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How to increase your personal freedom

There’s no such thing as personal liberty without economic freedom. What’s your level of personal freedom and how do you increase it? Read on to find out.

Ed Latimore
Ed Latimore
Writer, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast

I’ve been developing this model for personal freedom over the past few years.

While I use it as my personal marker of achievement, I believe everyone can get something from it. Today you’ll learn exactly what the 4 Levels of Personal Freedom are and how I use them to gauge my progress as I march towards my ultimate goal.

My ultimate goal is personal freedom in all four dimensions.

For you non-physics nerds, this means freedom in space and time. Translated to daily life, this means that I can live where I want to, for as long as I want, with who I want to, and spend my time however I like.

The power of social media in seeking personal freedom

Someone asked me on Twitter why I’m so obsessed with making money online. I never thought of myself as obsessed–at least no more than someone who is obsessed with making money from having a regular job. But the answer to that question is found in my definition of personal liberty.

To me, there’s no such thing as personal liberty without economic freedom. I don’t need to make a lot of money, but the way I do it needs to:

  1. Cover my needs and wants without stress
  2. Not tie me to a specific location

Because of the internet and social media, it’s now possible for almost everyone to achieve this level of freedom. You don’t even need to be self-employed, as many companies now have stay-at-home job positions.

Economic freedom is the basis of personal freedom

I don’t need to make a lot of money. Internet income allows me to be free in both space and time. By definition, you can’t be free if your method of earning a living is tied to one location. This isn’t a good or bad thing–it’s just not the definition of personal freedom.

When it comes to measuring this freedom, there are different levels to it. Just like all income levels aren’t created equal, neither are all levels of personal freedom. Also, the levels of freedom are surprisingly fluid.

For example, certain life events or misfortune can force someone back to level 0. Also, so I don’t have to repeat it at every level, there is a subtle but significant difference between “can’t” and “won’t”. If you are able to exercise freedom but won’t, you’re making a choice.

Staying someplace long-term because that’s where you work and have built your family is different than living someplace long-term because you like it. I’m not gonna claim to know what you want or why you want it. Only you know if you’re in a position to experience full human freedom or if you’re just telling yourself that.

Remember: only free people can make choices. Everyone else suffers out of obligation and tries to “sour grape” it.

The 4 levels of personal freedom

Level 0: Still in the matrix

Personal freedom in the matrix
Personal freedom in the matrix

So this technically means there are five levels.

This is where most of us start and how, unless they were rich, all of their parents earned their living. Until the advent of the internet and social media, it was impossible for the average person to ever break out of level 0.

This is the level where most people exist. They aren’t even in the game of space or time freedom. This is not to say that they will never be free. Only that they’re not free at the moment.

If you have a job or responsibilities that demand you to stay in one place, you are not free. You may be happy, but you are not free.

If your time is dictated by someone else, you are not free. You may be happy with your life, but if your paycheck is determined by showing up to a fixed location for a set amount of time, you are not free.

I want to stress again that this is not a bad position to be in.

Society could not run if it were not for these fixed positions and many of these fixed positions are extremely well compensated. While my personal goal is to be a master of my own time and space, I understand that anarchy would result if everyone pursued this goal.

We need law enforcement, physicians, engineers, and service professionals. Everyone has a role to play. However, if freedom is your goal and is what you’re working towards, the next four levels will give you some goals and mile markers of mindset and ability.

Level 1: Using your eyes for the first time

personal freedom using your eyes


Even though it’s only the first level, getting here is a significant accomplishment.

Getting to level 1 means that you have enough location independent income to live a comfortable, tax-paying life in most cities around the world. You can afford to live in a safe neighborhood in most places around the world.

In those cities, you don’t live in the hood but you don’t need to live in the most expensive places either.

If you wake up tomorrow and decide that you don’t like your current city, it would not cause you financial stress to move your current lifestyle to 90% of the areas on this planet. The other 10% are top-tier cities that have a relatively high cost of living (New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, Singapore, etc), so you may be forced to downgrade your residence to less desirable (i.e., more dangerous) parts of the city.

Making it to level 1 is the hardest transition for people to make. It’s typical for a person moving from 0 to 1 to remain tied to a job longer than they need to because stepping away from job security is still a risk.

Going from 0 to 1 also requires a mindset change.

“Eat what you kill” mindset

People without the personal freedom mindset have the “Eat what you feed me” mindset.

When you have this mindset, you believe that your income and security is dependent on what another person gives. In exchange for always having a paycheck, regardless of how hard you work, you give up the freedom to come and go as you please. For all intents and purposes, you’re an adult that depends on someone else to take care of you.

When you make it to level 1, you start to open your eyes and see that there’s nothing really secure about a job. At level 0, you can lie to yourself but when you see things as they really are, you can no longer live in ignorance.

You start to think like an independent person going after everything they need, rather than an employee who is grateful for the gifts of a cost of living raise, overtime, health benefits. You hunt for your survival on your own rather than wait for it to be given to you in exchange for the time you give.

Shifting to the “eat what you kill” mindset turns you into a hunter for your livelihood. You gain what you need by the strength of your work ethic, hustle, and creativity.

My personal shift to level 1

I reached this level approximately 5 months after I self-published Not Caring What Other People Think Is A Superpower.

Due to some unusual circumstances, I never had the comfort of Level 0 to transition out of. I was baptized by fire in a sink-or-swim situation where I had to quickly figure out how to make money online, ironically enough, to pursue a goal that almost guarantees permanent residence in level 0 (getting my physics degree).

Most people get a little more time to functionally be at level 1 (making enough from a location independent source of income) but living like level 0 (being forced to trade location for money).

Another major shift here is that you begin to see what’s possible. It’s one thing to take a course on making money online or read about someone else’s success. It’s a totally different thing to use your location independent income to cover your living expenses.

This is where many hustlers stay because it’s not a bad place and it allows a great level of freedom.

One other notable thing about level 1 is that while the income is passive and/or location independent, it’s not enough for you to build a reserve (at least in the early stages). This forces you to be like a shark–constantly moving and working because you have to, but you are free to do it from almost anywhere in the world.

Level 2: Out of the Matrix

Personal freedom out of the matrix
Personal freedom out of the matrix

If you reach level 2, you live a life that most people can’t imagine. People will assume that you’re either wealthy or a bum. It’s at this point that you’re most likely to have friends ask, “What are you doing for work these days?” or some variation of it.

Not only can you live in 90% of the cities in the world, but you can also travel anywhere in the world you want to without first needing to save. This may seem like an arbitrary distinction, but now your psychology and bank account have aligned and you truly feel like you have no limits.

This has an interesting effect on your world perspective. For starters, travel no longer looks exotic in the sense that it’s a luxury. Rather, it becomes a very real hobby for you. In fact, this is a perfect time to discuss how hobbies look to you.

There is now effectively no limit on how you can spend your “free time”. Most people’s hobbies and interests are a product of their environment. At level 2, you have the ability to make your environment a product of you, oftentimes without even thinking of the price tag.

What this means to each individual is different, but the overarching idea is that you can do the things you want to do for fun without needing to feel like it’s a reward or something you need to save up for.

Even with the ability to live where you want to (Level 1), there are things you wish to experience and people you want to meet that are not in your proximity. Level 2 is where this happens at will. You’re able to build genuine friendships with people in different states or countries because you aren’t limited by when you can leave and for how long you can stay away from your home.

Another thing that happens at Level 2 is that you now fully believe in your ability to make money this way. Make no mistake about it. There will come a point where you leave the location-dependent world behind and simply pursue making money the free way. With that said, there’s no way to transition from level 1 to level 2 without going at this thing full-time.

This is not because level 2 is an income marker. Granted, there is a minimum income required to be able to live in 90% of the world and travel anywhere within a 3 week period, but it’s more about the ability to travel and return when you want to as opposed to having it dictated by an external master.

I don’t mean that you have duties like a conference you have to speak at. I mean that you will not be able to pay your bills and/or feed yourself if you do not follow the orders of your employer.

The most notable change that occurs at Level 2 is that you stop being able to relate to most people. Not only has your relationship with time and money changed, but your relationship to problems has changed as well. You’ll learn that most people’s problems revolve around situations they can’t exit from without incurring serious penalties.

These problems are always related to time constraints from work or the money pressure from bills. At level 2, you not only don’t have them, but you’re also busy working to get to level 3. Most people are still at Level 0.

My personal shift to level 2

I hit Level 2 in April of 2018, and I feel like Neo from The Matrix. On a personal note, I’m happy that I have a very holistic and appreciative view of all people in society. It’s VERY easy at this level to develop arrogance.

I still remember working at T-Mobile 5 years ago. I still remember living in the hood 20 years ago. Remembering your shitty origin helps you stay grounded when experiencing rapid success.

Level 3: You can dodge bullets

person freedom dodging bullets
person freedom dodging bullets

I’ve only had brief touches with level 3. I’m an occasional visitor, but I haven’t taken up permanent residence with the demigods who reside at this level.

Therefore, my ideas about level 3 (and by extension, level 4) have been developed largely from speculation, observation, and conversation with people who I know are at these levels. Keep this in mind as I discuss them.

This isn’t exactly theory, but it’s not direct experience either. Think about it this way: a decent fighter knows what a great fighter is made of. Not only can he recognize him, but he could probably train someone to become a great fighter.

The best coaches in boxing and chess were never world-champions, but they know what a world champion looks like–both obviously and under the hood.

To reach level 3, you must be able to not only live anywhere in the world but also be able to do so at the highest levels of comfort you want to. This doesn’t mean that you need to be able to live in the most expensive parts of town–only that it would not make a difference if you chose to given your specific needs (houses in exclusive neighborhoods for families vs apartments with doormen and parking for singles, for example).

When people reach this level, they become somewhat muted relative to levels 1, 2, and 4. By muted, I mean that I’ve observed that braggarts become humble (or at least silent) and normally humble people effectively disappear. In other words, I’ve found that this is the phase where a person seriously hushes up about everything–even when asked.

My theory about this is as follows: by now, it’s obvious to all of their friends and peers that they’ve figured SOMETHING out. Humans are funny when it comes to acknowledging success that is within their grasp but they haven’t attained. For example, although I have certain unfair advantages (that I had to work for, but never mind that), I truly believe that anyone is capable of at least getting to level 1.

Level 3 makes you completely unrelatable

I’ve met enough people at levels 3 and 4 who don’t have any “unfair advantages” (being born to wealth or winning the genetic lottery) to know that it’s possible for many of us to get there.

Of course, most people get envious and/or don’t believe you. Once you hit level 3, you become very aware of who you mention or allude your success to. You simply find it easier to shut up and keep working.

If Level 2 is not being able to relate to most people, Level 3 is living in a different world. I imagine that with the exception of encounters of happenstance or necessity, Level 3 people do not interact with anyone at Level 0.

Freedom of time and income doesn’t turn you into an asshole, but it reduces your tolerance for anyone not free or who isn’t interested in becoming free.

Level 2-3 also eliminates your tolerance for justifying anything in your life.Granted, this happens at all levels, but by the time you reach level 3, you’re so confirmed and happy with your decisions that others’ opinions don’t matter at all–this is a consequence of freedom. You really don’t care what other people think.

People either agree with your life, they shut up about your choices, or you cut them.

I find that level 2 is where this starts, and level 3 is where your freedom is so established that you just don’t waste time tolerating people. Ultimately, level 3 is where the mental and social shifts have caught up to the ones in your earning power and physical situation. This is the level where all freedoms are unified.

Level 4: You no longer have to dodge bullets

person freedom dodging bullets
person freedom dodging bullets

This is the ultimate level. First, financials. You can live and travel anywhere you want to on the planet, at any time, at any level of luxury. You simply do not have any restrictions on your physical location on this planet. In fact, your only limitations are the speed of which you can travel from wherever you decide to live.

I have had spurts where I temporarily touched Level 3, but for my personality and tastes, I have only observed Level 4. Here is the biggest distinction I’ve taken note of. At level 4, it’s so obvious they are making lots of money from a non-local position that they can choose any number of paths to take. However, all of the paths seem to have an interesting element in common.

With the ability to live anywhere and go anywhere, everything is reduced to necessity because they’d much rather be working on a project that gives them personal meaning. As one level 4 person described it to me, “My goal is to write 8 or 9 figure checks to fund what’s important to me.”

Level 4 is conquering the realm of space (dimensionally, not intergalactically). However, they respond as though they’ve earned it. This is not the same as making loads of money from being a CEO or high-powered lawyer putting in 100-hour work weeks. They can stop “working” today and still earn 6 to 7 figures in passive income.

However, at this point they’re no longer driven by money. Now they work for everything from leaving a legacy to championing a cause.

Recap of the 4 levels of personal freedom

  • Level 0: Still in the matrix
  • Level 1: Using your eyes for the first time
  • Level 2: Out of the matrix
  • Level 3: You can dodge bullets
  • Level 4: You no longer have to dodge bullets

It’s about freedom of location to make this type of money, which ultimately leads to freedom of time. With all the craziness going in the United States, if you’re reading this and you’re located there, then make it your duty to break out of the matrix.

You never know when you might have to flee to someplace where you still have your basic human rights.

As always, the rest is up to you.

Ed Latimore
About the author

Ed Latimore

I’m a writer, competitive chess player, Army veteran, physicist, and former professional heavyweight boxer. My work focuses on self-development, realizing your potential, and sobriety—speaking from personal experience, having overcome both poverty and addiction.

Follow me on Twitter.