Living Freestyle; Life Without a Template

Staying within the social norm and fitting in, to most is more valuable than authenticity. Don’t attract attention to yourself, be liked by others and do what your told seems to be the mainstream mantra. Life is not a uniform organism. The truth is, we will never find personal freedom by trying to please others and conforming our life to a template. If we are all truly different, why do we try to force the unique shapes of our personalities, skills, beliefs and ideas into the square peg of social acceptance?

Here’s the basic template for life:

  • Learn to walk/speak, be a good boy/good girl
  • Go to school, get good grades
  • Go to college, graduate. Try to find something you love, but eventually sacrifice your passion and settle for a career choice that’s practical.
  • Get a job (find security)
  • Get married (security)
  • Have kids (security)
  • Die
  • Repeat

This is the most common life pattern. Most of us think that this is just normal; it’s just the way it is damnit. Living for security alone though, is a meaningless existence. If our only motive to live, is to survive, to keep the hamster wheel spinning, then I’m done. I just can’t imagine a life where security is the highest value. That’s like saying blue is the most important color, or the stomach is more important than the brain. Obviously all the other colors are just as important in making up the field of vision, and the all of the organs are necessary for a healthy organism.

Security is definitely an important part of life, our survival depends on it. But excitement, adventure, pain, turbulence, drama, passion, mystery and pleasure are equally important. I think we forget this because security is the basis for us being able to experience all those other wonderful things. Yet security is a means, it’s not the reason for living itself. Just as we don’t live to eat, we eat to live; we don’t find happiness to seek security, we seek security to facilitate happiness.

When you think about what you truly live for, your answer probably won’t be security. At least mine’s not. I think it’s important that we re-evaluate how much our feelings are really aligned with our actions. Do we really value comfort more than freedom?

Not only do we have templates that we’re expected to follow, but we also have roles we’re expected to fill.

If you’re a man you’re expected to behave a certain way. Anger and jealousy are the only acceptable emotions. You want to cry? Suck it up. Be a man, damnit. You have a feeling about something? Right…

If you’re a woman you’re expected to be feminine and nurturing. Have a strong opinion? You’re a bitch. You want to lead? You’re joking right?

These social roles may have worked for cave dwellers (woman not behave, hit with club). They also worked for primitive societies based on hunting and territorial rivalry. Men had to be tough. If they broke down and cried, it might have meant a spear to the head. But despite how much social revolution and civil rights movements we’ve had, we haven’t had much of an internal empowerment movement.

The Anti-Role Collateral

The truth is, most of us know what we want. We know what makes us feel alive and what makes us feel dead. The answer then isn’t looking for yourself, but having the courage to live unabashedly, to do what truly brings you bliss. The collateral of claiming your personal freedom and rejecting the cubicle mind mentality, might mean getting some strange looks and being completely rejected once in a while. People might question your choice to not go for so-called security. People might think you’re a total nut-case. But that’s okay. You’d probably look at the same people living fearlessly and wonder what the hell they’re doing. That’s the beauty of diversity. Homogeneity is the bane of life.

The Anti-Role collateral is:

  • It’s the stares you might get for being a man and not being afraid to cry in a movie.
  • It’s being a woman and not being afraid to take charge, even if the same people that saw a man do that and applaud them, think you’re a bitch.
  • It’s the shock from voicing your opinion to the vice president of your company even though you have no degree and started two weeks ago.
  • It’s the whispers of people on the street that see man in a suit having a real conversation with a homeless person.

The price we pay for consciously living our lives and forging our own path is the anti-role collateral. Sometimes that means embarrassment, humiliation and flat out rejection. But I can’t think of any bigger embarrassment to me than not being true to myself. A sovereign mind to me is more valuable than any fictional social approval.

Free-Styling Life

Just over a hundred years ago, everyone thought it was impossible to fly. A very small group of people chose not to believe that. They chose to believe that it was possible and decided they were going to prove it. No one would doubt it now, seeing a plane or a helicopter is an everyday experience.

Living a life that’s not based on a template and being true to yourself may not mean paving a road in the sky like the Wright Brothers. However, if you tell everyone you want to start your own business, you will be doubted. They’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with your idea and why it won’t work: You have no experience. You’ve never run a business before, what do you know about sales? It takes money to make money. The truth is:

  • Almost no one starting their first business had any idea what they were doing.
  • Those that broke barriers in civil rights, oppression, policy reform and questioning authority were scared as hell, but they knew what was right in their heart. They couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t do something.
  • Not only is it impossible to plan everything out in advance, it’s extremely boring that way.
  • Most successful people became that way by embracing their unique talents and capitalizing on them, not by overcoming weaknesses.
  • Integrity and authenticity are vastly more important than productivity and fictional social acceptance.

The domestication of humans places a lot of shoulds and shouldn’ts on us, but we also have a lot of arbitrary self-imposed rules we place on ourselves:

  • I’m not good enough because I don’t have enough experience.
  • I made a mistake so it’s necessary to punish myself over and over again and not let go at any cost.
  • I’m not worthy or not good enough because I don’t have x amount of money or x title.
  • I’ll never understand the mysteries of life because I just don’t have a philosophical mind.
  • I don’t have time for creative or passionate pursuits, I have to be practical.

I’ve realized that just as much as social restraints and pressures are real, they are only real within you. Our deepest beliefs about reality and ourselves are not true in themselves, but our thinking makes them true in our experience.

So maybe you’re already on the anti-role, free-style side of the street. You just haven’t bought a house there yet. What price are your willing to pay for your sovereignty?

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Tim Brownson June 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm

It weird Jonathan, but I have security conversation over and over agin. Ther’s no suc thing in either nature or the world of mankind.

Ask somebody that worked at Enron, Arthur Anderson or Barings Bank how secure they felt the day before they didn’t. Ask the millionaire that gets cancer, the athlete that breaks a leg or the armadillo that decides to walk through my backyard just as I let the dog out how secure they feel.

Let security go, it’s a myth.

Good post mate!

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Alaia Williams/One Organized Life June 26, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Great post.

Your basic template for life is right on. And quite sad when you give it some thought. I definitely agree. If the point of living is to survive – honestly, I’m not that interested.

I know I allow fear to hold me back from pursuing things I want to do, and from saying things that *really* need to be said. Rejection is a huge fear of mine. But living inauthentically (which inapparently isn’t a real word) is much worse.

I’m actually pretty proud of starting my own business, regardless of naysayers. Living the life of an entrepreneur has definitely been a roller coaster.

Every day, I do what I can to rid myself of limiting beliefs and all the “shoulds” I place on myself. I figure that’s personally where I need to start.

- Alaia

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Tim Brownson June 26, 2008 at 2:22 pm

OMG, my spell checker dumped on me!! Now I’m worried what people will think of me and that I won’t fit in – LMAO!

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Laurie June 26, 2008 at 7:06 pm

@Tim:
Laurie to hub, “Honey, what does LMAO mean?”
Hub whispers in Laurie’s ear.
Laurie: :O@ he he he.

Jonathan, You are singing my song. I just left (by mutual agreement) a pretty good job because I was not a “match”. Really, I was not the elitist that I needed to be and didn’t stifle my personality. The custodian came into my office one day and said “Miss Laurie, I like you. You treat me like I’m somebody.” Ok, he was my favorite co-worker. I will miss him. BUT< I am starting my own business and being true to myself. I am ignoring all of the pessimists who try to talk me out of my dream of making this new business work. I am so excited. I know it will be a great thing and it lets me use my wacky personality and my creative side which floats my boat. I haven’t ever been so passionate about working like I am now! Now, it’s not work, it’s productive play!

Thanks for the encouragement from the post!
And Tim, you’re O.K. by me! :O)

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Dave 6 June 26, 2008 at 7:09 pm

The pursuit of security is subconscious in most of the population. Society, government and organized religion using the media have brainwashed us. We are caught up in the maze, the race… just spinnin on the wheel.

Great post im suscribing 4 sure.

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Rc June 26, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Society has made it hard for people to
be themselves that’s for damn sure!
But when will it end Johnathan? Good post
-=Ro

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Shilpan | successsoul.com June 26, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Jonathan,

Well said mate. There is no insurance policy for our life. Life is dynamic and it progresses every second we live on this earth.

Shilpan

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Evelyn Lim June 26, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Great post, Jonathan!

Security derived from the external is just an illusion! Only when we can let go of all our fears and limiting beliefs, can we hope to be free and conquer the world!

Evelyn

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Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul June 27, 2008 at 5:40 am

A post after my own heart, Jonathan! It’s so true that we all have access to that deeper wisdom that tells us what we REALLY want to do … but often there are layers and layers of collective consciousness in the way between our minds and our inner wisdom.

As for conformity … well, I would have certainly been burned at the stake not all that long ago for what I do today … hee hee! So I guess the world is getting better about accepting those of us who are doing our own dance.

I agree with Tim that security is a complete illusion. As a self-employed person at least I can guarantee that I’m not going to get laid off tomorrow. Most corporate employees can’t say that!

Blessings,
Andrea

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Kenneth King June 27, 2008 at 10:50 am

Wow, you are dead on with that list for the basic template of life. I was trying to figure out where the heck we got a template like that in our society, and I really don’t know for sure. One guess: maybe it started as an idea that parents had for their children, wanting to keep them safe and secure from the sting and embarrasment of failure and provide them with the best model of not screwing up? I can’t imagine young adults in college drafting up such a template on Friday nights, or kindergardeners in the payground coming up with such things – it must become ingrained in our minds sometime in-between. Any other thoughts?

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Jen June 27, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Thanks for the comment on my blog, Jonathan. I love this post as well – i think that being a creative being sets you apart in society and therefore why subscribe to society’s measures? For me, as a female, i feel like there are so many arbitrary paradigms I am supposed to fit into and its annoying. “Just be” – that’s my mantra (and that of a 1992 Calvin Klein ad, but whateve).

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Mary@GoodlifeZen June 27, 2008 at 3:02 pm

What is the cost of living outside the mold? In my experience it is that though I tend to have strong and meaningful friendships, I don’t seem to a whole string of aquaintances. Reason: people are nervous about being around someone who lives an original life – it might be contagious!

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Nneka June 27, 2008 at 9:43 pm

I was just talking to a friend today about the notion of throwing out the life playbook of go to school, get a good job, get married, make lots of babies. We were both saying that we have our own playbooks now and life is so much more fun.

What a coincidence! Oops, I don’t really believe in those anymore :-)

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Tom Volkar / Delightful Work June 28, 2008 at 7:23 am

“I’m not good enough because I don’t have enough experience.” Not good enough thinking takes many forms and they call can stop us from living an authentic life. This is a very illuminating post and I hope it gets read by those who are afraid to seize their freedom. I enjoyed how you tied it to self-employment which I belive is the only true work life freedom.

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Nathalie Lussier June 29, 2008 at 8:48 am

Wonderful post, it has really made me think hard on how interesting a life can be “without a template” and whether it is really possible to do so? Because something like going to school/college and scoring good grades are almost irreplaceable in today’s context.

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Andrew Scotchmer June 29, 2008 at 12:59 pm

When you think about it, we all kid ourselves that we are free. Everyday in fact we celebrate living in a land that respects our freedoms.

But are we free. Do we control our lives or does our boss? Do we live life to the full or only when the clock on the wall tells us it’s time to play? Do we work because we want to or because our mortgage is telling us to?

Great and thought provoking post.

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Erika Harris - lifeblazing.com July 3, 2008 at 5:45 am

Jonathan,

I connect with this post VERY STRONGLY. I feel so strongly about the points you’ve raised, in fact, that I actually dedicated my entire blog to them!

I feel encouraged, inspired and energized by your irreverence. Powerful!

Erika

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Cubicle Hacker August 9, 2008 at 1:30 pm

WOW !! This is one of the best post I have ever read. Mind blowing. I always doubt myself and try to make peace with my mind. Now, I can rest about thinking that perhaps something was wrong with me. Thank you so much.

http://www.cubiclehacks.com

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Seamus Anthony August 13, 2008 at 1:16 am

Dude, you are a walking talking (blogging) Rebel Zen Master. Totally glad I found this blog, keep it up!

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Srinivas September 8, 2008 at 3:13 am

An excellent article. I used to get lot of unsolicited advice when I choose to live according to my terms, though it was not harming them in any way. Most people fail to realise their dreams as they are forced to follow the herd.

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Jon October 27, 2008 at 8:02 am

There should be a BOOK written on this exact subject. I want to hear MORE! This is the exact freedom that I am seeking; to live MY LIFE pursuing my own PASSIONS without the fear which has been instilled into my brain about “JOB SECURITY”, “FINANCIAL SECURITY”, about how my DREAMS can never come true because “I CAN’T AFFORD IT” and because “I DON’T HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE” etc. etc.

I’d like to plug a movie that fits right into this “FREESTYLE-LIVING” MINDSET, it’s called, ‘FIGHT CLUB’. The entire philosophy behind the story is one of rebelling against the “conform or be shunned” mindset and false securities of modern society. Check it out.

P.S. I am a U.S. ARMY Soldier, and trust me when I say that I know the worst when it comes to ‘CONFORMITY’. I’m on the edge of a life-changing breakthroug; thanks for the article, it’s just one more step on my way to life-long freedom!

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Create My Business Plan October 30, 2008 at 4:42 am

Thanks for the encouragement from the post!An excellent article. I used to get lot of unsolicited advice when I choose to live according to my terms, though it was not harming them in any way. Most people fail to realise their dreams as they are forced to follow the herd.

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Kate January 2, 2009 at 7:34 am

I definitely qualify as living without a template, and I don’t regret it. However, it’s difficult sometimes to stand tall in the face of everyone around you living the template. It can get kind of lonely. Do you have an essay/post in you that addresses how to stand tall freestyle despite often being misunderstood and feeling left out of the lives of your friends (because they live and “love” the template)?

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Erik May 8, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Well not going for the secure way isn’t the same as freedom! Freedom is just a word, a relative expression, a feeling. Ofcourse you shouldn’t do stuff you don’t like 24/7, but you need some kind of income to for example buy medicine + food, if you don’t that freedom you are talking about dies within 1-3 days when the money runs out, without a way to get the medicine…

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Marje June 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

I have been sitting at this computer all day thinking ‘what’s the point’ having to fill in a form which will be assessed to decide if I should be allowed to keep the job I have been doing for 2 years. A job I don’t really give monkeys about with an organisation I no longer respect or respects me. When all I want is to find and love a good man, grow things, create art to make people smile and go for long walks in all weathers. Ok so I might never find that man but I’ll meet likeminded friends along the way. I can live on very little money (not ashamed to live off the state until I can set up and generate a modest income, doing something that won’t give me high blood pressure and destroy my soul. I have some energy and youth left inside me – it’s time for change.

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Walter September 3, 2009 at 6:59 am

Jonathan, I am pleasantly surprised, you are proof that “sense” is not 80 years old, thank you, “great blog”

Walter.

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Eicitional October 22, 2009 at 3:24 pm

It was good to read, if you are living in a 3rd world country like me, it is really hard to live without these templatesç
Worst life standarts!

Thank you for this, good day.

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Jamie Koonce -- superherohealthcare.com April 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I did follow the template by making straight A’s all through high school and eight years of college + professional degrees and board licensure as an acupuncturist, herbalist, and doctor of Chinese Medicine. I pay fees out the butt in order to maintain malpractice insurance, continuing education credits, and annual licensure renewal. Prospective patients are reluctant to pay out-of-pocket fees for my services because insurance companies usually only cover services provided by either medical doctors or chiropractors. Additionally, healthcare decisions are mostly determined by what insurance covers and not what the healthcare professional and patient believe is the best treatment strategy. The template clearly does not work. It’s why we have a healthcare crisis today. It’s why I offer highly affordable health coaching to individuals worldwide. I utilize radical treatment strategies in my health coaching programs and have extensive evidence-based data to back up its effectiveness. Most chronic illness is reversed by accurate diagnosis and the right nutrition and exercise plan, combined with expert-formulated herbal medicine and nutraceuticals. The Big Box Mainstream Healthcare Centers don’t use this approach. Not even the ones that claim to offer “Integrative” care. They follow a template full of cookbook strategies.

Thank you so much for writing this blog. Your ideas are what so many people know is the truth, but are afraid to say it.

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Mathieu August 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I’ve come to the conclusion that the only real security is constant movement, but constant movement is not in itself compatible with most of today’s ways of existence. It’s a bizarre disconnect, and somewhere in between lies the answer, somewhere outside lies the truth :)

Futhark Lifehack

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ZarkoCekovski June 16, 2011 at 12:35 pm

It’s a wonderful post and I agree with most of it . I myself chose to lead a life where I don’t sacrifice myself for the sake of belonging to a social group that doesn’t like me . And I am often criticized for it by my peers . But lately I realized that not caring what people think of me has let me grow and prosper. So in conclusion GREAT POST AND THANKS!!!!

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