Who’s the champion for your freedom?

A few years ago, I read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It’s an excellent book about end-of-life issues and I highly recommend it, but the idea that most stuck with me is summarized in this quote:

“We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love. That remains the main problem and paradox for the frail. Many of the things that we want for those we care about are things that we would adamantly oppose for ourselves because they would infringe upon our sense of self.”
― Atul Gawande

When we are caring for aging parents, when we are caring for children, or anyone we love, we most want them to be safe. We want to preserve their life and health above everything else.

But as anyone who has been a teenager knows, we don’t always make the “safe” choice for ourselves. Sometimes we choose adventure, fitting in with others, or just stubborn rebellion over safety. That creates a sense of self. We must be the advocates for our own best life.

This is why people who love us make bad business advisors!

What does every family member do when you tell them you are starting your own business? Mine tried to talk me out of it!

When my business was just six months old (and struggling), my father, who worked on a failed start-up throughout my high school years, told me, “Son, sometimes you need to know when to come in out of the rain.”

He wasn’t wrong; things had been rough that first six months. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing. I had two clients, and one of them was going bankrupt. The “rational” choice was to quit and get a job.

But I didn’t want to do that!

Who’s the champion for your freedom?

When I started my business taking risks was easy – I had nothing to lose! But as my business has grown, now the stakes are higher. My team depends on me, my reputation is at stake, my lifestyle has expanded, and I don’t want to disappoint my family.

Now I’m in an awkward position of wanting to advocate for my own freedom, but the risk of screwing up is higher – the siren song of the safe path is playing full volume. Is following a risker path that’s more true to my dreams, goals, and values even possible?

This is when we start to give up what we need and opt for a safe path for everyone. One small decision at a time, we give up on what we wanted when we started our businesses so that we can keep everyone safe. We make the “rational” decision that “everyone” knows is best. Our dream of freedom for ourselves gets subsumed into the vortex of feeding the business’ growth.

If you give up being the champion for your freedom, who will do that for you? Who is the person who sees your sense of self getting whittled away and calls you back out into the unknown path toward freedom?

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