Negative Liberty... It's Not What You Think

February 21, 2022

"Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We attempt nothing great but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter, we persevere in nothing great but from a pride in overcoming them." — William Hazlitt

I waited one extra day to send this newsletter. I have always sent this on Saturday, but today it's on a Sunday for a good reason. Happy Sunday and let’s talk about Negative Liberty and Positive Liberty, which I just came across a couple of weeks ago thanks to my wife sending me a great article about the topic.

But first, let's talk about the Jocko Willink event that I just hosted with Lucido Global. Jocko is the best-selling author of Extreme Ownership and his message yesterday was all about taking responsibility for your personal life. The challenging thing for most of us is that in order to get there we first have to come to the realization that we haven't done enough. In fact we must always be pursuing more knowledge and leading with humility.

This brings me to the word Liberty. It's one word that is thrown around quite often lately. People get very defensive when they feel that their liberties are being taken away, when their right to make choices has been hindered, and of course, this is a normal reaction.

Now let's apply that same thought to your personal life. Your everyday choices.  Your reactions to your challenges that happen daily. It's interesting to me how when others take our liberties we get extremely angry, but when we do it to ourselves we let it happen willingly. Take for example what you eat, how you talk to others, what you read or don't read, what you listen to, how you spend most of your day, what you worry about... you get the picture. You have the liberty to choose how you live your life, but then when you choose not to care about the choices that you make you are in essence living with "Negative Liberty".

"Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers, or constraints." It means that you choose not to act to make yourself better daily. You live a life of reaction rather than a disciplined life that creates true freedom. You're a slave to your lack of choices that can make your life better.

On the other spectrum of this, you have "Positive Liberty" which is "the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one’s life and realize one’s fundamental purposes". Here is where I would love to see you live your life. With this type of liberty, you will see struggles as you push through and challenge your own status quo, your complacency, and your automated life.

Yesterday's message by Jocko reminded me that I'm not taking enough responsibility for my life and I'm not leading as best as I can.  Guess what, you aren't either.

Today, this Sunday please remove your ego and take a look at your life. Look at what you haven't done and realize that it's your own fault, no one else's. What this does is it gives you control over what you can change rather than look at life with the lens of a victim.

You are where you are because you have chosen not to be a better version of yourself. You aren't doing enough.

The idea of Positive and Negative Liberty has been discussed for hundreds of years by philosophers, and there are different takes on what each means and how it's developed. I hope I got you thinking deeper on this Sunday. Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.