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5 Lessons We Learned From Shonda Rhimes' "Year of Yes"

By Alexis Reliford

On Thursday nights, there's only one place you can find me: in front of the TV waiting to see what dark and twisty situations Meredith will find herself in on "Grey's Anatomy," and who's problems Olivia Pope's going to handle on "Scandal." So it's no surprise that the minute Shonda Rhimes' new book, "Year of Yes," hit the shelves I was first in line to grab my copy.

The critically acclaimed and award-winning creator and executive producer of everyone's favorite #TGIT shows found herself confronted with a sharp truth during Thanksgiving 2013.

"You never say yes to anything," her sister Delorse said. Those six words became a wake up call and fueled Shonda's "Year of Yes" project: she committed for one year to say yes to everything from commencement speeches and award luncheons to a healthy lifestyle and difficult conversations.

Written in the real, tongue-in-cheek voice we all love she walks you through the year she *finally* emerged from "hugging the walls" to dance it out and stand in the sun. Here's a sneak peak at some of our favorite lessons learned.

1. Say yes to hard work
Ahh luck. The thing we always credit for our success. According to Shonda, that's a bunch of bologna. "No one who succeeds is merely lucky," she says. "Lucky implies I didn't do anything. Lucky implies something was given to me. Lucky implies that I was handed something I did not earn that I did not work for." In other words you're smart, talented, and you work really, really hard. Say yes to that and bye-bye to luck.

2. Say yes to compliments
Ever found yourself blushing while someone congratulates you or points out how awesome you are? You're not alone. Shonda did too. She quickly noticed how many women ducked their heads or laughed embarrassed and stunned, as they were praised for their accomplishments. So she adopted the mantra of saying thank you, smiling, and then shutting up. "Everyone's got some greatness in them," she writes. "You do. That girl over there does. That guy to the left has some. But in order to really mine it, you have to own it. You have to grab hold of it. You have to believe it."

3. Say yes to having a life
If you've ever wondered if you can have it all — the family, the career, the big house — quit your wondering, because you can. How? By doing exactly what Shonda did, saying yes to having a life outside of work. After seeing how she wasn’t always able to play with her children or relax due to her career, she decided to do the unthinkable. "Please note: I will not engage in work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends," her email signature now reads. In turn, she discovered how this "yes" led to a more creative, happy, and relaxed Shonda.

4. Say yes to difficult conversations
Shonda knew this year wouldn't be smooth sailing. But instead of retreating back to the pantry — her childhood safe haven — she decided to say yes to difficult conversations and cut off the people that weren't 100 percent in her corner. "Mostly because of how calm life is when you're willing to have them," Shonda writes. "Also because of how much easier it is to not eat cake when I'm not stressed out or holding a grudge or full of hurt feelings." We fully agree — except for that whole not eating the cake part.

5. Say yes to doing instead of dreaming
Dream journals and vision boards can be a great way to help visualize our goals, but Shonda cautions about getting stuck in dreamland. "That's what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?" she asks. "No. Dreams are lovely, but they are just dreams. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change." The lesson: Be a doer, not a dreamer.

For more wisdom and inspiration for saying "yes" on your, get your copy of "Year of Yes" online and in bookstores everywhere now. Though we warn you: you'll miss Cristina Yang even more after reading this.

Watch Shonda's exclusive MAKERS story in the video above.

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Photo: Jason LaVeris / Getty Images