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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Yes Man

Yes Man was a book by British humourist Danny Wallace that was later turned into a Jim Carey film. It was the third in a series of books he wrote that involved putting himself in ridiculous real-life situations to see what he can learn. No word of a lie, the apartment block he lives in is now classed as some sort of unofficial country because of this guy's shenanigans.

In Yes Man, Wallace resolves to say "yes" to literally every offer made to him for six months, including social invitations, advertising pamphlets, even internet spam. He ran himself into the ground, fractured some of his relationships and wracked up an enormous debt on several new credit cards. But he also advanced his career, learned lots of fantastic skills and even met the girl who would become his wife. It's one of the most inspiring books I've ever read and it really, honestly changed my life.

I spent weeks after finishing the book in an attitude of "yes". I saw instant results, becoming more agreeable to my friends and family and having more fun day-to-day. One day, I was walking to work when a couple of Mormons riding past on their bikes stopped to chat. They gave me a speech that essentially used the same sales techniques that I learned in my time as a door-to-door salesman. Asking questions for which there's only one obvious answer ("Do you ever feel stressed or like you're not on top of your life?"), sharing stories to gain rapport ("I used to be in a really dark place...") and providing the solution to a problem they'd just presented ("But that's when I found the Lord"). Looking back with that knowledge, it makes me chuckle.

They got to the end of their pitch and tried to close the sale.
'Is there a time we can organise with you to talk more about it?'
'Yeah, sure!' I replied happily. They scrambled for their little black diary so they could book in a time to meet back up. That day come around, we chatted about God and what it means to be a follower. Then they asked if we could set up another meeting. I said yes. At the second meeting, they asked if I wanted to attend one of their church sessions. Naturally... I said yes.

At this point, my parents started to get worried. They viewed the Latter Day saints as an evil organisation who were attempting to corrupt a teenager who didn't know any better. I just saw it as an exciting new way of discovering a God that I'd always believed in, but never actively sought out. I attended the church, where it was "testimonial day" - a tradition held on the first Sunday of each month where the whole session is set aside to let people approach the stage and share their testimony of the Lord and why they know him to be the one true God. I hadn't yet been filled with the holy spirit, but I was certainly bursting with the spirit of Yes. I decided to get up on stage myself and talk for a minute about my own experience finding God. The reception I got was amazing. The second church finished, an old man dove onto the seat next to me and started sharing his personal story of finding God. As he talked, a whole line formed in front of me full of people wanting to shake my hand and welcome me into the fold. I went to the church for the next three weeks, until my parents refused to drive me there any more (this was before I had my license). After that I kept up my meetings with the two Mormons who had first stopped me in the street. Then at one such meeting, they decided to drop this one on me -

'We want to bring up alcohol,' they said. 'You drink it right?'
'Oh, only occasionally,' I replied. It was kind of true. I did only drink occasionally, but I'd never learned how to drink properly. So I would make Jack-and-Coke mixers that barely had any Coke or when we played a drinking game, I'd take swigs straight out of the bottle of whiskey. I'd never know when I'd had enough, so half the time I'd end up throwing up or passing out. I didn't even realise until years later that what I was doing was passing out and not just falling asleep.
'Let me show you a passage in the Bible,' said one of the Mormons, and he showed me a passage that proclaimed the evils of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. 'We think alcohol is a dangerous thing that stops you from being able to keep in touch with the Lord. You should make a commitment to abstain from it.'

For the first time in a long time, I was hesitant. Give up drinking? I'd just turned 18! I was so excited to be able to buy it legally! I couldn't give it up now, could I? They pointed out that it wouldn't be without reward - Jesus had promised that anyone who abstained from these things would be healthier, fitter and closer to God. I took it on board, but I wasn't convinced. They didn't push the matter, which is one thing I liked about them.

The next week, AC/DC came to Adelaide. Half the city turned up to see them, and the atmosphere was electric. I was standing in the enormous mosh pit and decided to get a beer. Half an hour later, I'd withstood the massive line, parted with $8 and was standing there with my shitty beer feeling an unusual sense of guilt. Why had I parted with $8 for this? I was still working at KFC for a pittance. I couldn't afford to spend that kind of money for a beer. I got nothing out of it except for the fulfillment of a social requirement. In the end, I was amazed at how easily the decision came - "Yeah, I might give up drinking," I thought. And just like that, I never touched another drop. My friends didn't take to it too well. They kept pressuring me to have a drink and one time even tricked me into it. But just like when I first took on my "Yes" attitude, I was buoyed by the appearance of immediate results. My bank account ticked upwards, I did feel healthier, I realised how much I hated the feeling of being drunk and I also realised how awful people become when they are. I had effectively said Yes to saying No. Those poisonous people eventually gave up on me and we drifted apart. Now I have friends who I appreciate even more because I know what it's like when your friends don't have your best interests at heart. I don't associate with the Mormons any more, but my short time with them was the first step I took towards gaining an understanding of who or what God is. I'm wiser, healthier, happier than I had ever thought possible and I'm still getting better. All because I'd decided to embrace the mantra of YES.

27 comments:

  1. You said yes to your best, some people spend a lifetime unable to do so.

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    1. I saw a video where a guy went around offering free money. One woman was so convinced he was up to no good that she screamed in his face to attract attention.

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    2. Or probably to just make him go away.

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  2. Interesting post, Michael! Your experience with the Mormons reminds me of my experience with the Baptists when I was a teenager. I got some positive spiritual lessons from it, even if I left the Baptists behind and never joined. Our lessons can come from anywhere and everywhere, it's true.

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    1. The key is not to shut yourself off to the sources :)

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  3. You're such a good guy, to have found meaning in the most potentially annoying situations like the door-to-door God salesmen. Last time it happened, I got a bit preachy with them: "No thanks, because I'm Jewish like Jesus was. I'm proud of it and like to educate." They took out their little note pads, said they support Israel, gave me smiles and told me, "We've never had that response." (It wasn't in their "When the person says___, you say___" Manual. With a friendly "Good to meet you," they left.

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    1. Wow, they really are like salespeople. It's awfully weird that they took their notebooks out in front of you. It's also weird that they'd never heard that answer before :P

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    2. I thought it was weird too, but I live in a fairly small city near another small city called Dingerville. That explains it all, somehow.

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  4. I'm a no and don't go to the door. Bible thumpers just annoy at my shore

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    1. I have to admit, at the moment I'm not answering for door-knockers either. I don't have time to listen to the spiel and I'm too polite to shut the door in their face.

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  5. I was disappointed in the movie "Yes Man" when I saw it, but if I had known it was based on a true story I would have viewed it completely differently. On New Years Eve I had a few drinks to see what I was missing. I thought all these "drunks" seem to have much better lives than me...maybe it's consuming alcohol that is giving them some kind of edge? Well I tried it and I don't think i'm missing anything. It didn't help me feel any better or give me some illusion of self-confidence that is always talked about in association with alcohol use. I'll stick to Diet Coke. Although, if you got further into the Mormon religion (or maybe you know this already), it is a religion founded by Joseph Smith who was, well how do I say this kindly... he was a big fat liar. Despite this, the Mormon religion does seem to help people, so it kinda makes one wonder how much of what you believe has to be 100% truth to have some positive impact on one's life. Makes ya say HMMMMMM....

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    1. That's interesting and yeah I don't get it either. Whenever I got drunk I would just try as hard as possible not to seem drunk. I preferred having control over my movements and actions. It's cool that you gave it an objective go though.

      Naturally, I never heard anyone say that Joseph Smith was a liar :P What made him a liar?

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    2. well this video explains it a lot better than I could https://youtu.be/06jF1EG8o-Q

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    3. Ah, well that makes sense if it's true :P

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    4. >>... well how do I say this kindly... he was a big fat liar.

      HA!-HA! I Guffawed-Out-Loud! Thanks for the laugh, Jimmy!

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  6. Good for you. If you don't need it and don't want it, don't drink it.
    Jesus did drink wine in the Bible though. Drinking is only a sin when it comes between you and God.
    I take it Yes Man became the movie Liar Liar?

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    1. Yeah there was an added bit saying "save for wine of your own making". The Mormons explained it by pointing out that in Jesus' time, home made wine tended to have so little alcohol that it was almost like grape juice.

      In an interesting move by the producers, they decided to call the movie Yes Man ;)

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  7. I never saw the movie, "Yes Man."

    I used to be more of a "yes woman." But now I've learned to say "no." Saying "yes" too many times puts way too much on my plate.

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    1. Absolutely. While yes opens up opportunities, no establishes boundaries which is just as important.

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  8. I used to be Yes until too many people took advantage of that. I have turned into a No girl, and just like your yes story, I am happier now. Saying yes to everything stressed me out so much, it caused my auto immune disorder to flare and I damn near died. After months of recovery, I learned that No can be a good thing. I do try to say yes to new experiences, even doing the Morman thing here and there. Even though I am atheist, my neighbor invites me to her functions and I go only because I sometimes find their beliefs intriguing, or just to support whatever it is she is doing. I appreciate that they aren't pushy as well!

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    1. Being pushy never works :P I'd love it if everyone believed in a higher power, but I accept that I've got nothing to base my belief on except faith. I really appreciate an atheist who I can talk to about my religion without being thought of as stupid - my friends (amazing as they are) have occasionally asked if I want them all to say grace before dinner. I don't usually say grace, but the offer is so heartwarming

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    2. Growing up in a very religious family, I would never, ever knock anyone's faith. I absolutely respect that we all have differing views on faith, though I don't find many people accepting of my right to not believe lol. Oh well. It is what it is. My aunt always prays before eating and I will always sit patiently and wait for her to finish before starting my meal. I think of it as a sign of respect to her faith and would never want to trample on that. That's great that your friends also respect your belief and will make sure you are comfortable to express it in their presence. Real gems!

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    3. I love this, it's like two troops from opposing countires acknowledging that the whole war is stupid ;)

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  9. >>... I had effectively said Yes to saying No.

    Man, what a GREAT line. And what an excellent blog bit. I didn't get a chance to read it yesterday, but I caught up today.

    I really enjoyed this, MICHAEL. In fact, it may be my favorite of your 'A To Z' posts. Nicely done... YES(!), very nicely done.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. Wow, that's quite a claim! Thanks for your support :)

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