The Crossroads of Should and Must: A Book In Review

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This week’s book, The Crossroads of Should and Must, by Elle Luna, invites us to take a crucial look at the Shoulds in our lives, and the Musts.

How are they defined for us, how do we define them and how does this awareness help us bridge the gap between the life we are living, and the life we want to live?

“Gifts.” I love that word. It’s the typical “passion” or in the business world – “proficiency” – instead of natural ability or talent. And when shared, a gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment.

So what is your gift? What are you holding back from truly expressing with the world?

You have something special to give. Let that seep in. Nice and deep. Unlearn what you Should in order to learn what you Must. Think of how heavy those Shoulds are. So heavy that finding our Must seems impossible. We may even be told our Shoulds so strongly we see it as truth. But why are we still depressed? Disengaged? Addicted? Distracted? Because we’re not in touch with our Musts. What are the Shoulds you need to unlearn?

The Crossroads of Should and Must

I love this visual. While researching great artists for her book, The Crossroads of Should and Must, Elle Luna came across this great description of Picasso in Arianna Huffington’s biography of the artist.

Huffington wrote, “The more I discovered about his life and the more I delved into his art, the more the two converged. ‘It’s not what an artist does that counts, but what he is,’ Picasso said. But his art was so thoroughly autobiographical that what he did was what he was.”

He did what he was. He did what he was. He did what he was.

Are you doing what you are?

Shoulding everywhere…

Bitch, ain’t it the truth? Shoulding all over ourselves. You do it. I do it. We all do it. And at the cost of what? Your Must. That big beautiful thing you were put here to do. That special gift that only you have.

What can we do? How can we change it?

Simple. Make a choice. A different one. Choose your Must.

“…the first thing that you need to know if you want to escape from prison is that you are in prison. Until you know that, no escape is possible.”

Whoa. Deep breath. You have to know you’re in prison. Do you know you’re in prison? Can you see it? Feel it? Or struggling and not sure why?

“Removing Should is hard and time-consuming. Because in order to remove it, we must first understand it – intimately. We need to know each Should’s origins, how it got there, and when we first began to integrate it into our decision making.”



Ready to look at your Shoulds? Elle Luna guides us through this exercise.

Grab a piece of paper and jot answers to the following questions:

You should never…

You should always….

You should know better than…

You should not…

Now review your list with the following questions:

Where did you come from?

Are you true for me?

Do I want to keep holding on to you?

Grab two chairs and have a conversation – with yourself. In one chair you are Must and in the other Should. How do you feel when looking at your Must? How do you feel when looking at your Should?

Express it. Shout it. Dance it. Just get it out of your head and off your heart. Then switch. Do this until there’s nothing left to say – start with about 10 minutes.

What if…

“If you had one day to pursue some idea, activity, or project? What are three things that come to mind first? Things you do just for fun. Something a friend does that you feel envious about. Things you do when you’re procrastinating. Fantasies. Activities that give you chills. Sights, smells, sounds, or sensations that give you butterflies in your stomach…”

What are some of the things on your list?

Figuring it out… 

This one’s heady, but helps so much with clarity. This write-your-obituaries exercise comes from Elle Luna’s book…

For the first one, write it as if you lived the way you wanted to. The way people you admire and want to “grow up” to be like one day. Then in the second one, write it as if your life stayed its current course and trajectory.  Each one goes on a separate piece of paper.

What do yours look like? What do they read? What were you most surprised to see?

This one’s fun – particularly to balance out the obituary exercise. This is the acquire-one-new-skill-a-month exercise from Elle Luna’s book…..

Each month choose one new thing to do. And journal about it. You’ll start to see them all connect. What are the new skills you’ll be acquiring this quarter? Learn about whiskey. (Re)learn to paint.  Learn about iPhone photography.

What are your new skills?

Now that you’ve gone inside, completed your two obituaries, and have a list of skills you want to acquire – let’s take a peek. What things keep coming up? What is connected? Are there patterns? Grab those and see how you can start playing and experimenting with them.

Transitioning from Should to Must

“Write down your Must.”

Do it. Do it today. Every day. What is your Must?week 2 youre an artist

“While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of TIME Magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher, and I told him I would be finished soon.

‘But you are an artist,’ he protested.

I explained that I was an artist but that sometimes I was a plumber and that he should go away and let me finish.” – Philip Glass, Composer

I love this story – and its timeliness in Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must.

T.S. Eliot was a banker. Kurt Vonnegut was a car dealer. Toni Morrison was an editor at Random House and a single mother.

Because let’s be real – transitioning from Should to Must takes time. So slow down – just because you have a day job does NOT mean you aren’t honoring your Must. Honoring your Must is in the small, consistent choices you make each and every day – not in how you pay your bills (necessarily).

“There are two types of money – Must-have and nice-to-have. Must-have money as a solid, fixed number that we do not want to risk not having.

We will not be able to focus on our Must if we are worried about not being able to eat. This number is often smaller than you might assume. At its most basic it includes food and shelter. Nice-to-have money is extra, above and beyond money.

Too often we confuse nice-to-have money with Must-have. Just because something is valuable doesn’t mean that we need it. It will always be nicer to have Nice-to-have money.”

Where are you confusing Must-have money and nice-to-have money? “Will choosing Must make me rich? Yes.”

Making space for Must

“Must needs a physical space – private, safe, and just for you. When you’re in this space, you’re not available. I repeat, you are not available.

We all need safe containers. How might you create a safe space that you can spend time in daily?

“How might you get creative with where it begins and ends? Find this place and make it your own.”

Must needs solitude…

“Solitude is how we quiet the voices, the incessant chatter. It’s how we create the necessary calm, empty spaces. Vision needs solitude. Leadership needs solitude. Courage needs solitude. Because when our choices evolve from an internal place of sure-footed, rooted knowing, we become resilient, emboldened, and focused.”

“Must feels inherently selfish at first.”

But when you choose Must, you inspire others to choose it, too. When you follow Must every day, you impact not only what you create for your work, but also what you become in your life. This is how your work and life become one and the same.

When you choose Must, what you create is yourself – as a body of work. As you change, so too does that work. As you grow, so too does the creation. Your work lives and breathes because you live and breathe.

Isn’t it time to start analyzing the difference between Should and Must and engaging in exercises and discussions that help us strike a better balance between the two? Join the Modern Entrepreneur Book Club and let’s start the process today.

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  • So Good! My goal for September is to carve out time every day for my must.

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