Each time I sit down to write ‘One Word,’ I can count on one thing consistently. I never know what I’m going to write until I’ve written it. 

There’s something about actually putting down one’s thoughts that changes them. Nuances them. Makes you interrogate them.

Which is a large part of the point of this project. Hell, it’s probably the WHOLE point. Because there’s an insufferable gap between translating our thoughts (meant for our own personal consumption) and making them legible and consumable by another.

This one is tough because I HATE THIS WORD. It’s fair to say that my biases toward the word ‘should’ are … multiple, many-layered, and maybe unsurpassable. 

Should is the word at the tip TOP of my shit list. 

I can recognize that my aversion to the word is likely a product of my upbringing and ongoing journey outside of it.

It’s possible that for other people, ‘should’ implies something like ‘best practices.’ But I just hear “These are the rules. This is the answer.”

“You know what you should do, Lara?”

“How many times should I post, Lara?”

“Lara, you should try this app.”

“10 Things You Should Do To Optimize Your Ads.”

“Lara, should I change … ?”

Clients know my answer for any question that involves this red-flag word:

“The only thing you SHOULD be doing is what works for your business.”

When I’m pushed, I’ll say “This is what’s working for me right now.” Or “It looks to me like …” Or “Here’s what I’ve observed lately.”

But … standards? No. I’m in the business of bucking those. And I’m a classic case of tending to want to do the opposite of what I should do. Everybody else is already doing that.

Still, ‘should’ is the ghost in my machine. It haunts me even though I don’t believe in it. It gums up the works even when I push it away.

But enough about me.

SHOULD (Old English sceal, Northumbrian scule

means “to owe / to be under obligation.”

Should – and its every cognate (linguistic cousin) to the word means ‘to owe,’ “duty’ – even ‘to be guilty.’ The word’s meaning hasn’t changed since … well, ever.

There is no moment that should – and all of its Old English, Proto-Germanic, or Proto-Indo-European ancestors – didn’t mean ‘to owe.’

When we tell folks what they should do, we’re telling them what they “owe us.” We’re telling them what they’re guilty of not doing. We’re telling them that there is a condition (obligation) for success – or worse, approval.

And should has equally twisted cousins.

OUGHT is the past tense of OWE. I ought to write One Word more frequently? 

NEED TO means what IS REQUIRED. I need to show up more on social media?

No, no, no. The hairs raise on the back of my neck when I hear these words.

The only thing you SHOULD be doing is what works for your business.

You might NEED TO look at some of your systems, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

And the only thing I OUGHT to do is what’s right for me, right now.

Take your SH*?&D and shove it!

That’s the word, nerd.