Freedom - The Khuram Dhanani Blog
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Khuram Dhanani

Freedom

The need to take charge of one’s own destiny should never be underestimated as a forceful impetus of the entrepreneurial spirit. While many people are content to work for others, some chafe under these limitations and yearn to do things their own way. Sometimes an organization is disorganized or inefficient, and a dissatisfied person can visualize better ways to improve the outcomes. In other cases, a wishful entrepreneur may be forced to work under a management that is unresponsive, incompetent, or even abusive. Many people do not respond well to authority, have trouble with a rigid schedule, or dislike any number of other intolerable features of their job. 

Talented employees who have trouble dealing with authority or working under the structures of a typical workplace are among the most likely to break away as entrepreneurs.

To increase retention, tech giants such as Google and Facebook have learned the value of relaxing dress codes and other workplace requirements, serving gourmet food in the employee cafeteria, offering generous benefits packages, offering playtime, and allowing some workers to set their own hours. 

Thomas Edison’s biography contains many anecdotes about his inability to conform to authority and traditional work methods, beginning with his earliest days in school. Edison hated classroom protocols and was frequently disciplined by his teachers. He had difficulty learning in a highly structured school setting, possibly suffering from attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, or some other learning disability. 

Edison provides a typical example of an undeniably bright intellect bursting with potential who did not function well under the constraints of the traditional workplace. 

Famously described as “addled” by his teachers, Edison left public school at an early age and was home-schooled by his mother. She focused on a practical education that furthered Thomas’s interests and learning habits, giving him the freedom to learn as he chose.

During his years working various jobs for the railroad, Edison frequently got into trouble for flouting the rules and doing things his way. He had a penchant for napping at odd times and in strange places. He started fires with his chemical experiments while he was supposed to be on duty, and spent much of his time engaged in unauthorized tinkering with the company’s valuable equipment. It’s no surprise that Edison’s first patents were for electrical devices associated with telegraph equipment! 

As soon as Edison could make money from his inventions, he left the daily grind behind. On an emotional level, people like Edison tend to remain under the yoke of traditional employment only as long as it takes to accumulate the resources they need to strike out on their own, in his case as an entrepreneur. 

Andrew Carnegie is another example of an individual who worked for others only as long as necessary. Andrew’s working life began in a textile mill at 14. Performing the same mind-numbing tasks over and over again in a stifling factory was soul-crushing work for a young boy with an expansive imagination and bigger ambitions. Carnegie hated this work and wasted little time doing something about it. He obtained a job running messages for the Pennsylvania Railroad where he could enjoy more autonomy. In this new job, he spent much of the day in the open air and was not subject to constant supervision.

Carnegie understood there was little opportunity for advancement as a messenger boy. If he wanted to go further in life, he would have to accumulate additional skills and learn another trade. He took full advantage of his freedom as a messenger to visit every corner of the railroad’s operation. He introduced himself to employees and managers in every department and impressed them with his efficiency and professionalism. Today this would be called networking! In his desire to learn how every aspect of the railroad functioned, Carnegie asked probing questions at every opportunity, and he was prepared when new positions opened up.  At 16, like Edison, Carnegie was hired as a telegraph operator.

Unlike Edison, Carnegie did not have a talent for electrical engineering. Instead, he had a natural aptitude for business, finance, and investments. Since he was known and well-liked by much of the executive staff, when the vice president in charge of the railroad’s Western division found himself in need of a new administrative assistant, he gladly hired 18-year-old Carnegie.

In four years, Carnegie had worked his way up from factory work to a well-paid office job. When his father passed away the following year, Carnegie found himself the sole breadwinner for his family, and he was doing so well by this time that he had enough money to purchase them a new house. Carnegie was even doing well enough to begin investing his money in a variety of industrial stocks. Yearning to start his own business, he was specifically interested in heavy industries like oil and steel. Launching that kind of enterprise would take more money than he was making as a secretary, so he had to bide his time.

Carnegie succeeded his boss as VP in charge of the railroad’s Western Division. While many would have been satisfied with a highly paid job as a railroad executive, Carnegie longed to be his own boss, and he felt he could earn much more money and make a more significant impact if he had the autonomy of an entrepreneur. 

By the age of 30, Carnegie had saved enough of his salary and investments to quit his job at the railroad and live off the interest while he considered a variety of business opportunities. At the age of 35, he started his own steel company. 

Quite a lot of entrepreneurs are free-thinking individuals who need the freedom to express themselves without restriction. Because they have a flair for creativity and require an undefined environment, the prospect of working as a wage slave in an office cubicle for 40 years is a nightmare. Entrepreneurs who require the freedom to do things their own way, and who don’t have the nature to willingly accept authority must break out on their own in order to feel healthy and productive. Being an entrepreneur offers many opportunities to live the life they most desire, and taking the risks of being in business for themselves is worth the benefits of creating a lifestyle based on freedom of expression.

Khuram Dhanani
Khuram Dhanani
Khuram Dhanani
kd@softstonecapital.com