Doing Time Behind Invisible Bars

There is no pure freedom in life, for both compromise and commitment are forms of servitude. You must choose how you will ‘do your time.’
- The Author

Twenty years ago I had an employee named Danny. He was a surfer of some repute, having placed high in the standings in Southern California. The quality of his work was superb, and I always gave him the most challenging projects to work on. But the volume of his work was always hampered by what he called his “free spirit” and he led a life unencumbered by order, format or challenge. For years he worked off and on for my company but only when he needed to pay his bills. He spent most of his time surfing Southern California’s beaches.

Thunderstruck by the surfing movie, “Endless Summer,” Danny spent endless hours talking about the spectacular waves and wonderful surfing around the world, particularly off Durban, South Africa and the beaches in Hawaii and Australia. Whenever he worked for me he talked about those surfing paradises and his dream to surf them and escape the usual “ripples” off Malibu.

After hearing him describe his passion and pie-in-the-sky dreams for what seemed an eternity, I interrupted one of his lunchtime surf-talk sessions. I told him that as long as there were things within his grasp that he wanted to do but couldn ’t, his freedom was an illusion. He was a prisoner in an invisible cage that spanned much of the coast of California, a cage he would never escape because of his misconception about the meaning of freedom.

If there is nothing within your reach that you desire or long for, then all is well. But if you desire things you presently can’t have, or dream of places that you may never see because you fear the commitment required to obtain or achieve them, then you will never experience true freedom.

Is real freedom the ability to do most of the things you want to do or is it simply avoiding the responsibilities and challenges of life?

If you choose not to commit yourself to your work, to not take full responsibility for your working life, you will never ‘surf the best beaches.’ But if you choose to commit yourself to a life of change, self-determination and sacrifice, you can have the things you want and not be trapped in your present existence.

Which alternative makes you feel better? Which excites you more? Both are daring. One choice will test your ability to remain happy and content without the things you want, while the other will challenge you to remain happy and content while combining commitment and hard work.