1. Scrap the permission-based mindset.
Waiting for permission is the fastest way to surrender your personal freedom and autonomy. You don’t need someone to say something is okay. If you know it’s right, based on examination and reflection, then go and do it.
You don’t need someone’s accreditation to launch into the professional world. Build a pitch deck and a value prop and start putting yourself in front of businesses. Don’t wait for someone to hire you to start working for them. If you’re excited about what they do, start creating value for free.
Waiting for other people’s okay is a surrender of your own power. It puts them in the driver’s seat, not you. The fastest way to build the life you want is to go and start building it, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.
2. Don’t do things just because someone tells you you should.
Do things because you sincerely believe in them.
I seriously considered going to college because people told me I should. In the end, I realized I sincerely believed in forging my own path and being successful without college, and that was the conviction upon which I made my decision.
Don’t go to college just because society tells you to go to college, or because your peers or parents tell you it’s necessary. Don’t follow a standard career track just because someone told you it’s the fast track to success.
3. Understand what’s valuable and what isn’t.
Value is the underlying driving force in society — it’s what all human systems are built upon. Throughout human history, the foundation of networks has been exchange — the trade of goods and services, i.e. value.
To be a free, competent entity within this human system (in which we’re all living), you must understand value. Study what’s valuable — to employers, to businesses, to consumers, to your peers, to the people you want the freedom to interact with. Learn it. Internalize it. Learn how to shape your work around it.
If you can communicate in terms of value, and if you can provide value to people, you can create opportunities for yourself anywhere.
4. Make yourself a valuable entity.
This is a basic principle of economics — the more valuable something is, the more people desire it.
Don’t just understand what’s valuable to people — become valuable. Do things that increase your own professional and personal worth. Learn skills that increase your earning potential, and increase the range of problems you’re able to solve. Broadcast that worth by developing a website, a blog, or a podcast and building social proof. Learn how to build interesting things. Learn how to make systems more efficient. Develop assets you can use to boost your innate value.
5. Take ownership of your actions and your decisions.
With freedom comes responsibility. In every choice you make, you must both reap the rewards and own the consequences. If you mess up, say so. If you’re in a situation that you don’t like, don’t play the victim card. You aren’t a victim. You’re a free agent that made the decisions that brought you here, and even if you didn’t choose the outcome, you’re free to make choices in how you move forward.
6. Hold yourself accountable. Don’t let yourself make excuses.
It’s very easy to make excuses to other people when you mess something up or make a poor decision. It’s also easy to make an excuse to yourself.
Some days you’re tired, and you have two options before you: you can watch Netflix until you fall asleep, or you can write a blog post before you go to bed. You choose Netflix. You feel guilty, later, when you’re getting ready for bed without having written your blog post. You can make excuses to yourself as you turn out the light — “I was tired,” “I didn’t have any good ideas,” “I needed a creative recharge,” etc. These might all be valid points — balance is important — but you’re letting yourself off the hook when you brush over that guilty feeling without examining it first. You’re enabling your own passivity by rationalizing it.
This is true in both the macro and the micro — big life decisions and little, everyday things.
Excuses pave and polish the path to mediocrity. Eradicate them.
7. Don’t accept failure as a possibility.
When you’re not waiting for permission to do things and you’re taking responsibility for your actions, there are going to be bumps in the road. You have to be resilient.
In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill has a passage about the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In that passage, he makes a very poignant point — those 56 men were signing not only a proclamation of freedom, but a document that could very well have become their death warrant. If the British were victorious and their revolution failed, each one of those men very likely would have been hanged for treason.
In their minds, there was no possibility of failure. The only viable option was success, and they would not — now could not — give up until they’d obtained it.
The road to freedom — and to success of any kind — is messy. There will be many failures along the way, and many false endings that result in defeat. If you want to take autonomy in your decisions and your life path, you must not accept failure as a possible outcome. Failure is a step in the process, not a destination. The only possibility is success.
8. Be relentless in your pursuit of self-betterment.
Victory does not come to the passive. It is granted to those who fought the hardest — and the smartest. Track your wins. Examine your losses.
Be intentional about where you’re going — set regular goals — but also trust the process. Take opportunities that make you better, even if they don’t lead you directly to where you want to end up. Have clear intentions for growth, but know that those intentions can be fulfilled in unexpected places.
9. Know yourself.
Out of all of these points, this may be the hardest. It certainly runs deepest. To truly have freedom, you must understand why you make the decisions that you do. We’re the slaves of our own minds and our own habits. We make choices all the time that seem involuntary. We often don’t know why we end up in the relationships we do, make the mistakes we do, have the mental blocks we do.Practice constant self-reflection and examination. Ask yourself ‘why’ — why do I value this? Where does this value come from? What do I fear?
Knowledge is power. The better you know yourself, the better you can take control of your actions. Rather than being reactive, you can become proactive.
10. Don’t rest on your laurels. Freedom is not only hard-earned, it’s hard-kept.
We live in a world filled with people who are more than happy to take your freedom away if you get tired of holding it — systems that allow you to follow the conveyor belt without ever having to make a critical decision more difficult than whether you want to go to state school or a liberal arts college. Maintaining your personal freedom and autonomy is much harder. It’s a constant upward path. Audit your successes the same way you audit your failures — examine them, see what you can learn and apply in the future, then file all of that away and keep moving forward.