Making Life Even Better (#744)

There’s a famous scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan’s character orders lunch, much to the bemusement of her best friend, played by Billy Crystal:


Hi, what can I get ya?

Harry: I’ll have a number three.

Sally: I’d like the chef salad please with the oil and vinegar on the side and the apple pie a la mode.

Waitress: Chef and apple a la mode.

Sally: But I’d like the pie heated and I don’t want the ice cream on top I want it on the side and I’d like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it’s real if it’s out of a can then nothing.

Waitress: Not even the pie?

Sally: No, just the pie, but then not heated.



While there is certainly a time and a place to simply “get what you get” and move on, at some point I noticed that for me, taking what’s on offer (or more often, walking away) had become an almost pathological pattern.  If what was presented on the “menu of life” wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I’d say “no” without it ever occurring to me that I might be able to get it with the strawberry ice cream on the side.

Yet I also recognized that more often than not, with a slight variation, what’s on offer would become what I wanted.  And surprisingly often, when I’m willing to “order off the menu”, the universe is quite happy to serve it up exactly the way that works best for me.

For example, earlier this year, I ran the first ever Supercoach Academy in New York City.  In my mind, it was going to be a one-off event – get some of the best coaches in the world together to teach an international audience how to make their living by transforming lives. I had a list of reasons not to do it again, the main one being that I want to spend more time at home with my family and traveling to NYC for four or five days each month didn’t really help with that.  The only problem was that for all my reasons to say “no”, I absolutely loved doing it – putting it together, teaching on it, learning from the other “supercoaches”, and watching the magic happen in the room.

Those of you who are familiar with me and my work will no doubt be aware that my decision making criteria in life by and large consists of asking myself “do I want to?”  If the answer is yes, I do; if the answer is no, I tend not to.  The problem, of course, comes when the answer is not a clean “yes” or “no”, but more of a “maybe/kind of/sort of”.

While my default way of handling “maybe” is to redefine it as a “no for now” (see the short video God and the Chocolate Ice Cream for more on this), I’m learning to add in a follow up question that encourages me to at least consider some possibilities that might not appear to be “on the menu”:

What would have to be different for this to be a no-brainer yes?

So when I asked myself if I wanted to do run another Academy in 2011 and the answer was “maybe”, instead of walking away and leaving it I instead explored what would have to be different for me to answer with an unabashed and unapologetic “yes”.  And I realized that, obvious though it may seem to me now, the only thing that would really need to change was for us to do it in Los Angeles.  And so it is.  And despite my having been absolutely convinced that no one would fly all the way to LA six times in six months, we’re already 80% full with more paid attendees than in 2010, flying in from as far away as Australia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

Here’s another version of the “off the menu” question I sometimes ask myself and clients:

What would be even better than that?

Ironically, just as I was writing that question, the phone rang and our piano teacher called to confirm that he would be coming to work with us later this afternoon at our usual lesson time.  Which happens to be at the same time as the football game.  So when I asked myself what would be even better than an afternoon of piano lessons and a football game, the answer was “to not have them at the same time”.  So I asked.  And he moved the lesson.  And I’m really looking forward to this afternoon in a whole new way!

Now there is one huge caveat around this whole game of possibility – if you fall into the trap of believing that your happiness or well-being is dependent on actually getting what you want, or worse still that in some way you are entitled to have things work out your way, you are setting yourself and everyone around you up for a miserable life.  As often as not, the amount of effort it would take to shift things will be more than it’s worth, and sometimes people just say “no”.

But if you’re willing to play the game of life as a game, you might just find that you can create things even better than you’ve imagined with far less effort than you thought it would take.  And in my experience so far, living from that possibility makes life even better…

Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!

With love,

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