After several years of deliberating whether or not I was intelligent enough to think, I came to a firm conclusion – I was not. Everyone around me agreed that I was indeed not trained well enough to think on my own and as a result, the lineup of advisors grew.
Sifting through most of what others taught me, either through their need to pontificate or to use their intellectual muscle, I became aware that I was unable to identify with their belief system. Some offered definite conclusions about my spiritual beliefs, others of philosophy, still others of psychology. And of course, everyone had a lesson to teach me about my own writing – write this, don’t write that, your story is about this etc., when I was the author with the thoughts; but they seemed to know better.
Then of course there were the quote-thinkers who appeared knowledgeable, but were really only trying to find themselves in the quotes to make sense of their lives or, in some cases, to dismiss mine. I was often unable to process their quotes, which I believe was their way of disarming my ideas, therefore making me feel they were invalid.
Then one day I realized something while skimming through the pages of a book that had been given to me – I was not following my own intellectualism. I was becoming a copy of what everyone else was and who they wanted me to be. I was being restricted intellectually and it was by design. Society counted on me to be as inept as the next person. My education was grounded in the presumptions that I would become middle-class and nothing more, but if I were to amount to less, that was fine by them.
When I finally realized this was not for me, I was eager to think outside the box. I wanted to start my own business, to somehow redefine the limits placed on me. It all came about when I went to North Carolina for a conference. The first thing I noticed was the fierce sense of competition for excellence – not just in writing, but in making more of one’s self.
Speaking about classism in the United States of America kind of made me think it was not applicable in this setting, or at least it was politely ignored and thought of as invalid. At first I thought this was wrong, but after finally catching the American entrepreneurship bug, I realized it was the difference between the social welfare system I was raised in back in Canada and the redefining-a-life concept in America.
Despite first appearances that it was a greedy system, I began to see it was not just about greed – it was about a form of intellectual freedom to think and create your own life. When the penny dropped, I was a convert to the American business mindset. I began to think more freely, my creativity blossomed and I was not afraid to take a risk. I wanted to increase my awareness by becoming close enough to a system that I often disliked, but could still build a model of the life I wanted for myself.
Perhaps restructuring your own life is indeed the ultimate form of understanding. I watched Shark Tank and noticed an intensity of thought in each of the creative business people. And then, for the first time in my life, I realized that these people were looking to not just make money, but were looking for the freedom to think and do what they wanted. They were intellectuals as well; creative intellectuals capable of stepping outside the box. Maybe they hadn’t read Kant or Plato but they were formulating a philosophy of their own. The philosophy of freedom was indeed the entrepreneur’s mantra.
When you can challenge the assumptions of your past or how it should be according to the rules of others, then you are a thinker – a free thinker and yes, a free human. I realized that perhaps a thinker isn’t a trained person as much as they are innately born to do so. And, maybe building a business is a natural process of finding one’s own intellectualism or form of it.
With this in mind, I watched thousands of people get on a train to go to work and as they did, I wondered – if the noise stopped for five seconds would they, too, discover their own philosophy of freedom? My small business was now mine. I was beginning to discover that the ability to create an idea and a concept and then bring it to fruition was an intellectual freedom I’d never experienced before. You see, the fact that the world has become anti-intellectual is not necessarily true. What has happened, as the economy struggles to maintain itself, is individuals are entering a new level of intellectualism through the freedom to define how they make an income.
I guess this article is to encourage others to find a niche for themselves in the world and to enter a new level of intellectual freedom through doing so. I will continue to love Plato and embrace my favorite authors, but I also know that to truly think freely, one has to create something bigger than self and then, as a result, create freedom.
As I fought my mentor’s teaching of freedom and the concept of capitalism, I failed to see the philosophy of freedom I was already living through my writing and my business. So, I will thank my business coach as I take greater steps toward this freedom. I have found my intellectualism and as a result, my vision for furthering it.
Photo by Melinda Cochrane – all rights reserved