Practicing Independence: Are we USING our Freedoms?

Today’s post was originally a guest post on Kate is the co-author of Financial Planning has Failed, an ebook available only from Partners for Prosperity as part of their Prosperity Accelerator Pack

“The only way we can know freedom is if we have been in bondage.”
– Eric O’Del, Reverend at Amazing Grace Spiritual Center

Three Who Saw What Others Couldn’t

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Ten or so years ago, I was in a real estate investing seminar in which they introduced one of their most successful students who happened to be sitting in the audience. He had been their top money-maker in the Detroit area, purchasing and fixing up forecloses to either sell or rent. The young man stood up to receive applause, and spoke into the microphone… in halting, broken English.

The star pupil of this U.S. real estate training operation was not an American citizen, but a man from SWEDEN who had seen the opportunity to get involved in real estate investing in the states. I don’t recall the numbers, but he had made a LOT of money in a fairly short period of time. He had worked both hard and smart to create win-win situations, taking abandoned, dilapidated homes and making them useful again.

What’s more remarkable is that he had accomplished this with a language barrier, little to no capital, grueling cross-continental travel. and without a FICO score or the ability to get traditional bank financing himself. His keys to success had been his willingness to take action, the help of a mentor, a lot of teamwork, an unstoppable attitude and a belief in the opportunity.

I’ll never forget what the seminar leader said next. He pointed out that they had taken their investing seminar to the Detroit area, but had found it was too difficult to convince the people of Detroit that they were actually living in a land of opportunity. Even though they needed it more than anyone, the people of Detroit couldn’t see the opportunity in their own back yard. Many of them felt so beaten down by company closures and unemployment that they had become habitually disappointed, blind to possibility and unable to let go of negativity and get out of their own way.

He went on to say that this was actually typical in many depressed areas where the circumstances were the most favorable for investing and homes were easy to acquire at bargain rates. The locals were always the last ones to recognize the opportunity that surrounded them.

One of my mentors, Adam Urbanski, is from Poland. He immigrated to the United States as a young man with extremely limited English skills and $194 in his pocket, well aware that he would have new freedoms and possibilities in the States. Urbanksi co-founded a chain of coffee and bagel shops that were later sold for a tidy sum before he turned 40. He then went on to re-invent himself as a business consultant and marketing expert, growing The Marketing Mentors into a 7-figure business helping independent entrepreneurs, coaches, and service providers around the world.

As it turns out, immigrants are much more likely to start businesses than Americans who were born and raised here. According to CNBC, 18% of business owners are immigrants, even though they represent only 13% of the population. U.S. immigrants employ 4.7 million U.S. workers in businesses such as restaurants, real estate firms, grocery stores and physician’s offices. And it’s not just small family businesses, either. According to a 2011 report from report from the Partnership for a New American Economy, more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Gary Vaynerchuk, affectionately known to his fans as “Gary Vee,” is the son of Russian immigrants who has grown massive businesses in separate industries. First, he used the power of the internet and “vlogging” (video blogs) to transform his parent’s local liquor store into the nation’s top mail-order wine catalog, (Gary did 1,000 episodes of Wine Library TV, one of the first popular vlogs, and then retired the project.)

Today, Gary consults with major brands on marketing trends with his company VaynerMedia, has three best-selling books, and is an in-demand six-figure keynote speaker at tech and entreprenurial conventions. The secret to his successs? Hard work (he calls it the “immigrant hustle”), a bold persona, and the power of the internet, which Gary knows how to harness as well as anyone.

I heard Gary speak on his first book tour, and could hardly sleep afterwards, his message was so compelling and inspiring. “There has never been a time on the planet when the little guy has the opportunity to compete with the big guys, using only an internet connection and practically free tools.” He urged his audience to become CREATORS of content, not just consumers of content, and to not take the gifts of modern technology for granted.

We have so many opportunities and freedoms here in the United States; are we USING them? It’s popular in some circles to focus on what “the government” (or, the taxpayers) “should” be doing for us. What are we doing for ourselves? Are we practicing our independence, or perpetuating dependence? Do we envision what could be – as can many who are new to our country – or complain about what “should” be?

7 Ways to Celebrate Your Freedom

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You don’t have to look far to find examples of how our freedoms are threatened and compromised, from the Patriot Act and post-9/11 airport security to metadata communication monitoring, the invasion of GMO foods, and corporate media censorship.

Fighting against the encroachment of our liberties is a worthwhile cause, but let’s also be sure that we are USING the freedoms we already have by practicing our independence. Here are seven possibilities:

  1. Free your thoughts. Let go of what others will think and what you “should” do. What do you want? How do you want to live? What’s important to you? Don’t let “society” make these decisions for you. 
  1. Free your voice. Nineteenth century French historian Alexis de Tocqueville said, “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” Let’s use our freedom of speech and prove that quote wrong. Write a book or start a blog, a YouTube channel or a podcast to express your unique, compelling point of view. 
  1. Control your own income. Start a business, be an entrepreneur, or do contract work on your own terms. It is absolutely insane that the majority of Americans let someone else determine how much they are paid. 
  1. Support alternative media sources. Turn off network TV and watch independent movies and documentaries. (If you don’t have an excellent local option such as Seattle’s Scarecrow Video, the selection on’s DVD store is still vastly broader and superior to any of the increasingly limited streaming subscription options.) Watch for a point of view that is not governed by artificial right vs. left viewpoints. And make sure you are unplugging from ALL media regularly – alternative or otherwise – to get outside and enjoy nature, a sport, a child, an animal, and some exercise!
  1. Celebrate alternatives to the mega-corporate junk food machine. Just say no to “Food Inc.” and the GMO-filled, no-fair trade over-processed foods that fill our grocery stores. Eat local and organic, when possible. Support farmer’s markets and coops. Dine at “farm to table” restaurants or even grow your own food. 
  1. Get a second opinion, practice prevention, and seek holistic alternatives medicine or surgery when possible. Consider that what your doctor (or any professional in a white lab coat) tells you is not necessarily the “truth” or the only option. I want to scream every time I hear a doctor has “informed” someone that their disease is “incurable,” or worse, how long they have to live! How many have outlived those predictions by years, even decades? And conversely, how many could have lived longer if they had been given more hope?

I realize that vitamin C might not fix a broken leg, but placebos, prayer, positive attitudes and laughter as medicine ala Bernie Siegal are proven to WORK. And as Bill Maher notes in the hilarious dose of truth below, sometimes, we don’t need a miracle pill. We just need SPINACH.

When I practiced prevention and sought alternative remedies, my own “incurable disease” mysteriously subsided. Healthy food, high-quality supplements and probiotics did more to heal my ulcerative colitis than 3 doctors and specialists and years of medications that ultimately made me only worse. I practiced my freedom to find my own pathway to health and have been medication-free and typically symptom-free for over 20 years. 

  1. Unplug from the Big Banks and Wall Street system. The current financial system is draining American wallets while subjecting Americans to unnecessary and significant risk. But you have options. Partners for Prosperity is leading the way with Prosperity Economics to help people build sustainable wealth without Wall Street worries.

Start practicing your independence today. Consider that the liberties we do not use are ones we have already lost. You don’t have to be an immigrant to appreciate and use the freedoms we enjoy – but whether or not you are, have a happy and safe 4th of July!