Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Why I Started My Own Company, Part 2: Discontent

Last week I discussed why I decided to start my own company (Freedom Focused) back in 2003—despite there being many other (arguably easier) things I could choose to do with my life and career. This week's post continues this theme.

In addition to my love of and desire for FREEDOM, another reason I chose to become an entrepreneur is because of a growing, albeit healthy, discontent about the state of things in my home country, the United States of America (primarily), and throughout the world.  

Emerson once quipped that, "a healthy discontent is good."

"A healthy discontent is good."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson  

I agree with this nineteenth century American philosopher and poet, and have spent most of my life and career motivated by a healthy discontent I feel about my personal and professional circumstances and/or the way things are all around me throughout my nation and world.

In terms of my own personal and professional life, I have never been satisfied or content in hourly wage or salaried employee positions. Part of my discontent stems from my preference to "call the shots" as opposed to being told what my shots will be. Additionally, I have discovered much discontent in the limitations of my influence and contribution in hourly wage or salaried employee jobs.

This does not mean one's influence and contribution is unimportant in hourly wage or salaried jobs. All honest, productive work is important and has value—no matter what your position, title, and salary is (or is not).

As the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, so eloquently put it more than 150 years ago:

Nothing useless is, or low;
   Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
   Strengthens and supports the rest.

In other words, every job is important, and every employee performs vital functions that contribute to, maintain, and sustain an organization. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with working in a regular, salaried position. Such positions are important—even vital—to accomplishing the necessary work that keeps our schools, businesses, organizations, communities, and nations running effectively and smoothly.

Many (and perhaps even most) people would actually prefer to be a salaried employee as opposed to a leader, manager, or entrepreneur. The former route is certainly a more certain, predictable, and (arguably) less stressful route than the latter.     

My personal discontent with hourly wage or salaried positions stems from the limitations that exist in such jobs that do not exist in entrepreneurial positions. As I explained last week, being an entrepreneur expands my personal and professional FREEDOM by giving me more leverage over the visioning, long-term strategic planning, and "shot calling" aspect of my work projects and day-to-day activities and scheduling.

However, as I also explained last week, there are always two sides to every stick or coin (situation) in life. The freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur often comes at a high price—a price that salaried positions typically do not demand. For example, I've been working to build Freedom Focused for 17 years, yet, after investing tens of thousands of hours in the project, I am still not making the equivalent of an average hourly or salaried wage.

But that—and a whole lot more—will come in time.

          That's the tradeoff.  

Similarly, higher paying salaried positions (e.g. doctors, lawyers, engineers, and leaders and managers in all organizations) come with a higher price than lower paying salaried positions. This price must be paid in both up-front educational investments and on-the-job commitments of extra time and effort not required by others down the hierarchical chain-of-command.

The point to all this is that while we do not always earn everything we get in life, we do—in the long-run—ultimately reap what we sow, both personally and professionally. Those who are willing to sow longer, work harder, and endure more diligently, end up reaping the rewards of those extra investments of time and effort. That is why success is something that should be admired, not denigrated, as it sometimes is in our often confused, troubled, bitter, and envy-ridden postmodern world.     

In terms of the discontent I feel more broadly about my nation and world, I must confess that I often find myself embarrassed to be human because of the extraordinary pettiness, deceit, puerility, obscenity, and mediocrity that is so pervasive throughout our postmodern culture.

It can, quite frankly, be nauseating at times.  

This is not to say that a healthy measure of the opposite—honor, integrity, maturity, decency, and excellence—doesn't also exist.

It does!

However, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that collectively speaking, the human race is presently performing far below its capacity and potential.

At Freedom Focused, our long-term vision is to make a significant qualitative and quantitative impact on this problem, which seems to only get worse with the passage of time. How do we aim to accomplish this grand and audacious vision? The answer is: through education in, and application of, true principles of long-term growth, success, happiness, and inner peace.  

While we certainly have our work cut out for us, there is no doubt in my mind that the potential for unprecedented growth and progress already exists. It just needs to be more deeply tapped into and more fully magnified. If you don't believe me, just wait 20 years and see what the world looks like in 2040. If you think a lot has changed (improved) since the year 2000, just... you... wait!

The world is about to make a quantum leap the likes of which it has never experienced before in its formally chronicled history, and innovations and improvements in EDUCATION will be the driving force behind this positive, productive, and ultimately peaceful quantum leap.    

Throughout my life and career, I have found myself continually irritated and frustrated by the actions and habits of others I have worked for and associated with. From being personally disrespected and unfairly treated to having to confront the fallout of broken promises and shoddy work performances. From managing mediocrity and bad attitudes to wending through a maze of leadership failings and other management and performance malpractice and incompetence.

Time and time again I have said to myself: There is a better way to do all of this. Yet often, I lacked the authority (moral or formal) to do much (if anything) about a given situation in other organizations I have worked for.

All too often, my hands were tied, and it was unspeakably frustrating!  

As a result, I've discovered that my greatest power and influence rests in consciously choosing to "be the change" (Gandhi) that I want to see in my family, school, organization, community, nation, and world. Over time, I started to consciously say to myself: I'm gonna treat people differently (better) than I was treated; I'm gonna think, speak, and behave differently (more effectively) than those I've had the chance to observe throughout my life's education and work experiences; and I'm gonna be a more honest, trustworthy, circumspect, courageous, and dedicated self-action leader and leader than others I've observed whose lackluster performances left so much to be desired.  

Over time, I came to the conclusion that there was really only one viable option for me career wise, and that was to start my own company with a single minded purpose: demonstrate and prove by EXAMPLE that there is a smarter, wiser, and better way of doing, being, operating, serving, and contributing—both personally and professionally.        

Our view at Freedom Focused is that human beings everywhere have an existential duty to seek after truth and then strive to do what is right—for our own sakes in addition to the well being of others and the welfare of the planet we all call Home. We believe further that all of us have an interpersonal categorical imperative to treat our fellows with respect, dignity, kindness, compassion, fairness, tolerance, and love. Lastly, we believe that God, Nature, the Universe (pick your preferred term of Deity, "higher power," or metaphysical ordering mechanism) would have us build, create, improve upon, and explore—not tear down, destroy, castigate and regress.

Lastly, we believe that most (if not all) reasonable and rational human beings would agree with us—regardless of one's race, culture, background, religion (or lack thereof), philosophical ideology, or political persuasion. After all, seeking after Goodness and Growth isn't (or at least shouldn't) be a cultural, ideological, or partisan issue; it should be a universal lodestar to which all rational and reasonable people should be able to enthusiastically "hitch their wagon" (Emerson).

Ralph Waldo Emerson's personal office & library in
his home (now a museum) in Concord, Massachusetts.

"Hitch your wagon to a star."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson  

When I see people abdicating their existential duties and personal freedoms on the altar of selfishness, hedonism, narcissism, or nihilism, I am saddened. And when I catch myself falling short, I am maddened. This positive anger—this healthy discontenthas the productive tendency to lead me to grow, improve, and do better in the future. Indeed, my greatest discontent of all comes when I myself fall short of my own potential. Nothing is more painful to me than that. And I am always harder and tougher on myself than I am on others. It's just the way I operate as a self-action leader.

It's the way self-action leaders should operate.

It doesn't really matter who you are or what your present duties are in your life and career. What matters is how you perform them and the kind of person that you are. When it comes to Self-Action Leadership, what matters most is not the remuneration, publicity, prestige, or fame that may (or may not) accompany your actions. What matters is the effort, quality, sincerity, and intent of your actions, habits, service, and contributions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. beautifully elucidated this point when he said:

"If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth pause to say; Here lives a great sweeper who did his job well."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.        

Self-Action Leadership Requires Action and Effort: Life Lessons Learned from Two Elite Coaches

Coach Urban Meyer
2017 Goodyear Cotton Bowl Champions
Arlington, Texas, USA
Self-Action Leadership that leads to authentic progress, growth, and achievement requires action and effort over time. There is no other way. You can't be lazy and expect to earn meaningful results in your life or career.  

Urban Meyer is one of the greatest coaches in college football history. He won three (3) National Championships during his coaching career; two at The University of Florida (2006, 2008) and one at The Ohio State University (2014).

During his time at Ohio State, Meyer displayed a quote from basketball legend Kobe Bryant in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center (Buckeyes Football Headquarters). 

Meyer loved Bryant's quote because he related to it so strongly himself and wanted his athletes to learn from it as well.

Said Bryant:

"I can't relate to lazy people. We don't speak the same language.

I don't understand you. I don't want to understand you."

— Kobe Bryant

I relate pretty strongly to both Bryant and Meyer in this regard. The negative natural consequences of laziness are stark, profound, and foreboding. Moreover, laziness does not lead to freedom; it leads to bondage.  

I do not respect laziness. I do not want to be associated with it, nor do I desire to be anywhere near those who choose aimless laziness over productive exertion in their lives. Few things lead more quickly to personal and professional bondage than LAZINESS. Nevertheless, it is a tendency that most of us have, including myself. We must therefore fight against it continually lest it swallow us up in the throes of underachievement and the morass of mediocrity.  

It is important to note here that not all people who appear lazy actually are lazy. Physical handicaps, mental illness, and a variety of other legitimate reasons may exist for someone's inability to move, act, or work as quickly, efficiently, effectively, or as hard as someone else. As Corollary 1.2 in the SAL Theory makes clear, "situational exigencies arise that necessitate legitimate exceptions" to the rule. Moreover, life isn't primarily meant to be a competition with other people. It is primarily meant to be a competition with yourself, with an eye ever focused on personal improvement and growth.  

For a complete listing of the Laws and Corollaries in the SAL Theory, see Self-Action Leadership, Volume I, available for purchase by clicking HERE.      

Consequently, self-action leaders should avoid judging other people along a spectrum of laziness—unless they are required to as part of being in a close personal or professional relationship with another person. The role of a self-action leader is not to criticize, judge, or lecture. The role of a self-action leader is to be an EXAMPLE—to "be the change" one would like to see in the world. Instead of judging others, we as self-action leaders should focus on our own behavior. Then, when we catch ourselves being legitimately lazy, we can make proper course corrections as the leader of our own life. 

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest professional American football coach in history. Throughout his legendary career—which is still in progress—his teams have been to an astounding 12 Super Bowls, eight (8) of which his team won. No other coach in history comes even close to Belichick's NFL Playoff achievements.  

What is his secret? What is his magical formula for success? 

Perhaps surprisingly, Belichick's formula is quite simple. In the New England Patriots training facilities hangs a sign.

It reads simply:

"Do Your Job"

Click HERE to see images of the New England Patriots famous Motto.  

For Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots the secret to success is simple, basic, and straight forward. Yet, it is not easy. If it were easy, then everyone would do it! 

The "Freedom Focused Way"

At Freedom Focused, we believe in the wisdom of Belichick's simple—albeit not always easy—motto and mantra for success. We do not expect everyone to have the same personality, education, talents, or skill-set. But we do require that ALL new hires come highly qualified, highly motivated, and prepared to compete against other highly qualified candidates who seek the same positions. We also expect that all agents hired be well suited to his or her position and perform his or her function at an elite level. Lastly, we expect them to do so consistently and persistently with an eye ever aimed at education, growth, improvement, and hierarchical advancement (if desired).

In short, and in summation, Freedom Focused is—and always will be—an authentic MERITOCRACY, where people from all races and backgrounds can come and compete fairly at the highest levels for exciting personal and professional opportunities that make a positive and productive difference in the lives of other people.  

After an agent is hired at Freedom Focused, the same stirringly high standards that accompany the hiring process continues ever after into one's future period of employment.  

If you are a RECEPTIONIST or CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be cheerful, friendly, courteous, respectful, resilient, and helpful EVERY TIME you pick up the phone or greet a customer. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (at your station), there is no need to apply for a receptionist or customer service representative position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.     

If you are a TRAINER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be knowledgable, skilled, experienced, prepared, organized, interesting, flexible, audience-focused, and punctual EVERY TIME you conduct a seminar or training course. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (when training), there is no need to apply for a trainer position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.     

If you are a LEADER or MANAGER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be knowledgable, organized, visionary, creative, respectful of authority, inclusive of subordinates, and a stellar example of Self-Action Leadership yourself EVERY DAY you come to work. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (while at work), there is no need to apply for a leadership or managerial position at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.   

If you are a CUSTODIAN or other blue-collar LABORER at Freedom Focused, you are expected to be punctual, efficient, effective, respectful of authority, and exhibit perfectionistic qualities in your work performance EVERY DAY you come to work. In other words, you better be ready—just like MLK advised—to polish floors and scrub toilets like Shakespeare wrote poetry or Mozart composed music. If you aren't willing to be all of these things all of the time (while at work), there is no need to apply for a custodial or other blue-collar labor job at Freedom Focused. And if you choose lower standards after being hired, you will eventually lose your job on a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy.

What's "in it" for the Employee?

What incentives are there for those fortunate enough to be employed by Freedom Focused? There are many! First and foremost, you'll get paid more than you would at most other companies. How do we afford to do this? Two ways. First, by capping executive pay. Even I—the CEO—will never make more than 13 times the median employee's salary. Executives at some large corporations make 200-300 times as much as the median salary of their employees.

That's insanely unnecessary and avaricious!  

At Freedom Focused, we eschew the executive greed that so sickeningly saturates most of Corporate America. Instead of a few people getting unnecessarily wealthy at the top, we like to invest in those lower down the hierarchical "totem pole" whose hard work makes the success of our executives possible! Second, instead of an individual author getting rich from book royalties (e.g. sales of SAL textbooks), it all goes back into the company, allowing us to further invest in our customers, employees, products, and services.   

In addition to the pay and other tangible perks, working at Freedom Focused provides an agent with the opportunity to associate with and be mentored by elite leaders, managers, trainers, authors, and workers who are representative of the finest individuals in the world—elite performers—in their respective fields. In short, a career at Freedom Focused provides an individual with an opportunity to become elite by associating with other world-class supervisors and colleagues.

Most importantly (and certainly most rewardingly in the long run) Freedom Focused provides an individual with the chance to get to powerfully influence and productively impact the lives of other human beings. Deep down, everyone hopes that their work will make a meaningful difference in the lives of other people. Freedom Focused provides this opportunity in unique, significant, and unprecedented ways.     

R&R&R is almost as important as work.

The Importance of Balance

Let's return briefly to our discussion about laziness. 

It is important to note that focused activities dedicated to rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation (R&R&R) should not be confused with lazy behavior.

R&R&R is actually one of the most important and productive activities we can engage in. As human beings, we are not automatons or robots. We must therefore proactively balance our Production (P) with our Production Capacity (PC); otherwise, we will burn out.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey referred to this principle as the "P/PC Balance." But he did not stop there. He went a step further to dedicate an entire HABIT to the concept in his famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit 6: Sharpen the Saw). This underscores the importance of R&R&R, and its legitimate place as a form of balanced, proactive behavior.

For me, naps are a source of enormous
refreshment and energy renewal.
I know the truth of this principle from personal experience. That is why I sometimes tell people that my secret to writing my 1,149-page doctoral dissertation was "taking naps"!

True story!

Over time, I have discovered that some of my most productive writing time occurs in the hours immediately following a mid-day or mid-afternoon nap! And I'm not a big fan of 10-15 minute "cat naps." I prefer, when possible, to sleep for 45-minutes or more. Winston Churchill was the same way. Most people don't know it, but naps are (in part) what fueled that great Prime Minister of Great Britain to victory in the single most epic struggle against evil the world has ever known!

I doubt that anyone who knows me would view me as "Lazy." Yet, I take more naps than almost anyone I've ever met who is not a retired senior citizen. So remember, legitimate R&R&R does not equal laziness, although there can be a fine line that separates the two. As self-action leaders, our job is to do our best to avoid laziness and pursue proactive and productive exertion in a wise, strategic, and balanced manner.

Other Sources of My Discontent

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired of
the way things are going, and I'm dedicating
my life and career to doing something about it.
In addition to my aversion to laziness, I similarly struggle when I see or hear of other, related, negative attitudes, behaviors, and habits I see all around me throughout the United States and World. From dishonesty and disingenuousness to mediocrity and corner cutting; from imprecision and inaccuracies to unfairness and unrighteous dominion; from hypocrisy and hate to vulgarity, vice, and unbridled concupiscence. I don't like any of these behaviors and habits, all of which are harmful to individuals, groups, and organizations.

I am sick-and-tired of being ashamed of and embarrassed by the speech and behavior of people in the news, people in organizations I have worked in, and in the broader community as well. I am sick-and-tired of hearing, reading about, and seeing my fellow humans perform far below their capacity and potential.  

As human beings in the twenty-first century, we are capable of so much more. Indeed, we have so much more potential than we are currently exhibiting in our lives, relationships, and careers—speaking collectively and not individually.

We need to do better.
          We can do better. 

                    We must do better!

                              We will do better.   

I have a low patience threshold with underperformance of any kind, although I tend to be more patient with others than I am with myself—and I think that's the way it should be when you are a leader—or self-action leader. Leaders should LEAD, and leadership begins, continues, and ends with a leader's PERSONAL EXAMPLE. Despite the stirringly high standards I have for my business associates and employees, I will always have even higher standards for myself

And that is exactly as it should be.   

As I look out into my nation, I see many extraordinary people, things, and developments. But I also see a lot of speech, behavior, and other things that are, quite frankly, inappropriate, embarrassing, and even shameful.

What We Plan to Do about it  

This disheartening state of American cultural disarray and societal decay has instilled within me a deep and abiding desire to dedicate my life and career to making a positive difference and influencing meaningful change. And I firmly believe the best way to influence any kind of change is not to lecture others on what they ought to be doing, but rather to follow Gandhi's advice and BE THE CHANGE I WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

— Gandhi

In other words, it all begins with ME. And self-observation, self-monitoring, and SELF-CHANGE are the essence of Self-Action Leadership.  

I have no right to teach, coach, mentor, or lead anyone else on what to think, say, or do until I have amply demonstrated that I am a worthy example myself. I must not only practice what I preach, I must be what I teach.

I must be the change I wish to see in others.  

Self-Action Leaders are existential
Kings & Queens in embryo
I believe in and love BEAUTY and QUALITY. I believe in and love HONESTY, INTEGRITY, and FIDELITY. I believe in and love hard work, dedication, and personal sacrifice. I believe in and love courtesy, kindness, respect, courage, consistence, persistence, determination, and excellence. And I believe in and love endurance, vision, growth, accomplishment, maturity, and lasting success.

Please don't get the wrong idea... I am far from perfect myself. Indeed, I struggle with my own weaknesses and shortcomings every single day!

But I believe it is noble to aim for IDEALS, however imperfectly. I also believe that as human beings, each of us possesses a spark of royalty within. In other words, on an existential spectrum spanning animals on the far left and kings and queens on the far right, we ought to continually strive towards the side of royalty.

I believe that ALL human beings are capable of extraordinary things. But sadly, far too many people squander their potential on a whole host of negative activities, habits, and pursuits when they could be making something truly wonderful of their lives and relationships—and influencing others to do the same. 

SAL holds the key to a whole new future
for America and the World
At Freedom Focused, we want to influence positive reversals in these troubling trends.

When I retire approximately twenty years from now—around the year 2040—I want my nation (and the world) to be a significantly better, cleaner, safer, and more beautiful and prosperous place than it is today, in 2020. And I will not rest until I have done my level best to accomplish this objective, and to help as many people as possible along the way. 

Freedom Focused exists to make the world a better place in every conceivable way we can. How do we accomplish this grand and never-ending objective? By educating people in the art and science of human freedom, personal progress, and existential growth. And just as importantly, we do it by striving our best to model ourselves what we would like to see in others. Our aim is to Be the Change we wish to See in the World.  

Freedom Focused exists to fill people's minds with faith rather than fear so they can recognize what is possible when true principles and productive practices are deeply ingrained and consistently applied over time. It was built to assist men and women, boys and girls to build beautiful, prosperous, rewarding, happy, and peaceful lives and careers atop foundation stones that will hold firm through every storm that life can possibly throw at them. And it will endure to ensure that America—and the World's—best days are always ahead of us, never behind us.  

It won't be easy.

Authentic and lasting growth, progress, and achievement never is. But it will be everlastingly worth it. The rewards will be significant and unprecedented. 


What are YOU waiting for?

Get started today by buying the SAL Textbooks, starting the SAL Master Challenge, and getting to work!

Tune in NEXT Wednesday for Part 3 of Why I Started My Own Company.  

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