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It’s been over a year since I’ve posted on this blog - mostly due to my own decisions to pull back from some of my public writing in order to reflect.

For the entire year, there has been this nagging pressure that I “have to” keep posting more content.

I hate feeling like I “have to” do something.

It’s a mental pressure that I have wrestled with for as long as I can remember…but I know it wasn’t always that way.

I didn’t notice it getting bad until I officially left the 9-5 back in 2009.

It was around that time that I was managing a book store in Fairfield, New Jersey and hating every second of it.

I hated waking up super early and sitting in traffic just so that I could have people argue with me about why I couldn’t give them extra discounts on already low-priced items all day.

I hated the laundry list of asinine orders from the people sitting in their ivory towers atop their corporate pyramid.

It wasn’t so much the fact that they were giving us things to do - it was how disconnected from reality their requests were because it had been so long since they’d been in the trenches of retail.

If you’ve never worked retail, you wouldn’t get it.

But if you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

If I could sum up pretty much every corporate retail e-mail or “higher-up” request I ever received while doing my time in the 9-5, it would go something like this:

——

Hello (insert manager name here),

“Put all of these items in this exact order, in this (insanely short, unrealistic) amount of time, and do it along with the seventeen other “must-be-done” things and still run the store efficiently while you’re understaffed and everyone’s underpaid (but us at the top, of course).

We are sending out a regional manager to come verify your progress by the end of the week.

If all of this isn’t done by (insert date here), then (insert unreasonable punishment here).

Any feedback that you or your team may have is welcome (but we will completely ignore all of it and disregard any good ideas that you have because that’s how corporate do.)

Thanks for all the great work you do at (insert company here)! We really appreciate all of your hard work (without it, we wouldn’t be able to go on all these cruises or play so much golf.)

Sincerely,

A. Boss

——

See, it was this “have to” thing that really turned me off from the whole system in general.

I get that things need to be done in order for progress to be achieved - but it’s all about the way in which you go about asking someone to do something that will determine the result you’re going to get from them.

The most frustrating thing about all of it was that even if you WOULD somehow manage to hit corporate’s insane requirements, they would then raise the standards by which they treated your store every time after that.

If you’ve seen Office Space, you know the scene with Jennifer Aniston in the restaurant?

How she was doing exactly what she was told but it still was never quite good enough?

That is exactly what its like working in a typical retail management environment.

It’s no wonder turnover is so high. It isn’t the employees. It’s the (lack of) leadership.

Just look at some of the headlines lately about the minimum wage and work force in our country. The walk outs. The unions forming. The protests. Lower wages but longer hours. Working 2 and 3 jobs just to make ends meet. Many of these people have college degrees and tons of student debt, but the jobs just aren’t there that they were promised when they filled out that FAFSA.

Things have changed. Dramatically. And the powers that be want to keep things exactly as they’ve been since the Industrial Revolution - with a handful of people at the top of the pyramid calling the shots and making all the money while the peons do all the work.

It won’t last.

People are upset because they’ve realized that they are actually important elements to keeping some of these larger corporations functioning, but they now see how unfairly many of them are being treated and how underpaid they are for how hard they work.

There are people who insist that things are just fine how it is - and they’re delusional. The people who think like that are the ones who have forgotten what its like to be in the trenches of the retail and food service industry jobs that are in many ways the foundation of what keeps things moving the way they do.

And all the while, they maintain that it “has to be” this way or that way.

So for me, I started tuning it out right away.

It was one of the main reasons that my wife and I decided to go into business for ourselves in the first place - because we were tired of taking orders all day.

I was the same way in school. I LOVE to learn - and I love to create and work and build and design - but when it came down to it, if whoever was teaching me or instructing me did so in a way where there was a “do this or else” or “you have to do this!” attitude, I tuned them out.

Probably much in the same way that you do.

Being self-employed has a lot of benefits - one of the main ones being that I can decide what my schedule is and when I’m going to work on the various projects we have for our clients around the world.

But at the same time - it can also be one of the most difficult things to get a handle on.

There isn’t anyone telling us what to do when I come into my office during the day. Or the night. Or whatever time in between.

There isn’t a list of things to do other than the ones that I’ve created for myself - and figuring out how to prioritize those to-do’s is one of the biggest hurdles for any business owner.

No one told me this when I started my first business. I didn’t have a five-year plan. I didn’t have a business model that I was following. I had just been freelancing since I was 15 on various creative projects so the thought was more along the lines of, “How hard could it be?”

If you have the same question and are considering starting your own business, the answer is “Harder than you ever could possibly imagine until you’re in the situation for yourself”.

But it’s also much more rewarding than I ever thought it would be. It’s the middle of the afternoon on a Monday and I haven’t even turned my phone on yet.

Why? Because writing and creating content for our business and our brand is our priority. I have had to sever the digital leash that our technology has created for everyone - and disconnect from constantly checking e-mail to see what everyone else wanted me to be doing in that moment.

Author and speaker Brendon Burchard says it like this: “Your inbox is a convenient organizational system for other people’s agendas”.

I still wrestle with that “have to” feeling - but these days it is in noticing that I’m feeling that way that has helped me stop it in its tracks.

If you’re anything like me, it’s really easy to get in the habit of waking up first thing in the morning and checking email and social media.

Then you scroll, scroll, scroll…and an hour has passed. I never feel good about myself afterwards either - do you?

Its like this empty feeling shows up when you realize you’ve just been digitally browsing around for something more interesting than the current moment and situation in front of you - and how often do you ever find that feeling of fulfillment you’re scrolling for, anyway?

So I do my best to make it a point to read a book and write first thing in the morning. Not because I have to. But because I WANT to.

And that’s the kicker.

That’s the thing that really has helped me change habits that have been long-standing and irritating.

That is, changing my mental focus from the prevailing “have to” mentality to a “want to” mentality.

How many times have you told yourself or others that you “have to” or “should” or “need to” get to the gym?

How’s that working out for you?

I can all but guarantee that the people you know who have made the biggest positive lifestyle changes are those who got themselves out of “have to” mode and shifted into “want to” mode.

It may seem simple, but just try it.

Pay attention to how many times people tell you that they “have to” or “need to” or “should” do something.

Pay attention to how often your own subconscious thoughts sound like that - and then pay attention to how stressed out you feel over the fact that you’re not actually doing those things that you feel that you need to be doing.

Again, how’s that working out for you? (I say this as someone who struggles with it myself).

Giving in to all those “shoulds” in your life doesn’t help you. It destroys productivity. Checking social media and telling everyone what you are up to all of the time doesn’t really benefit you, does it?

It distracts you from the things that are really important to you.

I still wake up and feel that nagging, “What if I’m missing something? What if someone needs us?” feeling - but I’m learning to curb it and ignore it. Not even ignore it…but to DEFY it.

Having the freedom to defy the “have to’s” of the world and instead focus on what’s actually important to me and those that I care about?

There’s nothing like it in the world.

You should try it some time.

If you want to, that is.

😉

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Ryan J. Rhoades

CEO & Creative Director at Reformation Designs
Ryan & his wife Laura are a media design team based in Salem, OR. They have worked with people from all walks of life: tech giants, authors, speakers, coaches, pastors, startups, students and entrepreneurs. They specialize in many forms of multimedia creation including graphic art and design, video production and social media marketing. They offer many types of design resources for sale and you can buy Ryan's latest book here.

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