Book to Read - Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

In honor of the beautiful, sweet, and perfect finale of Parks and Recreation last night, I thought it was high time I write about Amy Poehler's new book Yes Please.

I am absolutely crazy about this book. It could be it just hit me at the right time - I read it at the end of 2014, on the cusp of motherhood, trying to decide where I wanted to take my career in entertainment, all while endeavoring to hang onto (and perhaps clarify) me as a person.

But it could also be that it's a lovely, wonderful book written by a badass woman for badass women, and it will be effective and revolutionary for all women in all stages of life to read. I hope so because I truly LOVED this book. I laughed. I cried. I re-read passages. I actively discussed (many times) with my friends who were reading it. I continue to reference it now (and in blog posts).

I don't think that it's the most well-written book I've ever read or anything like that. I mean, she's not a prose writer by trade. But that's ok! Because her ideas are so good. And her personality shines through and makes you feel as if she's talking to you. (Which, by the way, is one way you can experience this, if you want! My producer listened to the audiobook and said it was fantastic and well worth it.)

Here were some of my highlights and favorite topics...

Amy talks about beauty and how you view yourself as currency. Not like - use your beauty to get you places. More like - focus on what's working for you and go with that. She says, "Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier." What a terrifically simple idea, to focus on what's working for you, instead of pining over the thing(s) you lack.

This method works both externally and internally. As Amy says about her external beauty, "Improvisation and sketch comedy helped me find my currency. My plain face was a perfect canvas to be other people." And as she says about her internal beauty (or talents), "Writing gave me an incredible amount of power, and my currency became what I wrote and said and did."

Obviously all of the motherhood stuff really resonates for me right now. I loved the way she talked about pregnancy - "I loved being pregnant. I loved being at work and still feeling vital and busy while this extraordinary thing was happening inside me. I never felt alone. I always had a companion. I reveled in all the new space I was taking up. When your stomach is big you knock things over and everyone stays out of your path. I was big in brand-new ways and I felt very powerful and womanly." Yes yes yes! Being a short woman who demands attention and power, I absolutely agree with her! I feel how one of those old GOP dudes with their big beer bellies must feel all the time. I stand up with a grunt and pull my pants up, and I stride with confidence everywhere I go. It's great!

I loved the way she talked about the delivery itself; how everyone has a different birth plan and we need to be respectful of that. It's at this point in the book she first mentions the phrase "Good for you! Not for me." Which has totally revolutionized the way I look at everything everyone does ever. Seriously, this is such a great concept. At work, at home, with our children, out at a bar - let's stop looking at everything as either "right" or "wrong." It's just...different. It's just...choices. And everyone has 10,000 choices to make every day. Let's not get on each other so much for not always making the same choices as each other. In fact, she has a chapter on how different women handle motherhood and how sadly treacherous it can be. As Amy puts it, "We torture ourselves and we torture each other, and all of it leads to a lot of women-on-women crime."

The apologies section made me cry a lot. She tells a beautiful story about how she hurt someone with a sketch on Saturday Night Live, how long it took her to apologize, and the results of her final apology. It's beautiful and humbling and sweet and will make you blubber.

As most of you know, Amy is the lead (and a producer) on a show called Parks and Recreation. Oh, this show is so good! I'm so sad it's over, but the finale was truly delightful and satisfying. The Parks & Rec section of her book is fantastic, in large part because the co-creator, Michael Schur, writes tons of footnotes and thoughts on everything Amy says in the margins.

I cried, like, three times in this section. Not just because I love the show...I cried mostly because it's so clear how much these people all enjoy working together to create this piece of entertainment. Michael and Amy created the kind of environment I want to create on MY projects - positive, collaborative, encouraging, and kind. I'm jealous of their experience, but in a good, happy way. Now I have something to strive for.

ALSO, it's wonderful to hear that a good product comes from a positive process, too. So often in this industry we're tricked into thinking a painful process is the only way to get truly artistic, beautiful work. But that's just not true! And these guys proved it.

One chapter in Amy's book is titled Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend. Which I love. Her point is this - you have to care about your work but not about the result. "Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Your career won't take care of you. It won't call you back or introduce you to its parents..."

Amy distinguishes between career and creativity. She says it's important to always let your creativity flourish...but to not get hung up on the reviews, the results, or what others think of you. Here's how you can remember the difference between the two: "Career is the stringing together of opportunities and jobs. Mix in public opinion and past regrets. Add a dash of future panic and a whole lot of financial uncertainty...You will never climb Career Mountain and get to the top and shout, "I made it!" You will rarely feel done or complete or even successful."

This is something a lot of people in film and entertainment battle with all the time. And, for that matter, I'm sure folks in other industries feel the same. Sometime around ten years out of college, I think we all sit back and say, "What am I doing? What's the goal here?" And this is a great reminder to not have your career be the goal. You can't just plop yourself down at a company and let it take care of you. And you can't jump from job to job in an effort to climb that ladder as fast as possible because that's going to burn you too!

I think what Amy is trying to say is this - all you can do is try to remain inspired - and challenged - about what you do. And if you're doing that, you're going to be OK, no matter what other people say.


I'll warn you - I think some people were disappointed because the book is not necessarily a plea for love and affection. What I mean to say is, Amy doesn't come across as being like, "Yay! Look how cute and fun I am! Let's be friends!" She's much more like, "This is me, this is me for real, take it or leave it. And if we bump into each other on the street, don't act like we're besties just cuz you read my book." I loved this attitude, but I can also see how it would be off-putting, especially if you've fallen in love with her as her character Leslie Knope. You do want to be best friends with her!

Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, and Seth Myers on Weekend Update.
Anyway. I could go on and on, highlighting the bits of the book I loved. But then I would just be transcribing the entire book into this post, and that wouldn't do anyone any good now, would it? Just know there are other terrific sections on Saturday Night Live, the Upright Citizens Brigade, divorce, her wonderful organization Smart Girls at the Party, and much much more.

Check it out! It will help fill the Parks and Recreation-shaped void in your heart.