We've experimented with introspective writing, breathwork, meditation, smart & silly workout challenges, environment optimization... and of course, we also talk about entrepreneurship, careers and playing the game of money.
This is a wide ranging mix of topics!
Or is it..?
As it turns out, I have a blindspot here that I want to address in this article.
To me, it is obvious that everything we talk about is always saying the same thing. The ikario message is about one and the same thing, every single time - it's just that we're looking at it from different angles.
The One Message
The ikario message is simply this: as an individual, you can (and should) level yourself up until you gain real freedom.
That's it. That's the most important thing I believe I can teach and contribute to the world. It's the most valuable thing I've ever discovered about life. It's the thing that has made the biggest difference in my personal story. And it's what everything I've ever created for ikario points to.
Optimizing your sleep, drinking green smoothies, designing better habits, understanding money, building a business, learning communication skills... these may seem like different things but they are simply all tools to increase your personal power level.
And you increase your personal power level in order to gain freedom.
“But Shane, I already live in a free country!”
If you're reading this, there's a high likelyhood that you live in the "free world". That you live in a society that is somewhat democratic and where you have many freedoms such as the freedom to choose where you live, the freedom to pursue a career of your choosing, freedom of speech etc.
That's great. All those freedoms are important and incredibly valuable.
But that's not the freedom I am talking about.
The truth is, you can live in the freest country on earth (I'll the debate as to which country that is to others) and still be extremely un-free.
Let's examine this claim in a bit more detail, looking at time freedom, economic freedom and freedom from suffering.
How free are you to choose how you spend your time? For most people, even people living in free, prosperous countries, the answer is: "not very".
Most people get up at a time in the morning that is not the time of their choosing. They have to get up in order to meet some obligation, such as showing up for work on time.
Speaking of work: many people don't particularly enjoy their work.
Think about it like this:
- If you no longer got paid to do your job, would you continue doing it?
- If you won the lottery and had enough money to retire right now, would you keep going to your job?
How many people would say "yes" to these questions? Even people who will tell you that they love their job would probably hesitate. And this indicates that you are not really free to spend your time as you wish, even if you have a job you like and even if you are paid well and have time off and so on.
Time freedom is downstream of economic freedom. The reason we spend a large portion of our life doing work that we may not enjoy very much is because of a certain form of coercion that we are used to, even in the freest of countries: if you don't do your work, you don't get paid and if you don't have money you will get kicked out of your home and eventually lose everything.
So, you are "free" to not work, but it's a bit like you are "free" to choose between your money or your life at a robber's gunpoint.
In order to be truly free to choose how you spend your time, you need economic freedom. This can generally take two forms.
The first is to have "fuck you money" - enough to never have to work again and to opt out of the rat race entirely. The second is to find a way to get paid to do what you want to be doing anyway. This is often achieved through entrepreneurship or creative work.
True freedom, as I see it, is when you spend your time doing what you want to do (note that this can and probably will involve challenging work - but it's work you want to do) and when you can live where and how you choose to.
The un-free person in a free country:
- Spends 8+ hours a day doing something they'd rather not do.
- Lives in a place that isn't ideal for them (e.g. city they don't like, living space that's too small,...) because they have to be there for work and/or can't afford to live somewhere more optimal.
- Needs to cut corners because they don't have enough money to afford things that are important to them. Worst case those things include basics like healthy food.
The truly free person:
- Spends their time in a way that doesn't lead to regret.
- Can live where they want to, geographically.
- Lives in an optimal environment, suited to their needs and preferences.
- Can afford things that are important to them, no sweat.
Looking at this, you might conclude that the answer to everything is money. If you have enough money, you can be truly free.
Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple.
Freedom From (Pointless) Suffering
Money is important. Being able to play the money game is a key life skill in my opinion. Hence all the effort I put into a completely free class on the topic.
But if you only pursue money, hoping it will solve all your problems and give you the freedom you seek, you're in for a rude awakening.
First off, because you can never actually have enough money, if your focus lies on money. Lots of people make enough money to be rich, but thanks to lifestyle creep, they basically remain poor.
If your income doubles, but now you live in a home that's twice as expensive, drive a car that's twice as expensive, wear clothes that are twice as expensive etc. guess what: you're exactly as deep in the rat race as you were before! And you'll be approximately 0% happier with all your new expensive crap you don't need.
Learning how to spend it wisely is as much part of the money game as learning how to make more of it.
But even if you aren't stuck in a materialism trap, you're still not done. Money can only solve some of your problems.
You can live in a palace and have all the money in the world and still suffer away silently. You can still hate yourself, you can still have toxic relationships, you can still feel directionless and lost. And of course, you can also still be sick, in pain and uncomfortable in your own skin.
Money can buy you some forms of freedom, but not freedom from suffering.
To gain freedom from suffering, no path leads past developing your body, your emotional control and your mind. And while you're at it, you probably want to build your social circle and social skills, too. After all, hell is other people (and so is heaven).
Note on suffering vs. adversity: freedom from suffering is not about entering some state of perpetual joy and bliss. That's neither possible nor desirable. A good, rich life will involve some forms of adversity. From small things like getting in a good (but tough) workout to larger things like the challenge of building a business or otherwise making a difference in the world. You will be going through hard times. You will be doing difficult things. But you are more capable of this kind of "noble suffering" when you are not weighed down by avoidable, self-imposed suffering.
Let go of your emotional baggage so you have the strength to carry a more worthy cause.
The Key: Increase Your Personal Power
So, the goal is to gain real freedom. Because as a human being, as an individual, you can be truly free. And in my humble opinion, you ought to be free.
But how do you attain this goal?
By leveling up your personal power. This has been my path. Through my life experiences (and probably a good dose of luck), this is the discovery I made: there are things I can do that increase my personal power. Things that empower me to free myself.
And everything we do at ikario is about those things. It's about the most effecive, most practical, highest leverage tools you can use to increase your skills, increase your knowledge and increase your power, so that you can become free.
And maybe, just maybe, when you get there, you'll decide to use some of your power to help free others, too.