He Didn't Have To
By David Henderson
Another way many of us think unclearly is by going through life with a list of made-up obligations. We wake up in the morning with a long list of “must do” items. After a while, our feet start dragging and we feel a heavy burden on our shoulders. But we “must” press on. Such phony obligations get in the way of clear thinking.
There is very little in the world that we actually must do. Let’s face it, unless we are in jail or otherwise detained, we have complete freedom about how to spend our day. The reason we don’t just pack up and go sit on the beach every day is that our actions lead to outcomes—and many of our “have to’s” give us the outcomes we want. Going to work, for example, provides camaraderie and a feeling of importance, as well as the money to buy the things we need and want. The “I must” person tells himself that he must go to work. The clear-thinking person says, “If I work at this job for another year, I’ll be able to buy a house. I could quit my job today, but if I want that house a lot, I’d better show up for work on Monday morning.”
The “I must” attitude increases our burdens and lessens our humanity. When we have goals in mind, we should reframe the issue from “I must” to “I want.” I want to go to work so that I can feed my kids, buy a car, buy a house, or change the world. If my goals don’t seem to justify the effort, then maybe I should rethink my goals and my overall strategy. When we act with clarity of mind, we cease being a fake prisoner and realize our true freedom. For more on this, see David Kelley’s powerful essay “I Don’t Have To.”
This is from David R. Henderson and Charles L. Hooper, Making Great Decisions in Business and Life, Chicago Park Press, 2006.
I’ve been reading a lot and seeing a lot on cable news about Donald Trump’s mistakes in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. One item I don’t see mentioned, which I think is one of his biggest mistakes, is his signing of the CARES Act in March. That’s the law that gives billions of dollars to businesses to keep them in business, as if the government knows which ones should be kept, and gives an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to people who are unemployed. I’ve written extensively on both of these. (Here and here, for example.)
In late March, shortly after Trump signed the bill into law, I ran into a friend who’s a prominent local Republican. He started ragging on our governor, Gavin Newsom, and I agreed with all his criticisms. I said, though, that someone else who deserves criticism is Trump. As Exhibit A, I gave his signing of the CARES Act. My friend didn’t disagree that it was a bad law, but said, “He had to.”
“No, he didn’t,” I said.
The above excerpt from Charley’s and my book says why.