What are we doing all this for?
In my role, I talk to entrepreneurs and founders constantly, people who are building something for their families and their employees. These are people who are working a lot; burning the proverbial midnight oil, waking up early, working through lunch, missing dinners they’d rather have had with their families. And they’ve taken a leap – stepped out into the unknown, put their talent and finances on the line to achieve their goals. Their motivations vary, but one common thread always comes up: freedom.
We all want it, in some way, whether it’s financial freedom, freedom from stressors, or just the freedom to spend quality time with the ones we love. We want the agency to seize that freedom, but the path there is bumpy – and it’s easy to forget why we’re doing it, or lose track of where we are on the way to getting that freedom.
I’ve been thinking about freedom a lot lately. I’m a father of three – the oldest won’t be four for another three months. (Yes, my wife is amazing.) I push through most of the unpleasant tasks; I jump on the next conference call; I take the meeting, and I do it all for my kiddos. But I’m not convinced your work life needs to be uphill both ways in the snow. So the question becomes: how can you progress toward more freedom? How do you track that? What would you measure?
As they say, when the student is ready, the master appears.
Just a few months ago, I sat down to breakfast with a friend from business school named Cameron, and we got to talking about this idea of freedom, and how to get there. Everyone we know is experiencing this struggle on some level, whether as a business owner, a leader, or even just as a full-time parent.
As luck would have it, Cameron had been mulling the same thing. He’d come up with four guidelines, based on a famous ‘Four Rules of Cash’ business school article. (Aside: if you’re interested in that article, email me and I’ll share the article with you – it’s legit). Cameron’s Four Rules of Freedom blew my mind, and I’ve been working to apply them ever since.
Here they are – they’re very simple:
- More Freedom > Less Freedom
- Freedom Sooner > Freedom Later
- Safer Freedom > Risky Freedom
- Never Give Away All Your Freedom
More Freedom > Less Freedom
There are so many ways to add small freedoms, small joys, into your life if you look for them. What do I mean by freedoms? Think of the things that snag you up, that take your time, or where you can make doing them more pleasurable.
For example, as I write this, it’s early morning, and I’m sitting in a restaurant that I enjoy, beginning my day with coffee and good food and a side of work. I’ve found I feel more mental and creative freedom – and get more done – if I can start my morning outside the office.
Elsewhere, I’ve been inspired by this book to replace my sports podcast consumption with growth oriented audiobooks, in an effort to find more emotional and spiritual freedom.
This isn’t about big changes. It’s about little ones. Take a conference call to the parking lot and enjoy the sunshine. Or ask to spend Fridays working from home in the summer, giving you more time with your family and a day to block off from meetings.
Your commute is an opportunity to find more freedom, too. Could you get your exercise in just by biking to your office? Could you take public transit, freeing that time to catch up on emails before you get into the office? If you’re stuck with a long car commute, maybe start working your way through an audiobook (Pro tip: consider using 1.25x or 1.5x speed) that would help you grow professionally.
Freedom Sooner > Freedom Later
“When is the best time to plant a tree? 20 years ago. When is the second best time? Today.” – Chinese proverb
Start now. Carpe diem. If you add 1% more freedom (mental, spiritual, emotional, financial) every day, then you’re 37 times better twelve months later.
This is also where you’d take action if you feel massively stuck. No one succeeds alone – don’t believe that lone hero myth. Anyone who’s achieved significantly at times needed the help of a skilled therapist, a true friend, thoughtful mentor, wise rabbi, compassionate pastor, and/or gifted coach – I know I have. Sometimes we’re really stuck, and need help getting unstuck. On matters of freedom large or small: don’t put off to tomorrow what needs to be resolved or addressed today.
Safer Freedom > Risky Freedom
This rule is a hard one. Are entrepreneurs risk takers or risk mitigators? There is a time and place to say yes, quit your job and go all in. But ultimately, it’s wise to be thoughtful and calculated with your risk taking. We all need some adventure and adrenaline in our lives. But consider jumping into a cold springs, instead of jumping out of an airplane. Sit outside by a fire, instead of sitting behind the bar. Trade the motorcycle in for a sports car. Save, plan, and prepare your next role or pivot, instead of flying off the handle at your boss and quitting in a Jerry Maguire inspired blaze of glory.
Never Give Away Your Freedom
Life’s too short for jerks or dictators. No one should be required to work for a tyrant, or for an emotionally abusive boss. If that’s you, refer back to #2 – maybe you’re stuck, and should start thinking about how to get unstuck and find more agency without putting up with a jerk every day.
Too many people let financial freedom get in the way of professional freedom. Get your finances in a place (debt snowball, baby) where you can have options – whether that means more education, a career change, or a sabbatical. Don’t let your lifestyle block your freedom.
What are your metrics of freedom? What does freedom mean to you? And what small ways have you found to increase your share of freedom and agency? I’d love to hear from you – comment below or shoot me an email.
David Phillips is the Central Texas Sr. Vice President of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.
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