Be careful what you wish for… In the Zoo, the animals are safe in their cages, they are fed 3 meals a day, the fence keeps out predators and competition (isn’t that what Trump promised?).

We have to be careful what we wish for.

Freedom comes with a price, and that price is called responsibility. We need to practice the responsibility that allows us to deal with true freedom.

From Peter Drucker:

“The Nature of Freedom

Freedom is never a release and always a responsibility.

Freedom is not fun. It is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace or progress. It is a responsible choice. Freedom is not so much a a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something; that would be licence. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite, It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man: to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions.”

If you liked this, you will like reading Freedom is Not Fun.

“You can take my life, but you cannot take my freedom” William Wallace (through the mouth of Mel Gibson)

Freedom sounds like good stuff.  Generations have fought and died to allow us the individual freedom that we enjoy today.

Freedom is not the freedom from something, it is the freedom to choose to do or not to do something.  Freedom comes with a price: you are responsible for your choices.

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Freedom is a burden.

Freedom is not fun.  Freedom is a challenge for individual human beings to handle.  Few accept complete responsibility. Existential psychotherapists say that people will go to extreme mental contortions to avoid seeing two truths: we die and we alone are responsible for our life.

Andy Warhol said that if he could hire anyone, it would be a “boss”.  Someone who would tell him what to do each day.  It is tiring to have to personally decide what is important and what to work on each day.  Much easier to outsource the challenge to a boss, or a political party, or a guru.

It takes courage to live with the responsibilities inherent in freedom. We have the power to shape our lives, and we have the capacity to take action to create and to destroy. We are responsible for our lives.

Gandhi said that all rights come with corresponding responsibilities. All rights can only be earned by carrying out the required duties. The right to be free comes with the duty of full responsibility for your actions.

Edit 14/12/2016: Added this wonderful animation of this post by @Saminsights

The Source of Passion in our Life

I’ve been meeting a lot of CEO coaches over the last 6 weeks in order to develop my business Vistage Spain.  I am interested in meeting all of the people that CEOs can turn to when they need clearer vision, greater commitment and significant change.

I had a wonderful coffee and discussion with Rabieh Adih, executive coach and founder of Shine Coaching, today.

We discussed passion.  What it is, where it comes from, how it dies, how it is brought back…

My personal position is that passion and meaning can only come from within an individual human being.  It can only come when that person knows that they have given more than has been demanded.  It is only this Chosen Sacrifice that can result in a feeling of meaningfulness in a life.  If you give only the bare minimum, if you treat everything as a transaction…  you will kill passion and find your way to apathy.  It is only by choosing to give more than is necessary that you use your freedom in a meaningful way.

“It all starts with Love” Raul Cristian Aguirre

My friend and entrepreneur Raul Cristian Aguirre wrote recently in the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Octane magazine.  His message “It all starts with love”.

Now, I’m the first to hate hippy slogans and idealism, but Raul’s message is not about Love in the US Romantic Comedy sense.  He speaks of another meaning.

We often confuse love with liking or love with lust or love with enjoying being in someone’s company.  These are not love.  They can help you get to love.  Love is not a response.  Love is action.  Love is giving when not being asked to give.  Love is to give without waiting for anything in return.  Love is Chosen Sacrifice.

It is only through daily acts of giving more than is asked that we live lives of passion.

These acts must be chosen.  We must give freely.  Thus, freedom is the burden…  but it is the path to a life of passion.

The Freedom to Give More than is Asked by Life

Life places demands on you.  You can pay the minimum price.  There are a whole legion of workers in business that are the “Working Dead”, the “Quit and Stayed”…  day after day after day they deliver the necessary minimum work.  They achieve exalted states of Apathy.  (In Harry Potter, these might be the “Dementors” creatures who feed off your fears).

You can use your freedom to choose to give more than the asking price.

I don’t mean that you pay €5 for tomorrows newspaper.  I don’t mean that you pay €10 for your next bus journey.

The next email you write… take 10 seconds to make it 1% better than necessary.

The next person you pass in the hallway…  take a few seconds to really look into their eyes when you ask “how’s your day?”

The next person you meet with…  ask them about why they work, what is going well, what is not going so well.. and take interest in who they want to become.

Practice giving a tiny little extra in these small things.

This is where passion grows.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

 

 

The basic freedom we have in life is the freedom to make mistakes.  If we can’t make (reasonable) mistakes and learn from them, what freedom do we really have?

“The first time it is an accident, the second time it is a decision.”

My girlfriend likes to say: “The first time it is an accident, the second time it is a decision.”

My daughter is 8.  She is starting to develop the ability to be guilty about something, and expresses anxieties about the world like never before.  I assume this is a normal part of the growing up.  She has a powerful creative imagination and it can develop some pretty powerful scary future scenarios.  She hears about a plane crash and imagines her family on that plane.  She hears about a boat sinking and imagines her family on that boat.  She does something that hurts her friend (accidentally) and now spends 15 minutes feeling guilty and wallowing in the sadness.

Slaves to Guilt?

The limit on our freedom in most western societies has nothing to do with rules or laws or police.  It has to do with guilt, and imagined potential guilt.  Animals have a freedom in that they don’t lay awake at night painfully reliving their mistakes of the day and reliving the crap in a self-destructive guilty wallowing.

The first time you try anything, you should not be able to feel guilty.  I am able to feel guilty about certain things when just imagining them… and then feeling guilty that I even imagined it.  This then puts me in a crappy mood and I give up all efforts to be a better version of myself.

Sometimes it would be good to fall sleep with the guiltless calm of a dog or a cat.  A deer watches another deer being caught by lions without dwelling on the idea: “it could be me.”

Accident or Benefit?

I wonder whether guilt and anxiety are evolutionary advantages or they are accidents that came with the enlarged frontal cortex?  Our ability to imagine the future and plan how we will meet challenges is no doubt a powerful survival advantage.  The agonising feelings of anxiety, of low self worth, of being “bad”, of guilt – do they help?  Maybe they help us survive, but they do not help us thrive.

With my daughter, I don’t try to tell her to not feel the anxiety or the guilt.  What she feels is real.  I loved a conversation she had with a wise 11 year old.  My daughter asked “what is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?”  The older girl replied “I don’t find that a good thing to think about…  I prefer to ask what is the best thing that has happened.”  The older girl has a great imagination but has learnt to direct her imagination towards the positive.  It doesn’t mean that she ignores reality, but it does mean that she doesn’t wallow in the negative feelings of what could go wrong.

Life can be scary and bad things do happen.  We cannot pretend that this is not the case.

We can cultivate the belief that we are resourceful and when we face challenges we will do the best that we can do – but we don’t have to spend our hours, days and years preparing for every horrific potential scenario.

Are you a parent who has seen a child face anxieties and feelings of guilt?  How have you helped them deal with these uncomfortable feelings?