The power of yes

Mary Lieb


It’s just two letters.

One syllable.

Such a simple word, yet I have the hardest time saying it. And that combination of two letters shouldn’t be daunting, but the thought of a missed opportunity, a missed experience that could be used to serve someone else sounds positively terrifying.

On the other hand, yes brings whimsy and excitement. You never quite know what you’re going to get when the door to “yes” swings widely open and is embraced. It is this sense of wonder that has helped guide my time at the Capstone.

It seemed so easy for me to attend The University of Alabama and to go to class, to say “no” more often than “yes” and to graduate in four years. But that would also mean I would go to the University and not really gain a complete education. Because I was practicing the habit for “yes,” each day I learned more about the surrounding world and myself. I was fortunate enough to be graced with opportunities that I was able to accept, and to be surrounded by mentors and friends who accepted me. 

In asking, “What can we do to make this even better?” I was able to say, “yes” to arguably too many commitments. One of the most salient of these was managing the social media accounts and weekly newsletter of the Honors College. This became my simple contribution to a community of scholars that had given me a home and asked all the right questions. And furthermore, challenged me to ask the right questions of myself—of expectations I set, of relationships, and how I view the world around me.

All too often we glorify nastiness and make heroes of the ruthless. We’re enticed by the drama of who said what and who collected which award—and heaven forbid if they receive an honor over us. Over. Us. Who, of all people, are the most deserving?!

But what I discovered is that the greatest rewards of “yes” come in a different kind of package. The greatest honor is the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from a classroom to the benefit of an organization; it’s passing along hope to followers and providing an environment where other people can perform at their best. While the title of a leader isn’t presented on a golden plaque after you have accomplished a certain amount, it is saying “yes” to personal and professional development that will continue to serve others.

I have had the opportunity throughout my collegiate career to pursue ambitious projects with brilliant individuals. We have said, “yes” to the most insurmountable tasks, and we have started new programs and improved old ones. Together we have expanded our networks to redefine what leadership and service mean. Sometimes we try and change the world, but fail to recognize that there is no world. There are only seven billion understandings of it. But if we can change one person’s understanding of what they’re capable of, and how powerful of a change agent they can be in someone else’s life, we have changed the whole thing.

And if we can understand our world like that, and redefine what our community values, I think we can accomplish anything.

With one simple word.


Mary Lieb is a senior majoring in advertising and communication studies. She served as Honors College president, SGA director of Communication, and received the Morris Lehman Mayer Award. After graduation, she will pursue a master’s degree in communication studies at The University of Alabama.