In 2005, a comedian called Danny Wallace released a book called Yes Man. The premise is pretty simple: For one year, whenever someone made him an offer or asks him to do something, he said yes. A few years later the book was roughly adapted into a sort of romantic comedy film in which Jim Carrey ends up dating Zooey Deschanel by following the same doctrine, getting into a series of amusing situations along the way.
I’m not quite crazy enough to do it for a year, but I found the idea intriguing. I was left with a burning question: What would the result of forced positivity be on me and my work at Etch over a short period of time?
There was only one thing for it. On March 29th, unbeknownst to my colleagues, I embarked on my mission: A Yes Day. For 24 hours. Whatever anyone asked me to do, or asked me for, I would agree.
Here is what happened.
First of all, if you’re expecting some hilarious hijinks, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. Like most of you, I go to an office, I do some work, then I go home. Broadly speaking, that all continued to be true. I didn’t end up skydiving or jumping on a plane to Bora Bora, because nobody asked. It turns out most people tend to only ask you mundane questions on a day to day basis. But I don’t want to waste the blog idea, so let’s just pretend this is more interesting than it is, and look really closely for any insights and takeaway lessons we can glean.
When I start work, I take a look at my schedule. Broadly speaking it’s quite flexible here at Etch, but sometimes there are things which need to be done in a specific order. Generally speaking I tend to just follow the planned schedule regardless, because I’m too lazy to re-organise it myself. On Yes Day, I was scheduled to work all day for one client, an Umbraco build for a financial company. That quickly went out the window as soon as the Account Managers and Producers got into the office.
“Adam, any chance you can look at this job? It’s scheduled for tomorrow but…”
And it wasn’t just work out of schedule. Meeting requests, favours, people asking for help… Typically these are all things I say “Yes” to anyway, but they added up fast.
That trend continued throughout the day, and I ended up doing not a lot of work on my actual scheduled client, and now I have to fit that in somewhere else in the week. It’s not a problem on a timescale like this, but it’s easy to see how having some boundaries is probably necessary to make sure you can actually meet your deadlines. If I did “Yes Week”, I would quickly get into trouble…
This week is also the last week before Hacksoton, which, if you’ve never heard of it, is a really cool event you should definitely check out. It’s a free hackday where anyone and everyone is encouraged to come and improve their skills in technology and digital. Super fun. Happens once a year. Anyway, I help organise it, and one of our volunteers asked if they could sneak a guest onto the guest list. Again, I like to think I probably would’ve done it anyway, given the circumstances, but as this is a relatively complete log of all my positive responses, I thought I’d note it.
One of the things we like to do as a company at Etch is go to the movies. We’re a bunch of cinephiles at heart. And 29th March was the date of one such outing. Recent Etch hire Emma (keep an eye on this blog for more from her!) offered to book a table for dinner ahead of the showing. Yes. Caroline invited me to have a drink with her after the cinema, which is a bit late for me, past my bedtime, but I said yes to that too, naturally.
I did have a slight problem at dinner.
In a moment of forgetfulness, when one of our friends offered me some of his food, I did not say yes. It kind of works out for the best because I’m vegan and his food was chicken, but still, strictly speaking, I should have said yes to taking the food from his plate. I believe this was the only yes-failure of the day, but I’m sure when I post this blog my workmates are going to be quick to point out some other things I got wrong.
If you’ve ever had dinner with friends before, you’ll know all about the fun of splitting a bill (and if you haven’t ever had dinner with friends, that sounds lonely, tweet me, I’ll eat with you one day). A friend jokingly asked me whether I was going to pay for it all. I said yes. Fortunately he backed down and said he was just joking, but I was fully prepared to do it! One of the fascinating things for me about the experiment has been that I expected there to be a lot more of a financial burden. I was expecting people to ask me for money on the street, or for a friend to figure out what I was doing and decide to make a tidy profit. Neither happened.
By the time we were in the cinema, someone did know what I was up to. I caved and told Emma. From then on, she was in on my experiment, but luckily for me, she was relatively kind. I agreed to share popcorn, to give her a lift home as it was on my way, and to go and see a variety of bad-looking films we saw trailers for (including Peppa Pig and a live screening of a ballet). On my own. But I otherwise escaped unscathed.
After the credits rolled on the movie, a few of us went to The Dancing Man for the drink I had agreed to earlier in the day.
However, I wasn’t entirely up front with you when I mentioned it earlier. It wasn’t just a casual drink.
Over a glass of wine, Caroline (and husband Steve) explained that they have a spare room they’ve been looking to rent. They knew I’d been thinking recently about leaving sunny Bournemouth and living a bit closer to work. They asked whether I fancied moving in, and laid out all the details they had in mind.
Can you guess what I said?