“Yes, and…” — how to find more fulfilment in life by embracing complexity.
What does it look like to say “yes, and…” instead of “no, but…” in our lives?
Have you ever found yourself being presented with two options and wishing you could write in “other” and create your own third option? Or, perhaps you’ve accepted one of the two simple answers, but end up feeling dissatisfied? I find myself in this place a lot, and in high school, my friend Clint did, too.
It’s an average spring afternoon at Earlville High School and the final bell has just rung. But, instead of heading home, I veer towards the library, dump my backpack in the corner of a bookshelf, and start rearranging tables, shoving the neatly lined-up rows into an awkward v-shape facing a measly row of chairs for the small but dedicated audience that would be arriving in a few hours: It’s the night of the Little Ten Conference scholastic bowl tournament, a trivia competition, and Earlville always hosts.
As the start time for the first meet nears, I start to get nervous. Clint hasn’t shown up yet, and he is the only person on our team who knows anything about sports. We have a science nerd, a math whiz, a literary genius… but those sports questions will fly right over our heads if we don’t have Clint.
A lot of people we meet are “no, but…” kind of people who choose to stifle curiosity and complexity instead of embracing it. But, every now and then, we run into a “yes, and…” kind of person. “Yes, and…” is a tactic in improvisational comedy. When one actor finishes a line, the best way to respond is to accept the previous line and then add to it. It opens up possibilities in a way that shutting down the line with “no, but…” could never do. Clint? He was a “yes, and…” kind of guy.
Back at EHS, we’re about to test our buzzers when the library doors fly open and there he is: still in his baseball uniform, but that didn’t matter. We needed our sports guy, and he was here. A lot of sports jocks don’t mess with academics and visa-versa — like it’s either, or but never both, and. Yet, my friend Clint chose to say “yes, and…” to this combination of opportunities that most would say are mutually exclusive. What if we did this in our lives, with more than just the extracurriculars that we pursue?
Clint taught me that there’s more to life than accepting that everything is black and white, set in stone, this or that. Instead of subtracting from our dialogues by oversimplifying, we can add to our understanding of the world by choosing to dig past the surface.
Whether it’s facing a personal choice, meeting a new person, or understanding the nuances in agriculture, choosing “yes, and…” opens doors for us to understand the complexity of ourselves, each other, and the world, more accurately.
Yes, there’s some elements of our lives that are best left simple — we don’t have to overanalyze every single choice, it’s okay to choose between soup and salad without having an existential crisis about the potential third option — but this blog is a place I’d like us to explore those areas that are best understood at a deeper level: learning about our own identity, how to build better relationships with others, looking at challenges in our food and agriculture production system... the list goes on.
There’s a lot to explore here, and I’m learning along the way. It’s intimidating to face complexity, just like it was intimidating for Clint to choose both baseball and scholastic bowl. But, that season, we had our best record in recent history, and it was because Clint chose to say “yes, and….” I want to do the same — to say “yes, and…” to this better way of understanding, and embracing, the complexity of the world we live in.
Will you join me?