It was a lot worse than I thought it would be, but then again, I hadn’t taken the time to think before I said yes. You see, I’d made a rule: I would not say no. I never imagined that being a yes-man would lead me to the middle of a field, gripping an ewe while it gave birth.
2014 was a blank slate. In July, I moved all the way from Ohio to the North Island of New Zealand. Only after stepping off the plane did I realize that I didn’t have a single acquaintance in the surrounding 2,000 miles. My overwhelming positivity about the whole adventure had overridden any negative sentiments until I entered my home as an alien. Sitting alone in my new apartment made me realize almost immediately that I had to take action. From that moment on, I decided to take every opportunity I could find; I refused to say no.
Often my conscious decision to say yes led to amazing fun. In the first month alone I chaperoned a snowboard trip, spoke at a few events and won first prize as the fastest school teacher at a mud run. The yes-man mentality also had a few less appealing offerings as well.
A woman ran into the cafeteria, a look of worry in her eyes. I recognized her from a brief conversation a few weeks before. “Can somebody help me with an ewe that’s giving birth?” She said it in a pleading tone, but also in a way that suggested this was as normal as asking for help with the dishes. My yes-man mentality had become a knee-jerk reaction by then and without a second thought I was running out to a muddy field on the orders someone I barely knew.
The baby lamb had somehow become stuck, requiring more than a little help with its exit strategy. I’ll spare you the details, as this part got messy, but after a considerable effort, we freed the lamb and passed it along to its doting mother to be cleaned and fed. A job well done, I thought, before thoroughly washing my hands and returning to my now cold dinner.
Every time I find myself slipping into a routine, I can’t help but think about situations like this. It’s amazing how we can subconsciously slip into the rhythm of normality. As much as I want to believe that these times are caused by new and exciting locations or interesting people, I have to accept that they aren’t. It always comes back to my attitude.
Whether by saying always saying yes or through an all-encompassing attitude of extroversion, these situations came about because of my willingness to allow them. Life is full all sorts of these unique moments that allow you to be more adventurous or bring life into the world between bites of pasta. If you want more experiences like these then you have to open yourself up to these opportunities. The catch is that they don’t come around in the way we imagine.
The entire year I lived in New Zealand I forced myself to talk with everyone about anything. I was always meeting new people, always seeking new opportunities. Through these efforts, I found that by being interested in others, making small conversations and being willing to say yes without question started to bear fruit. When we engage with others about their passions, it can open doors for us we would never imagine.
It all comes back to two main lessons. One, put yourself out there, engage with others and be open to new experiences without having to convince yourself that it is worth your time. This is where some of the juiciest experiences come from, but don’t expect amazing results all the time either. To be honest, you will often find that whatever you just did wasn’t very interesting or helpful. That’s where the second point comes in. Be willing to accept that some things that you do will have no impact on your life, but they might have impact for others. By being willing to take other people’s passions into consideration, you open yourself to the idea that sometimes you don’t have to give anything but time to others to make a difference. With that time you will find that more and more people will come to value you: your friendship, your time and your passion.