Guest blog by Brad Revell
I recently participated in an executive education program with INSEAD; a world-renowned business school. The program is called ‘Finance for Executives’ and the participating students were made up of senior leaders from many large organisations. I chose this course due to the university’s reputation, the course’s calibre and most importantly the network of attendees. For example, during one of the breaks during the course I happened to be sitting next to a CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. I asked him what has been the one thing that has consistently driven success throughout his career. His response was saying yes to most opportunities that have been presented to him.
After receiving this advice I decided to spend some time reflecting on the opportunities I have been presented with. More importantly on where I have accepted or rejected them. One example would be from ten years ago, where saying yes significantly changed my life. I was driving back home in Melbourne, Australia from an exercise class. While in the car I received a call from a senior executive of my organisation in the USA. He refrained from the small talk and went straight to the point. He had an opportunity in his team which he couldn’t fill from the USA. He identified me as someone who could take on the role and move the team forward. Without much thought or further candour I said yes. Six months later I left Australia and stepped into the role. Since making that decision I have been on the ride of my life. I have lived in three countries, worked for three different organisations and performed four different roles. Moreover I have seen my portfolio career begin and continue to grow year on year.
My life is quite binary; it is either all on or all off with no in between! I love embodying the habits of trying, experiencing, failing, succeeding and reflecting. I am not able to get all of these aspects in my full-time role. I therefore supplement many external opportunities above and beyond my day job to accelerate my learning.
Here are three examples. First, I have been a member of Toastmasters (a public speaking organisation) for 16 years. Two years ago I said yes to taking on a Toastmasters District leadership role where I help support 17 clubs and approximately 600 members. Second, in 2015 I decided to learn to speed read to consume books faster. I identified an organization called Iris Reading, however, they had no in-person courses in London; only online webinars. I then decided to asked whether I could teach these classes for them in London. In this instance I was given the answer yes which has led to me teach speed reading on a monthly basis for the last two years. Third, since being back in London I have been a heavy contributor of my university Alumni chapter in London (e.g. Deakin and QUT in Australia).
You may be thinking about limits with time and/or balancing work and life. You do not need to say yes to every opportunity. Furthermore, saying yes does not mean you take on that opportunity with 100% gusto. Sheryl Sandberg writes in her book that women should lean in, however, within limits and by setting expectations. Improvisation teachers will also suggest you say yes along with the word “and”. For example, yes I will do this AND I have these limits / conditions that need to taken into account. Notice the word but is not used in that sentence.
One of my favourite sayings by F.M. Alexander is this: “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” I have honed many good habits (and some bad ones) over the years. The habit of saying yes has led me to so many adventures in my life. As I get older I am valuing fulfilment more than achievement. By saying yes I continue to honor that value building, moving forward and always learning. I cannot ask for anything more.
Many thanks to our guest blogger Brad Revell @https://www.bradrevell.com