Freedom is Best

This is my bias.

If you want to create a high-performing anything, freedom needs to be built into the foundation. (Those who disagree have (a) hired poorly  (b) can only ever hope for solid employees (SE) and (c) their businesses will die.)

Top-down management doesn’t work well in solving the biggest problems. It can minimize errors, it can get stuff done in the short-run, but it can never fully maximize employee ability. Which, considering employees are a company’s most valuable resource, is an outcome to avoid.

Furthermore, top-down management sucks innovation out of an organization. Innovation is the ONLY medicine when markets change. And markets will change. And if the organization doesn’t also change, ideally before the external shift occurs, the organization will die. Simple, but true.

On a more individual level, lack of freedom conflicts with core parts of human nature that are necessary for flourishing. Translation: if managers control employees too much, the employees will and should resent the managers.

Yet, there is room for some proscriptive management; managers can indeed know things their subordinates do not yet know. The manger’s goal, though, should be teaching subordinates tools and context such that more and more freedom is appropriate.

If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

This phrase is so false that the mindless repetition of it is embarrassing. We humans are filled with self-doubt, and as much as the billion dollar self-help industry tries to combat these nagging, negative internal voices, self-doubt ain’t disappearing anytime soon. Yet, accomplishment is still possible in spite of this fact.

Enter a peer, parent, friend manager, mentor, coach, etc. who is outside of your self-doubt. That other person can unquestionably believe in you more than you believe in yourself, can see potential and talent and opportunity and accomplishment that you fail to see. That other person can also point out blind spots and raise questions that would otherwise be obscured. This all makes living in concert with others so preciously valuable. It also reveals the stupidity of that nobody else will phrase.

Now, I have little concept of where your self-confidence ranks. I do know that I have high expectations for you. I know that when you express ambitions – like having Jen’s job – I think yes and how can I help?

And so we arrive back at freedom. Since we know it’s the only real way to accomplish the biggest of things, the questions are only how much? how soon? and where are tools/context necessary so the answers are complete and now?

I know one tool is thinking well, which includes asking the right questions and challenging assumptions.

For instance, take those learning courses you enrolled in. The goal of expanding your knowledge is unquestionably is a good one, both personally and professionally. But are those courses the best way to accomplish that goal?


  1. How do you know those courses are good?
  2. What’s your optimal way of learning? Do those courses fall under that rubric?
  3. Since learning through transmissionism basically never works, how are you increasing the chances that the knowledge sticks?
  4. Has your behavior changed because of the courses? Do you think it will?
  5. Is it better for you to focus on a single thing and dig deep or to be a sort of renaissance woman?
  6. What skills come easiest?
  7. What come hardest?
  8. Knowing we all seek pleasure, and “hard” is rarely pleasurable in the moment, how can you hold yourself accountable in doing the hard things (especially since the largest gains often come from the “hard” path)?

Oh my god. Just let me be. Who thinks of all these questions? Everything doesn’t have to be optimal.

See, the desire for freedom. Ha. Good. No, all these questions aren’t always necessary. Or perhaps you’ve already asked and answered them all. Cool.

My biggest question is #1. Because I’m skeptical. Given the choice between some corporate learning course and basically anything else, I’d take anything else. Like, why not a YouTube course? The logic is simply 1 million people watched this vs. I have no idea if anyone watched this. The wisdom of crowds. Efficient decision-making. Not perfect. Doesn’t have to be. Am I in the 90th percentile with that heuristic? I’d bet “yes.”

Perhaps more importantly, none of this extra learning can occur if deadlines for other projects aren’t met. It’s all important, no doubt, but in a world which requires priorities, keeping your word on projects which affect millions of dollars must be prioritized and taken to completion. Once it is shown that you can consistently deliver on time, time management questions largely disappear.

I believe in your ability to outperform. What does that mean exactly? I’m deriving some very specific standards of what makes a $50k employee, a $100k employee and a $200k+ employee. These will be released soon as an additional method for providing tools, context and evaluating progress.