You read it right. I don’t have any desire to live unconventionally.
While we’re at it, I don’t have a desire to be a rebel, or a non-conformist.
I don’t think that every person in the world ‘should’ be self employed, I don’t think a travel-around-the-world lifestyle is intrinsically superior to all other options, and I don’t think that traipsing around the world with your business in a backpack is something ‘everyone’ will want to do.
And nor should they.
WTF Marianne, have aliens hijacked your brain?
Ok, It may seem odd that I’m saying this. After all aren’t I the one who wrote the book on creating a life without an office or a boss?
And what about the Free Range Humans tag line on the header above, about living life on your terms? Or that whole ‘live and work anywhere’ vibe we’ve got going, what with the way I live and work out of several countries a year and all that?
Confession: I’ve mulled over this post for the past month, and I’m still not sure it’s going to come out right. But I’m going to give it a go because there’s an important point within this.
You see we live in a society that encourages us to see things in black and white (“that person is conventional and that sucks and that person is unconventional and that’s great!”… or vice versa) but the grey areas, the nuances, the edges between the categories, that’s where real richness lies. This message is about the grey areas that get lost among the ‘live bold, write epic shit, break the rules!’ shouting that is taking over the blogosphere these days.
Sometimes it’s not about ‘are you a rebel or are you a slave’ it’s about something far more important: about the freedom for you to make decisions for yourself.
Let’s talk about that for a moment.
Compare these lines:
“Live an unconventional life”
“Break the rules”
“Be a rebel”
“Live life on your terms”
“Create your own rules”
At first the two groups seem sort of the same, right? The person who says “live unconventionally” seems to be the same as the one who says “live life on your terms”… but what if, when you look more closely, the two are starkly different?
Breaking the rules and following the rules have one thing in common: in both cases, the rules define what you do.
For example, imagine you’re walking along a path and come to a fork with a sign that says “turn right”. If you’re following the rules you’d go right, if you’re breaking the rules, you’d go left (or at least: in a direction other than right).
But what if you just want to do things on your terms (ie: choose freely between options?)
When it comes to wider life decisions, what if you quite like a mainstream idea, but know ‘true rebels’ would rebel against it?
Do you have to apologise for your preference?
I’m hoping you’re saying “hell no, that would be stupid!”. Well you may be surprised to know that I’ve had several people say to me “I’m really looking forward to [insert decision here]… of course you wouldn’t like that, it’s too conventional”.
Huh? Since when did living life on your terms turn into “follow a specific set of rules that apparently define what is unconventional?”
It’s not just me either: I’ve seen a spate of conversations online where people who are living what looks, to the outside world, to be ‘life on their terms’ apologise for wanting to make changes that seem less ‘rebellious’.
How in the name of all things chocolatey can this be freedom? Seriously, are we now at the stage where people extolling the virtues of the ‘create a life of freedom’ movement feel they need to apologise for living life on their terms because it doesn’t fit into what their peers value?
Somewhere, somehow, the concept of ‘freedom’ has got warped. And I think it’s high time we took it back.
Let’s get specific here and talk about the big pin up topic of the freedom movement: full time travel.
“Travel the world full time” vs “Live and work anywhere”.
Look closely at those two lines: the former tells you what to do with your location freedom (travel full time!) while the former can be equally applied to working from your living room.
To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either.
Many people, who want to explore a life of travel, are going to love to have someone show them how to travel the world as a digital nomad, and that’s awesome if it helps you fulfill something that you have an inkling will be right for you.
That’s the point really:
What matters to me is that you choose the path that is right for you (and for those values/people that are important to you).
Saying “I’m going to figure out how to create a life where I can live/work anywhere!” opens up the way for you to define your lifestyle, your way. Where is your anywhere? What if it’s mostly your kitchen table/local café? Does that make you any less free range?
Let’s be clear here: if you stay in one place while yearning every day to be elsewhere, to be exploring, and you do this because you don’t know or believe in the options you can (with real work and commitment) create… yes, then I am going to be dead keen on you finding out that you can do this, to show you why there may even be advantages to this alternative, and doing everything in your power to explore how you can make it a real option for yourself.
But if you say “you know, I need more stability and consistency. Going away for a week/month/two months a year but mostly staying in one place: that’s my ultimate life and I’m creating it now” then I’ll be right there cheering you.
In fact, I’d say you are more of a Free Range Human than people who pack up and take off around the world because some bloggers they never met told them that’s what the cool kids are doing these days.
The difference is you are creating your life, not following a default.
I started Free Range Humans to be about creating freedom + living life as yourself (rather than cramming yourself in that box labeled “the person people tell me to be in order to be good enough”).
For many people yes that involves travel and work choices that may look unconventional to the outside world (hey it clearly does for me!) and that’s awesome. But daring to be yourself and living a life of freedom will not look the same for everyone.
In fact, some of my favourite ‘success stories’ are not necessarily the sexiest ‘look at the business I launched from a iphone in Peru’ stories (though are pretty darn cool)… some free range course grads of whom I am insanely proud and supportive are those who decided, after working with me and exploring their options, to stay in a job, because that was the best place for them at that time. Instead they focused their energy – and applied what they had learned – to change their lives in other ways, and really create life on their terms
That’s freedom. That’s success. Opening up possibilities, daring to come out as yourself.
Wait a sec Marianne, if that’s the case why did you write a book with the theme of quitting your job + becoming your own boss?
Simple: two reasons:
1. Going ‘free range’ (by which I mean creating your own career as your own boss, where you decide where and when you work and what you do with your days), is a brilliant vehicle for creating freedom: it’s an option that allows you to be the architect of your own life better than pretty much anything else I’ve seen. It’s the option that, more than any other, allows you to craft an option where you get paid to be yourself.
I am an advocate of the free range lifestyle simple because it’s the strongest option I’ve seen for creating your own rules and being you. The free rangers I know tend to be happier, on average, than people in jobs (and there’s research to support that).
So it’s an important option to have in your toolkit when considering how you’re going to create a life where you get to be you (and I’m proud of helping people make that happen). Which brings me to the next reason I focus on this:
2. Going free range is an option that most people either don’t know about or don’t really believe is open to them.
Think of what happens when most people think “I need a change from this job!”. The first thing they think of (aside from a really long vacation) is a career change to another job. And they quickly give up if they can’t see a job that gives them what they want (I write about this cycle in more detail in my book, so I won’t go on about it here).
Suffice to say: you can’t choose openly and freely between options if you don’t think you have any.
When you drop the idea of the only option being the default (having a job, staying in one place, waiting for retirement etc) then a lot more possibilities open up….
But that doesn’t mean you have to choose them. And if you do, it doesn’t mean that those choices have to look a certain way:
- Maybe you will decide to go free range, but mostly work within a team of people rather than focusing on your own brand.
- Maybe you’ll keep things fluid and change it up every few years (because the very idea of deciding on one thing for the rest of your life just isn’t you at all!)
- Maybe you will decide to be location independent, and for you that means having two bases you go between (one of which is your main home and in the other maybe you rent a place, which becomes beautifully familiar).
- Maybe you’ll do that full time travel thing after all (maybe by yourself or maybe with your child and partner).
- Or… maybe you’ll stay employed but change jobs, move to the other side of the world, overhaul your lifestyle to something you couldn’t even have imagined before, then meet someone special on a free range course and discover a whole new adventure (which may or may not involve finally getting around to putting some damn furniture in your flat. Not naming names – you know who you are! Love you both).
When you drop the idea of having to be a ‘rebel’ or having to have your life look a certain ‘unconventional’ way in order to have freedom… then even more possibilities open up.
Your decision may well end up looking unconventional to the outside world (mine certainly did!) but if you make that choice without the aim of ‘rebelling’ or ‘striking out against convention’ then I’ll put bets that you’ll be a darn sight happier than if you thought that only a certain type of life and work has value.
Defining your own life terms (beyond “rebel” or “non conformist”) means you have the door open to create new possibilities as your life evolves too. Best of all you get to create this as you (not as the person you’ve been told you should be).
To me, that is a true free range human.
Note for people who talk publicly about freedom: it’s time to walk the talk
If we people who advocate ‘live a life of freedom’ are going to speak out against the idea that being a senior executive/lawyer/doctor/other high status profession with the biggest house/car around is the only way of having a successful, valuable life… then we have to be equally prepared to speak up against the idea that travelling the world with your business in a backpack is the only life worth living.
Otherwise, freedom becomes another form of conformity, where the terms of ‘being a rebel’ are tightly defined, cliques form praising the most rebellious people, and freedom gets turned into something that bears little relation to living life as yourself.
Let’s reclaim freedom for what it was always meant to be: the freedom to choose between options, as yourself, and create life on your terms, whatever that means for you.
Lots of love from a rainy NYC,
PS: it’s hard to talk about grey areas with clarity, but I felt it was worth giving it a shot and opening up the discussion. I may end up writing more on this topic at some point, and for that I’d love your thoughts. Please leave any comments in the comments box below: what is freedom to you?