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.

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



Three Life Paths

University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman categorised hundreds of people into three groups based on how they pursued happiness:

  1. The Pleasant Life: People in pursuit of the Pleasant Life seek happiness by looking for pleasure. They are good at savouring the moment and making their pleasures last.
  2. The Engaged Life: People in pursuit of the Engaged Life seek happiness by working hard at their passions. They can immerse themselves so deeply in their passion that they sometimes come across as cold and uncaring of the needs of others.
  3. The Meaningful Life: People in pursuit of the Meaningful Life use their strengths to work toward something they feel contributes to a better world.

Warning for those who seek Pleasure

Seligman found that people who pursued the Pleasant Life experienced little happiness, while those who pursued the Meaningful Life and the Engaged Life were very happy.

Raul Aguirre recently reminded me of the ideas of Dr John DeMartini on the Pleasant Life path:  “We attract into our lives the opposites of what we seek”.  To seek to avoid pain, is to invite pain in.  To seek to avoid problems, is to invite problems in.

Which Path are you on?

Take Our Poll

Update: Raul has provided more detail of the life paths

Lawrence Kolhberg worked on levels of morality: he defined three stages of moral development. At LV*, we operate al Level 1 (the most primitive, seeking reward and avoiding punishment).

*LV is “Lower Values”, a Dr John DeMartini term for a life that is not dedicated to your personal HV – highest values.  When our life is coherent with our purpose and Highest Value (we don’t have to do much work to find it, just pay attention to where things flow easily for us) then all of our activity moves to a more inspired level of consciousness.

 Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)

  • 1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
  • 2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)

Level 2 (Conventional)

  • 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/girl attitude)
  • 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)

Level 3 (Post-Conventional)

  • 5. Social contract orientation (Laws that do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”)
  • 6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience) (Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws.)

Six Human Needs according to Tony Robbins


  • Certainty / Comfort
  • Uncertainty / Variety
  • Significance
  • Love & Connection


  • Growth
  • Contribution

“Always Busy” is a Decision

You don’t find time, you make time.

“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” Debbie Millman*

Anything worthwhile should take a long time.  The myth of overnight success is just that… a myth.  Acorns take time to become great oaks.  Nothing that comes easily will feel worthwhile, but I chase the quick fixes and the rapid results.  There is no other path than committing to the hard labour of the path.  A mountain climber uses his own strength to reach the summit, he knows that a helicopter and a parachute does not count.

I find myself so often searching for a few more facebook likes, rather than writing and rewriting chapters that put my ideas into an improved form.  I need to remind myself that hard work on what matters is both rewarding in and of itself, and the only real path to somewhere worthwhile.

*I found this quote over at Maria Popova’s brainpicking blog.

Jedi Productivity 10 of 11: ”Luke! you switched off your targeting computer!” making time for yourself

This post is part of the Star Wars Jedi Productivity blog post series.  There will be 11 posts coming weekly every Tuesday for… yes… just counted it… the next 11 weeks.  These posts will guide your journey from a wilful, novice young pretender who is controlled by time…  into a magnificent Jedi who uses time as her own power.  The full set of posts are available from here.

”Luke! you switched off your targeting computer!” making time for yourself

“I am so busy” everybody’s excuse

This week I am going to take a step back from Jedi Productivity disciplines and look at our lives from a higher viewpoint than hour-by-hour.  Today we’ll take a week or year-long perspective.

Many people who struggle with procrastination find that the source of their procrastination is not a lack of Jedi Productivity discipline.  It is not from a lack of willpower.  It is not from a lack of clear work goals.  It comes from a different source.

It comes from something important missing in your life.

Can you Play like a Child?

It comes from not loving your free time.  It comes from having forgotten how to play.

Kids are great at play.  Some adults are great at play.  Many adults are not.  They lost it somewhere along the way.

The source of the loss is largely due to the way that older people ask us questions: “why are you doing this?  why are you studying that?”  We are asked to justify ourselves.  We begin to feel the need to justify all activity in terms of some wider goal.

The danger?  The danger comes when I start to use this question on all aspects of life.

My daughter, now age 7, often responds to the question “why are you doing that?” with the wonderfully profound answer “because I want to.”  She hasn’t lost the ability to play.  She has a full, wonderful capacity to play.  (sometimes so wonderful that it causes me, her father, to make her sit down and eat, tidy her toys, do her homework, read a few lines of a book…)

My most common justification is “I am doing it to earn money.”  (A more pervasively dangerous answer is “because I have to”)

I recently asked myself how well I use my free or “spare” time.  I didn’t like the answer.  I tend to be planned and intentional about how I use “work” hours, and unintentional and unprepared around “free” hours.  I think the quality of my “free” hours (do I use them to take a real break, do I get recharged with energy, do I enjoy life?) has a direct impact on the productivity of my “work” hours.

What do you love to do in your free time? What do you do on the weekends where you have no commitments?

How well do you use your “free” hours?

There are two types of activity: “do-to-get” activity and “do-to-do” activity.  Let me share a little bit about what I mean by these two types of activity.

  • do-to-get“: I spend 15 minutes this morning creating client invoices and emailing them as pdf files.  If you ask me what I am doing, I say I am doing my accounting.  If you ask me why, I will say “I am doing this in order to get money.”
  • do-to-do“: I spend 1 hour yesterday reading a book called The Master and The Emissary.  If you ask me what I am doing, I say I am reading.  If you ask me why, I will say that I am doing this because I am interested in the ideas in the book.  In reality I enjoy reading.  I am not doing it to get anything.

All “do-to-get” activities are not purposeful (to me) in themselves – they are so that I have more time, resources, capabilities for my “do-to-do” activities.  Jedi Productivity is very important in “do-to-get” activities, because the aim is to have the biggest impact for the least use of resources (time, money, network).

Work is a “do-to-get” activity for most people.  They don’t love the activity of their job.  They do their job so that they have resources for something else.  It might be to save money to buy a kitesurf holiday.  It might be to pay for the roof over their heads and the food on the table.  The meaning (to me) of this “do-to-get” activity is not sourced intrinsically from the actual activity itself; it is derived from the future application of the resources that the activity will deliver to you.

100% Busy and Entirely Meaningless

Many lives are so entirely filled up with “do-to-get” activity and a “do-to-get” mindset that there is no “do-to-do” activity at all in the life.  This is a life gathering resources without purpose.  This is a life of busy-ness.

We live one glorious opportunity of life and will pass away.  The playful exploration of life of “do-to-do” activity is what makes a life feel meaningful.  If you have no playful exploration in your life, there is little point in being Jedi Productive.  Your mind will ask you “what is the point?”  If I have zero wonderful “do-to-do” activities for my free time, there is no value in being Jedi Productive in my “work” time.

If you find that you procrastinate often it might not have anything to do with your Jedi Productivity disciplines, it might have everything to do with your life having a sense of meaninglessness – in particular in your “free” time.

What are your “do-to-do” activities?  What are the activities that you do and have a guilty feeling of not being able to explain to someone why it is important to you?

Finding your “do-to-do” activities

Carl Jung had an intense fascination with his own first memory.  It was building a house out of wooden blocks.  He made sure that he was always involved in a hands-on building project throughout his life.  He pushed all those around him to explore their own first memories of play. He believed there is something important for us in the activity that makes up our earliest childhood memory.  What is yours?  What is your earliest memory of playing?  What were you doing? 

My first memory of play is of sitting on a red toy tractor.  I remember being pushed off the tractor by my friend who lived next door.  I remember lying on the floor feeling confused…  “why did he do that?”  I have always been interested in psychology, in stories about people, in finding ways to understand what drives people to do the things that they do.

What are your “do-to-do” activities?

I love running.  I know it is good for my health, I know it gets me out into nature, I know I feel better afterwards… but none of those are the real reasons why I run.  I run because I enjoy running.  It is a “do-to-do” activity for me.  Running becomes meaningful to me because I seek no justification for doing it.

I love public speaking.  I get paid for it.  I know I can explain it as good business marketing…  but none of those are the real reasons why I take opportunities to speak to large groups of people.  It is a “do-to-do” activity for me.  Its meaning to my life comes from it being an endpoint of sorts – it is not the means to any other end, it is an end in and of itself.  It is a form of play.

What about you?

What are your “do-to-do” activities?  What are the activities that you feel the need to justify, but at core you do because you get something meaningful from the activity in and of itself.  In simple terms: What is your play?

Goodbye Ad-Hoc, Hello Systematic

In order to be a full Jedi time manager, the novice must learn to use proven tools such as:

  • Prioritising
  • Goal Setting
  • Deadlines
  • Delegation
  • Planning

That’s what this post series is all about.  You will become a master of the force and a power user of the tools of systematic, habitual action. Are you a Jedi guided missile?  Are you systematic in how you set goals and make daily progress on what is important?  Or, are you more of an ad-hoc novice?

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Exit mobile version