that, because…”
- “I won’t bring this forward to the council because my take is…”
My friend felt frustrated and discouraged. Not because the Powers That Be had declined a proposal, but because a random person along the way was actively running interference.
Many endeavours have built in-gatekeepers. I’m actually a fan of this. Applications for grants, use of space, new programs, and disbursement of funds should indeed be vetted. Any new idea needs to align with a community’s intentions and goals. Resources need to be directed to ideas that manifest a group’s vision and honour relevant laws.
Sometimes, though, we pitch an idea and it’s blocked long before it reaches the powers that be.
Publishing is an easy example. We’ve all heard countless stories of the author who pitched his story to 37 publishers, all of whom rejected it as “not up to snuff” before it was accepted by one and—yay!—became a bestseller. We’ve also read the accounts of folks who turned to self-publishing, and were subsequently courted by a third-party.
In one case, I was told not to develop a written project “because broke people won’t invest $20 in themselves.” That booklet has sold over 60,000 copies in one community—with a massive national nonprofit purchasing its rights—and I was hired to replicate the project elsewhere.
After self-publishing a book for an international market, I was courted by two international agencies—one a publisher and one a distributor. That project, too, sold over 20,000 copies (and counting). Sure, those aren’t New York Times bestsellers. But they are solid projects, with a very real impact for countless individuals…and ongoing income for me.
What if I had listened to the naysayers?
Why did they discourage me from proceeding?
They weren’t business competitors, so it wasn’t that.
Some people simply need to block others, discourage others, put people off.
We don’t even need to know why.
All we need to know is that some people are naysayers and others are yessayers.
Now, this is not to say we seek out people who lack boundaries. A sign of a great and healthy contact is one who issues a clear “no” where appropriate, who recognizes her own energetic limits and states them. We’re not looking for Jim Carey’s “yes man.” We are, however, looking for the person or group that says yes where possible, where reasonable—the one who allows new energy, creative ideas.
I’m involved in two organizations that have overlapping visions, dreams, goals, and financial precariousness. I often pitch the exact same idea to both. Consistently, one says no and the other says yes. Guess which is thriving? Guess which has more income? Guess which has more happiness, more life, more people, more newbies? And, naturally, I bring fewer and fewer ideas to the first and more and more to the second.
Of course, I’m curious about why the first issues a “no” to most or all pitches. I’d love to understand what causes an individual or a board to dismiss rather than explore an idea. But what I actually spend my time on is finding the ones that consider, that respond, that converse, that negotiate, that find the piece they can say yes to.
Often, it’s as simple as bringing an idea to this person or organization instead of that.
There is an element of subjectivity in it all. If you listen closely, you’ll find that naysayers tend to view their subjective opinion as fact. “Poor people don’t buy books,” I was told. “People with low-income have low-income for a reason. Inherently, they’re not people who pursue change.” What? “Well, you’re an exception. Most people who are broke don’t want different circumstances.” This is what a professional bookseller told me when I asked if I should develop one of the projects mentioned above.
You’ll hear other ideas, equally narrow:
- “If it’s good, it’s published by a third-party.”
- “If it’s self-published, it’s crap.”
- “No one exercises over the holiday season, so don’t bother offering classes then.”
- “Independent businesses implode.”
- “Friends can’t work together.”
- “I’m an art professor, so I can tell you what style is good and what style is not good.”
A naysayer will speak as though his idea is fact. At the exact same time, he’ll actually rely entirely on a subjective point of view. He won’t back it up with anything, because he believes Just That Hard that his opinion should be adopted by everyone on the planet.
Seek out those who recognize the difference between opinion and fact, between the subjective and objective, between preference and omniscience.
- Does she say yes to your ideas?
- Does she not say yes, but help you explore your idea more deeply?
- Does she respond with a third idea, one incorporating aspects of yours?
- Or does she just say no?
If the latter…run, run away…to the person who sees merit and nurtures your spark along.
My friend Raj is a brilliant, high-energy, organized, conscientious, hardworking, committed person. While not mainstream in any aspect, her creative ideas are solid. Every day I’m relieved and grateful that she finds her way around the naysayyers and into nurturing dialogue with people who delight in her success and joy. Her entire world benefits from her doing so.