Summary of the book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: It is possible to become freer today, and not by seeking to change the world as it is, but by freeing ourselves from mental limits that we have accepted and maintained up to now.
By Harry Browne, 1973, 407 pages.
Note: This article is a guest post written by Damien Casoni from the blog Raccourci Minimaliste (‘Minimalist Shortcut’).
Review and Summary of “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World”
Prologue – Introduction: How to Live Free in an Unfree World
Many think that we cannot be free because of our family, our country, our employer, etc.
They then try to change these circumstances by movements, protests, crusades, manipulation attempts…but none of this really works.
However, there is a path to freedom that does not require waiting for a miracle or having to rally the world to your cause. A path that depends only on our own choices, no matter what others choose to do with their own lives.
If you are not free today, it is because you have probably never questioned some mental traps that imprison you.
There are hundreds and hundreds of mental traps, but Harry Browne has narrowed them down into 14 basic types that are analyzed throughout How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.
“How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” is structured in 3 sections:
- The Why: Presentation of these 14 mental traps.
- The How: Methods to free oneself from common obstacles in the quest for freedom.
- A New Life: Concrete techniques to change everything.
Section 1 – Why You Are Not Free
Chapters 1 and 2: Identity Traps
There are two:
- Believing that you must be someone other than yourself to be happy.
- Thinking that others will act as you would if you were them.
No one else knows what will make you happy. It is your duty to determine for yourself:
- Who you are.
- What makes you happy.
- What you are capable of.
- And what you want to do.
Know that what you consider to be logical or common sense will vary from person to person. Everyone seeks happiness within the limits of their own identity, determined by their knowledge and experience.
- You are unique; no one can tell you who you should be.
- Each individual acts according to his/her knowledge in order to seek happiness.
- You cannot modify or control the nature of individuals.
- Your view of the world is limited and subjective. Focus on what works for you.
“To be no one other than yourself – in a world that tries its best, night and day, to make you someone else.” Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Chapter 3: Intellectual and Emotional Traps
The Intellectual Trap: Believing that your emotions must conform to a certain standard.
Experiencing an emotion is an involuntary phenomenon, a physiological response to what is happening to us.
Negative emotions are signals that indicate that some part of your life requires your attention.
Positive emotions, on the other hand, try to tell you how you can be happy.
The Emotional Trap: Believing that you can make important decisions under the influence of strong emotions.
Thinking is the conscious and deliberate act of attempting to perceive the reality and nature of things in order to use them to achieve emotional well-being.
Thinking is a means; feeling is an end.
When we feel strong emotions, positive or negative, our ability to think is muddled.
It is therefore desirable to always keep a minimum of mental energy to remember this: Always wait to be calm before making a decision.
The very core of the Emotional Trap is this myth that tells us that what we are feeling right now will last forever.
To sum up, you are in the Intellectual Trap whenever your mind tells you how to feel, and you are in the Emotional Trap whenever you let your feelings guide your decisions.
Chapter 4: The Morality Trap
There are 3 types of morality:
- Personal: It consists in foreseeing the consequences of our actions in relation to our search for happiness. As it is impossible to foresee all the consequences, we refer to general rules intended to prevent us from problematic situations.
- Universal: Is believed to bring happiness to anyone who follows it. It is tempting to believe it when you meet someone who seems to have succeeded and whose words, which are quite commonsensical, would encourage us to adopt the same ethics. However, the differences between individuals are too great for such a universal morality to exist.
- Absolute: Comes from an authority considered more important than the individual and declares that the latter must follow a moral code despite the consequences for it. What is “right” then becomes more important than your happiness.
An authoritarian moral code always claims to protect society. But of what value can a society that encourages an individual to deny his own happiness for it have?
And even if you believe there is a higher authority, you are still the only one who will ultimately decide whether or not to comply with it.
Ultimately, you are already living by your moral code.
Chapter 5: The Altruism Trap
It is often claimed that the world would be a better place if everyone were altruistic, if everyone were willing to sacrifice a little of their well-being for others. In a completely altruistic world, no one would allow themselves to be happy!
Whenever you take action so that you are not perceived as selfish, you are making a negative choice (seeking to reduce your suffering rather than increase your well-being) based on the Identity Trap.
When someone asserts that giving is the key to happiness, they are claiming a Universal Morality. It works for them, but it won’t necessarily work for everyone!
Many summarize the quest for happiness in a notion of binary sacrifice: sacrificing oneself for others or sacrificing others for one’s benefit.
However, there is a third way that produces better results than the previous two: creating exchanges that benefit both parties.
If I buy a house, it means that I value owning the property more than having the money I just spent. The seller thinks differently by valuing the money earned more than the property sold. No one forced anyone to sacrifice in this case.
Our daily life is thus peppered with such exchanges, large or small. These transactions are not necessarily about money: the time given, the attention, the effort, or the skill are all “objects” of exchange for what you feel you will receive in return.
Since no sacrifice is required when desires are compatible, it makes sense to seek out those with whom you can have a mutually beneficial relationship.
A consciously selfish individual is sensitive to the needs and wants of others. However, the individual does not view these as requirements, but as potential transaction opportunities to make both parties happier.
How to Live Free
Chapter 6: The Group Trap
It’s the famous phrase “There is strength in unity”, while the opposite is true. We accomplish more for ourselves when the rewards depend on our efforts alone.
The more participants there are in a group, the less the effort of one person will have a concrete result.
Joint efforts are nevertheless possible and even necessary. They only become more efficient if the work is specialized, each person ensures the optimal quality of their production or service.
For every situation where you have a goal to achieve, there are two alternatives:
- The direct alternative: Which only requires your action alone to achieve the desired result.
- The indirect alternative: Which requires making someone else do what needs to be done.
Most people automatically think in terms of indirect alternatives: what needs to be changed, how people should be educated…thus they waste most of their time in futile efforts in trying to do the impossible: to change others.
A free individual recognizes the specificity of each person involved in his/her relationships and strives to think in terms of direct alternatives.
“And when someone accuses you of being selfish, just remember that they’re upset just because you aren’t doing what they selfishly want you to do.” Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Chapter 7: The Government Trap
Government is the pinnacle of the Group Trap. There is nothing it can do that you cannot do for yourself.
The 4 basic misconceptions about government believing that:
- Governments are carrying out social actions that require your support.
- You have a duty to obey the laws.
- The government can be counted on to bring about reform in your favor.
- The government is so powerful that it can prevent you from being free.
Governments are created with the expectation that more things will be accessible to more people, and faster. However, a government can only give you something by taking what you need from you.
It is common to believe that the government protects its citizens through licenses, inspections, and regulations. However, each person has their own criteria in terms of quality, safety, risk taking, etc. In a free market economy, these different criteria do not pose any problem since there is something for everyone. But when a government intervenes, it imposes standards that constrain human diversity in the name of a “higher good”.
No government has the magical power to do what a market of free individuals cannot.
These government decisions are ultimately ensured by violence. Go against them and you will end up in jail. Absolutely any government reigns through violence.
How would you ensure your physical security in a world without government? Certainly, by yourself by closing your doors, avoiding disreputable places, educating your children about the potential dangers that await them and choosing scrupulously who has the right to enter your home, etc.
Isn’t that what you are already doing?
Governments cannot protect you. All they can do is promise you that the person who wronged you will suffer in return…and again…
Take the direct alternative, be responsible for your personal protection both physically and financially.
Chapter 8: The Despair Trap
You are in the Despair Trap when you are convinced that you cannot move from where you are, that nothing will ever change, that you have too many problems to get out of, and that happiness is a myth.
If you are unsuccessful at being happy, it’s not because your goal is unrealistic, but because your methods of trying to achieve it are.
If you haven’t yet met the ones that could suit you, it may be because you have confined yourself in vain to those with whom you have already become attached.
When you accept that you don’t have to please everyone, you realize that there is a whole Marketplace of relationships that could suit you. Focus your attention on those who are compatible with you, forget about the others.
Chapter 9: The Rights Trap
Rights and duties exist only in theory. They will never set you free.
Having the right to something means that someone has to provide it for you even if they don’t want to. Rights are raised when there is a conflict of interest and are often seen as the only way to manage them.
To resolve a conflict, there are 3 possible solutions:
- Appeal to your rights.
- Find a way that is in the best interests of the other party to provide you with what you want.
- Find a way to get what you want without involving the other party.
The first solution is by far the most ineffective.
No matter how much you have the “right” to live, that would not prevent anyone from killing you.
In personal relationships, it is just as easy to expect others to treat us as we “should” be treated. But it is a form of Identity Trap.
No one owes you respect, friendship, love, courtesy, politeness, etc. Absolutely no one owes you anything.
You are in the Rights Trap when you think rights can get you what you want. You are in the thick of it whenever you rely on anything other than an individual’s self-interest to get what you want from them.
Chapter 10: The Utopia Trap
Seeking to change society is typically an indirect alternative. You don’t have to live in a free society to be yourself.
Everyone eagerly seeks their happiness according to their own abilities and worldviews, according to their method. Wanting to change social conditions then turns out to be a desire to go against individuals whose method you do not approve of. It is an illusion to believe that the “bad guys” or “those responsible” will stop creating mayhem just because society has enacted new laws or regulations.
Nothing can prevent human beings from being different and diverse. No matter where you live or what you do, you will always meet people who won’t want you to get what you want.
That said, you always have the option of looking for a society that is more generally in line with your principles. Finding it and migrating to it is a quicker and more efficient direct alternative than trying to change a structure that does not suit you.
Free individuals recognize that they cannot change the world and others. They then focus on the power that is directly theirs.
Chapter 11: The Burning Issue Trap
The burning issue is a pressing social issue that claims to require your immediate attention and participation.
When asked to participate in a seemingly urgent social crusade, ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you really know about this problem? Did you bother to hear another side of the story?
- Are you sure that the proposed solutions will solve the problem? Can they make it worse?
- Is this problem truly important to you?
- Is it possible that you are getting involved, not out of genuine interest, but out of social pressure? (Altruism or Morality Trap)
Ex: Are you afraid that drugs can destroy society? Alcohol hasn’t changed it for millennia. Do not consume anything dangerous and directly educate your children on the risks involved. This is much more effective than going on a crusade against the whole world.
There is always something you can do that does not require changing others.
Burning issues are always presented in a way that suggests your freedom is at stake, and it is, if you let them fool you. May your pursuit of happiness be your only burning issue!
“Because the thief and the humanitarian each have the same motive: to do what he believes will do him good. In fact, we cannot avoid a very significant conclusion: everyone is selfish.” Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Chapter 12: The Previous Investment Trap
It’s a classic cognitive bias that makes us think it makes sense to factor in the time, effort, and money already spent to make a new decision.
Ex.: Not divorcing because you have already invested ten years in a relationship, refusing to leave an unsatisfactory job because you have been there for too long, etc.
The feeling behind this trap is that anything that has already been invested would be wasted or would have been done for nothing.
However, once spent, your resources have no real value. The question must therefore remain: What is the best way to use what I have TODAY to make the most of it in the future?
What you spent or lost in the past doesn’t have to influence your choices. Learn from the past, but don’t use it to justify a losing investment by hanging on to it.
Chapter 13: The Box Trap
A box is any uncomfortable situation that restricts your individual freedom. You get trapped in the box when you consider that the cost required to get out of it is too high to be taken into consideration.
Everything has its price. Whether it’s making things better or leaving it as it is.
If you can pinpoint exactly what you are paying to stay in your box and what you should spend to get out of it, you can make a conscious and thoughtful choice. Author Harry Browne offers a detailed method to achieve this.
As long as your situation remains hazy and unanalyzed, it will always be easier to leave things as they are.
When you get into the habit of looking for the price behind every situation, you’ll realize that you can deal with anything that frustrates you. Start with the small boxes, then, as your confidence grows, attack the larger ones.
Chapter 14: The Certainty Trap
It is failing to recognize the risk that comes with each of your decisions.
The need for certainty pushes us to find an explanation for everything that happens. There is nothing shameful in admitting that you do not have all the answers to all questions.
It is smart to rely on expert opinion, following the notion of labor specialization, but always keep in mind that they too can be wrong. They too act with incomplete information.
The Certainty Trap is also expressed by the famous “everyone knows that..”. What we know today, in any area, may well turn out to be wrong or incomplete tomorrow.
Risk taking is inherent in life, and it is dangerous only when you act as if there is none.
When you come to terms with uncertainty, you can relax and appreciate things more as they are.
Chapter 15: You Can Be Free
Your unique life is all you have; nothing is more important to you. Don’t waste it!
All institutions, family, government, business, etc. are structures claiming to act for your happiness. If they don’t bring you happiness, you have no reason to support them.
No matter what choices you made in the past, you made them for the best possible reasons based on what you knew at the time. But today you have a wide range of alternatives at your disposal. And tomorrow, you will have much more! You have no reason to repeat your past.
Nobody can stop you. Not even this myth called “society”, which does not even exist. No one owes you anything and you owe no one anything.
Be aware, however, that you will NEVER be 100% free. New desires will appear constantly with the power of your imagination; you will always want more. In addition, you will always have to make choices and give your energy to your priority values despite the rest.
However, moving towards a little more freedom, even if it will never be total, is always better than staying where you are.
Section 2 – How You Can Be Free
Chapter 16: Freedom from Government
Most people think of government as an all-powerful entity capable of surveilling and controlling everything. An image reinforced by films, TV series, and the media. If this image were correct, the wars on drugs, crime, and terrorism would long ago have been won.
The idea of a government is a big Group Trap.
The three key points to keep in mind so as not to fall into the government’s game:
- Do not be intimidated.
- Never attack the government head-on.
- Do not challenge it publicly through protests or semi-legal actions, you risk ending up in jail.
When you go it alone, you are usually not worth it, but any protest activity big enough to depend on a leader is big enough to be noticed and attacked.
No government or cluttered structure can move faster than an individual determined to always be a step ahead of it.
- List any government restrictions on your freedom.
- Determine the possible consequences if you decide to ignore them. Most of the time you will only come away with warnings, nothing more! In some cases, however, you risk more problems, and contacting a lawyer or other specialist may be wise.
Every law has a loophole. As soon as one loophole is filled, another is revealed. Remember that public officials don’t like to pay their taxes either…
There is a natural resistance as soon as one considers going against the law. However, no government obeys its own laws. These are changeable, modifiable, or simply ignored when the need arises.
Also recognize that you are continually breaking the law. The law is made to make you constantly guilty of one thing or another.
Your only questions should be:
- What consequences will you face if you get caught?
- What do you gain by going against the law?
- Is it worth it financially and emotionally?
- Will you be at peace with yourself?
Most of the time, an ounce of imagination and initiative will allow you to escape most regulations and legal obligations.
Chapter 17: Freedom from Social Restrictions
“Society” does not exist. It simply designates a collection of individuals with extremely varied inclinations and motivations.
And because of this diversity, you will always be condemned or judged by someone. Likewise, you will always find individuals who will accept you without you having to change anything. If you haven’t yet found these people, perhaps you have merely been searching the wrong places so far.
In which places can those who are compatible with you be found? Think about it and go for it!
Realize that you can also meet potential friends wherever you are. So, openly display your standards and who you are.
Don’t you already feel incredibly lonely when your relationships come down to people who don’t understand you and don’t support your values?
Face embarrassment and even ridicule by being honest about who you are and what you want at all times.
You have much more to offer than anyone has led you to believe up to this point.
Chapter 18: Freedom from Toxic Relationships
Sometimes a mutually beneficial relationship turns sour and deteriorates into one of obligation, conflict, and mistrust. This often happens when too many assumptions and unsaid things are at play, when we expect others to act according to the label we have given them: friend, partner, lover, wife, etc.
Three rules to keep in mind:
- Never think in terms of groups. Each individual is different.
- Limit your relationships to what you have in common. Don’t expect more than what is in everyone’s best interests.
- Don’t try to preserve a relationship through contracts, change is inevitable. Any relationship should only last as long as it remains beneficial to each party.
These three principles can be summed up in one: let others be free.
Don’t make your relationships an end in themselves to be preserved at all costs. This would only generate an incentive to sacrifice in the name of “our marriage”, “our friendship”, “our business”, etc.
Relationships are means to a goal. When the goal is no longer relevant, the relationship must end. Let your relationships evolve on their own, without structures, rules, or expectations.
If you know how to give everyone their freedom, you will become a rare and sought-after person. Learn to say “no” and you will begin to respect your individuality.
Chapter 19: Freedom from Marital Problems
Love, intimacy, affection, and family celebrations can all be enjoyed without having to build a restrictive structure that destroys the independence of those involved.
How to make love last otherwise? By affirming the three principles of the previous chapter.
Under the influence of passionate love, do not fall into the Emotional Trap. Don’t expect more from your current partner than they are already willingly offering you.
If you want to deepen your relationship with your partner, ask yourself the right questions: What do you really want? Living together? Spending more time together? Making love more frequently?
All of this can be achieved without legal marriage, without a contract, without ceremony, and without unnecessary expense. May simplicity guide you.
There is only one rule in a relationship between free individuals: Do not accept any sacrifice of your sovereignty or that of your partners. Allow everyone to grow according to their aspirations and their own development.
Your relationship is unique because each of you is unique. Therefore, it’s up to you to set the rules for your relationship.
The more independent and freer your partner is, the more they will be able to truly love you. A free individual knows who he/she is and why he/she is there; he/she has nothing to hide and can offer anything of his/her own free will.
Chapter 20: Freedom from Jealousy
It is difficult to leave your partner free if he/she takes the opportunity to hurt you. There are no easy solutions to stop being jealous, but it is possible to eliminate the problems that can create this jealousy.
Jealousy is a negative (and therefore involuntary) emotion based on the fear of losing someone (or something). There is no reason to feel guilty about experiencing this emotion or to seek to deny or suppress this feeling. It would be falling into the Emotional Trap.
If you are afraid to talk to your partner about your jealousy or your attraction to someone else, it is a sign that your relationship is not the most ideal.
Being honest means knowing how to express your emotions cold, without the whim that usually accompanies them in the moment, without condemnation or demands.
You can be jealous without having to place restrictions on your partner. Sometimes just talking about it relieves your own moral pain.
Jealousy often arises from surprises, when our partner behaves in unexpected ways. Hence the importance of setting the most precise rules possible, or agreeing to have no rules, but fully understanding the implications.
Better to suffer from occasional jealousy than to face the problems that a restrictive relationship generates…
Chapter 21: Freedom from Family Problems
When parents disagree, a child may face conflicting authorities asking them to act in two different ways. It would be easier for everyone for the child to have a primary go-to educator who will be responsible for his/her upbringing.
Before the baby is born, it is important to define who will take care of it. This designated parent will have the final say in decisions involving this child and will automatically have custody in the event of separation.
The possibility of separation and a single parent upbringing must be considered even before the child is born.
When the child is old enough to understand, perhaps he/she will want to be looked after by the other parent, and if the latter accepts, then it would be wise to respect his/her wishes.
It is advisable to establish as soon as possible with your child a relationship similar to the one you have with your partner, that of respect for individual sovereignty. Let him/her have his/her own possessions and take full responsibility for them. If you force your child to tidy up his/her room, he/she will never understand the inconvenience of clutter.
May your child learn to face the world by following your example. May you, your partner, and your child be seen as three separate humans with their own life, their own interests, and their own possessions. None of you lives for the benefit of another. Everyone should be with others because it is what they want, not because they have no other choice.
It’s a human being that you bring into the world, not a robot that needs to be programmed in this or that way. You won’t be able to control them. Consider that you are inviting a stranger to your home to live for 18 years or more.
There seems to be an unspoken law that blood ties are more important than self-interest, that we have duties to our family, just because they are our family!
“After all we’ve done for you” is the vague argument that children are bound to their parents by indefinite and infinite debt. So many pressures originating from the Traps of Identity, Morality and Altruism. The weapon being used is guilt.
What your parents did “for you” they did for themselves. They are the ones who took the risk of bringing you into the world and taking care of you. You owe them absolutely nothing.
If you feel locked up by your loved ones or your family, it’s up to you to break free. Do it gently. Emphasize what you have in common with them but affirm your choice to no longer be part of what is not for you.
“The negative side of marriage remains long after the positive goals have been discarded.” Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
Chapter 22: Freedom from Business Problems
If you partner up with a friend and decide to split the income from your business 50/50, you have made a mistake. You have fallen into the Group Trap.
When resentment grows, you may feel that you have chosen the wrong partners in your business. In fact, you might just have chosen the wrong structure.
Most traditional businesses violate the basic principles of a good relationship between individuals by lumping them into a group and attempting to preserve this fictitious entity through contracts and restrictions.
Find the ones that will offer the best services you need and pay the price that you are willing to offer. Do not automatically make them partners!
Consider these 3 suggestions:
- Deal with each person on an individual basis.
- Only contract for what you need, pay only for specific results, not for time.
- Favor short contracts that will prevent you from being tied unnecessarily.
Even without starting a business, you will still be in a better position to act as a “service provider” rather than as an employee.
Chapter 23: Freedom from Insecurity
Security comes from your ability to navigate the world, not from a guarantee that you are protected by anyone or anything.
You need 3 assets for this:
- Autonomy: Recognize that no one is as interested in your future as yourself and accepting full responsibility for preserving your own life.
- Vigilance: Recognize that change is constant, prepare for the unexpected.
- Honesty with yourself: Accept your mistakes, learn from them, and own them.
It would be foolish to believe that the government can guarantee our financial security.
When misfortune strikes, a free person does not waste his time lamenting, but immediately seeks better alternatives, even if he does not see them in the current situation. He moves through life with the awareness that no situation is permanent.
This encourages individuals to seek a “truth” and to believe in it without restraint, without having to judge for oneself what is right or wrong. The intellectually anguished individual looks outside of himself:
- A moral absolute: To believe in the truth, the consequences do not matter.
- A leader: To bring confidence that the individual does not have.
- An enemy: To offer a ready-made explanation of the adverse circumstances that may arise.
If you depend on yourself alone, you know that you can always find the affection you desire. If you depend on contracts, families, or groups, you intuitively know that you are vulnerable and that you are trying to preserve attention that you don’t really think you deserve.
Nothing is free in life and affection is no exception. You must constantly earn it by living according to your values, those which will correspond to those who are compatible with you.
Chapter 24: Freedom from Exploitation
Freeing ourselves from exploitation is not about changing others or the economic system but recognizing the direct alternatives available to us.
By definition, to exploit someone or something is to use them exclusively for selfish purposes. We have seen so far that everyone acts for exclusively selfish purposes. So, you will never be able to free yourself from exploitation if you hope that people will no longer act in their own interests.
If you feel like you are being exploited in any relationship, then you believe there are no better alternatives. Otherwise, you would have stopped this relationship immediately.
Speaking very generally, if you feel yourself being exploited by someone, that person is the last person to blame. If your situation continues, it’s because you allow it.
If you feel exploited, here are the 4 alternatives available to you:
- Staying where you are and complaining.
- Trying to change others.
- Changing the nature of the relationship to your advantage.
- Getting out of the relationship.
Only the last two alternatives offer a hope for a better life.
Ultimately, the only person you can tap into is yourself because you are the only one making the final decisions in your life.
Chapter 25: Freedom from Daily Constraints
Crumbling under the weight of debts, having to work for hours every day, so many obstacles that could make freedom difficult.
But there is always a solution! Finding it sometimes just requires asking. Help, an arrangement, a deal…ask your creditor, employer, or client what they need most. Make it a habit.
Make a list of your talents, anything you’ve ever worked on, and your hobbies and interests.
Don’t waste your only life on a job that doesn’t motivate you! There are so many other things you could be doing! You will always be more effective at doing what you like than at doing what you hate.
Take your dreams seriously; why don’t you try to make your life what you dream of? You don’t have to be rich, or start a family, or even “succeed” in your life. Only do these things if you really want to.
Establish your values and life priorities. Concentrate on the most important and accept that every once in a while, you have to sacrifice the rest.
Don’t sacrifice your present for a hypothetical future. One can only be free in the present.
Chapter 26: Freedom from Hypocrisy
Being 100% honest, regardless of the consequences, offers many benefits:
- Your word becomes precious and appreciated by others.
- You get more peace of mind.
- You become more attractive.
- And you know you deserve what you have and can enjoy it more.
Lies and betrayals have a glamorous side promoted in fiction and the press. We even claim that we are doing others a favor by hiding certain truths from them.
However, when we lie to protect someone’s feelings, we usually do it so that that person continues to love us, to bind them to us.
Hypocrisy is a form of Identity Trap. By lying, you think you are more attractive than by saying who you are and what you think.
If you are worried about telling the truth, you often plan to say only just enough.
Ex.: The difference between the brutal half-truth and the complete truth:
- Do I have a big nose?
- Do I have a big nose?
- Yes, but I don’t care.
It is interesting to check your own honesty by carefully observing what you say during a given period.
Think twice before you say anything. What will you say? Is it true? It is a very difficult exercise, start by doing it only an hour a day at first, until it becomes automatic.
Be prepared to own all the consequences, otherwise there is no point in getting started.
Section 3 – A New Life
Chapter 27: Who Are You?
You need to be alone long enough without influence to find out what really appeals to you.
There are 3 sources of information for getting to know yourself better:
- Your past experiences: When were you the happiest? If you can understand what made your loved ones so unique to you, you may be able to find others like them.
- Your musings: Take them seriously, use them as motivation to get out of the Traps you have fallen into.
- New experiences: Try new things; this is a habit to be cultivated. If you like it, try to understand why. Likewise, if you don’t like it, what would you have preferred? How to get it now?
You won’t really appreciate everything you find during this process. But to deny these results is to fall into the Identity Trap.
If what you are seems incorrect to you, then you have accepted standards which are incorrect for you, or that you have not yet found a way to satisfy your desires without negative consequences.
You don’t have to know all of your long-term goals today. Never be ashamed to change your plans. Just be careful not to make decisions under the influence of your emotions.
Chapter 28: Your Own Morality
The purpose of your moral code is to prevent you from doing something in a hurry that might defeat your long-term goals. A demarcation that separates the limits in which you can be spontaneous and free, and beyond where danger lurks.
A personally defined moral code should above all be used in times of crisis. Crises are the worst times to reconsider your long-term life principles!
It is when everything is going well that it is advisable to foresee the various predicaments in which you could find yourself and the principles which will guide you then.
Ex.: What if my child starts to take drugs?
Also plan exceptions to your principles in accordance with your scale of values.
Ex.: You are committed to always telling the truth unless it endangers your life or the life of someone you love.
Harry Browne then offers an exercise with some very specific and difficult questions to help you build your morality, such as:
- Under what circumstances could you steal someone’s property?
- Do different relationships require different levels of honesty? If so, according to what criteria?
- When would you use physical force to defend yourself? Under what circumstances would you use it to get what you want? How far would you go in both cases?
You can’t foresee everything, but most unforeseen situations are already covered by the principles you have adopted.
Chapter 29: Is Your Life the Way You Want It to Be?
It is important to regularly check our habits, our activities, the structures we maintain and what they bring to us.
One effective method is to study and list each of the 168 hours in a week. If you are wondering why you are not free, this technique may answer your question.
It will let you know precisely how many hours per week of your life you are actually happy.
For each of these listed hours, affix 4 labels:
- PLEASANT – UNPLEASANT – INDIFFERENT.
- POSITIVE – NEGATIVE: Is this activity intended to increase your happiness (POSITIVE) or prevent you from unhappiness (NEGATIVE)?
- ACTIVE – PASSIVE: Is this activity of your direct initiative (ACTIVE)? Or are you doing it because you have been asked or suggested to do so (PASSIVE)?
- The original WHY of the activity: The same activity can have one or more of the following labels:
- ENTERTAINMENT: Direct pleasure (video game, etc.)
- PAST MISTAKES: Taking care of an unwanted child, paying off debts, etc.
- SHORT-TERM PRODUCTIVE: Supposed to provide a relatively soon-to-come benefit (a few months).
- LONG-TERM PRODUCTIVE: Supposed to provide a distant benefit (a few years).
This technique allows to simplify your life and eliminate vague and complex activities that do not bring anything positive while encouraging you to be proactive.
Chapter 30: A Fresh Start – Part I
The “Starting from Zero” technique aims to create a new life, much freer and more enjoyable. It uses as a standard the life you dream of and not the one that is yours today. It avoids finding irrational justifications for holding onto your current life. Getting there “little by little” often does not lead to anything. Freedom is won by being audacious.
The seven steps:
Mentally situate yourself outside of your current lifestyle.
Imagine a life without your current responsibilities, obligations, constraints, family, etc.
What would you do?
Where would you go? What would you do for a living? Whom would you like to meet? What would you do with your free time? Would you be single? Would you live with the person of your dreams? What house would be yours? What would your possessions be?
Visualize this fully and in detail to see if it is right for you. After several days of this exercise, your dream will become more stable and more reflective of who you are. Plan to work on it at least two weeks, possibly more.
How is your present life?
What is your job? Your associations? Where does your money go? List all your activities (same exercise as in the previous chapter).
Cross off everything on your list that is not in your dream life.
If it just so happened that you crossed everything out, don’t be discouraged. Everything can be replaced.
What do you need to make your dream life possible?
How long will it take you to acquire the skills required for the job of your dreams? How much money will you need to get where you want to go? What resources would you need?
What are your possessions and dependencies?
How is your financial situation? What are your debts? Your assets? What is the precise value of your net worth? If this is very low, or even negative, don’t let that stop you! Don’t say you can’t change anything while you’re in debt. On the contrary, your situation will not change until you do something to change it!
What are your social obligations as well? Family? You can free yourself from any unwanted commitment with time and/or money.
Make the change.
Free yourself from all the possessions that are not in your dream life, make them into cash. Eliminate any activity that does not bring you closer to the existence you desire.
Use the cash collected to pay all your obligations. Free yourself!
If you have any left over, use that money to start financing your dreams. You should create a workable plan on paper.
Don’t be afraid to get rid of EVERYTHING. If you realize that you truly cherish a possession or activity, you can always come back to it, this time around without the issues holding you back then. The important thing is to be free above all. This usually requires a good general clean sweep.
Chapter 31: A Fresh Start – Part 2
Three ideas for liquidation procedures (for marriages and “jointly-owned possessions”):
- 1stmethod: Sell everything you jointly own and divide the cash thus earned by 50/50 or as you see fit.
- 2nd method (only possible between 2 people at 50/50):One person divides the properties into two parts that he/she thinks are equal, and the other person chooses the part that he/she likes. In business partnerships, this also works. It is smart to include the following clause in your contract: Each party can offer to buy out the other at any time at a given price. Either the other party accepts, or they can buy out the other at the price that the latter has established. One partner determines the price he/she gives to half the business and the other decides to buy or sell at that price.
- 3rdmethod: Place each item up for auction. Whoever stakes the most gives their money to the other parties in exchange for the desired item.
Chapter 32: Making Changes
Keep in mind the most important change you should make.
There is always a price to pay (admitting a mistake, paying off a debt, facing the fear of starting all over again, facing someone’s reactions, etc.). Identify it. What will you have to go through to pay it? Who is involved?
Do not run away from any responsibility or commitment; it will be a price to pay to free yourself.
Remember that you will surely get moral complaints from others. Do not deviate from your decision to free yourself. You don’t have to prove you’re right or justify yourself. Let them think they are lecturing you. Don’t fall for the “who’s right” game.
No matter who is “at fault”, own up to your own mistakes and pay for them. Don’t worry about what the other will have to pay, just worry about your freedom.
Once you have identified the price to pay, visualize yourself paying it. If it’s painful, visualize it over and over again until you’re desensitized. Imagine the worst and persevere.
How are you going to react? What are you going to say and do?
Don’t tell yourself that “everything will be fine.” Positive thinking doesn’t help, only realistic preparation can. You have to be convinced that you are doing the best possible thing. You may feel the urge to reconsider your decisions, this is a symptom of withdrawal, like when you quit smoking. And you have to prepare in advance for any feeling of lack, apparent regret, and addictions that will go through your mind.
Things won’t get better if you turn back. Things will never be the same again, and that’s good! Do not run away from intense, but temporary emotional pain for a life of frustration and bitterness.
Acting with courage is just understanding that not acting will have worse consequences than acting. Identify the vague elements of your decision and get the best information to take the mystery out of them. Ask questions, educate yourself, demand. Put a figure on everything, don’t leave anything vague.
You may feel responsible for others (children, wife, clubs, political parties, business, etc.). So, think, what would happen if you died? You realize that they will probably get by without you, even if they will miss you for a while.
You are not essential. Nothing is holding you back from leaving where and when you want to. And if everyone can survive without you, why can’t they survive with you? Just reject all the obligations that limit you. You can’t guess what’s best for everyone, give everyone their sovereignty, starting with yourself.
You cannot lose anything that you cannot reacquire later. Do not confine yourself to specific individuals or objects.
Chapter 33: EPILOGUE – Freedom in an Unfree World
The final lesson is that there is always a way to be freer. The greatest emotional freedom consisting in freeing oneself from the need to influence, convince, or control others.
For your financial freedom, this video will put you on the right tracks with 3 simple steps 🙂:
Conclusion on “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Damien Casoni from the blog Raccourci Minimaliste:
From its reading, it is not difficult to understand why “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” has become a classic of libertarian culture, alongside “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand and other major works of similar philosophy.
His message, both simple and radical, could nonetheless easily be considered naive, even impractical for those who have not yet realized the impact of their personal responsibility on their own happiness and on their life path. Faithful to its precepts, it will not convince any reluctant reader nor will it seek to cause genuine reflection. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is more for those who are already willing to open up to more freedom, without really knowing where to start.
As far as myself, it moved me to tears. I felt a strong connection with Harry Browne and his assertions of independence and individual freedom. If you too crave to be yourself, and love to question what seems to be the norm around you, I bet you often experience loneliness that can be nerve-racking. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World will bring you encouragement by showing you on the one hand that you are not alone in this case, but above all that your aspirations are neither unrealistic nor anything to be sneezed at under any circumstances.
Strong points of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World:
- Written with passion and conviction, inspiring.
- An optimistic philosophy, but realistic and pragmatic.
- Practical exercises to challenge your beliefs and change your life.
- Encourages proactivity and personal responsibility.
Weak points of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World:
- Too many repetitions when the point is already clear enough.
- Many will find the message simplistic and naive.
- Deserves some illustrations or graphics to facilitate assimilation (non-existent in the Kindle version).
- Only available in English.
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