Why You Need to Become a Prisoner On The Road To Business Freedom

Want freedom? First, you must become a prisoner to your business, which is why most business owners never achieve freedom.

Research published in Harvard Business Review reveals something very telling about the way we work; we’re too busy to follow the rules. And ironically, that has a profound impact on whether we will ever stop being so busy.


Don’t Kid Yourself, You’re a Hostage

Almost every founder, CEO and business owner I know is a hostage to their business. I was through six businesses until I learned to move from hostage to prisoner.

Six months as a hostage can have more lasting negative effects on someone than years in prison. Why? A hostage is not in control of anything, the rules are always changing, others seem to be calling all the shots, all we can do is react, and worst of all, a hostage never knows when it will all end. Welcome to owning or running a business.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Want Freedom? Become A Prisoner

In Simple Rules for a Complex World, Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt make my case on why we need to become prisoners if we truly want freedom. They found that companies that flourish through hard times, do so because they are following a few, simple rules while others are flailing around with what I call the Random Hope strategy of business.

It makes sense. A prisoner has a few simple rules they need to follow, and most importantly, they know when it will all be over. It’s difficult for a hostage to be encouraged and have hope because the future is a big unknown.

Just a Few Specific Rules

Simple Rules says the fewer the rules, the better. Here are my four simple business rules, which I published in my first book, Making Money Is Killing Your Business. We call them the Four Building Blocks of success:

1) A Big Why—Your Big Why is something you can never check off as completed; being a lifelong learner, being a great mom, giving back to business owners, solving poverty. A Big Why motivates a business owner to filter daily decisions through how they help solve problems and create freedom.

2) A Strategic Plan (not a business plan)—A Strategic Plan will keep you clear about where you want to end up three years, twelve months or three months from now, and will motivate you to figure out the one or two things you need to do this month to obtain the freedom you’ve described.

3) Freedom Mapping—this is where the rubber meets the road. Everyone in our business (especially the founder or CEO) needs to get the brilliance out of their head and onto a piece of paper so others can do it. There have been many copies of famous paintings, like the Mona Lisa, that were so good that art experts couldn’t tell the difference. If Da Vinci can find someone to paint the Mona Lisa for him, you can find someone to train to be better than you.

4) Outside Eyes—You can do the above three on your own, or you can get help and accelerate the whole process exponentially. I was an 18-20 handicap in golf for twenty years. Then I got a coach and in two years I was a two. I can’t imagine how much time and money I wasted doing it myself. I’m talking to you, Mr. Rugged Individualist.

I’ll Get To That Tomorrow…

Here’s the kick in the head. You can go an entire forty-five year career and never do any of these four simple things, and most founders do just that. They don’t know why they are in business, how they plan to use their business to accomplish that, or how to create the Freedom Maps to get them off the treadmill. And they aren’t about to ask for Outside Eyes to accelerate the process.


Founders and CEOs who employ the Random Hope strategy of business will never get off the treadmill. Those that create a very few, measurable, specific rules, and follow them slavishly, can create a business that makes money when they are not around.

He who makes the rules wins. What are your few simple rules? How are they ensuring you will experience freedom? If you have them, and follow them carefully, who knows, you even might get out early for good behavior.

_Article as seen on Inc.com