It has never been easier to start and run a business that is all your own. You don’t need employees, you don’t need to raise money, and you certainly don’t need a cofounder. This is the age of the Solopreneur, and these are the tenets that guide the Solopreneur.
Money is not the main metric
Money is a (feeble) representation of value. It can be exchanged for (some) other things of value to you. As such, you can “leave money on the table” in exchange for something that is valuable to you, be it your time, your liberty, or your sanity.
Optimizing your actions solely on money is a perversion of the very idea that the money should represent value. You will be miserable, and that will make each additional dollar less valuable than the previous.
Freedom is priceless
What would it be worth to you to take a long lunch without feeling rushed? To work from Paris for a month? To spend more time with friends and family? To let only your ambition dictate how you will spend your day? To wake up without an alarm clock?
The Solopreneur knows that money is worthless without freedom. As such, freedom is priceless.
Knowledge is freedom
Being solely responsible for running a business requires the stacking of knowledge. One-by-one, components of running a business become as automatic an action as brushing one’s teeth, which in turn frees up cognitive resources for acquiring still more knowledge.
As Miles Davis once said, “knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.” The Solopreneur stacks knowledge. Each thing they learn heightens the effectiveness of the previous thing. The Solopreneur is prepared for whatever comes their way.
Specialization is helplessness
If you are not self-sufficient, then there is no such thing as “job security.” Being a piece of a large machine requires honing down your jagged edges to be the smooth cog that will fit in amongst the others. This is a liability. When they’re done with you, who’s to say your cog will fit anywhere else?
The Solopreneur can embrace what makes them different, and diversify the work they do, as well as their income streams. The Solopreneur will never lose all of their income at once.
Shareholder Value is bad for the soul
Companies optimize for “Shareholder Value.” The more levels of abstraction there are between those supplying the Capital, and those doing the Labor, the more intensely the “Value” in “Shareholder Value” is optimized for money. If those who supply the Capital aren’t doing the Labor, this optimization will happen at the expense of the laborers’ health, sanity, and happiness.
The Solopreneur supplies the Capital, does the Labor, and determines the definition of Shareholder Value. Thus, they are more likely to optimize for health, sanity, and happiness.
Ownership is integrity
The further the executor of an action is from the director of that action, the more likely that action is to deviate from a moral or ethical ideal. Some of the most shameful acts of humanity have been done simply because someone was “just following orders,” or because accountability was clouded by being diffused amongst multiple parties.
The Solopreneur owns their actions, and the consequences of those actions. They can’t protect their self-perception by displacing blame. This integrity keeps them honest and accountable.
“Friends” are better than “colleagues”
Are you your authentic self with your “colleagues?” When you interact with someone who has power over you, someone over whom you have power, or someone with whom you compete, it colors the interaction. Concerns aren’t voiced, feelings aren’t shared, and non-monetary representations of Value are discarded from the equation.
This coloring is even more intense when the cost of a misstep is binary (employed vs. being fired, getting the one promotion spot vs. not), and when there are few other options.
The Solopreneur can be authentic in interactions. Their “colleagues” are just friends: fellow Solopreneurs who share in the same experiences. They supply each other with non-monetary Capital. They invest in each other without exchanging a dime.
Solopreneurs achieve success by their own definition. They will spread, bolstered by robust infrastructure, fueled by their curiosities, and catalyzed by their desire for personal freedom. Here we come.
Originally published at kadavy.net on December 7, 2015.