Peter Thiel had a conversation on Culture, religion and what drives him a few weeks ago that I recommend watching.
Side note: There’s a nice podcast on Spotify called Thiel Talks that basically uploads a lot of Theil’s old talks and discussions over the years.
In the early parts of the conversation one of the questions he was asked at the start was how he looks at freedom and independence.
Being independent is something I talk a lot across all my articles.
But what does independence even mean and how do you become truly being independent?
Well, one way to do that is to start first by defining what “independence” actually is.
Degrees of Freedom
Before diving into different types of freedom, I’d like to share how I look at the idea of “degrees of freedom” when it comes to independence.
Definitionally: The number of independent ways by which a dynamic system can move, without violating any constraint imposed on it, is called number of degrees of freedom.
Now let’s look at ‘Money’ through the lens of degree of freedom to get a better understanding.
Zero Degrees of Freedom: The rat race ie. 9/5 (or worse) traditional job based in an office.
This is how most people look at making money where they have no freedom.
1 Degree of Freedom: 9/5 traditional job that you can work from home*
This is how some people started looking at “remote work” in 2020. But this isn’t actually remote work for the following reasons 1. You can’t move cities 2. You are still wondering if you might be forced back into the office 3. If you move countries or cities you get a pay cut.
+ You can move a little bit out of the city and have coffee in your pajamas.
2 degrees of freedom: 9/5 job that you can work from nationally/internationally
In this scenario you probably get a remote job working for a more online native company that allows you to work from anywhere in the world. For tax reasons you probably have an llc or get the company to hire you as a contractor never an employee (this second step makes the “nationally” into “internationally”).
+ You can move internationally or nationally but you still work on a certain time zone (9/5) so longitude matters.
3 degrees of freedom: International Remote job with Asynchronous work (Asynchronous work happens when people on the same team work during different times of the day.)
+ If you do Async work suddenly the whole world opens up to you & you can live anyone in the world cause the time zone doesn’t matter.
For example, when I used to work at Foundr ages ago, I often used to travel and do things between Monday to Friday (cause less other people outside) and only used to work on the weekends.
4 degrees of freedom: Own business with Async work. Eg, SaaS, affiliates, content creator, YouTuber etc.
If you’re now running your own business instead of working for someone else you have even more freedom cause you are in charge and you can dictate the rules of engagement.
5 degree of freedom: Own business that doesn’t require your name or personality.
If your business doesn’t require you to be online or active on social media with your name you can outsource most of the running of your business. Also you can’t be “cancelled” cause there’s nothing to be cancelled.
An example: if you owned a couple of rental houses that you have someone managing that you only check up on once every year or something. Or online business that has passive income (passive income= delayed income, if you don’t work the business won’t grow but they’ll still generate an income.)
Second benefit of being independent wrt name is that you aren’t beholden to an audience. By not having your income tied to an audience you can think more clearly cause you’re not self censoring yourself.
“The mask you wear is who you become” – if you have an audience that makes you filter what you say, eventually you mold the way you think to agree/cater to your audience.
6 degrees of freedom: You make money even if you are in a coma/in the Amazon jungle for 6 months.
This is basically more similar to the FIRE (financial independence retire early) community, if you can still make an income without ever having to work and have all your needs fulfilled then basically you’re “retired” and are free from work completely and just spend your time doing what you enjoy. Easiest to achieve this with a combination of building businesses and investing.
So to recap how degrees of freedom can look wrt money.
- 0 degrees of freedom: No freedom
- 1 degree of freedom: Can work from home (near office) some days
- 2 degrees of freedom: Can work internationally but only same time zone
- 3 degrees of freedom: Can work Async and set own work times
- 4 degrees of freedom: Make money from own biz
- 5 degrees of freedom: Make money without using your identity/personality aka fuck being a “Personal brand”
- 6 degrees of freedom: Make money without working ie financially independent.
Of course this is just an illustration to highlight degrees of freedom, it’s not all compassing as it’s not taking into account lack of freedom (Eg, can’t quit a job cause you’ll lose your house/visa type situation or slavery, refugees etc etc, just a middle of the line examples).
DUH! note: Of course, we’re not talking about freedom about the people of North Korea, Tibet, Yemen or salves or refugees in this article. ‘Duh’ that’s a completely different discussion.
A friend said the following quote to me a few months ago:
To a bird in a cage, a tiny room is freedom.
Similarly if we talk about money, to an office slave whose boss has never let them work from home pre-Covid. Having 1 degree of freedom is considered “freedom”.
Most people are so stuck in their own bubble, an office worker with 0 degrees of freedom fighting for 1 degree of freedom that they don’t see more options available. They don’t think they would ever have 5 degrees of freedom.
It’s hard to notice the forest for the trees.
Side-note: I joked recently that the way to get a large audience is to share what I considered obvious 5+ years ago like I’m discovering it for the first time.
eg. The 4 hour work week was written 12 years ago. Even 5 degrees of freedom businesses was “obvious” to anyone paying attention.
Imagine being someone who wasted 12 years arguing if digital nomads are a reality or not. – Sadly you don’t have to imagine it, you can just pay attention to any mainstream journalist instead.
There’s a reason why I went from a 100k/month readership with my travel blog 4 years ago to less than 50 people reading my articles today. I would find it so dull writing about things that are obvious nearly a decade ago. Imagine wasting resources thinking about if companies are going to allow people to work from home or not?
Based on my experience it’s easier to just get more freedom for yourself then it is to help other people jump levels.
Almost every time I talk to most my old friends I feel like they don’t think big enough, they target 1 degree of freedom over 5 years, when I think they should target 5 degrees in one year (worse case scenario you might “fail” and end up with only 2 degrees).
An estimate: It’ll probably take you as much effort to get 4 more degrees of freedom for yourself than it is to help someone else get 1 extra degree.
Concretely: It will take you as much energy to go from “9/5 work from home (near office) some days” to “Make money without using your identity/personality” as it would take you to help someone else just get a ‘remote job working from home’. It’s one of the reason I tell most people to just think about themselves first maximize their own freedom first.
“In case of a cabin pressure emergency, put on your own mask first before assisting others.”
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help others but probably first focus on jumping multiple degrees instead of just jumping one and thinking you need to help everyone else along, you’ll just end up wasting your time. Drop the mild savior complex.
”But not everyone wants to work and travel the world”
Jesus fucking Christ! I’ve heard that for 6 years and no where is that a requirement.
Just cause you have the “freedom” to eat 10 cheesecakes in a week doesn’t mean you have to, similarly just cause you have a freedom to do something doesn’t mean you have to. But you have the freedom too.
Just cause you’re financially independent doesn’t mean you have to stop working.
Just cause you can work from any country in the world doesn’t mean you have to leave your country if you don’t want to. No one is forcing you🤦♂️.
You just have the choice.
But guess what everyone who ever says they wouldn’t want a certain freedom, always say it when they don’t think they can have it.
It’s like someone who virtue signaling saying that if they have $1m that they would give it all away, but if they ever really got it their opinions change, or someone fat who says “I don’t want to look like those steroid bros” as an excuse to end up with an early heart attack death.
“I only care about the exceptions”
“If you try to get more degrees of freedom you will have to sacrifice something Eg, make less money”
This is a belief I often see with people, the mentality that they’re two options in life:
- Less freedom, more money (becoming a banker, working in a FAANG etc)
- More freedom, less money (most often portrayed by work on a farm or live life like a hippie)
Apply this logic with more things than just money.
But the reality of life is there’s always an option #3 of
3. More freedom, more money.
Wait isn’t that a free lunch? Those don’t exist in the real world right?
This is something I’ve thought a lot about and I’ve come to the realization that “free lunches” always exist in the world, but for something to truly be a free lunch it’ll never be seen as an opportunity by a lot of people.
There is an old story about an economist who was walking down the street with a friend.
The friend stops and says, “Look, there is a $20 bill on the ground!”
The economist turns and coolly replies, “Can’t be. If there was a $20 bill on the ground, somebody would have already picked it up.”
This above joke basically sums up why most people in the world don’t see opportunities.
“Who am I to think that I know more than most people, I’m just a nobody”
The Sovereign individual is the probably a book I’ve read the most the past 2 years but one of the most important lines isn’t geopolitical it’s from the preface by Thiel.
Part of the reason this happens is due to in group mentality.
When I was 18 sitting in the library of my college I Googled “make money traveling” and saw how so many people around the world (1000s) were making money travel blogging so realized that it was a possibility for me.
So I decided to do it. Simple, observe the world and act on the reality of the world.
What’s the reply when I told most people what I would do?
Basically something along the lines of “No one I know has done that, so it’s not possible”
So basically most people only see things as possibilities once “someone like them” has done it.
Add on the fact that we live in a statistically society where everyone is brought up believing they’re special but if they try to believe something special they’re considered “arrogant”.
“Don’t you know the odds of starting a business and it succeeding is less than 50%? You’ll fail!”
“Don’t you know that most people who try and start a blog make no money”
“Who are you to think that you know better than the average person, stay in your lane”
Recently I had a conversation with a friend where he talked a lot about the limits/rules of certain kind of business and I kept on highlighting examples that broke the “rules”.
He said, “but those are the exceptions”.
I replied with a sentence that been how I’ve lived about for a really long time. “I only care about the exceptions, fuck the majority”.
It’s easy to dismiss my view on things business or money wrt luck which is why I love the fact that my first “exception” was something in the physical world.
Deadlifting 4x my body weight (200kg @ 48kgs) at 17 years old with only 6 months of training.
How? Basically being an exception in how I trained. (Eg. I trained negative deadlifts with heavy weights while everyone else did normal deadlifts.)
That’s also why I tell people to get good at things in the physical world (hike, climb, swim, build something etc) it’s less likely you’ll believe “success is just opinions/luck” or the post modernist “there’s no objective reality” if you excel at things in the real world and not just numbers on a screens or the “how things look” world.
Also helps build up your confidence which is severely lacking in young people nowadays.
What’s the point of focusing on the averages or even the median examples, it’s literal noise for most things in life.
Wrt. Degree of freedom for example, anyone who works at a large company (Including FAANGs) doesn’t have the degree of freedom to travel internationally without having a huge cut in their paycheck.
Well, what’s the solution? Don’t work in a FAANG company or any large company 🤷♂️ Simple. Work for the exceptions, the Gumroads, the WordPress etc etc they’re an infinite small companies around the world.
Want to work pseudo anonymously? Just contribute for the 100s of defi products like $yfi, $ohm and get paid directly in crypto and earn more than Google developers.
It’s almost like people have spent so much time reading about biases that the below statement doesn’t sound like something out of the Onion anymore:
“If there was a real way for people to get thin then everyone would do it, there isn’t and you’re just thin because you were lucky”
Easy to see how that perspective with fitness is crazy but why do we assume it doesn’t work the same way with making money.
Isn’t everyone just playing life on hard mode cause of false beliefs?
If you wouldn’t take fitness advice from fat people, why would you take money advice from wage slaves?
Types of Freedom
The article so far has been focusing only only one kind of freedom “freedom to do more”, I always start with that cause the way I see it, if you let go of false beliefs it’s so much easier to do more/achieve more.
To explain the types of freedom I’m going to just insert an extract from the Almanack of Naval Ravikant cause it’s better than anything I can write. Ps. Read the book, the ebook is free.
The hardest thing is not doing what you want—it’s knowing what you want.
Be aware there are no “adults.” Everyone makes it up as they go along. You have to find your own path, picking, choosing, and discarding as you see fit. Figure it out yourself, and do it. 
How have your values changed?
When I was younger, I really, really valued freedom. Freedom was one of my core values. Ironically, it still is. It’s probably one of my top three values, but it’s now a different definition of freedom.
My old definition was “freedom to.” Freedom to do anything I want. Freedom to do whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like. Now, the freedom I’m looking for is internal freedom. It’s “freedom from.” Freedom from reaction. Freedom from feeling angry. Freedom from being sad. Freedom from being forced to do things. I’m looking for “freedom from,” internally and externally, whereas before I was looking for “freedom to.” 
Advice to my younger self: “Be exactly who you are.”
Holding back means staying in bad relationships and bad jobs for years instead of minutes.
FREEDOM FROM EXPECTATIONS
I don’t measure my effectiveness at all. I don’t believe in self-measurement. I feel like this is a form of self-discipline, self-punishment, and self-conflict. 
If you hurt other people because they have expectations of you, that’s their problem. If they have an agreement with you, it’s your problem. But, if they have an expectation of you, that’s completely their problem. It has nothing to do with you. They’re going to have lots of expectations out of life. The sooner you can dash their expectations, the better. 
Courage isn’t charging into a machine gun nest. Courage is not caring what other people think.
Anyone who has known me for a long time knows my defining characteristic is a combination of being very impatient and willful. I don’t like to wait. I hate wasting time. I’m very famous for being rude at parties, events, dinners, where the moment I figure out it’s a waste of my time, I leave immediately.
Value your time. It is all you have. It’s more important than your money. It’s more important than your friends. It is more important than anything. Your time is all you have. Do not waste your time.
This doesn’t mean you can’t relax. As long as you’re doing what you want, it’s not a waste of your time. But if you’re not spending your time doing what you want, and you’re not earning, and you’re not learning—what the heck are you doing?
Don’t spend your time making other people happy. Other people being happy is their problem. It’s not your problem. If you are happy, it makes other people happy. If you’re happy, other people will ask you how you became happy and they might learn from it, but you are not responsible for making other people happy. 
FREEDOM FROM ANGER
What is anger? Anger is a way to signal as strongly as you can to the other party you’re capable of violence. Anger is a precursor to violence.
Observe when you’re angry—anger is a loss of control over the situation. Anger is a contract you make with yourself to be in physical and mental and emotional turmoil until reality changes. 
Anger is its own punishment. An angry person trying to push your head below water is drowning at the same time.
FREEDOM FROM EMPLOYMENT
People who live far below their means enjoy a freedom that people busy upgrading their lifestyles can’t fathom. 
Once you’ve truly controlled your own fate, for better or for worse, you’ll never let anyone else tell you what to do. 
A taste of freedom can make you unemployable.
FREEDOM FROM UNCONTROLLED THINKING
A big habit I’m working on is trying to turn off my “monkey mind.” When we’re children, we’re pretty blank slates. We live very much in the moment. We essentially just react to our environment through our instincts. We live in what I would call the “real world.” Puberty is the onset of desire—the first time you really, really want something and you start long-range planning. You start thinking a lot, building an identity and an ego to get what you want.
If you walk down the street and there are a thousand people in the street, all thousand are talking to themselves in their head at any given point. They’re constantly judging everything they see. They’re playing back movies of things that happened to them yesterday. They’re living in fantasy worlds of what’s going to happen tomorrow. They’re just pulled out of base reality. That can be good when you do long-range planning. It can be good when you solve problems. It’s good for us as survival-and replication machines.
I think it’s actually very bad for your happiness. To me, the mind should be a servant and a tool, not a master. My monkey mind should not control and drive me 24/7.
I want to break the habit of uncontrolled thinking, which is hard. 
A busy mind accelerates the passage of subjective time.
There is no endpoint to self-awareness and self-discovery. It’s a lifelong process you hopefully keep getting better and better at. There is no one meaningful answer, and no one is going to fully solve it unless you’re one of these enlightened characters. Maybe some of us will get there, but I’m not likely to, given how involved I am in the rat race. The best case is I’m a rat who might be able to look up at the clouds once in a while.
I think just being aware you’re a rat in a race is about as far as most of us are going to get. 
The modern struggle:
Lone individuals summoning inhuman willpower, fasting, meditating, and exercising…
Up against armies of scientists and statisticians weaponizing abundant food, screens, and medicine into junk food, clickbait news, infinite porn, endless games, and addictive drugs.
CHOOSING TO FREE YOURSELF – Almanack of Naval Ravikant
Pulling from extremes
I like combining extremes in most things in my life and that’s often been the most fruitful rather than touting the middle line.
With freedom the best strategy I try to share is “maximizing resources” while at the same time “minimizing desires”.
Maximizing resources becomes easier if you let go of false beliefs holding you back and realize that they’re plenty of “free lunches”. You don’t have to “sacrifice” to maximize resources.
Minimizing desires goes hand in hand with that as you get free from negatives thin Mimetic desires and hedonic adjustments.
You don’t have to pick between being a Monk who has nothing and wants nothing.
Or a wealthy person who can have everything and but still wants more.
There’s always the option of being the wealthy Monk who can have everything but craves nothing.
Julian R DCosta says
You might enjoy Eliezer Yudkowsky’s short ebook Inadequate Equilibria, which is a very in-depth look at where exactly you should or shouldn’t expect to find free lunches
Jeremy Noronha says
Thanks for the recommendation! That was a great read. I think a good way I’d sum my view is that there’s so much more “free energy” than people think on an individual basis that can be easily optimized.
I liked chapter 3 a lot. Think you might find the experiments run in crypto a good contrasts to a lot of the idea of things at a societal level.
1. Fighting Moloch – https://youtu.be/903tHM4RA9k
2. Retroactive Public Goods Funding – https://medium.com/ethereum-optimism/retroactive-public-goods-funding-33c9b7d00f0c
For now just funding public goods in the tiny Eth space but the experiments are super cool.
Also regulatory think Balaji’s/Sovereign individual perspective is slowly playing out with experiments around the world re: self driving cars, genome testing, drone etc etc.
Just today El Salvador announced Bitcoin city. 0% all taxes, except sales when you buy things. It’s economy has been growing the fastest in the region.
But even when experiments work, it does seems the information dispersion doesn’t work at a societal level. So filter bubbles becoming physical bubbles. So the power of “information asymmetry” is getting stronger and stronger.
Best example right now is the Nordic and Balkan countries open with no rules or restrictions (vaccine + herd immunity + getting better at treatments combination) while Central Europe is in lockdown in year 3 of Covid.