Over the past few years here at FreeLearner we have talked about cryptocurrency, business, farming and sustainability. As with most we are refocusing our efforts and topics with the beginning of a new year. Since we originally started our site with the idea of helping people gain more freedom in their lives, I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts I had while driving in the car.
What is freedom anyway?
Personal freedom is gained internally from your beliefs and is restricted externally by the environment you live in.
Freedom comes from within yourself (internally) and is restricted by ones belief and/or your environment. You would think that having ultimate freedom is the key to a happy fulfilled life, but in reality it is very far from the truth. It is very unhealthy and lonely to live in a world where you have ultimate freedom. Let’s unpack why.
If you have ultimate freedom it means that you are able to do what you want, when you want, to whomever or whatever you want, where ever you are and you provide everything solely on your own. Said another way this person is fully independent. If we take this to the extreme, we can say as a person with ultimate freedom (fully independent) they kill or injure to take what they want. This person believes that their wants are more important than the people they are hurting. Unless this person lives alone, ultimate freedom ALWAYS takes others freedom away. To prevent people from exercising ultimate freedom we setup, committees, militias or governments to limit ultimate freedom. This is good, because without it the strongest just takes what they want no matter who they hurt in the process to get it. Unless you personally want to devote your life to protection, you can never be free from people exercising ultimate freedom if they live in society. This includes kings, governments, rapists and assholes.
On the other side of the spectrum from fully independent, is a person who cannot do what they want, when they want, where ever they want, however they want. This person is a slave. This is a scenario where the environment imposes its will on the person.
As a slave, they may be independent from within but outside environments are forcing them to be in this situation. I also do not want to live in a world where this exists.
Let’s look at something not quite so extreme. Let’s imagine you are in a loving relationship with you wife, you have two kids, a dog and even a white picket fence in the suburbs. You are offered the opportunity to sleep with another woman and you take it, you cheat on your wife and family. This causes a ripple through your family where you wife divorces you, your children don’t talk to you, your dog leaves you and you lose your home. This simple act of infidelity has caused harm to you and those around you. Before the infidelity you had to give up some freedom, freedom to watch what you want, freedom to walk naked through the house, freedom to swear, various compromises that overall make the home happier and healthier because the people in your environment are not completely selfish, they are working together to make something better together. There is breakdown of trust when you cheated, you took temporary independence to do what you wanted no matter the costs and it had consequences.
Somewhere between these two points is where healthy society lives. You need people who are able to pursue their dreams, their thoughts and to provide for their families. Does that mean that an independent person is a bad person? Likely not, it just means that as you get closer to the fully independent side of the spectrum you need to take responsibility for your consequences because you live in society filed with people. It is impossible for a fully independent person to live in a world with others, because the environment will not allow this, nor should it. We want a world filled with people who care and collaborate not a bunch of selfish assholes running the show.
So what happens when a fully independent person runs the show who has no responsibility or consequences for their actions. We call these people tyrants. They show up in various forms from deadbeat parents, abusive families all the way up to the emperor or king of a country. We see this manifested in communism, fascism, monarchies and other governmental structures where one person reaps ultimate freedom while everyone else are slaves to their bidding. Ironically this is usually because they offer peace by providing warriors to protect the society and then take control to anyone opposes their might. Eventually all of these systems do fail, because of the time debt. You cannot oppress people indefinitely because they will take their freedom eventually (and thankfully, we do not want this bullshit in the world).
What is a time debt?
A time debt is the amount of time you owe to another person for a service or good provided. It may sound weird, but every transaction we do in this world is a trade of time. Let’s take a look at the idea of building your home.
You could build your own home, and by doing so you would be very independent, but not wholly unless you were to use a massive amount of effort and time. For fun though let’s see how the fully independent person does this without imposing their will on others. To build a house, you would need land. To get land you would need to purchase it from someone who has intrinsically paid for it with their time, so you use your time to buy it. To build the house you need to gain the knowledge to build it and all of the resources required to build it. I mean ALL of them. To build the foundation you need to own a quarry, the equipment, knowledge and time to run the quarry to get gravel and limestone to make concrete. You now need to create molds, which requires that you own forest and a mill, manufacturing plants to make plywood. You finally pour your foundation and you need lumber, so use your lumber mill to make your boards, pegs can be used. If you were to use nails you need a new plant, knowledge and equipment. If you want a roof, you’ll need to use the wood shingles or grass around your home to use for the roof. If you were to use composite asphalt shingles, you would need a way to make tar so you could combine it with you gravel.
As you can see be definition a person who fully independent musts either impose their will, buy from others or become immortal to be able to do the simplest of things, such as building a home in their lifetime. So if you are not an immortal, or an asshole, you will need to buy things from other people, which increases your time debt to them.
Back to our house analogy, if you know nothing about building a home you will be responsible for paying for what was required to pay for knowledge, resources and time it took to build it. The more time it took for that person (yes even businesses are run by people at this point, which determines value, which is essentially time) to gain that resource the more time you owe them (usually in the form of money). This does actually translate though. You want land? 10 years. Foundations? A year. Floors? A year. Walls? A year and so on until you have amassed so much debt that you owe your suppliers 30 years of your life based on the average going rate of time. If you make less than the average rate of time, than it will take longer to forever to pay off your debt, while if you make more than the average than your time debt will be less. So the key for you to live in a world where every time you take the shortcut to buy something, you must make sure it is efficient (fast so you don’t waste your time, waiting for it to be built), valuable (so the time you spent on it has a positive time effect), and is inexpensive (so you can spend the least amount of time on it) so that you can maximize your effort for the biggest gain. If you can do this consistently it means you get to spend more time doing what you want, when you want, where you want, with who you want. So if this means more vacation with your family or if it means a hike to Mt. Everest then you can.
Average going rate of time?
I made this up. It was the only thing I could come up with the explain your value of time in society. If you are working at a grocery store as a stock boy or working as a CEO for that grocery store, you as a person may have very different value. If you are super cool and fun to be with as a friend, you as a stock boy may have more value to your friends than the CEO who has a poor work family life, and who may be dull by comparison. In this example your value as a stock boy is higher for your friends, while in your value to make money to trade time the CEO has more evaluation for money, and you have more evaluation to your friends for being super cool. So what dictates value?
Value is created by solving problems. I need a house, you build houses, therefore you are valuable to me.
If there are lots of people who build houses, you have to compete with others making your price better than the other guy, while if you are the only one who builds good houses then you can charge more because I want a nice house.
So value is also increased if it has rarity.
In the case of the grocery store clerk in the evaluation of making more money per hour, let’s say he is an average worker, works pretty good, and is reasonably punctual. Why is it that he makes less than the CEO? It is because he is competing with of other people who want to be stock persons, and have nearly the same qualifications. The CEO has specific problems that need to be solved that require a different skillset and because it is rarer he can charge more for his services. What could he do to increase his $/hr at the store? What if he dedicated himself to being super punctual? Well if people in the area aren’t punctual he may get a small raise, but unlikely because the expectations are that he should be punctual or they’ll just hire someone else. What if are more courteous? Although this is an excellent thing to do, it is unlikely to give them a raise unless the company/manager values that, because they expect that of all of their employees. This does increase the quality of their time at work though, which helps overall happiness. If this person decided drive a forklift, this would increase rarity of the skill and the value of a stock boy who can also manage the forklift would increase the value, therefor giving you more $/hr (value/time). What if they decided to also become a manager, this would increase their value because they solve a big problem (help to optimize their subordinates & keep their store running without much help, ie. automated it), increases their rarity compared to their competition.
What about the value of their relationships? Well hopefully you aren’t paying for your friends, otherwise it is the same transaction, but by just being a super cool, fun person you are trading time for time. They enjoy being with you and you enjoy being with them, so your time is equal and the balance of time is the same, therefor your average going rate of time = 1. If you are twice as cool and fun than the average person than your average going rate of time = 2.
In the case of the person working for money per time, you take how much the average person is making in your area, let’s say $100k/yr. If you make $100k/yr your average rate of time = 1. If you make $50k/yr, you make an average going rate of time = 0.5. A $200k/yr you have an average going rate of time = 2.
So back to the house. If you bought a house that an average person could pay off in 30 years working at an average rate of time =1, this would be $3M worth of time, if you had no taxes or other things you needed to buy. If you make more than an AGRT=1, then you can pay this time debt off faster, while a person making less, it would take longer than 30 years to pay for this home. You may think these numbers are crazy. I took this from San Francisco, average income is 100k, average home is $1.5M, average mortgage is 30y. So where does this extra time/money go? It is eaten up in profit in your job, taxes and every intermediary process between you and the think you’re buying. Look in your area and see how it works out.
To maximize your time efficiency and lower your time debt, you need to remove intermediary steps so that you are as close to the source as possible for the best possible time value.
So how does this relate to freedom?
OK, full circle, let’s wrap this up as we covered a lot of ground today. Full independent people cannot exist in a society with people because independents by definition must do everything themselves, alone, unless they impose their will on others or they become subservient to others, incurring a time debt. Everyone will need something from someone, incurring a time debt of some sort. Your value is based on how you solve a problem, the more important problem you solve the more value. The more rare the problem is more value. The average rate of time (for money to time) is equal to your income divided average income per year. A purchase (needed by others, ie 300k home in a loan) divided by the average income is equal to the number of years you need to pay off this debt. And now, freedom.
The more you time debt that you owe to others, the less freedom you have.
The less your environment allows you to exercise your freedom, the less freedom you have.
So let’s talk about the freedom you CAN exercise if the environment allows you to.
You can exercise your freedom, first in foremost to change your environment. If you are unable to exercise some level of freedom you need except ultimate freedom, then move to where you can get it, because no matter how much value you provide, you will not be given it, it will always go to the one above you taking your freedom or independence.
You can increase your value in your life to others or to yourself. The more independent you are the more value you bring to yourself and others, you can do this by learning new skills or even by marketing yours skills as better and unique. You can literally have the same skills and with a bit of great marketing you can sell the same thing for more value. By selling your time for more value, you gain more time to do what you like, ie. giving you more freedom in your life. Freedom is time to do what you want, when you want it remember? The less you rely on others to make your value the less time debt you need and the less you need to do things you don’t like to do, but you do need to interact so that you can maximize your time. So there is a hack to this cycle.
You can do things you love in exchange for your time. You are going to be exchanging your time, it is inevitable unless you are immortal (which I’m guessing you are not), so if you love what you do, or love learning to do things, then you overlap what you “have to do” with “what you want to do” which makes the time you are working on something to help get something you want, is also enjoyable, i.e. what you want. So the old adage, do what you love, really holds true.
“If you do what you love, you will never work again.”
Duration of time & quality of time
The last piece of this puzzle for this article at least is, duration and quality of time. If you live in an environment that physically endangers you, your duration of time on earth decreases statistically as does your quality of time in this world. Changing environments can be the biggest positive change to you if possible. Other daily choices affect your life too.
Not eating or overeating can reduce both your quality of life and the duration of life, as does having too much money (possibly from dangerous people) or too little money (possibly from dangerous people). Having balance in your life in your choices and freedom helps to build a life worth living.
Being a person who gives time in a way that helps others enriches your time spent together, which increases your freedom in your life. The more you do that forces you to spend time with people you don’t like to pay for a time debt you don’t need makes you more like a slave.
Choose to give your time to people who value you, appreciate you, who help grow your skills, that you can learn from, laugh with and love with and by doing so it’ll make you more free. You see them in daily life, they are the bad asses, super fun people that light up your life when you are around them, but here we call them FreeLearners.
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For the past 20 years I have been advocating and teaching about Renewable Energy and Alternative fuels. I worked in IT for 9 years and ran a few IT businesses during that time. I have worked wind turbines and in fuel cell technology and I currently teach college courses full time in Renewable’s and Alternative fuels. I am passionate about technology, building things, family and having fun outdoors. I love sharing and helping to make the world a better place in my own way.