Friday, July 3, 2009

On Freedom - Part One

Happy Independence Day!!

The holiday has me thinking a lot about freedom, so I'm going to do some blogging on it. Don't worry - I'll intersperse some chocolate, of course!!

I adore my freedom. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is my most important value. I agree with Christopher Morley who said, “There is but one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.” This, to me, is freedom.

I also think America is a country that allows you to be free. That, in fact, America was founded on the principle of freedom. But too many people here feel they aren’t free. And it seems to me they are turning to the wrong places to be set free. They seem to the think the government will set them free or their spouse will set them free or society will set them free or their parents will set them free or their church will set them free. Here’s the deal, people – only one person can set you free – and that person is you.

Let’s talk about how.

First we have to determine in what ways you feel you are not free. So I’m going to list some things that may be impacting your freedom:

1.) You may feel you are not free because someone else is keeping you from doing what you want (spouse, parents, the law, etc.)

2.) You may feel you are not free because you don’t have the money to do what you want or you have so many debts or other financial obligations you cannot do what you want.

3.) You may feel you are not free because of your race or your gender or your height or your age or your weight or any of another million possibilities based on your appearance or background

4.) You may feel you are not free because of addictions

5.) You may feel you are not free because of health issues

6.) You may feel you are not free because you have to work at a job you hate

7.) You may feel you are not free because you can’t find a job

8.) You may feel you are not free because _____________________ (insert your own reason here)

I’m about to call BS on any reason you give me. I’m pretty sure that if you are reading this article you are not incarcerated. And even if you are, you can STILL use some of these tips to be freer! But if you are not behind bars or locked up in some crazy man’s basement, and you live in the United States of American - you are free. To think otherwise is simply imprisoning yourself.

And that leads us to the first tip:

1.) You have to believe you are free. Do you know that many immigrants to the US do better than some people who are born here? The immigrants believe the US is the land of opportunity. They come here with nothing, only wanting the opportunity to build something – and they work their butts off. Too many people who are born here decide they aren’t free, that someone or something is keeping them down. You know what? If you believe that – you will live that. You are as free as you believe yourself to be.

This doesn’t just happen in the work realm. How about people who stay in abusive relationships believing they have no choice. As long as they believe they are trapped, they are.

Think you are not free? Ask yourself some questions:
Can you leave your house and go down the street?
Can you apply for a job?
Can you make a phone call to a friend?

A big problem now is how many criminals have cell phones in prison. If they have cell phones, I’m finding it pretty hard to believe you can’t do at least one of the above. And if you can any of the above, you are free. You might have other problems, but you are free.

If you believe you cannot be free, there is no need for you to read further.

2.) To be truly free (to be able to spend your life in your own way), you need to have a few things. Let’s start with some source of income. You have to be able initially to provide for yourself, and eventually to have enough money to allow you to do what you want. To be free, you are going to have to get your financial house in order. First you have to get out of debt if you are in it. You aren’t free if you owe money to somebody else. Sorry, gang, it is what it is.

Now, before you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I am debt free. Yep, I own my own house, I pay off my credit cards every month, my car is paid for. I don’t owe anybody anything. How do you do this?

a.) Get a job. I know, right now unemployment is through the roof. But I also know people who are sitting at home not making a dime waiting until a job like the one they lost opens up. This ain’t Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, people! Any job is better than no job! Sell all your fancy toys on Ebay! Do something! Money needs to be coming in.

b.) Live within your means. When I started my own business ten years ago, I lived in a small apartment. I didn’t eat out. I bought only necessities. I was shocked at how cheaply I could live. Cable is NOT a necessity, people! If you are spending more money that you make, you will NEVER be free.

c.) Increase your value. What can you do to be more valuable? Read some books? Take a class at the community college? Work on your appearance? Revamp your attitude? Meet more people?

d.) Get financially literate. I’m amazed by people who don’t understand basic financial principles. They don’t realize that by only making the $15 minimum payment on their $6,000 credit card balance at 21% interest that they will never pay it off. These people seem to think if they have checks they have money. You need to understand the basics of your finances – ASAP. Parents – teach your kids.

e.) Your number one priority has to be to get out from under credit card debt. Paying those insane interest rates is going to kill you. Think you can’t do it? Go back to tip number one.

f.) Don’t make stupid expensive decisions. If you can’t support yourself, don’t have kids. I know, seems like a no-brainer. People rationalize this madness by saying things like, “Well there’s no perfect time!” Yeah there is - when you have a job that can pay for food and diapers! Don’t buy a new car if you don’t have the money – drive the old one or take the bus. No public transport? Do you have neighbors? Friends? Offer to chip in on gas. Stop spending money you don’t have!

g.) Don’t make lots of stupid cheap decisions. Spend an extra $27.40 a day and you’ve spent $10,000 a year. $10,000!!!! Do you really need to stop at Starbucks? Can you bring lunch? Do you have to by that cute pair of shoes?

h.) Want less. I love my little townhouse. My car is a 2005 with 175,000 miles on it – it’s also a red 350Z and I love it too. I don’t need a big house on a big lot. I don’t have to have a new car, although most people are aghast when they hear the mileage. I would never buy a pair of shoes or a handbag that costs more than $300. I just don’t need all that junk. If you want less, you need less money and you are that much closer to freedom.

I'm going to write more on freedom, but chocolate next!!


diane said...

Can I get a big AMEN??? Thank you, sister, for telling it like it is!

jeff said...

Amen. I *was* just going to say, "Amen" but then I thought...

Add: Amen, Our Lady Of Perpetual Sweetness.

Don't that just rock?

Kinda gets back to that whole Church of Chocolate theme, so I figured you'd love it. This is one of those times when I wonder whether something like "Our Lady Of Perpetual Anything" just occurred out of the blue, or did I read it somewhere. I *believe* it just occurred, but you might want to check with a copyright attorney before stamping it on your business cards. Otherwise, keep it and enjoy!

Denise Ryan said...

I love you guys!! Thanks for the back-up! And Jeff - that is too damn funny - I am SO going to use that!! Copyright be damned! : )