Freedom!

A manifesto of sorts about how I want to live my life.

Do me a favour. Listen to this song while you read this.

From this one, I love these lines…

On bended knee is no way to be free

I would have heard this song a million times if not more. And each time I hear it, the emotions it evokes are the same. That of a life lived on my terms, spent chasing things that I want (and not others), of being free. 

The song talks about something very very fundamental to us humans. The want to be free. The need. Not in a mythical manner that gets romanticised where you say you control your time outside of your office hours. But in the real sense of the word. Where you are the master of time, the driver of your destiny and the only one who makes decisions for you on a day-to-day basis. 

No, I am not saying that we become hippies and start roaming around free without an agenda or a mission. I dont want us to start running wild and amok and go back to the days of jungles and caves. I am not implying that we quit everything and wait on patrons to provide for us. Let’s park this thought as A. We’d come back to this. 

So, Naval says that you are free when you are not a slave to your calendar.

I love that idea.

Of course, we all have calendars and deadlines and meetings and tasks and all that. But having all of it without being a slave. You are free when you control a “large part” of what you want to do, who you want to do it with and how you want to do it. This “large part” is where the spectrum could be. For Naval, it is 100%. For me, it would be 80%. For someone else, it would be 10%. You need to find what your “large part” is and then aim to get to it. That simple. Like I said, mine is 80%

The thing is, the world is governed by two things and two things only – the fundamental laws of physics and the ego of people. One you can’t control and have to submit to. The other you can manage. And in this management is the freedom. This is the lever you push to see if freedom pops on the other side! 

Lemme talk about C4E for a bit. This avatar of C4E started post-COVID when an old client and a friend from MDI got me started on a couple of projects. Since then, C4E has largely been an experiment. And a good one at that. That has allowed us to grow into a collective of some 15 people, each almost free. At least from my vantage point. While we dont make enough money to live a lavish life, we do have enough to pay our bills (I think so) and yet have a large control over our time. It’s so good that I often think that the bubble would someday burst. I often wonder when would the penny drop. I know it would someday. I know this too shall pass. 

However, the experiment over the last three years has given me the taste of life as a free man. I now know what is independence. And I dont think I would ever want to be chained. 

In fact, looking back, I realise freedom has become one of the most important drivers of my life. Even simple acts of rebellion (not wearing shoes or pants) is a struggle for freedom for me.

I hope most people at C4E are like that – free, not wanting to ever go back to the clutches of a timesheet and trap of a fixed salary. 

Of course, this freedom has come with a certain price – that of working harder than the ones that are not free. This is the first time I’ve brought the W word in this note.

Remember I had parked an A a few paras ago?
Time to revisit that. 

So in the ideal world, most of us would have patrons that allow us to chase our respective bliss. But the world is not ideal. And we dont want to become hippies. So we have to work. And word harder. Hard work is indeed the price of freedom. All of us know about the recent brouhaha around the 70-hours of work per week. I am proud that I clock more than 80 hours a week. I wish I could do more. Laws of physics dont allow me to (old age, you see). No, this is not a norm at C4E. There are people that work “full-time” and yet clock 10 hours a week. And others are probably in between. Of course, these numbers are estimates – we dont have timesheets. 

But the point is, we have earned our freedom by paying for it with our hard work. And with one other thing.

Reliability.

At C4E, we’ve taken vows to ensure that we are reliable. And that is the only promise we make to our clients. We dont claim to be the most creative team. We dont win awards (we may at some point in future but that is not our ambition). We dont pull rabbits out of hats. But we deliver. We’ve designed our work to have redundant structures so that we dont miss deadlines. If we say a thing will happen at 5 PM, it happens at 5 PM. There is no if or but or when or doubt about it. We typically over-communicate and in case we are getting delayed, we will tell you. 

And despite being reliable and working harder, longer, and more rigorous than others, I want to claim that most of us are largely free. While we continue to be a slave to our calendars, like I said, we choose where we are when we work, what kind of work we do, how we work and who we work with. We are a fully remote team, we work on our schedules, at locations of our choosing (am mostly at some Starbucks) and we respect each other’s freedom. And while we do that, we ensure that everyone is paid fairly (at least to the best of our abilities). On top of this, each person is encouraged to build their dream life (not the life that any one person would want to impose upon them). 

Of course, we have clients and deadlines and their business goals and we need to deliver to those clients. And we like to be reliable and available and good. Plus, at our scale, we are unable to say no to a lot of clients but we remain very very choosy. Each time we get an opportunity, we ask ourselves if we’d have to give that client our freedom. 

If the answer is yes, we pull back. 

If the answer is no, we do whatever we can to ensure that they get what they expect. And more. After all, if not for them, how would we survive? And the world we live in, power equations are biased – some people have work that needs to get done and they have multiple options to get their work done. If they choose us, we are grateful about it and we do everything we can to serve them to the best of our ability. And this is where I mentioned, that I am not sure if 100% freedom is possible. 80% is. 

I also think that this service mindset is what has kept us going and has given us freedom. And now that I have tasted it, I really wouldn’t want a life where I am not free. The best part is that we’ve been able to build a village (not a family, not a sports team) where we look after each other, cheer for each other’s success and work to ensure that the village continues to thrive

Oh, one more thing. 
Here’s an invite to the village. 
I want others to taste freedom. 
Do read this post and write to us if this speaks to you. 

Till we speak next,
SG

Further Readings
1/ Naval and Kapil Gupta on Freedom – Link

Thank you to (in no order) Anshika, Krishna, Pradx, Riya, Vivek, Vanita for leaving comments on the first draft.

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