What It Takes

What It Takes

The YES Sign

By Callie Oettinger | Published: April 22, 2011

The Domino Project team should go with a YES sign—if it ever considers ditching its domino symbol.

The NO sign greeted everyone entering the retirement community my husband and I lived in just out of college.

We were young, broke, starting our first jobs and planning a wedding, so my husband’s grandmother pulled a few strings with the condo board, and—BOOM—there we were, in our early 20s, at least 60 years younger than the youngest retiree in the community, every day facing the NO sign in South Florida, the land of sun and fun.

I can’t remember everything on it, but some stand-outs:

NO Commercial Vehicles

NO Motorcycles

NO Loud Music

NO Backing In

Then there were all the unwritten NO’s. . . .

There was a group of women who spent a few hours a day standing in a circle in the pool, talking. I can still see their faces in my head, after my husband soaked them. The concrete around the pool was hot that afternoon, so he ran from his chair to the water and hopped in, thinking more about his feet than the women. As he emerged with a smile, he was met with anger from women who have their hair done once a week, hair sprayed into place above their sun visors. His refreshing dip gave them a bad hair day, which they accessorized with scary attitudes and evil eyes. I thought we were going to get kicked out.

Note to self: NO hair-wetting at the pool.

I used to wish for a YES sign. The Domino Project team became the YES sign.

Everything is YES.

Have a new idea? YES, let’s hear it.

Want to try something different? YES, let’s go for it.

Scared to do something new? YES, let’s work through it together.

YES. YES. YES.

Being honest here: There were a few NOs, but they came from me, Steve, and Shawn.

NO. We don’t like the cover. It is a depressing image. Where is the color and the title? And the words on the inside, what’s up with all the funky large type all over the place? That’s not how books are done. And it is really cool that General Electric is giving the e-book away for free, but why aren’t people able to download it right away? Why are you making them wait? Wouldn’t it be better to share as much as possible as soon as possible?

FREEZE FRAME.

In movies, this is where the scene freezes, and the narrator shares a little insight about what’s really going down. In this case, the narrator is the Domino Team and the narration goes something like this:

Book cover:

We could put an image and a title on it that everyone expects, which looks like every other book, blends into the mix and doesn’t stand out and looks “normal.”  Or we could put an image on the cover that’s realistic, of someone really doing the work, showing that work is hard, but—as only Van Gogh can do—peace can be seen in the hardness. We can give people an image they don’t expect, something that will make them think.

Funky large type:

We’re not underestimating the reader, assuming they need us to point out the pieces of importance. We’re mixing things up, offering a little more interest to each page, so each page is a surprise, rather than a block of unknown words.

Early access to free e-book, sponsored by General Electric:

Giving access to the Kindle edition before the book is available penalizes non-digital readers. On the day the book and e-book publish, thousands will receive the free eBook the same morning, as will many of those who pre-ordered the book. And those who want it, can buy it then, too. Having all of these people looking at it the same day, encourages a lot of talk and sharing.

The Domino Team was right.

I find myself staring at the image on the cover—just staring, lost in the work of the image.

And I find myself flipping through the pages, liking how things are changed up.

And end of day April 20, Do the Work was at #62 and The War of Art was at #52 on Amazon.

Pretty amazing for a new book and a ten-plus-years-old book that was shared via word-of-mouth reader support and online interviews —no traditional media or ads. Something else isn’t it?

There are tons of people on the team, but I want to talk about the one I’ve worked with the most—Ishita Gupta.

I can’t imagine a world without Ishita. She makes everything better. Here’s why:

When I don’t understand something, Ishita has patience and explains it to me.

When I push back and disagree, Ishita listens and then we have a conversation and find the best way forward.

When I’m late on getting something to Ishita, she gently nudges, never screams and/or sends angry e-mails.

When she takes a little extra time to do something, she owns it and doesn’t blame anyone else.

When we have a task to accomplish, there’s no negative competition. We work together.

When she’s cc’d on a ridiculous long strand of e-mails that she doesn’t need to be on, she never complains—never a catty e-mail saying someone is wasting her time and she doesn’t want to be included.

When I need more books to give away, she doesn’t say no, she says “how many?”

When I hear there might be a unique opp for coverage, she says “I’ll do it”—never, “I’m busy and that wasn’t in the original plans.”

She’s Positive. Fearless. Honest. Unique. Wonderful. She’s the real life YES sign.

When you’re trying to DO THE WORK, being surrounded by YES signs makes life good. And when the YES signs aren’t there, you have to go it alone.

I watched an episode of ESPN’s “Year of the Quarterback” special, titled “The Brady 6” the other night. One quarterback that was mentioned,  the narrator said he was good when he had the right players around him. But in Tom Brady’s case, he can make things happen without having all the right players. He can get it done even when the NO signs are on the field. And in that interview, he said he fights every day to be there, to be the one.

That’s what DOING THE WORK is about—doing things even when you are surrounded by NO signs and making yourself the YES sign.

I wish Ishita and I worked on everything together, but when we don’t, and I’m surrounded by NO signs, she inspires me and reminds me to think YES, to be the YES sign.


On a more serious note:

April 20, as I was excited about how well Do the Work was doing on launch day, I received news of the deaths of photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros—two individuals who went to extreme limits to DO THE WORK.

I had the honor of being introduced to Tim via Kanani Fong, And, of course, I knew him for the work he did on RESTREPO. It wasn’t until April 20 that I realized I had a connection to Chris.

I went to high school with Chris’ brother, Dean.

I moved around a bit as an Army Brat, and through all the moving and different people, Dean remained a stand out—Kind. Solid. Good. Funny. Smart. I always admired him, wishing my not-so-solid high school self could have been like Dean. And when we reconnected via Facebook, I was thrilled to see him doing well, to see pictures of his wife and child. But I didn’t know much about him, other than from seeing him at school those years ago and now on Facebook. April 20, I learned he has an older brother—Chris.

As I weighed the joy of pub day against the sadness of Tim’s and Chris’ deaths, I thought about how many people around us are doing the work, which we never stop to consider. I know Chris’ work and we have friends and colleagues in common, yet I never knew his relation to Dean, nor did I stop to consider what he was doing to provide us the images. And when we were younger, I didn’t see their family doing the work that nurtured two amazing sons.

Just as Ishita is a YES sign, so are Chris, Dean and Tim—people who inspire us by their actions, who do what needs to be done, to DO THE WORK.

Posted in What It Takes

13 Responses to “The YES Sign”

  1. Paul C
    April 22, 2011 at 4:37 am

    When Tom Brady was at Michigan, everyone said NO to him. No one wanted him to start at QB. The other QB was the High School National Player of the Year and hometown hero who threatened to transfer if he didn’t start. Every single mistake Brady made was ripped by the “traditional” media (who love him now). The coaches rotated him in and out and mistreated him more than any other QB in school history. Brady never sulked, threatened to transfer, or made excuses. He just would not take NO for an answer and kept saying YES.

    All of you are inspiring in your own way.

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 22, 2011 at 6:26 am

      Thanks for sharing this, Paul. “The Brady 6” piece talked about some of what he experienced at Michigan. Though I’m not a football fan, I am a sports fan and really enjoy stories about athletes. “The Brady 6” program was among the best I’ve seen in a while. Brady’s quotes kept me hooked into watching it. Total inspiration. I searched online for one of the quotes, to make sure I had the wording right. Couldn’t find it, but I did find these, which are stand-outs:

      “A lot of times I find that people who are blessed with the most talent don’t ever develop that attitude, and the ones who aren’t blessed in that way are the most competitive and have the biggest heart.”

      “Mentally, the only players who survive in the pros are the ones able to manage all their responsibilities.”

      “I think often times when you are successful, you think, ‘Oh, man, well, we must have done everything right,’ but the guys who are here, we realize that we’re always trying to improve and that’s no different this year, … Even in those [winning] years, we were not perfect in every phase.”

      ““We’ve done all the celebrating we needed to do from last year. We went to the White House, and we had ring ceremonies and parades and parties, and that’s all great and you appreciate those moments because you’re proud of yourself and the way you worked. But you do have to put it out of your mind because it’s not going to do anything for you next (season).”

      I like the last one in particular because that’s the one I fall into the most–and see others fall into, too–relying on past successes. In sports, there’s only that day. If you lose, no one cares if you won last week or that your were the champion the year before. It is all about that day, that game, that play, about being prepared and showing up, both mentally and physically, ready to rock and roll. And it looks like that is what Brady is doing – this from a non-football fan, who is now a fan of Brady’s.

      • Paul C
        April 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

        Callie,

        I didn’t see the news clip you just posted until now but the female reporter’s talking about the Michigan State game is exactly what I was referring to. I was rooting for Michigan State to beat Michigan, and they did. But there’s no way they would have won if Brady played the whole game. There’s was far more respect for Brady on the MSU side. The Michigan fans and media were too hung up on the superficial. I was mesmerized with his focus and his fundamentals. To me, that’s the foundation when doing your work. Focus and fundamentals.

  2. April 22, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Thanks Callie

    We love Ishita.

    You guys did a fabulous job on this book, and I’m thrilled it’s #2 on the Kindle now, the most popular non fiction ebook there is.

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 22, 2011 at 6:29 am

      Thanks, Seth! You – and the entire Domino Project team – have inspired and challenged us to view our past approaches/actions from a different angle. I’ve learned so much and appreciate every opportunity to learn more. Thank you for sharing with everyone, instead of keeping all you’ve learned to yourself. It’s all valuable and appreciated.

  3. April 22, 2011 at 6:04 am

    Great job to everyone on the DO THE WORK team. I’m reading it now before I start writing and it’s giving me chills and making me grin like a fool.

    If THE WAR OF ART is a battle cry and address to the troops, DO THE WORK is the battle plan.

    Thank you so much for these gifts.

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 22, 2011 at 6:31 am

      Thanks, Jeremy! The image on the DO THE WORK cover keeps making me “grin like a fool.” Now I need to stop staring at it, and get the work done! :) Thanks for your continued support!

  4. Wiz
    April 22, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Callie,
    I am a football fan but use a quote from Janet Jackson to remind me not to rest on past successes…”What have you done for me lately?” It still flows in my head with the catchy eighties riff. The “me” in the phrase represents the cynical,ever demanding world demanding more-more better-more efficient-more timely-more creative-more tougher-more-more-more-DO IT!

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 22, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      Wiz – That’s one I go back to, too. Janet did it right!

  5. April 22, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Despite all the yessing here — the book design remains ugly and much harder to read than it should be. I understand the the number of words was small and there was — thereby — a perceived need to bulk it up, but the bulking could have, should have, been done more gracefully.

    • Callie Oettinger
      April 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      Walter – Thank you for your feedback.

      • April 24, 2011 at 5:38 am

        I am a huge fan of white space and like the way the book is designed – very easy on the eyes. Reading on a screen is much different than a page, and I think your team did a great job pulling the reader through the content.

        When it doesn’t cost more to add pages, why not use all the space you want?

  6. May 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    Callie,

    I’m just catching up on my RSS Feeds so I’m late in coming to the Ishita praise party, but I wanted to say that I think she’s great too. I ran into her last week at a seminar given by Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte. She was so kind and supportive and down right huggable. I am definitely a fan of Ishita Gupta.