I sat next to 24-year-old Rachel on the plane who shared that her dad was a fan of QBQ! Just a complete coincidence—if there are coincidences, that is.
When QBQ! came up and she exclaimed, “Really? Wow, my dad talks about ‘the QBQ’ all the time!” I naturally stayed as humble as possible. I responded, “That’s terrific. Thanks for saying that. I’m honored.”
And, I meant it.
But I wonder if it was really a “coincidence” because it turned out she needed to hear something from me that I needed to hear when I was a twentysomething.
In late 1985, when I was lamenting to an older friend about my corporate “8 to 5” desk job that I’d held since graduating from Cornell in 1980, he said, “Well, if you don’t like your life, why don’t you change it?”
Um, gee, Bob, that sounds awfully deep. I thought. You mean, while I’m still young, I should grasp these truths?:
My decisions have defined my destination.
Life is based on choice not chance.
I am not a victim.
In the light of these truths, I have come to understand that “I have to” is a lie. People say “I have to go to work” and “I have to go to class,” but the reality is … IT’S NOT TRUE!
You see, everything is a choice. I don’t have to go to my job; I don’t have to go to school; I don’t even have to pay my taxes. The truth is I choose to pay my taxes because I don’t like the alternatives.
So, back to Rachel, who told me about her work at a blue chip insurance firm—and her boss:
“I think that I might have the absolute worst manager in the world. She plays favorites, doesn’t talk to those she doesn’t like, is grumpy, always in her office with the door closed, and appears to be on the narcissistic side.”
Now, I know someone might think that Rachel is playing the victim or is a millennial who believes she’s entitled to a super nice manager-friend who tells her 24/7 how wonderful she is. But after I asked a few follow-up questions, I surmised she is not in a good situation. I also learned that her manager is pushing 50 and has been there over twenty years. Thus, she ain’t gonna change, nor is she going anywhere.
So as Rachel was chatting away, I rudely interrupted her and said one word:
After a long pause she said, “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”
She had been freed.
Of course, she was almost there anyway before we sat down in seats 19C and 19D. She just needed someone to nudge her a bit toward truly embracing the truth that she does not have to keep working where she is mistreated by a lousy, unskilled, self-centered supervisor. Said differently, she doesn’t have to pay the price for the mistake this organization has made retaining and promoting this manager.
“If that’s you, Rachel—GET. OUT. NOW!”
Now, are there times we do things that we don’t want to do, don’t enjoy, or just aren’t much fun? Of course. But the message to my young seatmate was this:
There’s nothing you have to do. We all have the power to make a decision that will direct us to a new destination. Each of us can make a choice that will change our life.
And it can all happen today.
Have you fallen into the “I have to” trap? If so, in what area of your life? Is there an important decision/choice you need to make? Share below!
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