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What I'm reading #46: Why true freedom is not about money

By Sam Instone - November 18, 2021

Diogenes was a Greek philosopher who lived around 300BC.

A controversial figure, he was one of the founders of Cynic philosophy.

Cynics believed happiness came from rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power and fame.

To lead a simple life, free from all possessions.

Much of my work is about helping others gain freedom.

To achieve peace of mind and a feeling of security.

This is done by aligning the use of capital (time, energy and financial) with what is important to them.

And by helping people get clear about their current reality and develop an actionable framework around where they want to go.

This week I was inspired by one of my favourite blogs, Safal Niveshak, to ponder the questions asked by Cynics.

I find it interesting that the term 'cynical' now has strong negative connotations related to self-interest and a distrust of human nature when it spawned the popular 'Stoic' school of thought.

You see, cynics ultimately aimed for 'complete independence of mind' believing the purpose of life is to live a life of virtue in agreement with nature (which calls for only the bare necessities).

They viewed ‘worldly aims’ such as wealth, rank, honours and success as nothing compared to it.

It was the highest goal of a Cynic’s life.

Diogenes spoke harshly of those who were willing to give up their freedom of thought for short-term material pleasures and safety.

He wanted people to reclaim their freedom and dignity and live with honesty, self-respect, and radical simplicity.

“Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods”, he argued.

He spoke about the need for us to simplify, declutter and rediscover the simple things.

Our health, freedom, and reason…

And the greatest gift of all?

The power to think and reflect on things independently.

There is a story about Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes.

Who at the time lived in a barrel, apparently in need of nothing.

Alexander, the most powerful man in the world at the time, was struck by Diogenes’s condition, and asked,

“What can I do to help you?”

Diogenes replied...

“You can stand a little out of my sun.”

Alexander, surprised but impressed, remarked,

“If I were not Alexander, I would want to be Diogenes.”

Diogenes retorted,

“If I were not Diogenes, I would want to be Diogenes too.”

Diogenes had balanced his needs with reality and made himself independent of temptations.

For him, wealth, status and reputation carried little-to-no satisfaction and added no meaning to his life.

Am I suggesting we abandon everything in our lives to be happy?

Well, no.

This isn't a viable path for most of us.

But what we can take away from the Cynics is to never forget honesty, self-respect, simplicity, and independence of mind.

To enjoy the present, putting children to bed, walks in the free air and little things in life.

Diogenes believed that humans had lost touch with reality.

Everyone was living inauthentic lives.

2,400 years later, that still holds true to some extent.

It’s from these 'simple gifts of nature' and internal reflection where we can find freedom, away from money.

And in turn, live an authentic, purposeful, and happy life.



“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.” – Mahatma Gandhi

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." - Voltaire

“I am looking for an honest man.” - Diogenes


A question for you

What can you do today to be your authentic self, in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else?