The Power of Yes: How We Got to Friendly’s

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I scream, you scream, we all scream…getting to the ice cream

“We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”
~Dale Carnegie

Choices and ice cream. That’s what these words of wisdom are all about. How to make the choices that get you to the ice cream. If you are dieting, don’t worry. I promise this little morsel will not add calories upon reading. Instead, I plan to serve up something lite, yet delicious. Food for thought, so to speak. …

A while back, I was asked to create and present a program on Making Choices, a topic that, as a Coach, fascinates me on several levels. As I started to conceptualize the presentation, I knew one of the key points I wanted people to walk away with was that our choices, big and small, determine our lives, creating an interlocking chain that leads us to where we are. I wanted them to see that any one choice could change where we end up…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, into sickness or toward better health, closer or farther away from their dreams, onto the same cyclical or predictable path, or to achieving unimagined possibilities. So, you’re wondering at this point, what the hell does this have to do with ice cream? (Sweet tooth, eh?)

So, as I was pondering my presentation content, an unexpected development arose. After a day filled with coaching clients, my then 11-year old son arrived home from school with a folded note, which he handed to me for inspection. Could be anything, I was thinking. I opened the note to find a letter from a prestigious professional boys’ choir and a parental permission slip to be signed for a child to audition. Upon reading the contents, I was impressed by the many wonderful opportunities for performance and travel that each participant was exposed to as a member of the choir. The audition also represented the first time the choir was coming to visit my son’s school district to recruit potential candidates.

Wow, I thought, what a great opportunity for him, to audition for a professional choir, regardless of outcome. He’d been a member of his elementary school choir for two years. Plus, he’d repeatedly asked me to videotape him singing and post something on YouTube so he could be “discovered.” Having studied professional voice performance at Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts for two years in my first life (yes, like a cat I have at least nine….but I digress), and having sung professionally and in choirs for many years, I knew a great voice when I heard one…and I’d caught his beautiful tenor on more than one occasion when he didn’t know I was listening. I knew my little soccer star had more than one serious talent that needed my guidance to develop. I also knew that just going through the process would be a great experience for him, challenging himself, showing himself he could do it, that he could do anything he decided to say YES to doing.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Or daring to see what’s new on the menu?
(Delectable unknown possibilities)

“Every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Where are your choices taking your life? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?” ~Erin Allenbaugh

Well, this smart mama had been listening…when her little boy asked to be on YouTube…when he came home belting out a tune from Chicago with the quality of a Broadway caliber performance after watching it once in music class. She also was listening as he fooled around with the big new super cool keyboard that was a Christmas gift provided by his father in anticipation of piano lessons starting the next summer. His father was also there with me when he performed Coney Island Baby with about 100 4th through 12th grade boys in the district’s choir concert, smiling and jazzing it up like he’d been doing it his whole life. Well, obvious to us was the fact that, while our son swore he was going to be a professional soccer star like Lionel Messi, something else was going on here. Little did we know it was all about ice cream…

I’ve always been a believer in the world being your oyster, in the possibility of making imagination a reality, in the power of seeing where opportunities might take you. I always enjoyed the days when we would just get in the car and drive east towards the beach, taking roads we’d never explored, discovering whatever was to be found along the way. I love a good adventure…So, when I was blessed with this little boy, I knew he wasn’t mine to mold into what I wanted him to be. Instead, I was given a most precious gift, the privilege of discovery, the responsibility to guide him so he might find out who he is, what he is meant to do in this life for himself and the world. And that would require observation, active listening and listening without an agenda…three of the most important skills a good Coach needs to master to be a powerful guide. It would also require me to hold him accountable for what he told me he wanted, for his choices…in this case that YouTube scenario.

He now had the perfect opportunity to show me he was willing to step up and be public with his desire to sing, which I pointed out to him. Recalling my singing days, I explained how a formal audition worked, that he would have to sing alone in front of whoever was holding the audition, and that other students auditioning might be in the room at the time. He might have to sing some scales to warm up and then a song he’d done in choir. Well, he balked. No, he wasn’t going to do it then. He was NOT going to sing in front of other people. Fear of failure had reared its ugly head.

I reasoned with him that it was a fantastic opportunity to be involved with a professional boys’ choir. He’d been a People-to-People Student Ambassador the previous summer, a 10-year-old traveling for 19 days through the United Kingdom and Ireland with a group of teachers and 45 students, a trip of a lifetime sans parents, which had not only matured him but allowed him to navigate currencies, a Blackberry, and a whole myriad of new experiences. If he auditioned and was picked for the choir, he would have exciting travel experiences and meet all kinds of new people across the country, maybe around the world. Hey, I was dangling carrots here. He wanted none of it. Time to bring in reinforcements….

His dad arrived and I nonchalantly presented to him the letter and permission slip for review. I explained the situation and our son’s stubborn refusal to do the audition the following day. With the numerous YouTube pleas dancing around in my consciousness, I told his dad that I thought the Justin Bieber-wannabe living with us should at least try, do the audition and show himself he could rise above any fear, that there was power in saying YES until the answer was NO. His dad agreed and quietly wandered into said wannabe’s room for a quiet dad-to-son conversation. Later, the form was returned to me unsigned.

Yes, I’m getting to the ice cream….

Next morning dawned, and feeling the incredible power of YES, I signed the permission slip. I gave it to my son, telling him to take it to school signed so if he changed his mind and decided to do the audition he had it covered. I encouraged him again just to do it to show himself he could. He shoved it into his backpack and off he went. Che sera, sera.

After a day in the city filled with coaching and coaching-related activities, my mind was swimming with client issues, requested proposals, website updates and upcoming meetings. Enter the child, announcing with a serious face, “Mom, I’ve got bad news. My teacher sent a note home about me.” He handed me yet another letter, which I quickly reviewed. Mischievous since the day he was born, he was being facetious. He informed me as I read an overview of what was to come next, that he had indeed done the audition and was picked to go to the final round of auditions for the choir in the big city. He told me that the thing that he couldn’t get out of his mind that made him do it was something his dad had said to him during “the conversation.” His father had quietly told him that “in life, it’s the things you didn’t try that you regret.” Apparently, it stuck with him in a big way.

“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.”
~Jamie Paolinetti

Without YES, you might never have a cherry on top!

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” ~Joseph Campbell

Time for you to receive your just desserts…finally, the ice cream! Here’s the cherry on top…

In celebration of my son’s achievement, for conquering his fear of singing in front of others with no formal training whatsoever, by saying YES to an opportunity that simply and randomly presented itself, a set of choices had sent us off to Friendly’s for macaroni & cheese and ice cream. (For those of you not familiar with Friendly’s, it’s a large chain of restaurants that serves kid-friendly food and numerous flavors and concoctions of the cold dairy desserts.)

As we sat there munching and celebrating my son’s wonderful achievement, the Coach in me was again thinking about choices. Not one to let an opportunity to teach get away from me, I noted how magical it was that the power of YES had gotten us to Friendly’s. My son had brought the form home (YES), I had signed it even though he’d said he wasn’t going to do it (YES), I told him to leave his options open and the note made the backpack (YES), his dad’s words of wisdom were the spur to the horse’s psyche (YES), and my son got to school buoyed by all those YESES and did the audition (YES), allowing us to say YES to celebrating at Friendly’s. I explained how if any one of us sitting at that table had not said YES in the amazing chain of choices, we would not be happily entertaining the idea of brain freeze and wet nuts. Pretty powerful lesson.

So often, I hear about the limiting power of NO on people’s lives in my coaching sessions – the cant’s, the shouldnt’s, the fears and doubts, hearing about family members squashing peoples’ desires and dreams, the assumption that all our limited vision can anticipate is one option instead of a myriad of options that are possible from each choice, making excuses to push why not….instead of YES, LET’S!

Every single choice you make has power over your life and its direction. Every one. Even the ones you think are insignificant. The food you eat, the people you date, the interviews you take, the home you buy, the money you save, the lie you tell, the challenge you run away from, the priorities you set, the chance to learn, the opportunities to grow, the disease to fight, the energy you surround yourself in, giving in to the fear of being hurt again, turning away from love….What you choose today effects what is possible tomorrow, creating a chain that leads you where those choices take you. And if those choices are limiting, instead of unlimited, that’s what you will get. Limits.

I encourage you to embrace the power of YES. For what I know for sure is that there is a world of possibilities and opportunities out there of which we only know a small sliver, not to mention all the new and innovative ideas we may each hold within our imaginations…just waiting for YES to bring them forth like the next iPad or Facebook or genetic technology that will save lives. The power of YES embodies a positive energy that feels good, that keeps us saying YES to all the possibilities until we hit a NO, allowing for the magnificence possible for our lives that we may not yet know.

The power of YES gave us light bulbs. The power of YES proved that the sky is not the limit by putting a human being on the moon. Who knows what the power of YES will allow next. I plan to ponder that over a bowl of pistachio ice cream slathered in mini chocolate chips. Join me?

Say YES!

© Can You Imagine Life Coaching™ LLC June 2011

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