Yes vs. No

December 7, 2016

From the blog of our president and CEO, Buddy Teaster
These last few weeks I’ve read several different, maybe contradictory, pieces about how the best businesses say no far more times than they yes to new ideas. How you shouldn’t take no for an answer when you’re working on your “thing.” And, how you shouldn’t listen to the naysayers.
At the same time, there was a post I really liked from Seth Godin titled “The yeasayers.” And, there was an excellent TED Talk from Shonda Rimes called “My year of saying yes to everything,” both of which celebrate embracing the affirmative and the way that brings you into the moment, being open to possibilities.
It seems that we as individuals and as companies need both. Sometimes we do need to ignore the people who tell us to quit because it’s foolish—tune out the inner voice that wants us to give up before we start because it’s too hard. But, sometimes those voices keep us out of trouble. “Don’t touch that hot stove,” “don’t confuse ends with means”….that could be the very sound advice that saves us time/money/relationships/sanity.
And we all know to be wary of those who just say yes to everything that comes down the pike. They are very busy and often do not deliver on their promises because they’re too scattered; as Hemingway said, “don’t confuse motion with progress.”
But sometimes without having a cheerleader encouraging us to go for it, to follow our heart, we accomplish less. Without those sharing their hard earned lessons that kept me out of rough waters, I would have accomplished less.
Like so much of what makes life interesting, the value comes in the dynamic tension between the two poles of yes or no. There’s a word that I want to explore more in the months ahead that is often used in religious life but has relevance regardless of your spiritual path: discernment. That ability to reflect on what I’m doing and make a rational judgment about what it means to me and how it impacts others. I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that strengthening the discernment muscle might pay big dividends.
For me, this all ties back to our work in a very direct way. What’s the balance between our free distribution and micro-enterprise work? What sacrifices do I choose in order to make the world better versus choosing comfort/convenience that I’ve worked hard to earn for my family?  What do we give volunteers to do as opposed to us doing those things internally? There’s often no right answer only a judgment based on input, conversation, reflection and discernment.
Each of us has some version of this in our lives every day. I hope you have your people, books, networks to help you walk the tightrope of everyday life. I believe we are born good and have to spend our days figuring out what that means. If you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve engaged with Soles4Souls at some point, so I know you care about making life a little better for those who don’t have the same opportunities. Thanks for being on that path and hope that we can, together, continue to help each other find the best way forward.