Thursday, November 1, 2012

How Saying Yes Can Change Your Life: Mark Zmarzly at TEDxLincoln

Well, the time is finally here! The videos of the TEDxLincoln event, Wide Horizons, Open Minds are starting to be posted online. I can't be more excited, because now I can share my thoughts about the event, and, you, the blog readers, can watch these amazing talks for yourself.

The universe and I must be in sync because my favorite talk of the entire day given by Mark Zmarzly, "How Saying Yes Can Change Your Life," was posted first.

Essentially, Mark, through a series of stories, shares how we should balance the "yes" and "no" in our lives. He focuses on the "yeses" as a way to point out that they are what makes a life. As a fellow writer and English major, he shares that the "yes" is what puts a character in motion in a story. And, if you really consider this, it makes sense. All characters, whether they be in movies, on television, or in books, all say "yes" to something and that is what makes them compelling, intriguing, relateable, or likeable. Mark says that nothing happens in a story until a character is in motion.

So true.

Think about that for a moment.

It's really powerful when you dwell on that notion of motion in stories. Of course it's a small leap from characters in stories to us, the people in life, saying "yes" in order to put our own lives in motion. How often do we say "yes"? How often do we put ourselves in motion in order to live a life that is affirming and fulfilling?

While those "yes" moments define us and put us on certain paths, so does "no". The "no" is what captivated me in this talk.

Mark explained that "no" is primal, even for children. When kids are learning language, the word "no" is a root behavior and a word that they learn and use first, long before "yes". There are good reasons for this: children must be able to communicate what they don't like. So while affirmations are important, so are the opposites. Negations have impacts. Mark shares the statistics regarding the yes to no ratio that children receive from adults in their households growing up, and breaks down this ratio by economic status, giving us an insight into one of the many consequences and complications of poverty: a child who grows up in a professional class family will receive 6 yeses to every 1 no, while a child who grows up in a welfare family will receive 1 yes to every 2 nos. A child in a welfare family typically receives a 118% increase in negations per year than a child in a professional family.

Now that is power. Think about the motion of those "nos" a poor child receives and how it creates, shapes, and forms his or her world view growing up.

So the yes/no balance in our lives has real consequences. How do we harness that balance? What do we choose to embrace? And when does fear push us more towards nos rather than yeses?

What were some of the "yes" moments in your life?

One of my "yes" moments in life lead to Charlie. Michelle and I had talked about getting a dog for a long time and we vacillated about it until, one day, I just voiced with certainty that we should get a dog. In no time, we were bringing Charlie home as a puppy.

I'll blog more about that moment in another post. For now, you must watch Mark's powerful talk in it's entirety. It's 18 minutes long. Say "yes" by clicking play. You won't be disappointed that you did.


  1. Todd - thanks so much for your write up! It's great to read your thoughts. I thought I'd note that the video has been reposted at a new link (below) because it was accidentally posted to an incorrect You Tube account the first time. :) Thanks again! - Mark