This item was first posted in 2010. In rereading it, I felt I couldn’t add to it, so I reposted it. If you’re reading it for the first time, I hope it brings you some meaning. If you’re reading it, anew, may it reawaken you.
In the wake of Canada Day, and today, Independence Day in the United States, it gave me pause to write about the concept of independence. This post is not so much an opinion, but a perspective. What independence means to me. Perhaps it will give you pause to think about its meaning to you.
In reading the Sunday paper, I assert that “independence” does not involve mattress sales, electronics sales, or any other marketing promotions speaking to unrelated commercialization.
Thoughts of independence remind me of my father. Metropolis, the classic science fiction film, inspired my dad (Martin Ebon), at a young age. Its futuristic themes were the launching pad for his life plan to depart Hamburg, Germany for New York City, and build a career as an author.
Daddy made his move to New York City, escaping Nazi Germany in 1938. He published his first book, World Communism Today, in 1948 at the age of 31, beginning his lifelong work as a freelance writer.
In my bubble world of Riverdale, a neighborhood in the Northwest corner of the Bronx, I was steeped in entrepreneurship. My dad was the quintessential micro-business owner. When he crossed over into full-time writer mode, he subleased office space in Manhattan, near Grand Central Station, in good proximity to various publishing companies. Every morning he took the Penn Central train into Manhattan, reading the New York Times, and strolling a couple of blocks from Grand Central Station to his office.
I’ve owned a number of businesses over several decades, with as many as 30 employees. Today I’m a micro-business owner of one, as my dad was. One day, I plan to have a slightly overpaid, executive assistant, to help manage my activities.
For me, independence also means having and expressing, a minority opinion. Through involvement in many organizations, often at a board of directors level, I have espoused that role. Sometimes I lobby well; other times I clearly swim upstream. I know that running counter to the majority can be unpopular. And it would be easier to just be silent. But I am resolute in expressing an argument for a point of view, regardless, not simply because it’s my opinion, but because it usually represents the view of others.
More than anything, independence means having an open mind. To new ideas, to people who are different than I am, to different approaches. When we get stuck in our ways, the worst kind of blindness results. Being open-minded, combined with critical thinking skills, enables you to see all sides of an issue, not both sides of an issue. These are priceless assets in a world of endless alternatives paths of action.
The people I admire the most are those who are innovators, creative thinkers, thought leaders, trend setters. It is easy to follow the path of others who have broken new ground. It is tougher being the independent person who has created something fresh and original.
There are downsides to being independent.
- Being outspoken, no matter how diplomatic will upset some people.
- Taking business risks on new concepts, carry a high possibility of failure… and a small chance of wild success.
- Being distinct, in personality and presence, will often trigger a polarizing reaction.
- “Wearing many hats” can, at times, be overwhelming and taxing.
Ultimately, being independent is a lifestyle choice. One has a choice in where to live, selecting a line of work, to be self-employed or not, choosing who to associate with, and what to do for fun and relaxation.
Being fiercely independent means embracing the unpredictable, and enjoying the majority of it. You can be independent within some corporations, but it is much tougher. One doesn’t have to look too far in today’s corporate world to realize it no longer offers true security, only the illusion of security.
These are my thoughts for Independence Day. I would be thrilled to hear a few of your thoughts, continuing the theme of this post.
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