It is said that King Wei of Chu (4th century BC), having heard of the sage, Chuang Tzu, sent a messenger with gifts to invite him to be chief minister. Chuang Tzu merely laughed and said: “Go away, do not defile me…I prefer the enjoyment of my own free will”. He knew the value of being your own boss, and it is not just about work.
The first lesson here is in the value of personal freedom through being your own boss at work. The story points to how no amount of riches or status will compensate for the loss of personal freedom. The freedom to do whatever the f*** you want with your time (without harming others of course).
Yet, riches and status are what so many chase after, sacrificing their freedom in the process. What’s funny is that while such people crave the freedom of being their own boss, they are still unwilling to give up their well paid jobs and their associated lifestyles. Well, I’m afraid it is quite difficult to have it both ways! If you trade your freedom for money and status, you’ve made a choice. And, that choice comes with consequences.
Equally, if you have made the decision to be your own boss, that too will have certain consequences. It is just that you value personal freedom so much that these consequences are inconveniences you are willing to accept.
This point can be generalised beyond the sphere of work too. Often, we can feel pressured to stifle who we are — to fit in — because we don’t want to lose the validation we get from others, whether they are friends, family or our wider peer group. Note, I am not talking about those terrible and complex situations where the threat of physical injury may be at play for not keeping your head down. I am talking about those everyday situations of feeling uncomfortable about being who you really are.
Indeed, the human mind is peculiar in that it can perceive the disapproving vibes of our peers as very threatening. Perhaps, even as threatening as physical violence. We are the most social species on earth after all, so it isn’t surprising that we have these predispositions. Yet, we need not be bound by them.
Being your own boss takes courage
Like being your own boss in the realm of work, it then takes courage to ignore these disapproving vibes and seize your personal freedom. To live in the way that feels true to you.
And, breaking free begins with none other than fully recognising the extent to which your personal freedom is stifled. Truly acknowledging how you really feel. You can then ask yourself WHY you continue to tolerate it?
Being your own boss is not just about work. It is also about letting go of needing the approval of others to be who you are. It is about living on your terms.
YOU approve yourself. Period.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.