What does freedom mean to you?
It’s a tough question. When I was younger I think my answer would have been much more skewed to the financial aspects of life. Back when I had my first job in the corporate world, an intern at GE Appliances in Louisville, Kentucky, I thought I had it all figured out: graduate, get a job, buy a house with a 15-year loan, pay it off as soon as I could, keep working, save, invest, and retire early to enjoy life.
Thankfully I didn’t take that path but I don’t blame 20-year-old Adam for thinking like that. Despite associating freedom almost exclusively with financial freedom, I intuitively knew there was more to it than that. (Of course there is the whole living in a free society thing, but I was a teenager and ignorant/unaware that so many around the world don’t live in free societies – or societies that offer the illusion of freedom.)
In high school I saw the movie Braveheart. It instantly became my favorite movie, combining two romantic ideals that tugged at my heartstrings – love and freedom. William Wallace wasn’t striving for financial freedom though, and I understood freedom was far more complex than my simplistic teenage view of it. Maybe a simple definition of freedom that I can offer today is “being able to pursue happiness.” Being empowered to pursue happiness is even better.
What I want out of life now as 30-year-old Adam is so much more. Since then I’ve discarded depression, earned a lot of money working at jobs I didn’t like, realized that a high income has no bearing on my happiness, took the plunge, discovered the power within, volunteered a ton, and found happiness.
The financial side of things is more a thorn in my side than anything else – a game I have to play to exist in the modern world. Financial freedom is one of the last keys to achieve my version of freedom.
Until now I have always had my dwindling savings on my mind, but I was focused on other things. In Latin America it was learning Spanish and volunteering, in Southeast Asia it was looking inward and connecting with the universe. In South Asia..I’m still trying to figure it out to be honest, but I think it was a test of will, perhaps a reminder why I’m dedicating my life to serving others. As I have searched within to figure out how to combine my interests, passions, and skills to make money in a responsible way to continue living life on my terms, it hasn’t been easy and by all means I haven’t figured it all out yet.
But I’m close!
I read this book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau on the recommendation of a friend. In all honesty, had his previous book not inspired me so much I probably wouldn’t have read it. But with his previous book being part of my transformation from corporate tool to nomadic idealist, I was powerless to resist.
I have an MBA and I really worked hard and spent a lot of money to get it. But in some ways I feel like an MBA can stifle entrepreneurship even if it’s one of the core elements of every program. It’s easy to get lost in the theory and not really see the connection between what you study and how you can become an entrepreneur yourself..
That’s the beauty of the premise of this book.
How This Book Can Help You
The starting point is to think about how you can help or be useful for others. Build a business around that, with the foundation being that skill, ability, or innovation you have. There are dozens of stories of ordinary people living out their dreams and few books about entrepreneurship could cast a net so wide as to be relevant for so many.
Another element of the book that fits so well with me is that it’s about people who have built small, sustainable businesses. Although some businesses have become multi-million dollar businesses that required hiring employees, many are one-person operations. As someone who strives to keep life as simple as possible, this is exactly what I would like to do. In an ideal situation, I’d work part-time and travel full-time continuing to explore life and happiness around the world.
More than anything, this book is quite empowering and full of useful resources to help you get started and inspired. For example:
- All stories feature entrepreneurs who earn at least $50,000 annually from their business
- All had less than $1000 in startup costs, the median being about $400
- No special skills required (meaning there are no doctors or dentists or something like that)
- There are many worksheets to help you get started in planning your own business, and exercises to make you think about how you can align your passion, purpose, and business sense to create a sustainable living
- Helpful guides and stories in going from idea to business to expansion (if you want to expand, but sometimes it’s best to stay small)
- There are antidotes to “I’m not an entrepreneur” thinking, with people accidentally creating businesses by stumbling upon value everyone else has missed
I don’t regret doing an MBA. It’s a great degree and I learned a lot. I just don’t have any interest in doing the corporate thing and thus I don’t use my degree very much. This book, on the other hand, really helps you get a practical view of how microbusiness and entrepreneurship works. It’s not as scary as it seems. It’s what humans have generally done throughout history, but have shied away from in the era of gigantic conglomerates. With such low startup costs and so much opportunity out there… why wouldn’t you?
In my case, I asked myself what the worst thing that could happen is and I couldn’t come up with anything scarier than meditating with pythons or getting assaulted in Colombia during a robbery or feeling like I’d die in an Indian train’s bathroom.
So, the start of another adventure – making my life financially sustainable so I can continue being free to live life on my terms and dedicate my life to serving humanity. I hope in sharing a piece of my own transformation-in-progress you’ll also find financial freedom, no doubt a component in your own pursuit of happiness.
As for what I’ll be doing, stay tuned for a few weeks and I’ll make an announcement later. If you’ve already read this book, feel free to leave a comment below with your opinion!