I’ve Never Regretted Saying Yes
By: Nina Ries
Epsilon Psi, University of California – Irvine
Alumna Appreciation Award Recipient
Although I typically write on the subject of business and real estate matters, there is an overarching issue that impacts us all.
There seems to be tremendous focus on being “busy” – and the most popular answer these days to “How are you?” seems to be “Busy.” Unfortunately, many seem to think that, because they are “busy,” they can be justified in declining additional responsibility, exploring new opportunities, taking on a new venture, volunteering or joining an alumnae group. I firmly believe that this is a mistake. And this mistake can cost you both personally and professionally.
I’ve never regretted saying yes. This is a refrain I hear often.
After graduating from law school, I went to work for a litigation boutique in Downtown Los Angeles where I delved into the world of complex business litigation and multi-faceted real estate disputes. Eventually, I joined a larger firm doing the same thing, but also added transactional work to my practice. During my career, I have received excellent training and had terrific mentors who were invested in my success, as well as some role models and teachers who may not have realized their impact on me. One thing that really stands out to me about my own path – and that of my most successful colleagues – is that in order to really learn and grow, you must be inspired to stretch yourself, to challenge yourself and to expand your horizons. Each of my mentors advised me to say yes to new opportunities from the earliest stages of my career, and they were right. I started off saying yes to projects to gain experience and a competitive edge over my contemporaries. Some of those projects were exciting while others were less so, but all of them were educational, and all expanded my capabilities and my marketability. Indeed, I use my experience as a litigator to draft deal documents designed to reduce the risk of litigation, offering value added to my clients and shaping my entire practice for years to come.
Saying yes to opportunities also extended into my personal life. Saying yes has led to incredible travel stories. I’ve made countless interesting friends by saying yes to opportunities with my alma mater. So when it came to involvement with Alpha Chi Omega’s local alumnae group, the only answer was yes – and my involvement has paid dividends in the form of new business opportunities, new friendships and the forging of a stronger, deeper connection with my fellow alumni. I’ve also had an opportunity to pay it forward to collegians as a way of thanking the alumnae who helped support my chapter when I was a collegian.
At 18, I didn’t appreciate the lifetime of fun, friends and experiences that awaited me — not just for the next four years, but for a lifetime. I’m thankful that membership in Alpha Chi Omega continues through every stage of our lives. Through the alumnae experience, Alpha Chi has always met me where I was. When I was a young alumna living on the Westside of Los Angeles, Gamma Theta Gamma (South Bay and Westside) offered fun events that I wouldn’t have otherwise had time to plan for myself, interesting meetings featuring speakers on a variety of topics that left me smarter than when I had walked into the room, a trusted group of girlfriends for referrals to doctors and service providers and networking opportunities for career advancement. As I gained more experience and became more settled in my geographic area and career, Alpha Chi offered stress relief and support — in spades! My current alumnae chapter (Alpha Kappa Alpha in Pasadena, California), counts as its members alumnae fresh out of college and those who have received their 75-year pins. At our meetings and events, we paint, learn to cook healthy recipes from a trained chef, we taste test dark chocolates and tea, we host speakers on topics ranging from health and well-being to a New York Times best-selling author, we learn about wine and cheese-making, discuss books and – of course – socialize. Through it all, my life has been enriched, I have learned about a variety of topics, I have made friends with incredible women who I probably would never have otherwise met, and I have an ever-growing list of local activities to try and places to visit, all recommended by my sisters. Best of all, over the years, I have met alums from other chapters whom I am lucky to count as some of my best friends — all because of this shared bond. I’m so thankful for it.
Many people ask how one could possibly juggle being a professional, a parent, and a volunteer all at once. My fellow volunteers are doctors, lawyers, engineers, real estate investors, investment bankers, medical researchers, teachers and executives. Most work full time (or more), and all of us have children and family obligations. We take on what we can at the time. During a recent conversation involving about a dozen of us, we all recognized that we have grown both personally and professionally from the experience. So I urge you: join an alumnae chapter and get involved – whether it’s by attending meetings once a month, volunteering as a hostess for a meeting, coordinating a group outing or serving as an officer. You owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities that await you and to take advantage of the opportunity for growth. Your professional success and your personal fulfillment will be the better for it. And I promise you’ll meet some of the most amazing women you’ve ever met through your participation. See you at an Alpha Chi event very soon!