Monday, August 25, 2008

Would You Rather Have Your Pinky Toe Cut Off?


We had just spent several sweaty hours at a professional baseball game, and my youngest son was balking at getting in the car for the two-hour drive home. Having gotten a bit carsick on the way to the game, he was negotiating getting a hotel room and staying the night.

All I could think of was a cool shower and the comfort of my own bed, so I stood tough in the face of some serious whining.

"I'll tell you what," I said. "I'll play a game with you on the way home."

"It's dark! We can't see to play anything!" he argued.

"Sure, we can," I said, trying not to let the exhaustion I felt creep into my "enthusiastic mommy" voice. "We'll play 20 questions. It will be fun!"

My son, still in negotiation mode, said: "How about if we play 'which would you rather?'"

Since I had never heard of such a game, I asked him to start us off.

Settled into the cool, dark confines of the back seat and headed home, he launched his first question: "Uh, OK. Which would you rather have: Your pinky toe cut off -- permanently -- or both arms broken and in a cast for a year?"

I was sort of taken aback by the game (was this going to be about missing body parts?) but after a moment's consideration I said: "Well, I can do without my pinky toe. It's not like I would fall over without it. And I'd hate to be in two casts for a year. Think of all the bad hair days. I'll go with the pinky toe."

For the next two hours, we played the game. My husband and other son quickly joined in. At times the questions were fun: Which would my 13-year-old son rather do -- carry a Hannah Montana backpack to school or have his head shaved? Would my oldest rather have a date with Jessica Alba or get a new Porshe?

Often, the questions to me were about my career: Which would I rather do, work for the former boss who yelled at me a lot or the other past boss who was sneaky and mean?

While giving up my pinky toe was a pretty easy decision, some of the queries were much more tough. My initial response would often come to a halt as I pondered aloud some questions about where I wanted to go in my career and my life.

I was struck by how simple the questions were, but how much they clarified the things that I found truly important. It wasn't one of those cases where I said, "Oh, gee, I can't make up my mind. I don't know whether I'd want to work for the yelling boss -- who could be nice at times -- or the sneaky and mean boss." I knew I'd rather work for someone who was openly a jerk than someone who gave snakes a bad name. (It dawned on me that was probably why I had recently decided not to apply for a job where the management had a bad reputation. To me, the money was not worth the stress of a snarky boss and I'd rather put my energy into something else.)

In the last couple of days, I've thought a lot about the game my family played on that summer night. I not only learned a lot about myself, but also about what others thought I considered important. They also learned a lot about me.

So, on this Monday morning, I'm going to ask you to play "which would you rather." Spend some time playing this game with people who are close to you. You're going to be amazed at what you'll learn about yourself:

1. Which would you rather have: Three months doing a job you really hate -- for a lot of money -- or a job for a year that you love, but for much less money?

2. Which would you rather have: A prestigious award from your industry or a 25 percent pay raise?

3. Which would you rather have: Three weeks vacation at a destination of your choice or your boss giving you much more recognition?

4. Which would you rather have: Being able to work on an important project or everyone getting along at work?

5. Which would you rather have: Catered lunches for a month or an hour alone with the CEO to tell him/her your ideas?

What would you answer and why?


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