Just Say Yes.

August 9, 2022

Just Say Yes.

May 29, 2023

One of the core MEA tenets I hold so dearly is developing a growth mindset. This is in comparison to having a fixed mindset. Sounds obvious right? Not so easy. At the most fundamental level, a fixed mindset comes down to how often we say “no” vs. “yes” in life.

While not wanting to admit it, it is easy for most of us to arrive at this juncture of life fairly fixed in routines, identity or aptitudes. Here are a few examples: “No, I can’t learn a foreign language. No, I can’t learn martial arts or go skydiving. No, I don’t want to be out late at night. No, I don’t want to date and get hurt again.” Recognize the pattern? It is like an auto-response.

Saying no keeps us safe. It tightens the cocoon around us, which may feel cozy, but ultimately can be restricting and unhealthy. The irony is we need change in our lives to grow, and change begins by saying yes.

While I often pride myself in being open-spirited and open-minded, I know I also sometimes feel like Eeyore, the donkey, reluctant to push outside of my comfort zone and I will default to no without any good reason.

I have come to recognize how seductive it is to say no and keep myself smaller, avoid conflict or hide behind serving others. Yet in the past few years, the catch phrase of “Just Say Yes” has become sort of a magical mantra for me.

I said yes to flying across the country to attend a conference back in 2017 when I was building a new business, despite the many challenges to get there. My desire to stay in my cocoon prompted me to walk out before the final keynote speaker started (the dude speaking was named Chip Conley). Yet, as I stepped out the door, something stopped me, made me say yes to turn around to sit in the front row.

As Chip spun his vision of becoming a modern elder and opening a midlife wisdom school, my entire body screamed YES! I knew this was part of my path somehow. When Chip mentioned inviting people to come down to Mexico for the beta program, I instantly said yes and emailed Chip before he got off the stage. I reflect now what my life would be like if I had said no that day and just left the venue to hang out in my hotel room.

Instead, I continued to say yes to following my purpose, even if I had no clear idea what that meant. I said yes to do whatever it took to get Baja, even if it meant changing my schedule three times to do so, and I went to MEA the following summer. Saying yes offers agency, clarity and confidence, even if we have no idea what is coming next.

Meanwhile, a fine gentleman named Steven Cardinale also found himself saying “no” to co-founder Christine Sperber about coming to MEA. After writing an email that said, “thank you very much, but no, I will not be coming,” five minutes later, a welcome email arrived with confirmation details to travel to the Baja campus. Steven was mystified. He thought he said no very clearly, yet upon re-reading the letter, the word “no” was not there.

He decided to just say yes.

Saying yes brought us there at the same time. The week was magical in so many ways, yet not particularly magical for the two of us, as we spent more time with other members of our group. Yet, somehow the magic of our cohort saying yes to connecting obsessively in the weeks after our return, evolved into deep and long-lasting friendships that continue to this day.

For Steven and I, friendship turned into shared entrepreneurial support, to an awakening of the deepest love we have ever known. We said yes to each step of meeting, falling in love, navigating a long-distance relationship, nurturing each other and our families, moving in together and getting engaged.

Today, Chip will officiate our wedding as Steven and I are saying the very best kind of YES to one another. When I return, I will have said yes to a new name as well. It may take awhile to get used to, so let me be the first to introduce you to Kari Cardinale. I hope that you can find a way to say yes, walk down to the front row of your life, and create a future beyond your imagination.

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

- Paulo Coelho


Kari Henley Cardinale is the SVP of Digital & Alumni Strategy at MEA, and the developer of our Online programs.

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