What does the word “freedom” mean to T.K. Coleman, director of entrepreneurial education at the Foundation for Economic Foundation (FEE) and the co-founder and education director at Praxis?
"I have the permission and the power to be the predominant creative force in my own life."
“Recognizing that I have the permission and the power to be the predominant creative force in my own life,” he said. “It's understanding that power does not begin with a discussion of external realities. It begins with an affirmation of internal reality, that I am not powerful because I happen to have the president that I want. I am not powerful because it happens to be the case that my circumstances agree with me.
“I am powerful because I choose to be a causative force in my own experience. I am powerful because I choose to be an individual who has an impact on his world without asking anyone or anything for permission. I am powerful because it is a state of mind.”
Coleman shared an anecdote to explain the power of that state of mind.
“A little son was running around and his father told him, ‘Hey, I want you to sit down," said Coleman. “And the son doesn't listen. He keeps running around. The father says, "sit down", but the son keeps doing the same thing. The father stands up. The little boy sees that he means business. And so he sits down and the father nods approvingly and goes about his business. And then the son says, ‘I'm still standing up on the inside.’”
Coleman said this story is about someone who has less power than another person, but who understands that “real power comes from intentionality.”
“That no matter how you towered over me in the physical realm, I always have the ability to stand up from the inside. And throughout human history, wherever and whenever human beings have affirmed that fundamental truth, they have been able to figure out how to become free externally,” he said.
Coleman said that people have been conditioned to think of power as something “that exists everywhere except in the individual.”
“I always say to people, if you find yourself laughing at the idea of individual power, ask yourself who's laughing at you as you're laughing at that,” he said. “Who wins when you believe that the individual lacks power? It's certainly not you. And anytime someone other than you is winning, when you subscribe to a belief, you might want to rethink that belief.”
Through his work at FEE and Praxis, Coleman certainly has demonstrated his commitment to the cause of freedom. But, he explains, his mission isn’t to create a society in which every person feels free.
“It's to create the kind of individual who can figure out to be free in any society,” he said, “because here's what people overestimate about politics: There is no way you can set this world up politically in a way that gives us the kind of freedom that can't be given away. To truly be free means that I can choose enslavement. And so if you have a world where people don't believe in their own power, they don't respect themselves. They will always be willing to trade away their freedom for the promise of free goodies.”
Should we, then, focus on and worry about what our politicians are, or aren’t, doing?
“We'll always have deceptive politicians and we get so angry at them,” he said. “These politicians are promising you free goodies in exchange for your freedom, but the politicians aren't the ones that we need to worry about. In a world where people respect their personal power, those politicians immediately become irrelevant. In a world where people don't, those politicians become immensely powerful. How do we deal with this at the root cause and not at the level of the symptom? By pausing our discussions on politics for five minutes and revisiting discussions on the creative power of the individual.
“I tell people all the time, I don't want to talk about what the president's doing. I want to talk about what you're doing now. Maybe we can talk about both. We don't have to have an either/or perspective, but if I had to choose one, I'd rather talk about what you're doing.”
Coleman said that our “infatuation” with politics can actually be a form of hiding.
“Because here's one of the things that politics allows us to do,” he explained. “It gives us the convenience of saying things like, ‘Hey, I voted for the right guy, #notmypresident, #notmysenator. I did what I was supposed to do. I wrote my letter to the senator. I showed up to the voting booth and I voted.’”
He said the majority of people cast their vote and if their chosen politician wins, say, ‘yay, the world is right for the next four years.’
“And if they lose, they become depressed, they become afraid,” he said. “And who are you helping in that state? There's nothing wrong with feeling that way, but you can't equate moods with morality. You can't equate emotions with ethics. It's okay to feel angry at your world. But until you translate that anger into creative and constructive action, it means nothing.”
Coleman said that a focus on the creative power of the individual creates more intentionality and “pressure” on each of us.
“Because now I put pressure on myself to take care of my body, to treat my family and friends with respect, to actually talk to homeless people, no matter how smelly they might be, rather than to say this person ought to do something about those homeless people over there that I never have to interact with,” he said. “It's much easier to vote than to volunteer my actual time than to take responsibility for my world. It's not the easy way out. It's the hardest way out. That's why it's the way of freedom, because freedom is always easier to avoid than to fight for.”
Coleman joined Freedom Media Network founder Curt Mercadante for a wide-ranging interview, which you can view by clicking here.