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Murray: The key to opportunities in life and career? Peak ‘yes, and’ energy

By Leah Murray - | Apr 3, 2024

Photo supplied, Weber State University

Leah Murray

My daughter decided in the middle of her junior year to switch to choir from percussion. She had never taken a choir class, so this was something new. She had to move her schedule around to make it possible and, to be honest, I was thinking that perhaps she’d rather have a study hall, but she made it work. Once in choir, she decided to compete in a vocal competition just to see if she could get some feedback on her voice. She totally exceeded her expectations and made it to the regional competition with her song.

A few weeks later, it was the morning of that regional performance and she had a pretty significant head cold. I suggested she maybe not perform but she was sure she could do it, sore throat and all. So there I was at the front door, saying something along the lines of “good luck” and “sing well” and “maybe tell them you have a head cold” as I sent her off on her day. She said to me, “Peak ‘yes, and’ energy, Mama!” and bounced out the door. I have been thinking about that ever since, having “peak ‘yes, and’ energy” at the start of every day, having “peak ‘yes, and’ energy” at the start of any project and maybe having “peak ‘yes, and’ energy” whenever anyone asks you to do anything. Excited for what might happen, nervous about how well you might do, but ready to meet any challenge with affirmative positive energy. Honestly, that is exactly the way we should all strive to live.

I have said yes to so many things in my life. Ever since I came to Weber State, if anyone asks me to give a talk, I say yes. Sometimes I’m scrambling because I’m not really sure what it is I’m talking about and many weeks have me giving two talks, which can be exhausting, but I do it. Whenever there’s an initiative on campus that someone needs me to do anything for, I say yes. If a colleague at another campus is looking for someone to collaborate with, I’m in. Some of my favorite people have come from my saying yes to projects that I’m not sure what the endgame is but I always figure, how bad can it be? When the media calls looking for someone to talk to about anything political, I say yes. One of my favorite things I’m doing right now is hosting a talk show on KSL, which happened because the news director there heard me on a podcast and thought I was good.

So much of the good in my professional life has happened because of my “peak ‘yes, and’ energy” — even though I didn’t know to call it that. I’m not sure I could truly separate how much of my success is because I’m good at what I do and how much comes from my attitude that says “yes, and I’ll figure it out” or “yes, and we’re going to do it this way” or “yes, and this is going to be hard, but I can do it.” I just know it has never occurred to me to say no, and my daughter helped me put a name to the power.

Far too many of us are claims adjusters who say no immediately. People whose reaction to things is to say no right out of the gate tend to overthink themselves into corners from which they can never emerge. “I can’t say yes to that because” and they list all the negative things that could happen. Recently, one of my very favorite people said, “If you are doing something that no one has ever tried before, you are either a genius or an idiot, and the odds are you are not a genius.” Usually I’m in total agreement with this person, but not this time. Of course, the odds are you are not a genius. But you could be a genius; it’s possible. And if you make every decision based on some binary that says genius or idiot, so you choose nothing just to make sure you’re not the idiot, then you’ll never do anything. And you absolutely will never do anything amazing.

My child is entering her senior year and someone advised her to take a study hall. She has instead chosen to take eight full classes because she is interested in those topics, and when I asked her about it, she said “Yes, this will be hard, and I will deliver!” I’m in awe of her, as always, and I’m inspired to be the best version of myself, just like her. And on that note, out into the world I go, just like my kid, with all my “peak ‘yes, and’ energy.”

Leah Murray is a Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor of Political Science and the director of the Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service at Weber State University.


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