Escaping Ordinary to Achieve Freedom

When I was in elementary school, I always pictured the principal’s office to be this dangerous, dark and scary place where people went in but never came out.

I was really scared of the principal.

I don’t even remember if I ever actually visited his office. And that only allowed the picture in my mind to grow and to become more foreboding over time. Even now when I think back, I just get this image of an evil dictator sitting high up on his throne of judgement… watching everyone who muddles about down in his kingdom. Just waiting to strike someone down. Eek!

As far as I can tell, that’s where my fear of authority started. And it controlled my life, on a very deep level–for a very long time.

Becoming a Brave Coward

Over the years, that fear transformed into something a bit darker: disdain. That’s when the rebel in me was born. That’s when my subversive side started to show.

I didn’t get what was happening at the time, but I started to have a severe lack of respect for people in my life who were in positions of authority.

It wasn’t because of anything they did, it was just because of me.

My fear had begun to bubble up to the surface. And it came out as anger. I was becoming braver about confronting the status quo, but I was still a complete coward.

I guess you could say I was a brave coward, if there is such a thing.

You see, I wasn’t brave enough yet to publicly state I was “breaking free,” but I was bold enough to take those actions in private.

I was the kid who was perfectly sweet when the teacher was looking, but as soon as they’d turn their back, I’d do anything I could to subvert their power.

The Personal Revolution Begins

Soon after college, things got so bad that I started blowing up life situations as a way to relieve some of my “anti-authority,” “anti-status quo” pressure.

“Once in a lifetime” jobs I got would quickly get shattered as I struggled with how to be a “free man.”

I wasn’t very good at it, I can tell you that.

Back then, I had no idea what freedom was all about. I had no idea where it was hiding. And I had no idea how to build it into my life.

To me, accepting the status quo meant accepting the authority of another (in this case, the thinking of another) over my own.

I had no idea what to do about it except to get angry. And I got very, very angry.

It was all bottled up of course. After all, I was a nice kid. My training was complete enough to allow me to suppress what I was really feeling and wear an outer persona much more acceptable to the people around me.

Eventually, I blew everything up and abandoned it all.

The music career… gone.

The great job right out of school… gone.

All of the connections I’d spent years building… gone.

All of the “potential” I had to pursue a life as a musician… kaput.

I got rid of all of it.

Gone in favor of something real. Something for me.

That’s the only thing I could think of doing in order to give myself a fighting chance of breaking free.

My acceptance of the status quo was too complete for the “slow and steady path.”

I needed a revolution, and I got one.

My Roadmap to Personal Freedom

I finally realized there was really only one path for me to tread. And that was a path of my own making.

This is easier said than done. Because it meant I had to redefine everything I knew about who I was and why I was here. I had to redefine:

The status quo regarding my family…

The status quo regarding my  work…

The status quo regarding my time management…

The status quo regarding my spiritual matters…

The status quo regarding how I view myself and the inherent value I bring to the world…

It was painful, turbulent and frightening. It was also the best thing I’ve ever done.

First, understand that personal freedom begins in your mind, body and soul and grows from that place.

It is an ideal that you cling to. And ideal that you build upon. Eventually, that internal fuel makes its way into the physical world

The road to personal freedom and the escape from the status quo begins with waking up to each and every decision you make in your life.

This is a difficult habit to plant, in my experience. Years and years of shallow thinking have invaded most of our lives. We do things without really thinking about why we do them. We create entire lives for ourselves that are based on other people’s ideas and agendas.

Today is your opportunity to change that.

Today is your opportunity to break free from allowing the status quo to control you.

The truth is, it can’t control you unless you allow it.

The day you stop accepting the status quo is the day you start living your life.

You escape by understanding that you are on a journey worth taking.

Today is the day to escape.

You escape by understanding that the prize is worth a life.

You escape by understanding that you have been given a gift that is completely without measure: the ability to decide what direction you will travel today, tomorrow and the next day.

But I have to warn you, the journey probably won’t be easy. Especially at first.

There’s a middle ground, a limbo of sorts, where it feels like you’re out there all by yourself. It feels that way because you are all by yourself. For the time being anyway.

You are 4-5 steps away from the herd. They see you there, and they don’t like it.

That’s the time to persevere.

If you keep paddling, you’ll soon come upon another land. A better land if I might be so bold. This land is where all of the people live who have abandoned the status quo in search of something better–in search of something more fulfilling, more real.

They’re on a similar journey. And seeing them gives you great strength. It shows you that you are in very good company. The best company there is actually.

You are an independent being. You are free to make your choices and to take action on those choices. You are free to do this today, despite the best efforts of “the herd” to keep you in line.

What do you get in exchange for all of this trouble?

You get the life that is meant for you. And that, dear Reader, will make all the difference.

[Ed. Note. Jason Leister is a direct response copywriter, internet entrepreneur and editor of the daily e-letter, The Client Letter, where he empowers independent professionals who work with clients. He has six kids and lives and works in the mountains of Arizona.]
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  • Tim

    Great article. Ever since I went to Vince Delmonte’s “Live Large Live” seminar it has opened my eyes to see that this is not the only way to live life and pursue your dreams. There is another way. Trying to get out of the status quo is difficult. Been trying for 16 months now. Progress is slow but I’ve made up my mind to continue to move forward. It’s a choice you have to make to yourself everyday.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Stay strong Tim!

  • Christine

    This is really a well thought about article. Sometimes we do not even know whether there is anything in the name of personal freedom until we preach to the person in us that it could be there and we make resolutions how to attain it. It means making lots of sacrifices and also giving up many of the things that we feel are impossible to give up.

    Thanks for this one and many others that you have always sent to my mailbox.

    Happy new year to all the wonderful people at ETR

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Happy to help!

  • This was such a great article, mahalo nui loa (thank you very much)! It took over 50 years of living as a brave coward before I dared to actually let my true (and rather strange) self emerge, and it feels good and right for me.

    Some might have called it menopause, but I think it was just more like the pot that was simmering on the stove that finally reached the point of full on boil. More “living” has been achieved in the 10 years that have passed since that point than the 50 years prior. It was a step into the uncommon and uncomfortable, and it has been wonderfully satisfying with goals that can be set and then achieved.

    Mahalo again for such a great way to start off my new year with encouragement and validation!

  • Someone forwarded an email to me with this article and since I am personally very interested in real freedom, I started reading it. I really liked it a lot while the author (Jason Leister I assume) was just sharing his own experience. As he was describing various situations in the first person (using I), I just couldn’t stop reading, wanting to know what happened to him next, and next, etc.
    But after I read the sentence “It was painful, turbulent and frightening. It was also the best thing I’ve ever done.”, suddenly all sentences thereafter were no longer in the first person (i.e. describing Jason’s actual experience) but they were in the second person (using you, you, you)
    This left me a bit frustrated and wondering whether Jason actually did those things or whether he was just preaching without having had the experience.
    I would like to know whether Jason could truthfully rewrite the second half of this article, changing all the “you”‘s to “I”‘s. If so, could Jason truthfully end this article like this:
    “I am now an independent being. I am free to make my choices and to take action on those choices. I am free to do this today, despite the best efforts of “the herd” to keep me in line. I now got the life that was meant for me. And that, dear Reader, made all the difference for me.”
    If Jason can really say that, he is a true leader who will inspire people just by sharing that, without even the need to point out to others what they will experience if they also follow the path he described in the second part of the article.

    • Claude,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The last part of the article is in second person because I was talking to you.

      In my experience, it is not enough to simply share a story. That sounds nice, but the inertia of the average person requires a more direct approach.

      And it requires focusing on what is most important to each of us: our own journey.

      I point out to others what they will experience because difficult
      journeys are much easier to commence when you have the belief
      that your reward will be worth the struggle.

      My goal for readers of this article isn’t for them to get to the end and say, “Look how great Jason is…”

      The goal is for readers to get to the end and realize just how great THEY are.

      Best wishes,