Shonda Rhimes said 'yes' for a whole year. These are 5 things she learned.

"You never say yes to anything."

These six words, uttered by Shonda Rhimes' older sister in 2013, open up the famous showrunner's new bestselling book, "Year of Yes." And they set Rhimes on a journey to say "yes" to everything that she could for one whole year.

In the process, she had some freeing and hilarious unforgettable experiences, lost over 100 pounds, and overcame her biggest fears. In short, she emerged a bold, happier person. And now she's sharing how.



Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images.

The book, which takes us on her "year of yes" journey, is chock-full of touching stories, personal revelations, and, of course, Shonda's characteristically authentic, no-holds barred witty prose with phrases like "Chicken bone, Janet Jackson boob fear-snot, y'all." (The book is worth a read simply for the story that goes along with that phrase.)

But most importantly, she shares some empowering lessons that should make any ambitious, driven woman stand up and say, "Yes!!!"

Here are five of my favorites:

1. "Ditch the dream. Be a doer, not a dreamer."

We're all told to have dreams. And not just any dreams — big dreams. HUGE dreams. We're told that dreaming those big dreams will somehow set us on a path to fulfill them. But Shonda calls foul on that thinking.

Dreamers, she says, spend their time looking up at the sky and making plans and talking and, well, dreaming. The doers are the ones who actually get about to the business of working, creating, and trying things and therefore getting things done and ending up more successful than they could have imagined.

Her own success as a game-changing TV writer and showrunner, for example, she says, "never would have happened if I hadn't stopped dreaming of becoming [Toni Morrison] and gotten busy becoming myself."

Shonda shared this lesson during the first big "yes" of her year: overcoming her fear of public speaking and agreeing to give the commencement speech at Dartmouth College. You can listen to it in full here:

2. "Wanna play?"

This is a simple lesson but one that is easy to forget in the fast-paced and stressful day-to-day life that many of us live: It's OK to play.

She says it's OK to stop and take 15 minutes to roll on the floor with her daughter or take a bubble bath and drink a glass of wine or just generally have some fun.

In order to make this happen, you may have to say no to some other things like answering email after work, being on time to an event, or meeting an unrealistic deadline. But the joy you get from indulging in a bit of pleasure every now and then will far outweigh the perceived losses.

Says Rhimes: "This 'Yes' is about giving yourself the permission to shift the focus of what is a priority from what's good for you over to what makes you feel good."

3. "It never ever helps to think that Whitney Houston's hairdo is real."

When Shonda was a teenager, she says wanted nothing more than to have her hair look like Whitney Houston's. She spent many frustrating mornings with curling irons and cans of hair spray only to find that her hair still did not look like Whitney's.

Then, one day, as an adult, she discovered that the fabulous Ms. Houston hair that she failed to achieve all those years was a wig. Mind blown.


Photo via Mark Kettenhofen/Wikimedia Commons.

Shonda uses this story to explain why she is so open about having a nanny.

As a mother who the world thinks "does it all," Rhimes says it is important to show the world that she doesn't do it all. She has help. The snacks she brings to her kid's school are store-bought, not homemade. She is constantly making tradeoffs to make things work. No matter how perfect her life may look, it isn't. Her life, her nanny, her store-bought snacks, they're all just like Whitney's wig.

When we stop feeling inadequate and stop comparing ourselves to ideals that may not even be real, we'll all be a lot happier.

4. "Thank you. Smile. Shut up."

This is Shonda's three-step process for accepting a compliment.

In her "Year of Yes," she practiced over and over to no longer do that self-deprecating, praise-rejection thing that so many women do. Instead, she learned to fully accept and receive praise. To help herself, she asked whether or not Wonder Woman, Serena Williams, or Beyoncé really doubt their greatness or feel bad about being told how "badass" they are. Probably not.

So while you may not be Wonder Woman or Beyoncé, if you are striving for greatness and doing the best that you absolutely can, you have to be OK with being better than everyone else sometimes.

Let that sink in for a second.

Not better as in an arrogant, "I matter more than you," existential sense but better at doing whatever it is that you do. Own your greatness. Own your expertise. And when someone compliments the thing you worked hard to achieve or be, just say thank you, smile, and shut up. Eventually, it'll start to feel good.

5. "Be the narrator of your own story."

As a writer, Shonda knows a thing or two about how to tell a good story. But with so many narratives about who and what a woman "should be" in regard to age, career, relationship status, and so many other expectations, it's hard sometimes to remember that you have the right to be the ultimate narrator of your own story.

In "Year of Yes," Rhimes gets personal and talks about the experience that finally empowered her to admit that she doesn't want to get married. She never has and, as far as she knows now, never will. And that's OK. It is just one of many truths that she began to realize she had to embrace and own in order to write her own life story.


She had to finally say "yes" to who she is.

Saying yes to who we really are and not allowing narratives constructed by others to dictate how we feel and what we do is essential to living a life of freedom and fulfillment.

This is just a taste of the advice Rhimes gives in "Year of Yes."

Now, of course, we don't all have the funds and resources to say yes to every opportunity that comes along, but the overall message of the book goes beyond financial limits.

Rhimes encourages us to acknowledge what is right for each of us and what empowers us to push past our fears, embrace our greatness, and do the things that will add meaning and value to our lives.

Who wouldn't want to say yes to that? Not just for 365 days, but for forever? I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Shonda has in mind.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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