I would like to start this by saying a couple things:
1. If you haven’t read Yes, Please! yet, shame on you! Stop reading this and go buy it. Go – I’ll wait here.
2. Why didn’t I watch Parks and Rec? Why didn’t I pay more attention to Amy Poehler before? I was busy with myself – and despite missing her from SNL, which I haven’t really watched since, I didn’t bother to pay attention to anything she did after. Dear Ms. Poehler, I am so sorry. I’ve started watching Parks and Rec. It’s excellent.
Moving right along, this is the advice book from a smart, funny, competent, brilliant feminist I, you, all of us, have been waiting for. When I first heard about it, I thought, sure – Tina Fey wrote a book, Mindy Kaling wrote a book – of course now Amy Poehler did too. Bossy Pants and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me are wonderfully, funny books. For whatever reason they didn’t hit me the same way. (But you should still read them if you haven’t yet – especially Mindy Kaling’s thing about dudes having to sit to put shoes on. Seriously men, what is up with that? Maybe I should go back and reread these to see if they sit differently, or more solidly with me now.)
The intelligent, yet entertaining way she talks about her life and path, and offers up life lessons is refreshing, and includes advice I find myself saying out loud, to other people. I’m actually quoting the book regularly. When does that ever happen to you?
Some of my favorite lessons:
Good for her. Not for me.
Why do we feel the need to compete with one another, or believe, blindly, that what’s good for her is good for me. But the thing is, that is hardly ever true. It’s why Poehler’s motto is “Good for her. Not for me.”
I love this. Not only did I laugh out loud reading that section of the book (the story that goes with it is great), but I realized that is absolutely how we should be living and most women just aren’t. We are so engrossed in what others are doing we ignore the fact that we don’t need or maybe even shouldn’t be doing the same thing. Comparison kills creativity, individuality, joy, happiness, etc., etc. And yet, we continually do it.
This is my way of stepping up and saying no. (See below for more on this.) I am me not you, or anyone else. I wasn’t really one in high school do what the other kids did just because, but it got harder as I got older. The trick is knowing who you are (see her chapter on finding your currency early), and being able to be impressed without be envious or jealous.
Make ‘no’ a complete sentence.
Women have this ridiculous need to explain when they say no , as if it’s ingrained in us to give excuses, to validate our response. What is wrong with just saying, no? This is rather simple and straight forward.
“You actually don’t have to do something if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to explain yourself either.”
There are of course times you don’t want to say no. You want to say yes, and you mean it.
Yes, please is powerful, Poehler states. The please isn’t to be polite, it’s part of the response, making it stronger, and more than, by making it a request, a way of saying, I want this, and I can do this.
“Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready.”
So what have we learned? Say ‘No’ and leave it at that. But know when to say ‘Yes, please’, when you mean it, want it, are ready for the challenge. Adding the please can also imply you won’t be doing whatever it is alone.
Treat your career like a bad boyfriend/Wanting the pudding.
This one is hard for me. I believe in curses, jinx, bad karma, whatever you want to call it. And admitting, out loud, you want something – a job, an award, a promotion, can mean it will backfire in some way.
Poehler insists on letting go of the wanting, and learn to care less. But at the same time, she admits, wanting the pudding is okay, and it’s okay to admit it. The risk is building everything on the pudding, because if you don’t get it, then what?
Your career will not take care of you, call you back, or marry you. Focus on what drives you, because your career is just many things strung together, not necessarily your passion, creativity, or interests.
I like distraction as a solution – instead of just focusing on will this or won’t this thing I dearly, desperately want actually happen.
Embrace who you are, stand up for yourself and ignore what others think.
I’m lumping a few lessons together here, but they are all such important lessons for women to learn – and involve unlearning other lessons. Poehler explains how there is a demon living in all of us who makes us think we are ugly, or fat, or unworthy. You have to learn to stand up for yourself against said demon, just like you would stand up for a friend.
“Ignore what other people think. Most people aren’t even paying attention to you.”
There is a huge demand in our image obsessive world to look a certain way, and there is also a demand at times, to not be able to acknowledge that you like how you look, and be happy with who you are. Especially if you do not fit the nearly impossible image and body we “should” have. It’s part of being good with who you are, accepting yourself for who you are and not for what others see.
Who are these other people we are so worried about anyways? We don’t even know, because we aren’t paying attention – and neither are they. May some a little hurtful, but it’s true.
This is a hugely simplified version of several chapters, which are much funnier to read. So go. Read them.
Amy Poehler should be your guidepost for everything, sort of.
A few last remarks on why Amy Poehler is so awesome, is totally the person you should be taking all major life advice from, and why she such an awesome feminist:
She found her passion, and fully realizing she would be very much in the minority as a young woman trying to get into comedy, she pushed on, played with the boys, learned from everyone should could, and never forgot that hard work, or the places that lifted her up.
Poehler is still connected to touring comedy troupe she was a founding member of. Better yet, they started a school – and she still helps out with it. Let’s be fair – she has no reason to keep working on it, and help keep it going. Who does that? She does! Because that’s how she got where she is, and, women going through the program need to see those women who have been successful, and have the opportunity to learn from them. Think of what would happen if more women did this…
…sorry, lost in an awesome day dream about women being amazing teachers and role models to other women.
Along with friends, she started Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, a nonprofit that produces online TV shows helping girls around the world see women and girls doing amazing things, and loving who they are. Stemming from this, or vice versa, she also has a digital series – Smart Girls at the Party, featuring girls changing the world. Check them out, and share what they’re doing.
Things we have now learned:
- Amy Poehler is amazing. We knew this already, but maybe to the extent we do now.
- I should have been watching Parks and Rec from the start.
- Be who you are, because that’s totally cool.
- Remember where you came from, and try to give back, and pay it forward.
- If you haven’t already, go find a copy of the book and read it. I need more people to discuss it with.