On freedom and liberty

Political liberty gives us a lot of freedom

We are “free” to do some pretty stupid things in our careers and businesses.

We are at “liberty” to really mess up, and I have, from time-to-time.

If you really want freedom and liberty, be careful what you ask for. Better yet, have an idea what you plan to get out of the deal.

Now, this is not a patriotic post. It is not a political post.

It is not even an abstract, philosophical post. (Or at least it’s not intended to be.)

My intention is to make it very practical for your work and your career. I am open to your assessments of how I did if you want to share them.

I’ve been thinking about how our sense of time affects our notions of freedom and liberty.

In this moment, I have the freedom to choose what I will do. I have many liberties that I can exploit.

I also have the obligation not to do something stupid if I also want to preserve my freedoms in the future.

Of course, I stopped and looked up freedom and liberty in the dictionary before writing this. Here is a short summary of the distinctions:

  • Liberty – freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction […]; power or right of doing […] according to choice
  • Freedom – an absence of undue restrictions and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers

So, both terms have to do with the absence of restrictions, obligations, limitations or what we might otherwise consider to be a constraint. Adding the notion of “undue” we could think of simply “the absence of unwanted constraints“.

But freedom to live a good life requires accepting obligations

If living a good life, having a good career and being valuable to the world and the marketplace is important, then being able to choose how to use my freedom in the moment to optimize my freedom over time must also be important.

Toby Hecht of The Aji Network has said that he doesn’t have the freedom to play the piano, because he never accepted the obligation to practice.

To make that personal for many of my readers… you need to learn to use social media tools… you need to engage the Internet community…

Not feeling any obligation to do so won’t help you avoid the consequences of being lost in the marketplace when you’d like to have opportunities, just like not accepting the obligation to fill your car with gas won’t help you avoid the consequence of running out at the worst possible time.

Here is a safe place to start. Feel FREE to post a comment… I don’t require that you log in… and then you will have it out of your system.


Not that! Avoid chasing fantasies!

I, umm, slipped?

Earlier today I had the opportunity to decline to make an offer, and I took it.

It felt pretty good, actually… since I have not always done that in my career.

With a lifetime as a consultant, I have felt an obligation to learn ahead of my client and to make quick assessments of my ability to take on more than I have handled in the past.

For a long stretch of my career, that has included teaching technical subjects through formal instructor-led training.

I often had the opportunity to study and play with technologies in ways my clients could not… if only because they had “day jobs” that consumed their available time.

Being a full-time traveling instructor gave me a lot of hotel time, flight time and time in-between classes to study, invent, test things out and learn in the process. Now, I should add that my first company was a training company, and we often looked for marketable courses that would be unique and drive premiums.

Oh, and I was younger then, and the choice of technologies was one of a few client/server platforms, one of a few databases… and the Internet was not enabling advancements as quickly or in quite the same way as it is today.

Anyway, there was an opening for me to make a training offer today, and rather than jump at it I referred my client to another company that provides formal training on the topic instead.

My team could give on-the-job training, or even an ad hoc session or two… we may still do that, but in my past firm we might have jumped right into developing formal courseware and offering open enrollment courses as a result of this kind of “opportunity”.

One of these guys needs a barber less than the others.

In my thinking, an opportunity is a situation with a real structure and real properties to take care of my concerns. So:

  1. A barber is not an opportunity for me because I have very little hair (no concern)
  2. My fairy godmother is not an opportunity for me… well, because I don’t have one (no real properties)
  3. The lottery is not an opportunity for me because I don’t play it (no structure to produce the outcome)

Back to my current situation… we don’t have the courseware, we don’t have years in the classroom teaching this material, and we have no intention (strategic coherence) to begin offering training at this time.

So you can sometimes see “opportunities” right in front of you, but it is critical to make assessments of their strategic coherence to your plans and offers, as well as your ability to make them real and exploit them for your success.

If you don’t, you will waste a lot of time, energy, money and lost “real” opportunities chasing after fantasies that can never help you succeed.

Have you chased after “false opportunities” before? How can you recognize them? What ways can you see that you might take a situation like that and create a different kind of opportunity from it?