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Book Review: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesYear of Yes 

by Shonda Rhimes
ISBN: 9781476777092
Simon & Schuster, 2015

Am going to say yes to anything and everything that scares me. For a whole year. Or until I get scared to death and you have to bury me. Ugh.”

With those words, Shonda Rhimes embarked on a year of stepping out of her comfort zone. Prompted by a sister who mumbled about how Shonda never said yes to anything, she decided to say yes to everything that felt out of character, goofy, scary.

And she didn’t die.

An interesting puzzle for readers is why Shonda Rhimes would need such a challenge in the first place. Why would the creator and head writer of Grey’s Anatomy—a woman living the dream—need to vow to overcome fear? On her road to that kind of success did she not learn to slay the fear dragons?

Apparently not, because in this book she laid bare a soul full of trepidation. She was a woman capable of cultivating a robust garden crop of angst. At the beginning of her Year of Yes she was successful but unhappy. She decided:

  • Saying no has gotten my here.
  • Here sucks.
  • Saying yes might be my way to someplace better.
  • If not a way to someplace better, at least to someplace different.

Public speaking was a problem, so she tackled that. Body image came up, so she learned to say yes to healthy eating and exercise, and she learned how to gracefully accept compliments.

“So when you negate someone’s compliment, you are telling them they are wrong. You’re telling them they wasted their time. You are questioning their taste and judgment. You are insulting them.

She discovered the benefits of letting go of toxic people in her life and the importance of handling difficult conversations. In some cases, the surface of problems suggested the way to deal with them was with a NO, but then she dug deeper and discovered that every challenge had a YES at a root of the problem.

“So, in order to say YES to a problem, I have to find whatever it is inside the problem that challenges me or scares me or makes me just freak outand then I have to say yes to that thing.”

Her book is invigorating and inspiring. I only have one quibble, and it prompts me to do as Jon Stewart would have done on The Daily Show when he invited people to meet him on Camera 3 for “personal” conversations.

Shonda Rhimes, meet me on Camera 3.

You say that being a mother is not a job. ” “I find it offensive to motherhood to call being a mother a job,” you say. “Being a mother isn’t a job. It’s who someone is. It’s who I am. You can quit a job. I can’t quit being a mother. . . . To the naysayers, I growl, do not diminish it by calling it a job.”

I agree that being a mother is not a job. But doing mother work is. Mothers can quit that. They can quit the job of doing the laundry and changing the diapers and go to a different kind of job outside the home. When they do so, they’re trading in one job for another. You’re right—they don’t stop being a mother, but they do choose to delegate doing the jobs that go along with being a mother to someone else, who would unquestionably do those tasks as a job. Jenny McCarthy helps you because it’s her job. 

“One is not better than the other. Both choices are worthy of the same amount of respect.”

Again we agree. Some of the most devoted mothers I know choose to have some help with the tasks. Happy, fulfilled mothers. Happy, fulfilled kids.

But when you say that being a mother is not a job, it stabs me right in the solar plexus. I feel diminished. It makes me feel that the work I did for almost two decades was valueless. I wasn’t paid for it, so it wasn’t a job.

Enough of that. Enough.

Now back to it. Shonda Rhimes writes Year of Yes in a conversational style, likes she’s sitting in a wing chair across from you telling you her story.

Lots of short paragraphs and single-word sentences.


She exposes her vulnerable underbelly, which will make readers feel better about any anxieties they’ve ever had. Most of all, she gives readers plenty to think about—how they deal with fears, bad habits and toxic people.

And I think she’ll change people’s lives for the better.








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