Degrees of Freedom

Day 345 Week 50 Q4 Tuesday, December 12, 2023

There are many kinds of degrees of freedom. There are the kinds that are afforded to you because of wealth or physical prowess, or family or connections, or where you were born. Many people in the world have overly constrained lives. Creative Outliers, who really do have a lot of control over their life, their time, and what they do, are extraordinarily fortunate because they can create things to do with all of that freedom. On the other hand, if a person is exceptionally creative and they don’t have many degrees of freedom in their life, this can be torturous. An important figure of merit for me is how much freedom a person has. This is what I value the most, personal freedom.

The best predictor for a terrible life is to have an extremely creative person who craves freedom to work for a control freak with low self-esteem and narrow vision. This is a very low degree of freedom situation, and I urge any creative person to get out of it as quickly as possible. Alternatively, if you have a boss who values your creativity and gives you enough time to express it and perhaps even enough budget to express it with, then you’re golden. This was the good fortune I found myself in, when working for Apple Computer before it became the mega-sized company it is today.

Once, believe it or not, I went to my boss and asked just what my budget was. He laughed at me and said we are prepared to fund you more than you are capable of responsible spending, and since we know that you are responsible and won’t spend money without doing the necessary research to make sure that you were spending intelligently, we are not worried about it.  I promptly went out and built a new laboratory and bought a lot of expensive equipment and, much to my amazement, found this to be true. This was a truly extraordinary amount of freedom and more degrees of freedom than I ever had before.

Fortunately, I was able to make terrific use of it and design a lot of products.  It was a very heady time. I fear those days may be over because research has mostly vanished. It has been turned into development and there’s not very much high degree of freedom work left. The only way I have ever been able to come close to this was by being self-employed and starting my own company. The good news is that today’s a better time to start a business than ever before. The barriers to entry or lower. The leverage an individual has is higher. And how you manage these degrees of freedom becomes of paramount importance.

Try hard to maximize the number of degrees of freedom you have in your life, and then maximize how you use them. It is oh-so worth it.