Freedom is not about…
1. Doing what you want when you want however you want with whomever you want if you want all the time
This is a view of freedom often peddled by lifestyle designers, internet marketers and other solopreneurs. Of course, the ability to have dominion over your schedule is a huge aspect of freedom which many of the employed world can only dream of. Of course, the fact that I am writing this right now on my deck on the water in the sunshine is an amazing thing to be able to do. But hedonism – valuing the present over the future – is not freedom; it only tends to breed more dissatisfaction and frustration. See Brian Johnson’s video for a good explanation of hedonism vs nihilism vs rat racing vs being happy. Real freedom comes from embracing commitments to yourself and other people. And sometimes, just like your Dad warned you growing up, doing things you don’t want to. Shocker. Especially to us millennials. That doesn’t mean not owning your likes and dislikes. Most people grow when they stand up to social convention and actually name what they do and don’t have a preference for. It’s a big deal developmentally. But I can tell you from experience when you can get up and do anything every day without immediately needing to make money, it’s not all it’s cracked up to being. It’s more of a relief from its opposite. Just like if you have been fearing an event, deadline or exam. Or in my instance I felt trapped by a company I had built. There’s a release after it. But it passes. And then in my experience you need an overarching sense of purpose and community with people, otherwise you risk living as an island. An underwhelming island. For those of us who have some freedom from needing to work every day just to pay the bills, I think the bigger question becomes, not what can I do to enjoy myself but what I can contribute which would have me be really fulfilled. Actually, it’s both, but the latter is so under-emphasized in some of the lifestyle design world, that it’s what I am choosing to emphasize here.
I had the pleasure of listening to Eric McAfee talk last weekend. He’s built billion-dollar companies and invested in others, many in clean tech. Check him out, cool guy. I loved his take in a very pragmatic way – what’s the thing that you can uniquely solve? What problem can you go and tackle because you see it, can bring the resources together (which you may not know how yet – his definition of an entrepreneur “someone who allocates resources s/he doesn’t yet control’) and feel called to it. The beauty of life is that it needs all of us. We are all part of the tapestry. We can all be part of the solution. We can all be vessels of evolution, of bringing something better in the world whether artistically, entrepreneurially, organizationally, familially or otherwise. This is what I would love to hear more location-independent and internet marketeer types dwell on. Not just what do I want. But what does the world want from me? For more on that, check out New Ventures West founder James Flaherty or attend one of his roundtables.
Freedom is about…
2. Fully coming to terms with who you are
Okay, I am not the first person you’ve probably heard that from. But here are some of my musings on this. One, there are ever increasing levels of understanding who you are. When people go from living a prescribed life to a self-authored life, they often talk about ‘who you really are’ in a binary way. I wasn’t who I really was THEN, and I am who I really am NOW. It makes sense. I was there. And, in time, I have realized that who Jack Butler is ever unfolding, ever refined in the crucible of life. Which is part of the magic of life. It’s also the reason why I have and encourage my clients to have an ongoing self-inquiry practice. Otherwise we can be living into realities of us which are out of date, even if in a very nuanced way. So just because you ‘found yourself’, don’t believe your own PR. You are always fully coming to terms with who you are, if your inquiry is fresh, present and genuine.
Two, some of the main things which get in the way of our being fully who we are include others’ expectations and our expectations of ourselves. The former gets a lot of column inches. Rightfully, because it’s massive. And here I am more drawing our attention to the latter. Part of the latter is our inner critic, and most of us who have done some inner work have encountered that. I used constantly to run late and every time during the journey when I knew I would be late I would berate myself something silly. Now, (mostly!) I make more effort to be on time (by scheduling more realistically), and when I am not I let people know and I let it go. But the other piece which can really get in the way, and which I am continually staggered by how much it’s still the case for me, is our ideal self or idealized self. Something in me loves the idea of being robotically disciplined (for you Enneagramists, think a 7 contracting at 1). And yet my true nature is an artist. Not one who draws, but one who gets inspired, has visions, has moods, has high energy, has low energy, can produce more in one day than some can in a week and can do less in a week than some do in a day. Of course, as an artist the more I can metabolize values of organization, self-discipline and consistency, the more I will create things of value. But if it falls over into an ideal version of myself which is fully calendarized and always planned (for GTD-ers, think super hard scheduled), I am setting myself up for failure, doom and non-Jackness.
So here’s to the crazy ones I know. The conscious creatives. Those who are creating freedom in the world with their creativity, self-expression and entrepreneurial endeavors. Whilst doing inner work to be more conscious of who they really are, what is really showing up in their experience. And living into a more lived reality of our deep social connection as members of one human family.
And if you have that down, I’d love to hear what your practices are.