Yes Man

Yes Man

4.3 28
by Danny Wallace

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Recently single, Danny Wallace was falling into loneliness and isolation. When a stranger on a bus advises, "Say yes more," Wallace vows to say yes to every offer, invitation, challenge, and chance.

In Yes Man, Wallace recounts his months-long commitment to complete openness with profound insight and humbling honesty. Saying yes takes Wallace into a new


Recently single, Danny Wallace was falling into loneliness and isolation. When a stranger on a bus advises, "Say yes more," Wallace vows to say yes to every offer, invitation, challenge, and chance.

In Yes Man, Wallace recounts his months-long commitment to complete openness with profound insight and humbling honesty. Saying yes takes Wallace into a new plane of existence: a place where money comes as easily as it goes, nodding a lot can lead to a long weekend overseas with new friends, and romance isn't as complicated as it seems. Yes eventually leads to the biggest question of all: "Do you, Danny Wallace, take this woman . . ."

Yes Man is inspiring proof that a little willingness can take anyone to the most wonderful of places.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of those rare books that actually has the potential to change your life." -- San Francisco Bay Guardian

"[Danny Wallace is] as funny as Bill Bryson used to be." -- Independent on Sunday (London)

"Wallace is a Generation X legend." -- Wisconsin State Journal

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Gallery Books
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5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: In Which the Story Begins

It is quite incredible how a bus -- a simple, red, London bus -- can change your life.

There were other reasons for why what happened eventually happened, of course. I'm not saying it was all about the bus. But the bus was pretty high on the list. Or, more accurately, the man sitting next to me on the bus. Here he is, right now, flicking through his Evening Standard, checking his cheap, black watch, mere moments after uttering a sentence that, quite without him knowing, has had the most unexpected effect on me.

It's like one of those moments in a cartoon, when a second of complete and total revelation hits an unenlightened fool, a moment in which they're bathed in a golden light from the heavens above; their face a picture of comfort; the only sound the chorus of a thousand angels.

Of course, real life isn't quite like that. I'm on a crowded bus in the East End of London, for a start, and so the only thing I'm bathed in is an unpleasant mist of sweat and coughs.

But it's still an epiphany. And I'm still smiling from what I've heard, smiling from what I've learned. I start to wonder whether anyone else is feeling the same. So I sneak a chance to glance around. To see if one of my fellow passengers has been struck by the man's simple message; his message of hope and optimism and all the things I hadn't realised I'd been losing sight of.

But no one has. Not that I can see, anyway. That's okay, though. There's time for them.

Because this man next to me...this man has changed everything.

"Maybe it was Jesus," said Ian, putting his pint down on the table. We were in the Yorkshire Grey, and Ian was a bit drunk. "Or maybe it was Buddha! I'd love to meet Buddha. He looks like a right laugh. What did this bloke look like? If he had a beard, it was probably Jesus, and if he had a belly, it was probably Buddha."

"He had a beard, but it wasn't a Jesus beard."

"A belly, then?" he said with what looked like real hope in his eyes. "Did he have a Buddha belly?"

"I'm fairly sure he wasn't Buddha, either. This was an Indian bloke. His name was Medhi, or something."

"'Medhi' sounds a bit like 'Jesus.'"

"No, it doesn't. And it wasn't Jesus. What would Jesus be doing in Bethnal Green?"

"There are some nice pound shops in Bethnal Green."

"Jesus is the son of God, Ian, he doesn't need discount shops."

"Cor, imagine the pocket money you'd get if you were the son of God."

"Ian...I'm trying to tell you about my life-changing moment, and you're going on about Jesus in a pound shop."

"Sorry, go on. So there was this bloke on a bus last week, who wasn't a deity or a son of God, and then there was also your diary?"

Yes. There was also my diary. High up on the list, right under the bus, was my diary. A diary I had only started because I was afraid I would forget all the wonderful things I was doing. All the dazzling, crazy, hazy times. The important times, the carefree times, the times I'd look back on as the times of my life. Only when I flicked through it did I realise there was nothing to forget. Or, rather, nothing worth remembering.

Things had been different last year. Last year was a year of adventure. Of fun. Of friends. Six months into a new year I'd slowly begun to realise that all my stories were about last year. All my memories, too. I'd been cruising on past glories, dining out on better times. Well, that's not strictly true. Not true at all. I'd been dining in on them.

For a number of months I'd been labouring under the impression that everything in my life was fine. I was a single man in his midtwenties, living in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Turns out I was a single man in his pants, sitting in his flat.

It had happened to me once before, this strange sense of midtwenties crisis, but it had happened when I'd lacked direction. These days I had direction. Plenty of it. But the direction was down.

In my mind I was one of London's young, thrusting urbanites. In my mind I was always on the go, always had somewhere to be, always in the thick of things. I thought I was like something out of an advert. I probably even thought I had a moped.

I couldn't have been more wrong. Especially about the moped.

And this is what I would finally realise after I got home from talking to the man on the bus.

I'd ended up talking to the man on the bus quite by chance.

It was, until that moment, just another day working in the West End, followed by just another dash to the Tube station in what was just another hopeless attempt to beat the rush hour and get home without spending an hour on a crowded train with my cheeks pressed up against a stranger's nipples, receiving severe paper cuts every time they turned a page of their book.

We'd been standing, me and this man, waiting for the Central Line train to take us from Holborn to the East End, when the announcement had spluttered and stuttered its way over the tannoy. It was a security alert. We were being asked to leave. Our journeys home had just gained an hour. We'd be shunted and squeezed onto buses outside and driven home, very slowly during rush hour, on a rainy, rainy London night.

The man and I had raised our eyebrows at each other and smiled in a "what's the world coming to" way, but other than that we didn't say a word to each other. We'd simply started to walk up the stairs and out of the station, like the good, old-fashioned, obedient British citizens we were.

"Nice weather for this!" said the man as we jogged through a slanting rain and flashed our travel cards at the bus driver. I ha-ha'ed, probably a little too ha-hard, and we joined the seething masses on board the bus.

After ten minutes and three stops, we found seats for ourselves, and after another ten, we had begun to chat.

"Where are you headed?" I'd asked.

"Aldgate," he'd replied.

The man, as it turned out, was a teacher.

And he was about to teach me.

"So, what did he teach you?" said Ian.

"I'll tell you in a minute."

"Tell me now. I want to know what kind of wisdom he imparted on you that's caused you to summon me here."

"I didn't 'summon' you here."

"You sent me an e-mail saying that your entire life had changed and that you wanted to meet up."

"That's hardly summoning. I was more saying 'Do you fancy a pint?'"

"Great. I do. Thanks."

I sighed, stood up, and went to get us a round.

Now that I think about it, my downward spiral had probably started after I'd been dumped by my girlfriend last autumn. It was a shock to the system, a body blow that had really changed things.

But don't go thinking I'm all hung up on an ex-girlfriend. This isn't one of those stories of obsession and regret and of trying to get back together. I've never been someone who would have made an effective stalker, for one thing, lacking as I do both the necessary energies and a decent pair of binoculars.

It's just that being dumped suddenly puts time into perspective. I'm not saying my three years with Hanne were wasted, because they weren't; they were great and warm and loving. I'm just saying that at the end of any relationship you take a long, hard look at the years that have gone by and say "What now?"

So I did three years of growing up in two weeks. I returned to the world of freelance employment as a radio producer at the BBC. I got a mortgage. And a pension. I started to shop at Habitat and IKEA. I experimented with new and exciting pastas. I bought a colander and some air freshener and a fountain pen. I learned how to iron. I even bought a plant.

Most of these were small changes. But soon, quite without my knowing, I developed a certain satisfaction for staying in. For pottering about and tinkering with things. For slouching, and napping, and channel hopping. Soon that was all I wanted to do. And so I became the man who could wriggle out of any prior engagement. Who could spot an invitation coming a mile away and head it off at the pass. The man who'd gladly swap a night down the pub for just one whiff of an episode of EastEnders. The man who'd send an e-mail instead of attend a birthday. Who'd text instead of call, and call instead of visit. I became the man who'd mastered the white lie. The man who always had an excuse. The man who always said no.

And I was perfectly happy. Perfectly happy to be me, myself, and ironing. Perfectly happy until that night on that bus, next to that man.

"Okay. So, there was a man," said Ian. "And you sat next to him. So far this isn't really what you'd call a classic anecdote."

"But it's what he told me that was important, Ian."

"Yes, it sounds it. But what did he say? What was it that he actually said that changed things? Because right now all I know is that a man said something to you."

"Have patience."

"He said, 'Have patience'?"

"No, that's what I said, just then. What he said was more important."

"But what was it?"

It was my friends who'd noticed it first. They'd noticed I'd changed, or that I just wasn't around as much as I was, or that I was just saying no a lot more often.

There were the odd nights down at the pub, of course, and I always agreed that we should do it more often, but it just never seemed to be the right night. I was too tired, or there was something I wanted to watch, or I just felt like being alone. I couldn't put my finger on it. The weird thing was, it didn't make me sad. Not while it was happening, anyway. It only made me sad when I finally realised the effect it was having on my friendships; on the friends I was letting down or annoying or disappointing or even losing.

But at the time I just didn't notice it. The sad fact is, saying no had become a habit.

"Aha! I knew it!" said Ian, pointing his finger slightly too close to my face. "I knew you were always making excuses!"

"I know. And I'm sorry."

"That night when you said you couldn't come out because you'd won a competition to meet Lionel Richie, was that an excuse?"


"How about that time you couldn't come out because you said you'd accidentally reversed all your leg joints?"

"That was quite obviously a lie. And I'm sorry. But there will be no more excuses. Honestly, Ian, I'm a changed man."

"Jesus, Dan...that night I sent Hanne to your house, you acted all offended, when she even suggested you were making up excuses!"

Ian had become concerned that I wasn't going out enough anymore. So he'd decided to take matters into his own hands. Every couple of days there'd be another idea, or invitation, or suggestion for a night out. He'd send me e-mails, and text me, and leave grumpy messages on my answerphone.

"Danny," he'd say. "I know you're there. How do I know you're there? Because you're always there. You're not picking up because you're scared I'll invite you out, which I'm going to do anyway. We'll be at the pub at eight. I look forward to receiving your standard text message, saying you can't make it, and you're sorry, and we should have fun. Bye."

And then I'd get all hoity-toity and text him, and write i'm not in actually. i'm out. but i can't make it, so i'm sorry and have fun. And then I'd realise that he'd left the message on my home phone, and that to have heard it I would have to have been in. And then I'd blush, and he'd text back and call me a wanker.

But then one evening Ian had bumped into Hanne and shared his concerns. That Friday night she'd turned up unannounced at nine or ten o'clock, carrying a bottle of wine.

"So what's going on?" she said, using her hand to brush some stale rice off the sofa and taking a seat.

"How do you mean?"

"You. What's happened to you?"

Hanne filled some glasses, while I considered her question. I didn't know what she meant. I checked myself in the mirror to see what could possibly have happened to me. Maybe someone had painted a tiger on my face or tied balloons to my ears.

"Nothing's happened to me, Hanne."

"Well, I suppose that's true."


"What I mean, Dan, is that nothing's happened to you. Nothing does, anymore, apparently. Your friends are worried. Where have you been for the past six months?"

"Here," I said, confused. "I've been right here!"

"Precisely. You've been here. Where were you on Steve's birthday?"

"I was...busy!" I lied, trying desperately to remember what excuse I'd used that time. "I went to a women-and-war exhibition."

I never said they were good excuses.

"Okay. And where were you when everyone else was at Tom's stag night?"

"Again, busy. I'm very busy, Hanne. Look at me."

I don't know why I asked Hanne to look at me. It's not as if I looked particularly busy. I was just a man standing up.

"You're no more busy than your friends. We've all got jobs, Dan, but we all find time to do other things, too. You've cut yourself off, and we're concerned. You don't have fun anymore."

"I do! I have loads of fun! And I have loads of fun new hobbies!"

"Like what?"

I struggled to find an answer. Of course I had fun! Surely I did! I just couldn't think of any examples right now. Hanne had put me on the spot, that was all. But there must be something I enjoy doing.

"I...enjoy toast," I said.

"You enjoy toast," said Hanne, who, because she is Norwegian, likes to be matter-of-fact about things.

"Yes, but not just toast," I said defensively. "Other things, too."

"Like what?"

My mind raced. What else was fun?

"Theme parks."

"Right," said Hanne. "So you've been eating toast and going to theme parks, have you?"


"For six months."

"On and off."

"You hate theme parks," she said. "So, which theme parks?"


"Which theme parks have you been going to?"

I think she may have been on to me. I looked around the room, desperate for inspiration.



I cleared my throat. "Shelf Adventure."

"Shelf Adventure?"


Hanne took a sip of her wine. So did I. Of my wine, I mean, not hers. Taking a sip of her wine would have spoiled the atmosphere.

"Any others?" she finally said. I could tell she thought she was going to enjoy catching me out. "Or was it just Shelf Adventure?"

"So, you were making Shelf Adventure up too! I knew it!" said Ian.

"Of course I was making Shelf Adventure up! How many adventures can you have with a shelf?"

"I couldn't find a thing about it on the Internet. Hanne knew you were lying too, you know."

"I guessed that she probably had," I said.

"And then what happened?"

"Is this about us, Dan?" said Hanne, getting her stuff together in the hallway. "Because we split up?"

I didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything at all.

"It just seems like you're doing all the things that I would once have loved you to do...the job, the mortgage, the staying in more. You're not doing this...for me, are you?"

I smiled gently. "No, Hanne. Don't worry."

"Because you know that now we've split up, you can do all the things that used to annoy me? You can come home drunk whenever you like, and you can do as many stupid boy projects as you want."

"It's not about us, Hanne..."

"Because you know that just because you've changed doesn't mean we're going to get back together, don't you?"

"I know."

"Even if you did buy handwash for the bathroom."

"I know," I said.

"And you can't mend a relationship with a garlic crusher."

"Is that a Norwegian proverb?"

"No. I'm referring to the new garlic crusher in your kitchen."

"I didn't even know it was a garlic crusher. And no, I know you can't mend a relationship with a garlic crusher. To be honest I don't even know how you crush a garlic with one."

"Okay, then," said Hanne, opening the door to leave. "But, listen. You should make more of an effort. It's time you got back out there. It's time you stopped making excuses and saying no to everyone. Because you're not just saying no to your friends -- you're saying no to yourself."

I paused for a second to place the quote. "Dawson's Creek?"

"Yep," said Hanne.



"Look, Dan," said Ian. "Will you just tell me what this fucking bloke on the bus said to you, or should I make another appointment?"

"Okay, I'll tell you."

I put my pint down on the table and looked Ian in the eye. "He said: 'Say yes more.'"

I picked my pint up again and took a sip. I raised my eyebrows to show Ian he should be impressed, but for some reason he still appeared to be waiting for more. That's the problem with the MTV generation. Never satisfied.

"Is that it?" he said. "'Say yes more'?"

"Yep," I said, smiling. "That's it."

The sentence had tripped off the man's tongue like he'd been saying it all his life.

"Say yes more," he'd said.

"Say yes more," I'd repeated. Three little words of such power.

"The people without passion are the ones who always say no," he'd said moments before, and I'd turned, stunned, to listen.

"But the happiest people are the ones who understand that good things occur when one allows them to."

And that was that.

That was all it took to turn my life on its head. A few choice sentences from a complete and utter stranger. A stranger on a bus. And a bearded stranger, at that. This went against everything I held as true. If there was one lesson that had been drummed into me as a kid, it was never listen to a bearded stranger. I'll be honest; it was a fairly odd moment for me. I felt like Danny, from the movie Karate Kid, sitting next to Mr. Miyage. One minute we'd been idly chatting about this, about that, and about what we'd done with our weeks, and the next this thin and bearded man had dropped a philosophical bombshell.

I couldn't work out whether it was just coincidence. Whether his words were really intended for me, whether they truly reflected on our conversation, or whether they were just the throwaway ramblings of some bloke on a bus. If I'd been in another mood, I might just have laughed them off, or buried my head in my newspaper, or politely ignored them. But with my friends' concerns, and everything that had happened -- or, in a way, everything that hadn't happened -- the words took on a strange and important resonance.

Say yes more.

And that was when I had my revelatory moment.

"That is the stupidest bloody thing I have ever bloody heard," said Ian, ever the diplomat. "Some drunk bloke on a bus mutters something oblique, and you claim it's changed your life? Bollocks. How come you never listen to me when I'm drunk?"

"Because when you're drunk, you usually talk about us buying a caravan and moving to Dorset."

"Oh, we should, though, just think of the..."

"And anyway, he wasn't drunk. We'd been talking about what we'd been up to in the week. He seemed very interested."

"And what did you tell him?"

"I told him I'd been staying in a lot. Not doing much. Having early nights."

"And that was all?"

"Pretty much."

And it was. The simple fact of the matter was that this man would probably have had no idea of the impact of his words. I surely was just someone who wanted to make a decision, who deep down wanted to make a change. His words were just the catalyst that kick-started me into action. I wish I could claim that he was a shaman or some kind of spiritual figure, sent into my life at that time to push me over the edge. And as much as I'd like to believe that, the fact is he was probably just a bloke on a bus. Just like the next bloke you'll sit next to on a bus. But chatty. And wise.

"He doesn't sound much like Jesus to me," said Ian. "Apart from the beard."

"I never said he was Jesus!"

"Or Buddha, for that matter. Buddha would've probably just smiled a lot. Or taken you to a nice restaurant. That's the thing about Buddha; he knows how to have a good time."

"Ian, listen. It wasn't Jesus. Or Buddha. It was just some bloke on a bus."

"So, why are you taking him so seriously?"

"Because he was right. And you were right. And Hanne was right. But the thing is, none of you knows how right you were!"

"So, what are you saying? Just that you're going to start saying yes more? That's hardly an announcement."

"I'm going to say yes to everything."

"Everything? What do you mean, everything?"

"I mean, I'm going to say yes to everything from now on."

Ian looked shocked. "When do you start?"

"That's just the thing," I said, finishing my pint and looking him dead in the eye. "I already have."

Text copyright © 2005 by Danny Wallace

Meet the Author

Danny Wallace is a cult leader, a producer, and a comedian. He is the author of the number one British bestseller Join Me, which is currently being adapted for film. BBC America recently and bizarrely dubbed him "one of Britain's most respected journalists," but perhaps Playboy had a more accurate description of him: "F***ing brilliant." He is twenty-seven and lives in an old match factory in London.

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Yes Man 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hilarious. I mean it. It's laugh-out-loud, soda-through-your nose, can't-catch-your-breath funny. It feels like you're sitting across from him at the pub, listening to him tell the story himself (complete with funny faces and wild gestures). I bought this book and 'Join Me' in London, and actually decided to leave a pair of shoes there so I could fit them both in my suitcase for the trip home!
PixieDuracell More than 1 year ago
it is utterly amazing, witty and a load of laughs. i could not put this book down, i finished it in two sittings!!!!i laughed out loud so many times my family had begun to think i was mental, this book makes so much sense and really everyone should read a story like this one. i cannot believe that this book and the events in it came to pass just because Danny Wallace started saying YES more, he is a truly remarkable person, and hopefully i can work with him at the BBC sometime in the near future hahahaha a true comedic triumph.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Danny Wallace writes with a straight-forward, silly, depreciating, and gently insightful voice. This book is absolutely amusing but unexpectedly inspiring, too. I have shared it, as well as his previous books Join Me and Are You Dave Gorman? [written with Dave Gorman], with a number of friends all of whom have been similiarly enchanted by Wallace, a man who really wants little more from life than a nice cup of tea.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a sublimely funny book. I picked it up when I was over in England recently and will be buying several copies when it's released here soon. Danny makes you want to say... YES!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Help. I tried to purchase but there is some problem. I bought 3 other books and they worked
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TogetherForGood More than 1 year ago
and I loved this book!
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Amber Smith More than 1 year ago
You know how books are better than the movie? Well this is definately the case here. Great story full of little adventures making up the big adventure with an even greater moral. I loved his wit and sense of humor. I can't think of enough wonderful things to say. Loved it!!
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the book begins with danny wallace (the author) and he is a man who usually says no to things before thinking about it. his friends (some names were changed so privacy or cause they thought it would be cool) are oblivious about his quest for yes. lizzie is his australian "girlfriend" who moves quite alot in the story.ian is his friend whos always at the pub for a drink and a talk, he is the only one who knows what danny is up to. hanne, danny's ex, has a surprise in the book. many other people in the book too, including: a monk,hypno dog,some austrians, a starburster group, maitreya,and an arch enemie. The conflict in the story is external, man vs self. danny wallace is stuck in his own life and meets a man on a bus who simply tells him to say yes more and then danny has a world of opportunity. the most exciting part is when danny meets, his arch enemie, a noman to his yesman, The Challenger. the challenger give danny things to do so he will stop being a yesman.there is humor in the book many times, danny does many things you wouldnt expect him to do like trying to get a monk mad by poking him over and over or giving his phone number to everyone in england.he is also sent to stonehedge and stonehedge 2.the book over all is great.the humor in it makes you want to keep reading for hours and it is very insperational. the feel of all the opportunities that come from one single word is amazing and at time very unexpected.i would recomend this book for anyone it helps lighten a word that could change your life forever is YES.
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EmpressLay More than 1 year ago
Of course, when I saw the trailer for the movie I was immediately hooked on the clever idea of saying YES, but when I stumbled into a bookstore and saw that it the actual autobiography of a real man, I was even more intrigued. You feel as if you, too, are on the Yes Man adventure from the first page and you root for this peculiar English Man while he forces himself to break his paralyzing habits and live life the way its meant to be lived. His pledge to say yes to EVERYTHING indeed puts him in some verrrry bizarre situations but only makes for an even more thrilling read. I recommend this book to any and everyone who's too very used to saying NO to things, both the good and bad, in and outside of our comfort zones; it teaches the wisdom that some of the best things in your life only happened because you said YES to it.. But although Danny Wallace has made his Yes Pledge, he still proves to be "only human" which makes this story even richer...but besides all that, he's "bloody funny" and provides a quick & easy engaging read. Just keep in mind, that Danny Wallace wasn't different from the rest of us and our routine lives when he got inspired and found the courage to say YES... Will You !?
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