Most people live in a prison of their own making.
They have chained themselves to other people — their spouses, their parents, their bosses — and are now completely dependent on them to live their lives.
If that is you, it’s time to take action.
Learn why it all starts with your mindset, how dependence plays out in different areas of life, and how to become more independent.
1. Change Your Mindset
All the truly independent people I have ever met shared the same few basic beliefs. Here they are.
a) You Are by Yourself
You should never expect other people to take care of your problems. When it happens, be thankful. But do not demand it, ever.
You are born alone, you die alone. Those are the only certainties in life.
Only the dependent person laments this. The independent person plans for it.
b) You Are Where You Deserve To Be
Whatever undesirable situation you find yourself in in life, it is due to your past decisions.
If your health is bad, you made bad choices that led to this. Same thing if you are broke, or in a relationship with a terrible person, or hate your job.
Bad luck has nothing to do with it. Take responsibility for yourself and start making better choices.
b) You Can’t Change People
People are who they are; you can’t change them. They will only change when they are ready for it (which might be never). And even if they do change, it won’t be like you had hoped for.
Do not waste your time. Focus on the only person you can change — yourself.
c) Attention Is Everything
We become what we constantly think about.
Therefore, it is imperative to stay away from all drama. If you let others get to you, you allow them to spend your limited attention on behalf of you.
d) Seek Out Direct Alternatives
The masses believe that the individual is powerless and that change can only be systemic.
In contrast, an individualist understands that whatever problem they face, there is always a solution only dependent on them.
For example …
… the mass will lobby for minimum wage. The individualist will increase cash flow for themselves.
… the mass expects the police to protect them. The individualist will learn to fight.
… the mass needs medical treatment for symptoms. The individualist invests in prevention.
Learn to seek out these direct alternatives. Never get bogged down in causes.
e) Address the 3 Vices
If you are dependent on others, it’s due to three emotional vices:
If you want to learn how to be independent, you must fight these with all you have.
First, you must always assume that what you currently know is a) partially wrong and b) at best a snippet of the whole truth. When you think you have all the answers, you for sure don’t.
Second, you must never skip the hard work. Anything worthwhile requires effort and perseverance. If you are not putting the hours in, freedom will keep eluding you.
Third, instead of running from your fears, you must walk towards them. That is the very definition of independence — going where the herd is too afraid to go.
Independence is first and foremost a state of mind. Change your thinking, and autonomy will ensue.
f) Avoid Groupthink
Most people cannot think for themselves. They will repeat whatever cultural narrative is currently in fashion. If the consensus is to be woke and invent new pronouns, they will do that. If the consensus is to further the cause of the master race, they will do that.
To make the current narrative more persuasive a neat little trick is used. We paint everybody that came before us as naïve. “They didn’t know what we know.” Only with us has enlightenment come to full fruition.
This way, we all stay put. The dominant cultural parameters determine everything — how we think, how we talk, how we dress, what we eat, how we love, etc.
Some people try to free themselves from the current cultural dogma by turning it on its head. If everybody is a dogmatic woke idiot, they will become dogmatic alt-right idiots.
But that improves nothing. You are still caught up in the dominant cultural paradigm. It’s two sides of the same coin.
To truly become independent of groupthink, you must do two things:
- You must leave the misguided Hegelian notion of progress behind; we are not smarter than those who came before us. Thus, consult them. Read what they wrote. Take them seriously.
- You must consider absolutely anybody, no matter what their official ideological affiliation is. Reading Marx doesn’t make you Marxist. Reading Spengler doesn’t make you a nationalist.
Ultimately, you must become an eclectic. You must gather the best ideas from everywhere and create your own system of thought, beyond societal labels.
That is hard work. It is confusing and scary. Hence, why most people would rather stay put. It’s warm and cozy inside the herd.
But the independent person doesn’t care for security — they care for adventure.
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.Oscar Wilde
2. Become Financially Independent
You cannot feel free as long as someone else is paying for your life.
In a moment of crisis, when emotions run free, they will use their financial leverage against you. They will let you feel your relative worthlessness. It will corrupt whatever positive connection you previously had with them.
Also, financial dependence will dictate your way of life. The financially dominant person will ultimately decide everything — where you live, what your day looks like, what you can and not say around them, etc.
Finally, you can’t leave. If you have no cash flow of your own, you are stuck with whatever bad situation you find yourself in. If your husband likes to sleep around, you will have to take it. If your abusive mother tries to manipulate you, you’ll have to grin and bear it.
So, how do you become financially independent?
There are two aspects to this — mindset and technical know-how. Mindset is the much more important of the two.
The first rule — accept that it is your fault.
No matter how abusive the other person might be towards you, they are not to blame. You knew they were bad for you. But you still put yourself in a position where you took their money.
Usually, that is due to laziness. Being a member of the workforce is its own type of torture. There is nothing fun about showing up at an office every day and doing menial work for 8 hours straight.
If there is a chance to avoid that, many people will take it. They will do the easy thing. They will move in with their parents, get pregnant, find a sugar daddy or a sugar momma, etc.
But whenever you choose the easy way out, you pay for it later — and tenfold.
Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.Jerzy Gregorek
So, stop the finger-pointing. Accept that you let your short-term thinking get the better of you. Now, you must start doing the hard thing. And that means building a marketable skill set that you can either sell to an employer or directly to customers. I will talk about the details of that in the next section.
As soon as you have some cash flow, start to save at least 20% of your income each month. Build up a solid financial cushion, i.e., at least enough money to live on for a year or two without doing any work (more years are better).
This is what some people call “Fuck You Money.” It means you can now act without tip-toeing around other people for fear of them cutting you financially off. Once you get to that point, you will be more independent than the vast majority of people alive today.
Quit Your 9 to 5
When it comes to independence, a 9 to 5 is your worst enemy.
First, there is the time aspect. Assuming you sleep eight hours a night, that leaves you with 16 hours to spend each day. Of those, 50% goes to your employer. That is massive.
Second, for the most part, what you do during those eight hours is nonsense. Does it really matter if you attended that meeting or created that Excel sheet? It doesn’t.
Third, by spending so much time at work, you are forced to put up with people you didn’t choose for yourself — your colleagues. Some of them will drive you crazy.
Fourth, because work is so frustrating, we entertain all kinds of bad behaviors to make up for it. We slouch on the couch all night. We order too much stuff online. We get wasted on the weekends.
Fifth, you cannot travel. Even with the recent increase in remote work, most people still have to be at the office at least a few times per week.
Bottom line — you are company property. For eight hours a day, you are owned by your bosses. They say, “Jump,” you say, “How high?”
What’s the solution then?
You need to become your own boss, which is a scary prospect. But that is the price of independence — daring to go where most people won’t go.
Once you have mustered that courage, you must figure out the technical details. I wrote a long article where I lay out a game plan. Here are some key takeaways:
- Don’t start with a lofty passion business like content creation or coaching. Save that for later.
- Stay away from all quick-money schemes — cryptocurrencies, investing, passive income, etc.
- Instead, start a service business. Think online marketing services, copywriting, graphic design, programming, and the like.
- Choose a skill that can be sold 100% online. Even if you have no intentions of traveling, it is good to have the option.
- Build your skill set while you are already hiring yourself out. On Fiverr or Upwork, anyone can find a client that cares more about price than perfection.
- Most service providers are subpar. If you put in more effort, you will soon be drowning in work.
- Be reliable. Never miss a deadline. Always reply to messages. Take your customer’s feedback into account.
3. Learn To Talk to People
Most people who are codependent on others — especially in relationships — are so because they don’t have options.
If you don’t know how to talk to strangers, you are more likely to stay with your partner, even though they are not good for you.
For men, the problem is good old anxiety. We are afraid to get rejected by an attractive woman. We take it as an attack on our ego, and that the male ego is fragile.
The solution is to become less fragile. You must systematically desensitize yourself.
For example, you might start out by making eye contact with three attractive strangers throughout the day. Do this every day for a week.
Next, you walk up to three attractive strangers and ask them for directions. Another week.
Then you give them a quick compliment but don’t wait for their reply and leave. Another week.
And so forth and so on.
By taking baby steps, you gradually expand your comfort zone. Do this for long enough, and you will build a new frame of reference. You will no longer perceive rejections as an attack on your ego but as a necessary part of the process of meeting someone.
Once you get to that point, you are truly independent of others. If someone threatens to leave you, it might be painful, but it won’t break you. You can easily find someone new and just as attractive.
For women, the challenge is less anxiety and more mindset.
They don’t talk to men out of passiveness. The attitude is, “Let him sweep me off my feet and then we will see.”
Now, this passive attitude might be due to deeply internalized role models or there might be biological factors as well. I suspect it is a mix.
But in either case, it’s real. In all the years I was putting myself out there in the dating scene, I remember a handful of times when women actively came up to me and let me know they were interested.
I am always baffled that we don’t talk about this. We talk about equal pay or paternity leave. But when it comes to making the first step, suddenly, we are back to the 1950s.
However, if you don’t address this, you cannot be truly independent. You will always have to make do with whatever person happened to talk to you that night first and that you found halfway attractive.
You must realize that this passiveness won’t get you anywhere. You must stop being chosen and become the chooser.
A big part of this is overcoming entitlement issues. When you think of yourself as the price in a game, of course, you are going to adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Another element is overcoming slut shaming. Taking a more active role in finding the right mate is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s smart thinking.
Do the inner work. Dare to deviate. Don’t let social conditioning or even your biology hold you back.
A great tip that I stole from a former lover (who, by the way, walked up to me) is to find other women who feel the same about these issues. Then, we you go out together, you’ll be more inclined to make the first move, as all your girlfriends are doing the same.
You are who you surround yourself with.
Regardless of gender, it’s important to pay attention to timing. Ironically, the most important time to practice these skills is when you are in a relationship.
Be prepared for the worst case. You don’t want to start working on your dating skills when you just broke up with somebody and are at your lowest (and most unattractive).
Also, I would encourage you to look into non-monogamous relationship models.
Monogamy is a contract. “You are not allowed to sleep with other people, and in turn, I am not allowed to do the same.” Does this sound like autonomy to you?
It’s no surprise that about 50% percent of all marriages fail (not to mention all the unreported cases of mutual misery that don’t lead to divorce). Mutual prison will do that for you.
Maybe it’s time that, instead of moving from one relationship to another, always hoping it will get better with the next one, we finally acknowledge the system is broken. We must dare to try something new.
4. Learn To Fight
If you want to learn how to be independent, you need to be able to deal with violence.
This might seem strange to some as we live in a society where most of us have never been in a physical confrontation, besides maybe a schoolyard brawl.
But even so, violence is omnipresent if just as a threat.
Whatever situation you find yourself in — a business negotiation, a project meeting, socializing at the bar — some people will be perceived as more dominant than others. And that’s because they have a greater potential for physical violence.
We can tell by the vibe they give off, how they move, how they talk. It doesn’t even matter that in these social contexts, no one would ever raise a hand against you — the pure potentiality is enough to make you act timid around these people.
If you don’t match their violent potential, you will always be at the mercy of these people. They will out-negotiate you, claim your contribution, or steal your date. You will be dependent on the goodwill of the bullies you meet.
That is not a good place to be in.
Then there are instances of actual violence. While they are relatively rare, if they do happen, they are traumatic. It is a psychological burden that you will carry around with you long after the incident.
For all these reasons, you must learn how to fight. You must free yourself from others trying to turn you into a victim.
For men, I recommend you start training in some type of combat martial art. Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Judo, and BJJ are all great choices. The important thing is that a significant part of your training time is spent doing uncooperative sparring — they can do to you what you can do to them.
This is what will give you an edge. Realistic sparring will force you to contain your fear under pressure. It will condition you to rely on trained responses instead of submitting to panic.
Stay from Krav Maga, karate, kung fu, and other nonsense martial arts. They do little to no sparring and you can tell by the type of person who attends these classes. They want to learn how to handle violence without ever getting close to it. It doesn’t work.
For women, I recommend some type of weapon training. If your attacker is a 6 foot 3, 270 pounds athletic man, and you are 5 foot 2, even being a BJJ blackbelt won’t save you.
Also, with women, we are mostly talking about sexual violence. That means the stakes are higher. It is not just the physical pain and the trauma, but also a potential pregnancy or an STD you might have to deal with. This will negatively affect the course of your whole life.
So, take no risks. Learn how to use a weapon to equalize the playing ground. It doesn’t have to be a firearm; just being able to correctly use pepper spray will already be sufficient for most situations.
Note: Just owning a weapon is not enough — you must train for it. Take regular shooting classes or similar training programs for other weapon types. Just like with martial arts training, realistic weapon training is what will enable you to function under stress.
5. Organize Yourself
A large reason why people are codependent on others is that they don’t have their lives together.
They will miss important deadlines, like turning in their paper on time or their tax return.
They will skip over important details in contracts, and then have a bad awakening when the insurance company doesn’t pay, or their business partners pull one over on them.
Most importantly, they will stagnate. They won’t reach their personal goals in life as they cannot go through with things. They jump from one project to another, never accomplishing anything.
If you lack any capacity for planning your life, it is no wonder that you end up dependent on others. You need others to plan your life for you.
The way out is to adopt a strict system for self-organization. I presented my own take on this here. Some key takeaways are:
The first step is to change your mindset. Disorganized people all succumb to the same fallacy. They all think they can do everything, whatever strikes their fancy at the moment.
That is wrong.
Your time is limited, and so you are your personal energy and attention. This applies to both on a daily level as well as to your life as a whole.
You must pick and choose. You must pick one thing, one project, that is more important than everything else. Then you must accept that in all these other areas of your life, you will fall short.
This means constantly saying “No.” “No” to taking on new projects. “No” to having coffee with friends or new dates. “No” to mindless distractions like social media or Netflix.
Guard your resources — your time, your energy, your attention. Stop being a mindless spender. Without this shift in thinking, you stand no chance of turning things around.
Now, onto the practical side of things.
“Download” everything on your mind into an external system. Whatever recurring thoughts you have — write them down. Otherwise, they will keep eating up your mental bandwidth.
I like to use a combination of software tools for that (Evernote + Google Sheets), but an old-fashioned notebook works just as well.
Once you have everything out of your head and in front of you, you must put these items on lists. Time-specific events go on your calendar. Urgent and important items go on your actions list. Less urgent or important items go on a “someday” list.
Every day in the morning now, you sit down with your lists, review them, and write yourself a daily to-do list. Of course, you will never get around to everything on your list. But by having all the options in front of you and choosing, you’ll get around to what’s most important.
This results in clarity. And from that comes direction in life. And once you have direction, you don’t need others to rescue you every time you get lost.
6. Fix Your Health
When you let your health deteriorate, you become highly dependent on others.
You become dependent on doctors to treat the symptoms and relieve your pain. Your quality of life is now at the mercy of another person. And if your doctor is not very good, as many of them are, it will rapidly go down.
You also become dependent on your insurance company. Serious illnesses cost serious money. And the insurance company will try to cap what they spend on you or try not paying altogether. Again, you are at somebody else’s mercy.
Finally, you have to rely on the help of others. When you cannot buy groceries for yourself, clean your apartment, or even go to the bathroom, others have to fill in. Family, friends, nurses — you are now completely dependent on their support.
Health is the ultimate dependency. If you gamble your health away, all the other types of autonomy I described become pointless. Without health, you cannot earn your own money, you cannot choose your lovers, and you cannot be mobile.
The core problem is that we are in denial about our health. Bad health is not something that happens to you, like tripping over a stone or getting caught in a shower of rain.
Bad health ≠ bad luck.
How to be more independent healthwise then becomes a question of connecting the dots. You must acknowledge how your everyday decisions about nutrition, working out, sleep, and stress management determine your quality of life in the long term.
Thus, never borrow against your health. Do the smart thing, think long-term. That entails four areas:
- Physical fitness
- Stress mana
Eat non-processed foods.
If it has four legs, eat it. If it swims in the sea, eat it. If it grows in your garden, eat it.
But if it had to pass through a complicated manufacturing process to look like noodles, a croissant, or a Twinkie, stay away from it.
2. Physical Fitness
Work out every day.
Focus on resistance training. Your muscle-to-body-fat ratio is one of the best longevity markers there is. Lift weights three to five times a week.
On all other days, do some low-level cardio. Occasionally throw in some sprinting or some other type of HIIT training.
Finally, do 10–15 minutes of mobility work every day, either as a warm-up or a cool-down.
Get plenty of sleep. For most people, the problem is to keep a regular bedtime schedule. The reason is work. We are so annoyed by our soul-crushing 9-to-5 jobs, we want to at least have some fun when we are not at work.
So, especially on the weekends, we stay up much longer than we should, to make up for our frustrations during the week. But this throws our internal clock off; hence why we feel like crap most of the time. Our bodies need regularity to get the deepest sleep possible.
Go to bed at the same time, every day, even on the weekends. If that means changing jobs or quitting your 9 to 5 altogether, go for it. Becoming your own boss is the ultimate sign of independence anyway.
4. Stress Management
There are two major sources of stress — juggling too many projects and having the wrong people in your life. Both stem from your inability to say “No.”
If you can’t say “No” to new projects, it’s because you overestimate how much you can fit into your life. We all pretend we have much more time, energy, and attention than we actually do.
The second problem is greed. We don’t want to miss out, we want to have it all. So we commit to everything that strikes our fancy, only to effectively commit to nothing.
Bill Gates is known for being a great tech innovator, not for being an athlete. Michael Phelps is known for being a great athlete, not a tech innovator.
Be like them — choose. Pick your favorite activity in life. Focus on that and accept that you will suck at most other things.
When it comes to people, you must be just as radical. Spending time with people that don’t enrich your life will stress you out like few other things. Vice versa, replace them with inspiring individuals, and your quality of life will skyrocket.
Here are the three most important strategies.
a) Give Before You Receive
It starts with yourself. If you are not a quality person that enriches the lives of others, don’t expect other quality people to be attracted to you. You must offer value first.
That means learning to think for yourself. It means leading an unconventional, interesting life. And it means constantly learning and developing yourself.
b) Switch to a Bigger Pond
Outstanding people are, by definition, rare. If you rely on chance acquaintances, chances are, you will end up with average, low-quality people. Don’t restrict yourself to small social pools like work or friends of friends. Talk to absolutely everybody you meet. Then filter for quality.
c) Let Other People Be
The single biggest problem in relationships is that we try to convert the other person to our own set of values. That never works. Accept the fact that some people are great for doing certain things, but not for other things.
For example, I have friends that I love to go out with or train BJJ with, but that I would never have an intellectual discussion with. Vice versa, I have friends that I can talk with all night, but who are not much fun for anything else.
Embrace these differences. Don’t try to convert people; rather, get comfortable compartmentalizing your social needs.