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Henry Rollins and the Yes Men

I am scared of failure.
I tend to say "no" to opportunities because I don't want to look like an idiot, rather than give the opportunity a chance to actually become something great. These are facts about me; Things I think about in all kinds of situations, every day, both professionally and relationally.

I once read a quote by Patricia Ryan Madson that talked about opportunities.

Patricia Ryan Madison is a (now retired) professor at Stanford University. She is the founder of the Stanford Improvisors, and served as head of the undergraduate acting program. Patricia won the university's highest teaching prize, the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding contribution to undergraduate education.

I wanted to give you background on Patricia because I feel like sometimes, someone will say, "Oh! I heard this person say this one thing and it really inspired me!" and sometimes-JUST SOMETIMES, I say to myself, "Well yeah...that's cool. But like...who is that? That's great advice but what has THAT person done with such good advice?"

Enter: Patricia Ryan Madson. Here's what she had to say:  

Try saying “yes” to as many offers and opportunities as possible. The goal is not to be a “yes man”, but to be open and courageous enough to accept opportunities that lie outside of your comfort zone.
— Patricia Ruan Madson, Improv on Wisdom

SO this sounds awesome, right? Say "Yes" to all of the things. Caution to the wind. Money on fire. Hands up in the air. Just screaming in the middle of the street, "FREEDOM!". That's how I saw it, and that vision was ridiculous. But then I read that quote again when I found a story about Henry Rollins titled, "The Henry Rollins Method to Saying Yes to Opportunity." You can find the entire article here

More background: Henry Rollins: Musician, actor, writer, television and radio host, comedian, THE COOLEST DUDE. The first time I was made aware that Henry Rollins existed was the first time I ever listened to Black Flag-I know he's not the original singer. But the story of how he BECAME the singer, is more inspiring than almost any other "Coming Up" story. It all started by just going to a Black Flag show:

These series of Yes events required him to show up. It required a great amount of courage.

Yes #1 His favorite band Black Flag was playing in New York. While Rollins lived in Washington D.C., he hopped on a train and went up to New York to watch the band he deeply loved.

Yes #2 He hopped on stage during the show and sang a song with the band.

Yes #3 Impressed with Rollins’ performance, the band invited him to audition for the lead singer spot after the former lead singer stepped back. This was the biggest Yes he had to make.

Yes #4 He risked missing a day of work, which can be expensive when working minimum wage.

Yes #5 He risked putting himself out there in front of his favorite band, risking utter humiliation if he failed.

Yes #6 He quit his managerial job at Häagen-Dazs, sold his beat-up car, moved to Los Angeles and became the vocalist for Black Flag.

If you're thinking, "Go to see a Black Flag show, become the lead singer of Black Flag. Cool story. I'll just go do that right now, idiot." I know exactly what you mean, but I don't think the takeaway from this story is, "Just say yes and do the things and all of a sudden you're successful." Nothing works that way-I mean, I haven't found anything to work that way. Not yet, at least. 

So, this is what the whole philosophy of being a "Yes Man" means to me:

Being open to opportunities and saying "Yes" to those opportunities for the purpose of moving forward is important-I have a hard time weighing pros and cons and constantly being in the mindset of, "Alright yeah I think I can do that, but what if I screw this up and it goes down in a big ball of fire and I am so embarrassed? I don't belong here. I don't deserve to be here." Honestly, if I hadn't made a conscious effort to let go of that idea for just a second to start BlackCat, I would still be sitting at home thinking, "You know what would be cool? Doing a thing with my friend and making a bunch of new friends, and all of us help people. And we can hang out while we help people. MAN that would be a great thing to do. One day. Not today though. But one day, for sure." And then NEVER doing anything about it.

This is where BlackCat's first real event started-We were given an opportunity that we didn't think we deserved (We didn't deserve it) and were definitely not prepared for and we figured it out up until  the morning of. We are still figuring it out. If we are around for the next 5 years, we will still be figuring it out. We say, "figure it out" alot. It's fine. 

Life is a learning process. Doing things that you love is a learning process. Being able to say yes to an opportunity that pushes you further and stretches you thinner only to build you up as a stronger person/writer/musician/artist/underwater basket weaver is where it all starts.

Being scared is okay.

I have learned in the past year that being scared, cautious, uncomfortable, and having no safety net or backup plan are what pushed me to create what we have now. We're not done. I hope we are never "done". 

Moral of the story: Say yes to opportunities. Take your fear of failure and make it work for you rather than keep you from doing something that will make you stronger. Read a book that makes you get up off your butt. Listen to Black flag. 


StoriesNick Galaura