door opening to freedom


Growth  |  3 min read

Freedom: The Real Definition of Success

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Clate Mask

As you pursue success in your business, do you have a definition of success? People ask me all the time how we define small business success at Keap.

Over the years, I’ve asked thousands of entrepreneurs this question. Their answers usually relate to money, time, control, and impact on the world. The more I listened and learned about small business success, the more I became convinced that it’s all about freedom—freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it, with desirable effects from your actions. But I also noticed as I talked to business owners, there was a definite progression of freedom, a hierarchy.

I thought back to my Psychology 101 days in college and remembered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs That construct made a lot of sense to me when I learned about it 25 years ago. The progression of entrepreneurial freedom reminded me of what Maslow taught. So, I coined the phrase “Hierarchy of Freedom” and wrote about it in “Conquer the Chaos”. The basic progression is:

Money --> Time --> Control --> Impact

First, we have to make enough money as entrepreneurs that we’re able to do the things and have the things we need and want. Then, we realize that we can have it all, but if we don’t have the time to enjoy it, it’s not worth it. Next, we realize that we might have all the time and money we want, but if we’re not able to control who we spend our time with and what we’re doing, we might be dissatisfied, feeling like the business is controlling us. Finally, when we have time, money, and control, we look to leave a legacy and impact on the world through our business in ways most people never dream of.

Of course, there are ups and downs along the journey, fluctuations of time, money, control, and impact.  But generally speaking, entrepreneurship is a journey through this hierarchy of freedom.

Where do you stand? If you’re in stage one, two, or even three, you’re probably struggling with money.  If you’re in stage three or four, you’re probably struggling with time. I’ve worked with many stage four and five entrepreneurs who are struggling with control, trying to lead people to achieve a common goal, but feeling like the business is controlling them instead of the other way around. If you don’t know what stage you’re in, stay tuned. I’ll define the stages as we go.

It’s a constant challenge to work at these things, but with focused effort and a clear goal of where you’re going, you can make your way up the hierarchy of freedom.

SBS Idea of the Day: Honestly ask yourself if you’re getting the freedom you desire of the business.  Where are you winning and where are you falling short? Be grateful for the journey.

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