The Theory Of Pii
How the intersection of passion, income and impact means that you will never have to work another day in your life
After getting an overwhelming reaction to my TEDx Talk about passion (now has more than 1 million views), a lot of people have been asking for a practical guide to applying the concepts that I discussed the TEDx Talk. So I created the “Theory Of Pii”. Yes, it’s “Pii”, not Pie.
What is the Theory Of Pii? Pii stands for Passion, Income, Impact and this is the simple summary of the theory: if the thing you’re most passionate also happens to be the what you do to earn income while also concurrently having a positive impact then life is awesome.
The theory of Pii is a derivation of the Maximum Positive Impact (“MPI”) philosophy. MPI is the world’s first open source philosophy. I created it as a methodology to help me to achieve the best result for a village in Mali (Africa) while working on setting up their first health center. After completing the project I adapted the methodology into a complete and structured philosophy of life based on the laws of nature.
The theory of Pii is a (very) “lite” version of MPI that provides a simple framework that has several practical (and very significant) applications for anyone that wants to take a few minutes to apply the framework their own lives. I will only discuss Pii in this article. The MPI philosophy is “heavier reading” and can be found in my book here on Amazon and the open source version is here at iimagine.org.
Whenever people talk about subjects like passion, or some other part of life, they conveniently talk about it in isolation. They make recommendations about what you should do and give you the impression that making these simple changes is easy and will fix everything.
The problem is that any changes to your life need to be made within the context of ALL of the actual, very real things that are happening in your life – right now. All life advice needs to be considered within the context of your own life. Yet, understanding this context is extremely difficult. It’s very easy to provide life advice. It’s much more difficult to figure out what to do with the life advice that you receive.
So, I don’t want to be one of those “lazy life advisers”. You probably figured that out when I said above that I created the world’s first open source philosophy and that it’s intended to be a complete and structured philosophy of life based on the laws of nature. That’s not something that was intended for an 8 step plan in a stupid lightweight article on some crappy click bait website.
So, how will I help you with this massive issue of “context”? I made a free app for you called a lifewall.
It’s extremely simple to use – just go to each section in the lifewall and rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 (where 10 is the level that you want for yourself).
The Theory Of Pii is really just a simplified version of the lifewall. If you take care of passion, income, and impact then everything else in the lifewall should, theoretically, fall into place. For those of you that take this stuff more seriously, you should use the lifewall a focus on all 21 aspects. If you want to “dip your toe in the water”, start with the Theory Of Pii.
Let’s start with a quick discussion about the significance of passion, income, and impact in our lives.
Some people have trouble with finding their passion but this is a relatively simple problem to solve. The only reason that people say that they have trouble finding their passion is they don’t know what passion really means. This is one of the central concepts in my TEDx Talk. If you need help with understanding what passion is, how to find it and how you fit into the “big picture” you should watch my TEDx Talk.
In summary, the things you are passionate about are the things you feel strongly about. You might need to read that again and take a minute to let it sink in. This is the not my definition. It’s THE definition of passion (from Merriam-Webster dictionary):
“: a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. : a strong feeling (such as anger) that causes you to act in a dangerous way. : a strong sexual or romantic feeling for someone.”
If you don’t feel strongly about anything then you are not alive. If you disagree with me on this point then this is a good time for you leave this article and go and do something else.
There some people that are so passionate about something that they have trouble keeping their emotions under control when talking about it. This is most obvious when people talk about topics like politics, religion, and equality but it’s also evident when people talk about less consequential issues like their favorite sports teams, art or music. These are all issues that define us – and this is the key central concept. If someone makes a disparaging remark about the things that define us, it feels like they are making a disparaging remark about us. And, we won’t stand for it.
This is why we instinctively leap to the defense of the things we feel strongly about. This is also why working on projects that we are passionate about causes us to get us into a state of “flow” very quickly and very easily. Working on these projects is interesting and stimulating to us on every level. We are proud of our work on these projects and, if someone happens to ask just one question about it, we use that question as a green light to start talking their ear off. It’s not a big deal for us to work on these projects outside of regular business hours and we don’t stay up to date with the industry because we have to, we do it because we want to.
Feeling strongly about something (being passionate about it) also gives us a strong sense of purpose. That sense of purpose is rarely misplaced. Humanity (or nature) has done a great job designing all of us a little differently so that we have slightly different perspectives and priorities and this, in turn, results in all of us feeling strongly about “different” things and that results in everything that needs to be done getting done. If we all had the same passions, perspectives and priorities we would all be working on the same projects and humanity would collapse.
For example, there are people that are very passionate about the local sports team in your city and you may not feel the same way. You might say – it’s just a game. But, you know that this is not the way that this person sees the world. In his mind, the sports team is part of the identity of the city and is a direct reflection of how “good the people in the city are compared to people in other cities”. This means that the sports team is not just part of the self-identity of the city but also part of the self-worth of the city and it’s people. You see a game. He sees evidence of the superiority (or inferiority) of his people.
I don’t think I have to spend much time explaining why we need income. You can see it’s position in the lifewall. It’s something we need in order to be able to live in a way that allows us to feel comfortable and stable. We need to know that we don’t have to worry about food, a place to live, basic healthcare, etc. In the meantime, money can actually help with some of the items on the right side of the lifewall. The more money we have the more we can explore our individuality, spend more time with friends, do things that put us in a state of flow and help us to increase our impact on the people around us. In the meantime, it’s obvious that there is also a list of things that money cannot buy. There are numerous studies that indicate that most of us want between $60-100,000 per year and any more than this causes us to lose interest in pursuing money because we start to prioritize other things (the things on the right side of the lifewall).
Given that I created an entire philosophy called Maximum Positive Impact, I could spend a lot of time on this but I won’t. The definition of happiness in the MPI philosophy is that it is a combination of pleasure and fulfillment. It’s possible to eat your favorite food and feel pleasure but you won’t be happy if you are concurrently living in your parent’s basement and have no way of supporting yourself.
We are all building a body of work over time – the number of times we helped our friends, wrote an insightful article after a unique experience, stepped into a situation to ensure fairness, proven our ability as team members or leaders, helped people that are less fortunate than us, etc. These actions contribute to our sense of fulfillment and they, in turn, contribute to how happy we feel. Unlike pleasure, which is easy to find but also temporary, fulfillment is not easy to find but is permanent and accumulates over time. Fulfillment must be earned and having a positive impact on the people in your life, your community and the planet is the best way to find fulfillment.
The next step is to put it all together. Let’s create a plan for quitting your boring job (over time) and relocating to nirvana. Yes, we might as well aim high. Why not? This is your life we’re talking about. A small number of critical decisions (that we will discuss below) have the potential to have a massive impact on your life and the lives of people around you. Now let’s get to the steps.
Step 1: Passion
Create a list of the 10 things that you are most passionate about then prioritize them from first to tenth in order of most passionate to least passionate.
Step 2: Income
Create a list of 10 ways you can earn an income then prioritize them from first to tenth in order of what will enable you to earn the most to what will enable you to earn the least.
Step 3: Impact
Create a list of 10 things you could do that will have a positive impact (on your community or globally – it doesn’t matter) then prioritize them from first to tenth in order of the things that will have the biggest impact to the things that will have the smallest impact.
At this point, you can probably figure out where this is going.
Step 4: What activities are in your focal point
Take a look at the Venn diagram. According to the theory of Pii, the three-way intersection in the middle is your “focal point”. Take a look at the items in your focal point (they are the items at the top of each of the three lists above). Are they the same or different?
For example, you might earn income as an accountant, your passion is cycling and you can have the biggest impact by donating to a local charity. This is all very typical (and not a bad life) but it won’t help you “relocate to nirvana”. Why not? The three items are different so the power and benefits of “focus” are not available to you because you have to split your focus between three different activities.
According to the theory of Pii, it would take some discipline to live this way because your passion is cycling but you have to do two other things to earn income and have a positive impact. Anytime you have to do something that you’re not passionate about you will never do it as well as someone that is passionate about it and, it goes without saying, you won’t enjoy it. Further, any time you have to split your focus to do something, you can never do these things as well as someone that is totally focused on them. That’s why living this way takes “discipline” and can only generate limited results. According to the theory of Pii, this also means that your focal point has very little “Gravity”. Gravity is the extent to which the things in your focal point “pull you in”. High gravity activities are activities that you love doing and make you a lot of money and have a massive impact. These activities pull you towards them. It’s difficult for you to stay away from them. Low gravity activities are the opposite – you have to exercise some discipline to make yourself do these things.
On the other hand, if you are passionate about Yoga, earn money by teaching yoga and have a positive impact on your community by teaching yoga to students in a school in an underprivileged area then all of the items in your focal point are the same – yoga. In this case, your focal point has very high “gravity”. You don’t have to use much discipline to do these three activities. If you LOVE yoga and you can make good money by teaching yoga and you have a positive impact on your community (that leads to you being respected by your community) then you cannot wait to wake tomorrow morning to dive into another day of yoga.
Step 5: Increase the gravity of your focal point
If your focal point contains items that are not the same, take a look at the other items in your three lists and try to find items that are the same (or similar). This is the part where have to put some effort into adapting the theory into practice. You may have to use activities that are ranked number two or three in your lists to find the optimal combination.
Step 6: Do it!
If you have done the exercise correctly and your focal point really does have a lot of gravity then you can just sit back and let it take effect on you. If your focal point has high gravity then you will not be able to ignore it or forget about it – and you won’t want to. So, at some point, you will just happily start pursuing it. No discipline required. The fact that it pulls you in and doesn’t require much discipline from you should make you feel reassured about the fact this is what you should be doing with yourself.
In the end, this is a “life analysis tool”. You can act on it, use it as a decision-making tool, use it a guide or just play around with it to get a new perspective on your life. The is the MPI world and there’s no right and wrong in MPI (other than the fact that life should involve having a positive impact rather than a negative one) so there is no right and wrong in the Theory of Pii either.
We are developong a Pii app. It will be part of the iimagine.life – a platform for entrepreneurs to start and grow a business while maximizing their impact.
You can also read an article about the Theory Of Pii on the Huffington Post.