When I went to college, my older sister gave me some sound advice, "When people ask you to do something, say yes." She explained that when you say no over and over again, people eventually stop asking you to do things.
Over the past 25 years, I've said yes a lot, and that has opened me to some fabulous experiences and incredible friendships. But there was something to which I wasn't saying yes.
I wasn't saying yes to the ideas and dreams that lived inside of me. I'd be inspired with an idea, take the first steps toward execution, then I'd get lost in the complexity, the cost or the work it would take to bring it to life. I'd stop when the internal voices questioned, "Who are you to lead something like this?" I believed people who told me it wouldn't work. I doubted that I had the guts to put myself out there.
Just like friends who stop asking you to go out when you keep saying no, my creative self stopped generating ideas. Even if I had an idea, I talked myself out of executing it before I even vetted its viability.
Something shifted a couple years ago. I started to say yes to myself. When people learn about the Courage Wall or UNITY, they see the results of someone finally saying yes to herself. What they don't see is the decades of unrealized dreams. They don't see that I, just like so many people, told myself I couldn't do something that would make a difference. They don't see that I was waiting for someone else to make the world a better place. They don't see that I spent years wanting to do something important without making the sacrifices or doing the hard work.
When we look at the people we admire, we somehow believe that they have always been that way. We think they are different than we are. That's simply not true. The only difference is they have said yes while we have said no. They have listened to the voice that says they have something to share with the world. They showed up. They made themselves vulnerable. They kept at it and eventually they built something that was worthy of our admiration.
If you're feeling stuck or uninspired, start listening to yourself again. When you get an idea, try saying yes. Of course you don't know if it will work. Sure, it's possible you will fail. Yes, it will be hard work to make it a reality. But by simply saying yes, you'll be rewarded with more invitations to come outside of yourself and share your unique gifts with the world. Eventually, you'll realize that you're the one who's changing the world.
After 41 hours of operation, the community built a canopy of interconnectedness so thick it was hard to see the sky. Together, we used almost 200,000 feet of yarn (over 37 miles!) to show ourselves and the world how intricately interwoven our lives are.
On Sunday, June 12th, we closed UNITY with a community conversation and celebratory yarn cutting. We hope that while the structure is down, the human connections and spirit of unity remain.
Next week we'll share more details and a gallery of images from the project. This week we're simply in awe of the community's involvement and the volunteers who donated so generously of their time, talents and resources. A huge thank you to everyone who participated in person and remotely. Together, we can spread unity through each interaction we have with every person we touch.