How Saying “Yes” To Everything For A Year Enabled Shonda Rhimes To Lose Fear & Find Her “Hum”


Her book is called ‘The Year of Yes: How to Dance it out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person’ and it is fitting title for a woman who has essentially changed the entire landscape of TV as we know it. Shonda Rhimes, who together with her Shondaland productions partner Betsy Beers, is the creator of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’, ‘The Catch’, and ‘How To Get Away With Murder’. She has won multiple awards, but more importantly opened up a major broadcast network (ABC) to start diversifying story lines and characters in a time when it wasn’t necessarily so common.

Since the Shondaland explosion, along with the emergence of digital platforms like Netflix and Hulu, shows like ‘Transparent’ and ‘Orange Is The New Black’ have capitalized on the momentum Shonda and Betsy created, giving visibility to people of color and a variety of sexual orientations. So it goes without saying her success is well-known in the public, but what about the women behind the phenomenon? What makes her tick? What does she think about when she goes to sleep at night? Does she ever sleep?

In 2015 she released her aforementioned book which is giving fans a whole new perspective on the media mogul. In a recent TED Talk given in Vancouver in March this year, she used the premise of her book to outline why she dedicated an entire year to saying “yes” to the things she feared the most.

“That ‘yes’ was the beginning of a new way of life for my family. I made a vow that from now on, every time one of my children asks me to play, no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, I say yes. Every. Single. Time…and it’s had a magical effect on me,” she said before adding that it was this purposeful intention that changed the course of her life.

“It’s also had a stunning side effect. And it wasn’t until recently that I fully understood it. That I understood how saying ‘yes’ to playing with my children likely saved my career.”


That’s a bold admission to make. The Shonda Rhimes we normally see is the version that is either giving some badass speech about being a media game-changer, accepting some award, or vicariously viewing her incredible writing and producing talents through one of her many shows. Did any one of us know that her career needed “saving”? Perhaps not, but that kind of vulnerability is something that makes Shonda’s characters so lovable.

Shonda then goes on to explain that she is responsible for hundreds of millions of prime time television episodes broadcast all over the world, and which also creates hundred of jobs in the industry. Her shows are in 256 territories, broadcast in 67 languages for an audience of 30 million people. There is nobody else in TV like her who has 4 shows simultaneously in production that they either created, produce or write (or all three, in Shonda’s case) and the reason she brings up this point is to reiterate that saying yes to something outside of her gruelling schedule could seem like an impossibility.

She reveals that she started to lose her “hum” in her career. That hum, or that buzz, that keeps her creative fires burning and make her look at her job as less of a job and more of a dream.

“There is some kind of shift inside me when the work gets good. A hum begins in my brain, and it grows, and that hum sounds like the open road and I could drive it forever…the hum is action and activity, the hum is a drug, the hum is music, the hum is light and air, the hum is God’s whisper right in my ear. And when you have a hum like that, you can’t help but strive for greatness at any cost,” she said.

Along with the hum, and her many successes, came more pressures and expectations.

“The hum stopped. Overworked, overused, burned out.”


It was this point in her life which made her reevaluate what the hum was and who she was in the midst of it all.

“All the colors were the same but I was no longer having any fun. It was my life, it was all I did. I was the hum, and the hum was me. What do you do when the thing you do, the work you do, starts to taste like dust?…If you love what you do…if you know what the hum feels like, when the hum stops, who are you? What are you? What am I? Am I still a titan? If the song in my heart ceases to play, can I survive in the silence?”

It’s a poetic way of explaining how she confronted herself in the moment when she realized she could no longer be defined by or find pleasure alone in just the hum. But rather than go on the way she was, it led Shonda to discover a new version of herself, a new type of “hum”, by saying yes.

That new version was love, specifically, loving her family more and allowing herself permission to play with her kids in order to find her spark again. But it was a spark that didn’t lead her back to the hum or work, but redefined it in a way that didn’t confine her to just being a TV titan.

“The very act of not working has made it possible for the hum to return, as if the hum’s engine could only refuel while I was away. Work doesn’t work without play. Now, I like that hum but I don’t love that hum. I don’t need that hum, I am not that hum, that hum is not me, not anymore. I am bubbles, and sticky fingers, and dinners with friends. I am that hum. Life’s hum, love’s hum. Work’s hum is still a piece of me it is just no longer all of me,” she concludes.

It is a powerful and beautiful message that every one of us can take something from. Watch Shonda Rhimes get candid about saying “Yes” to her fears, and creating a new “hum” in her life, below:

One Comment

  1. Pingback: TV Mogul Shonda Rhimes Moves Shondaland Empire From ABC To Netflix In $100m Deal - GirlTalkHQ

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.