Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

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Land of the Free and Home of the Brave

Time magazine recently featured Jonathan Franzen, the author of the just released novel Freedom, on its cover. Though I’ve not yet read the book, its title got me to thinking about the liberty we enjoy in the United States of America. Historically, we have imagined ourselves to be the “land of the free and home of the brave,” but are we? When it comes to our careers, at least, I think we’re still a work in progress.

Freedom is a noun, but it can only be achieved with a verb. In other words, freedom doesn’t exist unless and until we act to be free. We can live in the United States of America where we have a right to freedom, but we can easily become prisoners of our assumptions and beliefs.

Many people, for example, assumed that there would always be a CompUSA, Frontier Airlines and Lehman Brothers so they lashed their careers to those employers. They didn’t exercise their freedom – they hunkered down and hung on – and saw themselves locked into a downward spiral of missed opportunities and unemployment as a result. They assumed that someone else would steer them toward success, and discovered too late that only they themselves can do that.

That’s the central paradox of freedom in the workplace. We are free to act in our careers, but freedom doesn’t actually occur until we do. To put it another way, freedom isn’t free. It is earned by the effort we make to select and pursue our own destiny at work. And, that’s where freedom gets tough. It’s hard to figure out which field will provide us with a rewarding and fulfilling career, and it’s just as difficult to ensure we’re continuously qualified for employment in that field.

Instinctively, we already know that. It’s why we say we’re the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Only a courageous person can be free. Every American else has a right to freedom, but only those who are brave enough to exercise that right will ever achieve it.

The United States of America didn’t happen because the Founding Fathers recognized peoples’ right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It happened because they recognized those rights and declared our Independence. Those rights, and especially Liberty, became a reality because a bunch of brave colonists used a verb to create them.

An Example Worth Emulating

The Founding Fathers were extraordinary people, to be sure, but they were also citizens of this Republic just like you and me. They were smart, but not geniuses, so sometimes they made mistakes. They were clear thinking, but not omniscient, so sometimes they were blindsided by the consequences of their decisions. They were, in short, brave but human. And that means, we can emulate their actions.

We can live and work to their standards. We too can show the courage necessary to achieve freedom, to be free. How does that happen in a 21st Century career? Here are some examples that will get you pointed in the right direction:

  • According to the U.S. Labor Department, between February and April of this year, more people resigned from their jobs (2 million) than were laid off (1.7 million). They had the courage to take their career into their own hands and chart a course that made more sense for them. They exercised their freedom, even in the teeth of a stuttering economy.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, 92 million American adults are now enrolled in an education program. That’s over half of the workforce. These working men and women are brave enough to take personal responsibility for their own development. They are reinforcing their freedom by reinforcing their ability to perform at their peak on the job.
  • According to Time magazine, 40 million Americans move each year and 20 percent of them do so in order to take a new job. They are courageous enough to head off into the frontier of a new locale in order to stake their claim to a better future for themselves and their family. They have earned their freedom by overcoming their fear of the unknown.
  • It is possible, of course, to be free without quitting your job or going back to school or moving to a new town. There is a common denominator in all of those examples, however. It is individual initiative. And, you cannot be free without that personal expression of bravery.

    Freedom is a quintessential American ideal, but it one that is often misunderstood. We think we are free because we live in a free society. And while that is certainly our good fortune, it is not how freedom happens. True freedom – the independence to reach for and become the epitome of ourselves – only occurs if we are brave enough to set ourselves free.

    Thanks for reading,


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