Should Or Must! — Quotidian — 415

(Transcript of video originally posted on 4 Sep 2022)

All of us, I am sure, know these two words. Should. And Must. And, I think most of us, till today, we have been using that quite interchangeably. Only a slight difference between the two. For example… Should — I should watch the Vikram movie. It is a good idea to watch it. But, Must? It is a duty. It is a rule. It is going to be disadvantageous if I don’t follow it. I must take an umbrella. For it is raining. Should. Must. Not too much of a difference to write home about. Yes? So, we SHOULD go. It is getting late.. You SHOULD watch the Game of Thrones. You MUST have a passport to travel. You MUST be on time for the exam. These two words.. The nuanced difference between the meanings of these two words.. A lady has written a book on it. And, that’s what we are going to see today! A full book!

Namaste! Four hundred and fifteen! Should we do it? Must we do it? Let’s anyway get in.

This is the name of that book. The Crossroads of Should and Must. Find and Follow your Passion. That’s what this book is about. I fell in love with everything about the book. Right from the cover art. So, who is she? Her name is Elle Luna… and, great orator. Inspirational, truly. Artist. Amazing! She’s even good-looking! May even slip in as a Kollywood actor! And, look at her signature! I loved even her signature! Like four Ls next to each other. E. L. L. E. Elle Luna. She was an artist who went through a slump in her career. And, she had a recurrent dream. A room is featured in that room. And, she goes in search of that room. That’s what this book is about. Should and Must. These two are quite different from each other. In her dictionary at least.

Right in the first few pages of the book itself, you encounter this. “It’s permission to UNLEARN everything you’ve ever been told you SHOULD do, in order to LEARN what you MUST!” Immediately bulbs started going off in my mind.. For, just yesterday, we had seen the Unlearn — Relearn cycle of Learning, didn’t we?! So, I decided to jump in, immediately.

She starts by telling, first, take a pulse check. Where are you!? If you are doing a Job, you are on a nine to five chase. You come. You go. You do work. You get paid. That’s what you are in. Some of you may be in the Career-zone. In the Career-zone, you are improving every day. You are learning a little more. You are creating opportunities for yourself. I am getting better at what I do. And, I progress step by step. Like the LinkedIn logo conveys. But, there’s a third word which is probably a lot more important, and that, is your Calling. Your purpose. That famous Ikigai. The reason you think you’ve been put on earth for. They call it “The World’s Expert in Being Me”.. Who am I? I am the world’s expert in being me! So, like that, are you in that kind of zone? That is Walt Disney’s card? Where did his career stop and where did his life start? No! He didn’t do work. His life WAS his work! My life is my message, said Mahatma Gandhi. Are you in that zone? Are you doing a Job? Are you pursuing a Career? Or, are you living your Calling? Get that sorted out first.

For, this Should-dilemma… I have to do it. I have been asked to do it. It is my responsibility. It has become my duty. All those are Shoulds. I should. I should be there ten o clock. My class starts. My work starts. I shouldn’t do that. The society prevents me. There is such a din made by these Shoulds.

But, the Must? It stays alone, showing one direction, weakly, but ringing in your brain constantly, that is your personal motive force — that’s the must. And, what should your life goal be? Blow all the Shoulds away. Pursue the single bright Must that is still standing. You Must chase it. You Should drop the Shoulds, you Must chase the Must.

This person resembles the villain from the Aadukalam movie! But, I hear his name is Gurdjieff. This Turkish saint called Gurdjieff… the Sadguru calls him the Rascal Saint, go check it out on YouTube… The Rascal Saint. He comes up with a beautiful philosophical koan. He asks his disciples, his followers, this interesting question. “A person gets jailed. What should he do first, to successfully come out of jail?” Very interesting answers come out. One of them says his first task should be to test the strength of the metal bars. Another says testing the soil for firmness might be a good idea. Another proposes that he should first try and understand what kind of key will open the lock. And, what about befriending the jailor who oversees the prison? And so on and on, they pour forth their ideas. But, Gurdjieff says, the first thing a person who is imprisoned in a jail should do, so that he stands a chance to come out of the jail is to realise he is imprisoned! He has to internalise the thought that he is stuck inside a prison, and only afterwards, everything else follows! If you don’t even realise you are in a jail, of a job, of a career, you can’t pursue your calling.

Remember? We saw the Shoulds? I am sure each of you would have been in situations like these. I have been. You should never _______. You should always ________. You should know better than to ________. You should not _________. These are things that we have heard, from when we were tiny tots, … all the way till yesterday, we keep hearing these sentences. What others place on us as expectations. So, Elle Luna, the author, she says, “I also faced those. But, one day, I started asking questions. I wrote them all down, these Shoulds, in pieces of paper. I put them all up on the wall. And then, I started asking, boldly, frankly, but respectfully… I asked three questions.”

“Where did you come from? Where did you begin? Why did you choose me? Whose arrow is this, that is coming towards me? Who did you think I was, when you chose to come to me? Where did you come from?” These Shoulds? They would run away from you the moment they hear you asking these questions, the author says.

Here is another question. “Are you still true for me? You came to me thinking I was somebody. But, I am changing! I have become somebody else? Are you still true for me? Are we a right match? I have changed. There was another guy that came with you, yesterday, and I changed because of it. Am I still relevant for you? Are you still true for me? Will you be true?”

And then, the third question. “Do I want to keep holding on to you?” A little child hangs on tightly to ANYTHING that even LOOKS like a finger. I don’t know why. There is that reflex reaction. A sense of belonging perhaps. A sense of safety and security. But, one day the child realises, “Why am I holding on to you!? Force of habit? Wait!” Only when it releases the hold, only when the unlearning happens, you realise that it is an unnecessary Should. You realise it is an irrelevant Should. And that’s when the doors open for Must.

Can you tell me her name? Yes! Marie Kondo. This Marie Kondo, a Japanese woman, truly inspiring, has authored many books, has even run a TV series, all about the concept of how to get rid of junk, and how to create cleanliness and neatness at the home, at the office. The Kon Mari method, people call it. She made famous, an interesting phrase called “Spark Joy”. You have a thing in your hand. You have had it for ages. You see it again. It is occupying space. It is wasting your time. But, you haven’t thrown it away. Throw it away, she says. But, before throwing it away, hold it in your hand, she suggests. “Appreciate it. And then, look inwards. Do you feel the spark of joy? Does it spark joy?” Look at her pose! She would be standing like that, still. Body all keyed up. And, it would swell up and … a “Ting”… There is even a video of her acting it out on YouTube! The resonant power surging through your body.. You feel good about it. Is that the feeling you get? If it doesn’t spark joy, whether it be because of nostalgia, or because of its productive value, or because of its daily utility value, whatever, does it spark joy? If it doesn’t, place it in front of you, thank it. Thank it for traveling along the way till now. Forgive me. I am gonna bid good bye now. That is how you let it go. And she says, we should be choosing what we want to hold on to! Not what we want to get rid of! Throw everything off! And, as they are receding in the horizon, spot one and ask it to come back, spot another and request it to be retained! Bid the others good bye! Be choosy about what you want to retain! The Kon Mari method. And, I would like to draw a connection between this Kon Mari method and the Should-Must that Elle Luna talks about. We could use the Kon Mari method to get rid of our Shoulds!

She talks about four reasons that will stand in front of you, preventing you from pursuing your Must. You have thrown the Shoulds away. The Must is staring you in your face. But, how do you completely dedicate yourself to the identified Must? What will the obstacles be? Number one, is of course Money. She refers to it from a Western standpoint. But, I think it is relevant everywhere. She talks about “Need to have” Money and “Nice to have” Money. There is a limit below which you will be financially destroyed! Unsustainable! And, there is a limit above which it is okay if you don’t get more. Try to be between these two. Don’t cross those boundaries. As far as it involves Money, first finalise this, and then go in pursuit of your Must.

The second thing she talks about as an obstacle is Time. “I have no time at all”. “I will get around to doing it after I retire”. “I will do this after my children grow up”. These are akin to saying, I will do it after the waves in the seashore die down! For Luna, do you know when she decided to suddenly quit her Silicon Valley designer job and become a freelance artist and author? She used to live in this room. She had set up some videos and cameras as part of her studio design. To take timelapse photos, etc. One day, by chance, she had come back from work, and the camera was silently operating. She looks around, takes in the room, there is the dog that does what dogs do to their masters, and then she picks up her brushes, paint, and starts painting. In the window in the background, one could see the sunlight slowly failing, growing dark, and she is still painting. It is night. The moon is up. She is still painting. And then, that timelapse continues into the morning. And she stretches herself. Yawns. And she is still painting. And then, she picks up her bag, and walks out to her office. Only a few days later, when reviewing the videos, she realises that there is a video shot like this. She didn’t even realise this had happened. She had been in Flow. When she realised she had done it for one full night, without sleep, without food, without any other distractions, that is when she realises “Oh my god, I need to dedicate more time for this!” and the next day, she quits her job! So, create time, even if it is ten minutes a day.., “What did you do to serve your Must, today?” “What food did you feed its infinite hunger?” That should be the question you should ask yourself every day.

The third, of course, if there is a question of Time, there is the question of Space too! I don’t have space in my home! I don’t have an audio/video studio. I don’t have a playground to pursue my game. I don’t have a library shelf to put all the books that I want to read. The space… But, Elle says, the problem of Space is less OUTSIDE of you and more INSIDE of you! First, get rid of all the things around you that you retain because you want to do this, you want to do that, and you want to do everything else too! First get rid of those! Just as you throw them out, right along with that act, you will get space automatically created! Try it!

And, finally, the fourth obstacle that will stand in front of you, surely, is the Fear of Failure. That monster that chases you, every time you want to perform, every time you want to attempt something that you haven’t done before, what will people say, will they laugh, will the people who love you stop loving you, these are the monsters that will chase you! And, she has a quote to share in that context.

Somebody once said, somebody famous once said, “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will”. It is the FEAR factor that leads to failure. It is not Failure that leads us to the feeling of Fear. There are too many, countless initiatives that are stopped simply because of this Fear of Failure. The Englishmen have a word for this. They coin words for everything, don’t they!? Fear of Failure has a word for it. Atychiphobia. I am not going to teach you the pronunciation. For the original pronunciation is different, and you can go on the internet to get it. But, the first time I saw this word, after I had just finished the book by Elle Luna, I told myself, I want to pronounce this word like this! அட சீ போவியா! When that demon, the fear-of-failure demon approaches me, that is how I want to pronounce that word!

Anyway, for the closing thought, I would like to close with a quote from that book. She says, “There are Shoulds. And there is the Must. Have you found your Must? Great! From now on, the Should road, the Could road, the One-Day road, the Someday road, should only ever be taken in moderation, and on your way to the Must road.” That thin straight road, the Must road, .. is the important one. The others are like little pitstops along the way. Coffee points to perhaps occasionally stop and have a sip. I would love to have a cuppa with her! Let’s see what happens! Thank you! Later today, we will be meeting, for Four Hundred and Sixteen! Thank you!

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Rajendran Dandapani

Rajendran Dandapani

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Business Solutions Evangelist at Zoho Corp. President at The Zoho Schools Of Learning.