With that, she quickly defined her immediate question as, "Should I attend Uncle Charlie's funeral?" In ten minutes, she knew a "no" would make her life flat-out easier. She wouldn't have to find another ride for Josh, or go through the elaborate dance of rescheduling Todd's appointment with the recalcitrant receptionist at the orthodontist's office. What a relief. In ten months though, the consequence of a no-go decision made Natalie cringe. She only had one chance to bid her uncle goodbye. More than that, she probably wouldn't have another opportunity to see several of her elderly relatives who were quite dear to her.
And what about the consequences in ten years? As a parent, Natalie was a firm believer in the old saw, "Actions speak louder than words." If she wanted to teach her children the values of respect and responsibility, she had to demonstrate them herself.
The next number she dialed was her son's cell phone. "Josh, I can't help you," she told her older boy. "It's very important for me to attend my uncle's funeral—to show my family how much I love them. Please ask Coach to help you find a lift." She then called her son's orthodontist and canceled his appointment; she'd reschedule it, she figured, when she found the time.
Finally, on the road to her family's church, she called her husband to explain her choice. "I'm with you," he said when she was done. At first, Natalie thought he was simply saying, "I'm on your side." Instead, he meant it literally. He dropped an email to his boss and jumped in his own car—to be with Natalie at the service.
Later, when I asked Natalie how much time she spent on her 10-10-10 decision, she laughed in surprise.
"Oh, I don't know," she said, "maybe two minutes."
But I wasn't surprised. I've seen 10-10-10 sort out even longer-brewing dilemmas just as quickly.
One summer evening a few years ago, I was chopping onions for dinner when my daughter Sophia wandered by the kitchen. The hula-dancing incident long behind her, she had grown into a young woman who loved to write, mimicked me to perfection, and could hit a wicked twohanded backhand. She had the varsity letters framed in her bedroom to prove it.
"Mom, I need to tell you something," she said quietly.
"I'm quitting tennis." My heart sank. Over the previous year, I'd certainly noticed Sophia cutting her practices short and, when I let myself listen, I'd certainly heard her complaining that she wasn't finding joy in the game anymore. But that had never kept me from hoping she was in a phase that would pass.
I stopped what I was doing and put on the steadiest voice I could muster.
"Absolutely, positively, one hundred percent no," I said. "We've worked too hard and spent too many hours to get where we are to give it all up now."
I expected a fight, but Sophia surprised me. Perfectly calm, she shrugged and simply replied, "OK, but let's 10-10-10 it. How about framing up the question as: 'Should Sophia stop playing a game that she's sick of?'"
"I would prefer it without the editorializing," I said, "but fine."
Sophia started by stating her case. In all three time frames, she said, freedom from tennis would allow her to focus on interests she simply and truly enjoyed more. And she insisted that she wouldn't stop playing tennis entirely, she would keep at it, only recreationally.