What Don’t You Want?

I am currently reading Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please. I believe that comedians/people who work in comedy are some of the smartest people, at least from a socially smart perspective. They observe, notice and comment on life in ways that make everyone else laugh because they are so damn true and you had never really thought about it until they said it.


So, it isn’t surprising that Amy has little golden bits of insight and advice and that some of this has ended up in her book. I’m not going to list out all the great things Amy has said, suffice to say it includes such gems as Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it” (which is brilliant yet terrifying advice that everyone should remember). What I am going to do is talk about something she wrote that has stuck with me;

“I think we should stop asking people in their 20s what they “want to do” and start asking them what they don’t want to do. Instead of asking students to ‘declare their major’ we should ask students to ‘list what they will do anything to avoid’. It just makes a lot more sense.”

When I read this, I laughed because it was so damn true and I had never really thought about it. In fact, I’ve given so little thought to what would be on my list of ‘what I will do anything to avoid’ that when I read those words, I was stumped. I stopped reading and started thinking.

Why had I never put any real thought into what I don’t want? When I am smack bang in the middle of my 20’s, a time notorious for figuring out what you’re doing with your life, I never stopped to consider tackling it from the opposite angle. Knowing what you want is hard. Truthfully, there are a lot of opportunities and things I would be happy to do, so of course it’s hard to know what I really want to do – my dream job might not even exist yet! But if I know what I want to avoid, then surely the path to getting where I’m meant to be will be easier, with less unwanted pit stops on the way.


I imagine a lot of these lists include “not settling in one place”, “no 9-5 office role” and “don’t want to work for somebody else” but none of those things would crack my list. The things I want to avoid at all costs might be a bit more subtle, I don’t know – I’m still working on it. But that’s the best part – I am working on it! This was a new idea to me, a new way of thinking and something to try to learn from. And no matter who you are, I really believe one of the best things you can do in life is to keep on learning. So thanks, Amy, for your words of wisdom that have taught me to look at life from a different angle. What more could you want from a book?

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