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.