Independence or Freedom, What do you seek?


What and Why?

I was prompted to write this article due to a discussion I had with a close friend. She used the word “independence” many times while we were communicating, but I had a strong feeling that there is something else that she was seeking. Then I deliberately and yet casually used these words while communicating with other people and the most usual response was “What’s the difference?”. Even a business leader initially could not easily comprehend the difference and needed an explanation. Incidentally, the nature of my work is such that I get to interact with many people who may be regarded as non-standard as per average norms of society. They may be Entrepreneurs, Coaches, mentors, leaders and artists. I operate from a startup hub and that means I am in physical proximity of 200 plus other entrepreneurs in a given work day. While interacting with many of the I realised that apart from their BIG IDEA, one of the strongest reason for them for being an entrepreneur was the fact that they wanted to move away from corporate ruts and create something independently. Even the other people that are usually my company like artists are usually notorious for their constant pursuits of independence.

But thinking deeply about the word independence I made some observations.

Independence is Impossible

Let’s simply dissect the word Independence as a combination In (that means no or not) + dependence. Which simply means that we are not dependent on nothing/nobody. True independence is actually an impossible concept, though I will sound very philosophical analysing that. But a human being today is totally dependent upon the society, state and businesses to provide it with all the necessities right from heat, power, water, food, clothes, movement, love, company, status, work and much more. A true independent person may be someone who lives in a jungle like Tarzan which means he does not rely on the state, society or business for his physical needs and survival. But here again this Tarzan is dependent upon the trees, nature and his animal friends for food, shelter, hunt, belonging and purpose. So when a person talks about independence either they are talking about a very limited small independence. Like a person who lives alone in a house (rented or owned), has a good job and no obnoxious relation can be termed as an Independent person. But if you look closely the person may still be dependent on landlord, bank and its Employer to maintain the standard of living. Even the entrepreneurs or small business owners, who think they are independent are dependent on their clients, lawyers, accountants, developers and employees for their Idea or business to succeed. So what’s with this Independence? Aren’t we seeking wrong thing?

Freedom is different than Independence

I firmly believe that the enigmatic personal milestone that most of us seek translates more towards “freedom” instead of “independence” In fact, an Independent person may not be a Free person at all, simply because independence actually brings more responsibility and predictability rather than making you free. I would bring in another word to the table here. It’s called “Interdependence”. If we look at us we actually live in a free society and also a free socio-financial culture. A simple example is that when going to my office, I am free to leave my house with no conveyance, no food, no cash and no gun. Reason being simple I have this freedom because there is public transport, food in cafes, police to protect us and banks to give us cash when we need it. All these establishments are also dependent on their customers to remain viable. So this series of interdependencies have created an atmosphere around us that can make us free. During old days a traveller needed to carry everything that they would need. Things like water, clothes, food, money and even weapons. Compare this to today when you can travel just with a credit card to even the remotest part of the world. This freedom is not due to the fact that various parts of out society are independent of each other, this is due to the fact that all elements of out society are interdependent on each other.

What is in it for me?

Let’s keep philosophy aside for the time being. The way Sherlock Holmes was a  fan of things “elementary”,  I am also a lover of simple explanations. I would simply say most of the times when we say we want to be independent, what we actually mean is that we need “Freedom”. Freedom to do our business our way, Freedom to spend out time the way we want, Freedom to eat the way we want, Freedom to travel where we want, Freedom to have the kind of relations we want and Freedom to create what we want to create. Achieving this freedom is not an easy task and different people may have totally different reasons as to why they are stuck not having this freedom. However, the realisation that we are seeking Freedom is one big step in right direction. We have established the fact that Freedom does not come always from being Independent. In fact being independent may tie you down to your work, business, relations or obligations. For example, a Single mother of a 5-year-old child with a nice job may be living a seemingly independent life because financially she is not dependent on anyone and she does not have any partner who may try to interfere with her lifestyle and choices. But at the same time, she may never be able to leave her job, start her own venture or travel around the world freely, just because her independence has tied her down to her obligations. So how do we achieve that elusive “Freedom”? The answer may deliberate cultivation of interdependencies around us rather than vain struggle to be independent. For an entrepreneur, this may translate into assembling a team and also trusted lineup of suppliers and partners. For an individual, this may mean creating a web of social interdependencies and also creating a system of Financial Interdependencies, that in turn will give them the Freedom that their heart seeks.

Decide and Create your Freedom

The message for you as a layman is very simple. First, you should do some serious thinking and try to answer this question – Do I want the vanity of being Independent at the cost of having no freedom for myself and my dreams? I bet, there would be one voice that will reverberate in hearts of most of us and the voice will be a big resounding “No”. As I said earlier,  making this realisation and making peace with this understanding is the mega first step.

I bet, there would be one voice that will reverberate in hearts of most of us and the voice will be a big resounding “No”. As I said earlier,  making this realisation and making peace with this understanding is the mega first step.

Find What Stops you

The next step will be to identify what will be the shape of your freedom and what blocks you from having that freedom. Do you want to be free from shackles of a job and start your business? Do you want to be free from shackles of a dead relation and live a free life? Are you financially stuck? Are you in a job that does not allow you to have free time and leave when you want? Do you not have enough saving to start that dream project or that dream holiday (no I would not recommend taking a personal loan, I am talking about savings or a second income stream). Do you have someone who you have to take care of or a relation that would not survive your quest for freedom? Once you identify the shape of your freedom and what blocks the rest of the journey is fulfilling, though challenging. The quest of my professional existence is to help ou overcome those blocks and become unstuck and achieve not just Freedom but also Liberation.

3 Outtakes

I would say 3 clear outtakes from the text above are very simple now:

  1. It’s Freedom and not Independence that most of us seek
  2. Freedom comes from carefully crafted Interdependencies
  3. To work towards our Freedom we first must recognise the need for same.

The 4th Outtake

The 4th outtake should be to subscribe to my future articles, as I am a big believer in breaking shackles and being free. Click here to do so. It’s not just freedom that I love talking or writing about. I am also a big fan of leading people who are stuck (either mental or physical constraint) and bringing them towards taking action and converting their ideas into reality as well as personal liberation and help on the ground. I would have loved to also compare Freedom with Liberation, but that will take this article away from its focus so I would love to stop here.

Next One Soon…