Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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The Ridiculous Reason I Wouldn’t Buy Myself an Office Chair (and How I Changed My Mind)

Last year, I suffered a repetitive strain injury of my wrist and arm, and it so completely incapacitated me that I overhauled my entire work space, hired a VA, and even forced myself to work on a crappy Kindle tablet in order to get anything done whatsoever.

The sticker shock associated with ergonomic tools was substantial, but coming off a healthy Q4, it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would.

Until I bought the chair.

The Ridiculous Reason I Wouldn’t Buy Myself an Office Chair (and How I Changed My Mind)

I bought, without a blink, a wall mounted table in order to get the keyboard at the right height, and articulating arm to mount the monitor, a riser cushion, two foot stools, several keyboards, a drawing tablet and a mouse. Several of these items were found wanting and subsequently returned but $300 was not too much, I felt, in order to solve this problem once and for all.

But the riser cushion negated any support from the chair back — I might as well have been on a stool. Over a week I noticed my endurance steadily deteriorate, and finally I realized, I was going to have to get a new chair.

For ONE chair?!!

I love The Wirecutter. They test exactly how I would test stuff if I had unlimited time and resources. So naturally I looked at their article on office chairs. $800 for a chair! I put the idea aside.

Another three days in the office. I was starting to dread work.

Certain things are red flags to me, and dreading work is definitely one of them. I lack the moral fiber to work when I hate it. So I looked at the chairs again. Wirecutter recommended an IKEA chair, and there’s an Ikea in DC, where I was headed in two days. I would look at it there.

It probably it wouldn’t work.

The Times That Try Men’s Souls

I had never been to an IKEA before. I’m convinced IKEA is owned by the Rats of NIMH, who use it as a means for experiments on humans. It’s set up like a maze, a literal maze. And it was absolutely swarming with people. The expression on my husband’s face was that of a man grimly determined to do his duty without cowardice or complaint.

We wound our way through the chaos and tested the chair. It worked beautifully. Well, shit. Now what? I had not come emotionally prepared to spend $200 on one chair! But I also knew that there was zero chance my husband would ever set foot in the store again if I decided to come again in a month.

I bought the chair.

I bought the chair, I got it home, and it was even more perfect in my office than it had been on the showroom floor. Where have you been all my life?

The Justification

Now, whether it’s a ad hoc rationalization or not, I quickly realized that $200 is only a dollar a day of use in a year. Technically less since I work more than that and it will almost certainly last longer than a year.

But I still feel weird about it. Not bad per se, but a bit defensive. Let me count the ways:

  1. It costs more than my husband’s office chair and his back is worse than mine
  2. We already spent $300 ‘on me’ in the last month
  3. Sure, we have the money, right now. But what if we didn’t? What would I have done?

And that’s the crux of the issue. I have some kind of mindset that if I could have ‘made do’ when I was broke then I could have and should have made do now.

Except that when I’m not broke I:

  • Hire service providers who provide an ROI for my business
  • Invest in courses and resources
  • Subscribe to things like Canva and Buffer which make it easier to scale my business and save me time

So what’s the difference about a chair?

You know what it is? When the answer came to me, I felt really dumb. It’s one of those reasons that, once you’re forced to admit it, you think, I sound like an idiot.

The difference is comfort. At some level I don’t feel secure about the legitimacy of my need for comfort. I mean, you can see me here, making the case for its legitimacy, but it’s a logical argument to backstop an emotional objection. I’m confident I could debate the point and win but:

  • But, that’s money we could have saved. Or invested.
  • I worked on a wooden kitchen chair for the first two years of my business. Why such a wuss now?

I share this not to cement my argument somehow, but because I feel pretty certain that you’ve got some kind of emotional objection to something in your business too.

Maybe it’s spending money ‘on yourself’ (which is technically an investment btw — see how much easier it is for me to tell you that than myself?) Or maybe it’s selling yourself as the expert and demanding expert prices.

Whatever it is, you’ve got to learn when your emotional objections don’t get to have a say. It’s possible you will overcome them with time. It’s possible you will come to believe in your expert status or that you will come to a conviction that your need for comfort is a practical necessity.

But in the meantime it’s enough if you just know it logically and allow logic to carry the day.

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