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We recently held an internal meeting in a conference room at an upscale hotel that was practically a maze. Around the room were several doors, so when one of our group members wanted to find the restroom, he checked behind every single door. He wanted the freedom to use the restroom when he needed it, but door after door, he found none.
I knew of at least one restroom in the lobby — hardly a quick trip — but after watching my colleague’s fruitless search, I chose to take that long walk whenever I needed it. If I had known more about the hotel’s floor plan, I would have realized there was actually a much shorter route to get to that same restroom. The more I knew about the floor plan, the faster and more efficiently I could have accomplished the task of finding a restroom.
This is why some people achieve what others cannot: They have a higher level of understanding of the “floor plan” behind achieving those tasks. The goals they have yet to achieve are “the floor plans” they still need to understand better. In fact, with enough knowledge of the floor plan behind it, anyone can achieve whatever they want.
We all have this freedom at our fingertips — the ability to match what we desire with reality and get what we want. Rather than something we are entitled to have, this freedom is something we have to earn. Of course, there are boundaries — physical, legal and ethical — and one person’s freedom cannot come at the cost of another’s. But within that scope of limitations, the only thing preventing us from what we want is a lack of understanding of the correlation between our desires and what we need to obtain them.
Related: 5 Steps to Freedom
What is freedom?
When I talk about freedom here, I mean each individual having the freedom to get what they want. The key to unlocking our freedom is thoroughly understanding “the floor plan” — the intrinsic laws behind achieving a task. A rocket scientist cannot ignore gravity to make the rocket work. Similarly, a business eager to successfully sell a product or service cannot simply market an item without understanding its intended customer base. They must first identify what products the customers would be interested in, which marketing platforms are most likely to receive customer engagement, the price point this customer group can afford and so on. Businesses have the freedom to achieve lofty business goals, but they must first understand the boundaries within which they operate. The more we know about everything involved in achieving our desires, as well as any limitations in our way, the greater our capacity to obtain them.
The same idea is applicable to all walks of life. If you wanted to earn a promotion at your current workplace, you would need to first learn everything you could about the position, the criteria to fill it, your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and background information about the superior doing the hiring. Once you’re more familiar with the path to a promotion, it becomes much easier to convince that supervisor to promote you.
Freedom may be getting whatever I want, but I have to realize and accept the scope of the situation and operate within those limitations to make the most of my freedom. I may want to own the moon, but its physical size and the laws of nature would prevent me from taking possession of it. Similarly, legal or ethical limitations would keep me from legitimately claiming, “The moon is mine.”
Obtaining the moon is beyond the scope, and attempting it anyway would ignore those limitations. The more I tried to own the moon, the more pain I would encounter in the process. If I disregard the fact that none of the doors in the conference room lead to a restroom, I endure the pain of slamming into dead ends instead of finding the relief of what I actually want.
Just like we have a better chance of achieving our goals with a greater understanding of everything involved in that process, understanding the floor plan means knowing all about the limitations that might get in the way. We either find a route around those limitations, learn more and put in more effort to create a route around them, or accept that our freedom to obtain this goal is beyond the scope of our ability and invest those efforts more wisely.
Freedom requires compromise
Limitations to our freedom are many, but a major limitation to an individual is any other person we encounter in pursuing their freedom. If each individual has the freedom to obtain what they want, what one person wants cannot inhibit what another person wants. Everyone must have equal access to their freedom.
Equality, in this sense, is not necessarily about everyone getting the same. We all want different things and, as such, freedom will look different to all of us. If we have one apple, equality may not be splitting that apple in half. I hate apples, so I would let someone who wants an apple have it. But if they have the freedom to have an apple because they want it, I should have the freedom to eat an orange because I want it. That’s equality.
If I wanted the apple, too, then we might need a discussion about how to approach that with equality. This still might not involve a 50/50 split. Maybe I agree to let you have the apple as long as you buy me one from the store later on. To get what we want in this situation, freedom means coming to a compromise where each of us can accept the limitations on our freedoms as being sufficiently equal.
Master the floor plan
Mastering a floor plan takes effort. People get what they want through their dedicated efforts to understand more about the layout and routes involved in getting it — the more they know, the better equipped they are for success. If I had known more about the floor plan of the hotel where we had our meeting, I might have also seen the club right next to the conference room with not only a restroom but also a kitchen in case I wanted a snack.
More effort to learn and understand can potentially earn me more than I set out to obtain. Master the floor plan, take the best route, and get what you want quickly, effectively and efficiently. The framework of these principles is universal and applicable to any scenario, from successfully marketing a product or service to earning a sought-after job promotion and everything else in between.