How to Gain Personal Freedom and Control
My dad was a strict disciplinarian. I hated that. I hated it so much that I grew up desperately wanting to control my own life. To have the freedom to do what I want, how I want, when I want.
But here’s the thing. The pursuit of personal freedom has brought me face-to-face with an interesting dilemma. Turns out, it takes a tremendous amount of discipline and work ethic to achieve that lofty dream. And guess who I learned that from?
Yup, it pains me to admit it, but I learned it from my dad. The irony.
Since most of you are probably in pursuit of the same thing, more or less, I thought I’d fill you in on exactly how I’ve managed to achieve freedom and control over my life. Yes, it’s all about discipline, but not exactly the way you’d think.
Always get the job done. Sure, I like to procrastinate as much as the next guy, but I’m also deeply committed to my work. I always do whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s my number one priority. No exceptions.
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Be a Schmoozer. I’m a people person who loves to schmooze, network and build relationships. I didn’t plan it that way, but it kills two birds with one stone: You’ll never have a shortage of friends or business opportunities.
Love your work. Turns out, it’s really hard to be disciplined when you hate what you’re doing. I could never pull that off.
Learn to delegate. It’s a good thing I became a manager early in my career. Climbing the corporate ladder taught me how to delegate effectively.
Don’t drink before 5. I like to party, so, unless it’s in some way associated with work, my days are more or less alcohol free. It’s a lifelong habit that’s paid off well.
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Become a caffeine addict. Caffeine is an amazing stimulant. Long ago I went decaf for 10 years. I call that time the Dead Zone. It was the least productive part of my life. I have no idea what I was thinking.
Work hard, but only when you have to. In the past – when it counted – I commuted halfway across the country, travelled millions of air miles, relocated, and worked long hours, including weekends. But I did all that on my terms … and only when I had to.
Strive to be the best at everything you do. And I do it right the first time. Turns out, if you’re really good, you don’t have to work as much. And if you get it right the first time, you don’t have to do it over.
Take care of yourself. I try not to let work or anything else get in the way of my health and wellbeing: sleep, exercise and eating right. Sure, I have vices, but I try to live a balanced life. And I’m very active, especially outdoors.
Be selfish. I try to make work fun by working outdoors as often as I can and, if there’s not a lot of thinking involved, with the tunes on. And when I’m not working or doing chores, I mostly do what I want, when I want. I’m not big on obligations. After all, it’s my life.
Look, it takes all kinds, and my way of doing things is definitely not for everyone. The point I’m trying to make here is that everything comes at a price. If you want personal freedom and control over your life, you’ve got to go about it in a disciplined way. You’ve got to have certain rules. There’s just no way around that.
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Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive, and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur (Entrepreneur Press, October 2015). Tobak runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting and blogs at stevetobak.com, where you can contact him and learn more.