Why Freedom is the worst goal

A shard of ice just shivered it’s way down the spine of very freedom loving, lifestyle designing internet entrepreneur on the planet. Blasphemy has been uttered! Welcome to the sacred cow slaughterhouse.

There’s a solid psychological argument for NOT making “Freedom” your number one objective in life and business. In fact, this most holiest of goals may be causing you needless suffering and self sabotage.

Have you had it wrong all along? Read on to find out what’s broken about the pursuit of Freedom and what you can do to fix it.

Towards vs Away From motivation

The first thing you need to understand about most goals, values or missions – basically anything we’re using as motivation leverage – is that they generally have either a push or pull function.

You know this as the “Carrot vs Stick” principal: You’re either driven toward something you desire or you’re pushed away from a thing you loathe. The two types of drive produce very different results. Someone who is motivated toward financial wealth will produce very different results to someone driven away-from poverty.

Away-From motivation is rarely effective in the long term. It can often be the jolt you need to get moving after a period of inaction, but you’ll quickly run out of steam. A big unexpected bill can surge an unmotivated entrepreneur into action, for example, but once they’re in the clear the motivation will dry up.

This is the source of the oft discussed Feast-Famine Cycle. When you’re trying to run away from something, you slow down once you think you’re safe. Ergo, if your money drive is Away-From you’ll likely cycle between the motivational discomfort of “Not Enough” and the laziness of “Just Enough”.

For the seasoned entrepreneur and reader of this blog, this is all old news. So what about Freedom?

Freedom is not a positive form of motivation 

When most folks think of Freedom, they see jets and tropical beaches. They see sleeping in on Monday and never having to wear a tie.

Freedom means NOT showing up at an office, NOT wearing business casual, NOT having to answer to anyone but yourself.

Did you spot the psychological flaw in this goal yet?

We’re all very clear on what Freedom isn’t. Defining the thing itself though… is tricky.

Look up the definition and you’ll find some variation of the following:

Freedom – The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved 

Turns out every entrepreneur’s favorite value is an Away-From, not a Towards.

Having Freedom means not being constrained in the same way that having Money means not being broke. In fact, you could even argue that while some people are pulled toward Money (Wealth) it’s basically impossible to be pulled toward Freedom in such a positive way.

What is the positive expression of Freedom? It’s impossible to define without listing the things it isn’t. We can only understand Freedom by experiencing the absence of it. It’s unreasonably abstract – you can neither purchase it nor put it in a wheelbarrow. How do you even know when you have it?

The crazy thing is that – in the traditional sense – no one reading this blog has every really experienced a lack of freedom. You might have had to answer to a boss for a while but any corporate employ with $100 in their pocket is literally experiencing freedom when they wake up on Saturday morning.

This may all sound like semantics, but it’s worth sweating the details when we’re discussing the single most prioritized objective for 21st century entrepreneurs. We’ve all been chasing something we already had and… that’s a big problem.

Freedom is binary. You have it or you don’t. You can’t chase MORE of it.

We’re all Freedom lottery winners setting the goal of “getting out of debt”. It doesn’t compute, so no wonder you’re not super fired up on Monday morning.

If my client work over the years has taught me anything, it’s that the happiest and most successful entrepreneurs are dedicated to analogue, fractal and complex outcomes. They make business into art and show up every day to take Leadership, Wealth, Design or something else one step closer to the archetype of Quality.

It can never be perfect or finished but, like trying to draw a perfect circle, you can get so damn close that striving towards one more step of mastery becomes the ultimate practice.

Freedom isn’t like that. There’s no measurement of freedom. It’s debatable whether the guy who owns a jet has MORE freedom when compared to the twenty-two-year-old backpacker who’s lived in hostels for 18 months. I’ve had both as clients and I know which was happier.

Freedom isn’t real

Chasing Freedom is like looking for the end of a rainbow. It’s an optical illusion and there’s nothing really there. You already have it and if you don’t, the only thing really constraining you is your own thinking.

If you want to surf all day, fly around in private jets or travel for a year then make those things your goals. None of them are freedom because – incoming epiphany alert – they all constrain you in some ways while freeing you in others. You have freedom already. You’re not a slave. Goals are goals and jets are objects.

If you define freedom as never having to do anything for anyone and completely playing by your own rules, you’re essentially a hobo. No business owner is totally free in that sense.

If I defined my clients as putting constraints on my time (damn them!) or my staff at Commit Action as unreasonably constraining me with their need for my leadership (screw them all!) then my functional definition of Freedom is going to ruin my life – and a lot of other people’s – if I chose to pursue it.

Seeking to avoid all constraints is infantile. Constraints help you grow. They “inspire creativity” – like Twitter and Haikus. Making yourself write 500 words every morning isn’t very Freedom-y but it will make you happier and your life better. Ditto working out.

Raising capital for your startup is the least freedom-y thing you could ever do, but it gives you a shot at making a difference and joining the billionaires club. Worth it, if you have a great idea and a track record of executing.

Being Free – never having to do anything for anybody – is probably going to result in you not being ABLE to do anything for anybody.

Better to throw it out as an objective altogether. The only caveat is that freedom is something we should be providing – with extreme prejudice – to anyone who is enslaved. For us that already have it (almost everyone), let’s stride towards doing something with it.

Zero consumer debt. The business/management structure and resources to take vacations of your choosing. Being able to cover your personal overhead for a year or so without additional income. Those are good goals to have. I think they’ll give you the feeling you’re looking for. None of them are “Freedom”, but that’s okay.

Beyond that? Aim for the tangible specifics that build a secure, varied, respected, connected and love filled life. If you’re hungry for more, seek to do something huge. Create Quality in your life, in the way you lead or in a thing you build.

Don't be this guy - Sell fearlessly without feeling weird by CARING

Your business success demands colossal sales skill.

No entrepreneur can avoid it. No matter how it makes you feel, you must be come an expert salesperson. Even startup technologists building software in their code-caves have to persuade investors to sign cheques.

It’s no surprise that – sooner or later – I talk with all my clients about sales. Money does strange things to people and when talking to customers about it or asking for it… things get weird.

Otherwise confident entrepreneurs start second guessing themselves. They hesitate and choke. What was friendly conversation becomes stilted and awkward.

You can’t ask for the money when things get strange. You can’t handle objections when you feel awkward. You can’t close the deal when you’re acting weird.

So here’s a guide – that goes straight to the heart of the mental root of the weirdness – that’ll show you how to never mess it up again.  [click to continue…]

How to banish your fears about the future

This isn’t an article about hitting rock bottom. It’s worse.

The most horrifying place to be isn’t the gutter. It’s the moment when you start to feel the fall.

As always, it’s just in your head. That’s why it’s so bad: Hitting rock bottom is merely an exercise in dealing with concrete reality. But imagining it’s close to coming? That’s when the fear demons run wild.

As I said, the what-to-do-about-rock-bottom discussion will have to wait. This article isn’t about that. Besides, if you’re reading this, you’re not there.

Today we’re going to banish all speculative, hypothetical failures. Uncertainty and the fear of a horrifying future that may come to be… ends here.  [click to continue…]

How to hack your good intentions and turn them into action

“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” – Chuck Palahniuk

Everything you’ve ever wanted – along with the rest of human potential – lies in the gap between good intentions and concrete action. And it’s time for you to cross the chasm.

The majority slouch and gaze across the gulf at the much smaller (better looking) group who have made the leap. Anyone can do it, but there’s a thousand reasons why you can’t.

On the other side, they call those reasons “excuses”.

This article breaks down the psychological principle you NEED to traverse the void. It’s a tactic that I’ve road-tested on some of the world’s smartest entrepreneurs and when you use it, you’ll create rapid results instead of reasons-why-you-can’t.

Want wings? Read on… [click to continue…]

The danger of becoming super human for entrepreneurs

The path to entrepreneurial success has become synonymous with becoming superhuman.

With shining examples like Richard Branson and Elon Musk to inspire us, it’s no longer enough to achieve mere business success. The new entrepreneurial definition of success should be dubbed “The Tony Stark” – you need to become a billionaire, genius, playboy philanthropist… and you should probably look like Robert Downey Junior too.

Even if you dial the ambition back from “super human” to merely “optimized human”, you’re still looking at a todo list that includes a successful business, an inspiring relationship with a total babe, epic mastery of high speed sports and/or intellectually complex hobbies, raising of Mensa level genius children, multilingual fluency, good-looking brilliant friends, effortless charisma… and the list goes on.

Ever felt that pressure to be better in every area

The desire to “crush it” is a good ideology, but what if I told you that – in practice – it’s crippling the progress of the entrepreneurs mid-way through their journey to the top.

Over-optimization is dangerous. Here’s why…  [click to continue…]