Saying ‘Yes, Yes!’ to the Power of Words
Nichols strode onto the catwalk-style stage wearing a long, embroidered dress, her braided hair cascading down her back. A thousand people had gathered in the dimly lit banquet hall to spend the day listening to professional speakers. My writing coach had given me a ticket to the event to celebrate the completion of my memoir‘s first draft.
That day, Nichols spoke to us about her childhood, the challenges of being a single mom, and her incredible business success. She walked up and down the stage addressing all members of the audience, even those of us seated way off to the side. She said her successes in life came when she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone.
Then she got the audience involved. Nichols told us to reach a hand up as high as we could. We all did as requested. Then, she asked us to reach even higher with the same arm. Everyone managed to inch their arms up slightly. Nichols look out into the crowd, paused, and then asked why we hadn’t reached as high to begin with.
She told us that only when we had reached our hand up a second time — saying, “yes” and “yes” again — would we find success in life. Success would come, she said, when we stepped beyond our comfort zone.
Nichols devoted the second half of her speech to pumping us up and encouraging us to follow our dreams. She strutted around in her high heels enthusiastically making declarations and gesticulating with her arms. She told us to shout, “Yes! Yes!” when we agreed with anything she said.
I don’t remember exactly what she yelled to the crowd, but her statements made me feel as though she could see into my heart and mind. “Yes! Yes!” I shouted along with the audience. It felt as if she understood how I was trying to see Huntington’s disease as a gift rather than a curse. How I have been trying to live a positive and meaningful life.
“Yes! Yes!” we shouted again. It was as if she understood what writing my book meant to me and how hard I had been working to find a publisher. How I was learning from my diagnosis and using my experiences to help others.
“Yes! Yes!” we shouted. As she continued, I felt tears in the corners of my eyes.
Then, she walked off the stage and made her way into the audience. She approached a man and held him by the hand. She looked into his eyes and spoke directly to him, telling him he was good enough just the way he was. She moved on to a lady on the other side of the room, telling her, “I see you, sister, and I love you.”
She gave the woman a hug before walking over to another woman seated directly in front of me. I don’t even know what she said to her because I was sobbing by that time, bowing my head down to avoid being seen on the camera that followed her around.
Somehow without ever having met me, Nichols seemed to understand every fear I had faced, and she validated them. She seemed to know every obstacle I had overcome and she praised me. She understood how hard I was trying, and she told me that I could do it. She believed in me.
When Nichols left the stage to the applause of the audience, I noticed I was not the only one looking for tissues to wipe away my tears. As everyone filed out of the room to grab lunch, I remained seated in an effort to compose myself.
I was emotionally exhausted, but her speech left me feeling more certain of myself. I was more confident in my decision to break away from my secrecy and share my experiences with Huntington’s. I was more confident in my book and trying to find a publisher. I was more confident in my purpose to positively impact other people’s lives by writing and speaking about Huntington’s.
I have never been in the presence of such a powerful speaker. If you ever get a chance to hear Nichols speak, don’t pass it up. Her words alone validated my purpose and renewed my drive to make a difference in the world. I know that my words, in my own way, can make a difference for someone else, too.
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