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Yea or Nay?

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

Did everyone grow up with a Magic 8-ball? God, I hope so! What a brilliant toy that has stood the test of time. I guess it could be referred to it as a classic today. Certainly a deserving candidate for the toy hall of fame in my opinion.

Whenever life got uncertain as an eight year old boy, which was pretty much every day, it was time to rummage in the toy chest to find the mysterious black orb. It was easy to use. Just shake it a bit while you formulated a question. And then let the floating triangle settle to the place where you could read the answer. As I see it, yes. Ask again later. Better not tell you now. Cannot predict now. Concentrate and ask again. Don’t count on it. It is certain. It is decidedly so.

Interesting that four of the eight possible answers were just a dodge. And of the answers that were answers, three of the four were in the affirmative. So the take away should have been - only ask questions that you want answered positively or that you don’t really need/want an immediate answer on anyway. A no response was statistically infrequent. The probability was a little less than 13% that you would get a negative directive.

As adults, we know better than the Magic 8-ball. From our experience, we have learned that “no” is the answer so much more often than one out of eight times. In fact, I know too many people that contend that “no” is disproportionately the answer to most of life’s questions. That is a glass half empty perspective, and one that I don’t subscribe to. But enough about me.

What if I told you that Pie is 100% reliable in giving the correct answer? Are you incredulous? Is that even possible? Nothing is ever 100%, right? I’m going to insist that a well crafted Pie will give you the right answer every time. I repeat, every single time. So here is how that can be true.

Let’s assume you’ve done the work to prep and prepare your Pie. It is full of slices that capture the important parts of your life and within each slice there are only entries that bring you joy. And you have come to realize that you don’t even have to actually do or be with the specific activity or person indicated on your Pie, to get a glimpse of that joy. Remember, just looking at your Pie and the entries should make you smile. So here is how you can use it as decision making tool.

When someone asks you to do something, you refer to your Pie. If the request isn’t captured in someway on your Pie, than the answer is “No”. And conversely, if the request is represented in someway on your Pie, than the answer is “Yes”. Let me give a couple of examples to clarify.

I’ve got a Giving Back slice of my Pie. It harbors all those activities that might make the world a better place during my lifetime or beyond. Typical entries might be volunteering for non-profit causes or serving on boards of organizations who are committed to a positive mission. Recently I received a phone call from the Executive Director of the Piedmont Environmental Alliance (PEA). The name or the organization gives away its reason for being. This is the group that organized and held the local Earth Day Fair in the community for the past two decades. I was fortunate to serve on the board of PEA for three terms of three years each. During that time the Fair grew exponentially. Plus, we were able to add environmental content to the middle school curriculum and to host an annual debate on an environmentally hot issue with high school students battling out the finals at the Fair in front of a large number of attendees. It was a great run for the organization and it was gratifying to be involved. When I stepped off the board, I wished my compatriots well. I can report that PEA has only grown in size and stature in our community.

So here is the scenario: One day the Executive Director reaches out to me to assist with an Earth Day Fair project, I had to say to her, “That is no longer on my Pie”. I wasn’t mean-spirited about it. I was simply clear that my nine year stint had exhausted the joy that I got from helping out this vital community organization. Importantly, I was able to tell her that I had shifted my energies to the Humane Society and was active on that board now. It felt good to be clear on where joy existed for me and even better to be able to say, “No” to her invitation. I realized I was no longer as vulnerable to saying yes (for all the wrong reasons) to one more commitment that didn’t meet my joy threshold.

So what about the scenario where something isn’t on your Pie, but perhaps it should be? As I alluded to previously, when my friend Tim suggested that I do more with my Pie to make it an offering to others, I had a smart-aleck response, “That isn’t on my Pie”. We laughed about that, but I conceded to Tim that I would think about his suggestion because in fact there might be joy available to me in sharing this tool.

Sure enough, several months later when I saw Tim again, I told him that doing more with my Pie was now on my Pie (I put it in the vocation/work slice). During the time that I was evaluating whether my answer was going to be yes or no, I listened/looked for clues that might inform my decision. Having a friend ask to have coffee to discuss Pie gave me a glimpse on how engaging this might be for both of us. When he wanted to create his own Pie and then called to follow-up to show me what he had prepared, I knew there was something here. Then I got a call from someone I didn’t know who said a friend of theirs suggested they contact me because they were at a critical point in their life and had heard that the Pie might be helpful to them. Without trying to make something more of my Pie than just a tool for myself, it was spreading organically. My decision to do more with my Pie had a quality of inevitability. If it was working for me and helping me claim more daily joy, then why not share it more broadly?

You can see how it would be easy to say “Yes” to things if they are already on your Pie. And perhaps, you can see how it would get easier to say “No” to things that aren’t and won’t be. Equally satisfying is keeping your “antenna up and on ” for joy ideas that come your way and aren’t on your Pie already. Then the trick is discerning whether you are willing to put the particular item on your Pie or not. Fluidity is important. Pie is rarely something that you lock in place. Rather than identifying slices then filling each sliver with specific items and being done with it, I hope you can see that items can come and go from your Pie as you become more discerning on what really brings you joy. There is no harm in adding items as they capture your imagination and no mistake in removing items when you decide that there isn’t joy there for you.

Here are some things to consider when you are deciding to add/delete an item from your Pie:

Do You Add it to Your Pie? The answer may be YES, if:

  • Thinking about the item makes you smile.

  • Writing the item down also makes you smile (a bigger smile as it becomes more real).

  • Discussing the item with a friend causes you to feel energized or perhaps, overly talkative

  • You are curious enough about the item to want to research it to learn more

  • You are infatuated with the “trappings” surrounding the item (e.g. related equipment, people also involved, locations where this can occur, etc.)

  • You have a sense of “knowing” that this item is completely in line with how you see yourself

The answer may be NO, if:

  • Thinking about the item doesn’t bring a smile. In fact it may bring a grimace.

  • Writing the item down doesn’t bring a bigger smile (instead, a bigger grimace)

  • You have no desire to discuss the item with a friend. Most likely, somebody asked you to “do it”, it feels obligatory and the truth is that it wasn’t on your Pie already

  • You aren’t curious about the item and have little interest in learning more about it.

  • None of the “trappings” surrounding the item interest you all that much

  • Finally, you have a sense of “knowing” that while you could say YES to this item (others may want you do do so), you don’t want to add it to your Pie. Your intuition is critical here. Be honest with yourself.

Let’s talk about the level of specificity that makes the best Pie. If your slices and items within each slice are amorphous the Pie won’t be very helpful in saying “yes or no” to new opportunities. Let’s look at another example.

A friend created a Pie with a Relationship sliver and wrote “male friendships” within the slice. Knowing this individual, I know his hope was to build a richer and deeper relationship with a group of guys - that’s where he saw a source of joy. Without getting on a soapbox, I bet many men would have a similar entry for their Pie if they were being honest with themselves. Close male relationships have been elusive in our overly competitive society. While it’s OK to talk about sports, work and women with other men, rarely do males find a pathway to deeper conversations on other topics that they care about. Without specificity on his Pie, someone could invite this friend to go out for drinks and wings at a sports bar once a month, and he might say Yes, all the time knowing that there isn’t going to be much joy in this for him.

So what if he got really specific? What if the item on his Pie read, ”Meet weekly with a diverse group of men where any topic is fair game for discussion?” I mean any topic - religion, politics, health challenges, our mortality, and of course, sports, work and women. This friend found a group that had come together for just this purpose. The group had met for over a decade every Monday night for an hour and a half. So he jumped in and found what he was looking for - male relationships. But the story doesn’t end there. Many of the men had spouses or significant others. There was some energy in getting the men together with the women once a month. So the Monday night group started a monthly hiking outing. And now each couple takes a stint at crafting the monthly outing. Where we go. Will we picnic after the hike is completed and where. Does it include a stop at a winery or brewery?

All of a sudden, a single Pie entry for male friendship has spawned a second entry which broadens the social circle. And the fact that it makes me smile just thinking about it is a clear indicator that these are Pie-worthy entries. So when this friend is asked whether he will show up for the weekly men’s gathering or the monthly couples hike he can clearly say Yes.

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