A Handbook for Personal Liberty – Harry Browne

There is nobody who wants to live in despair and slavery. The title of the book intrigued me to read this book and I will say this book liberated me from some of my notions. I found this book very enlightening. I have never thought about the reasons why I feel trapped in the world and this book provides us some of the solutions.

The book is philosophical and liberating. I found the narrative of the author very refreshing and relevant.

The words of wisdom from the book are:

  • Freedom is living your life as you want to live it.
  • Concentrate upon the things you can control, and use that control to remove the restrictions and complications from your life.
  • There are three basic sources of information to tell you what you want most — past experiences, daydreams, and new experiences.
  • Integrity is knowing yourself well enough to be able to mean what you say.
  • No one owes you anything; everyone you deal with will choose the best alternatives for himself.
  • It’s just as foolish to feel that you must make everyone understand that you’re right, that your desires are legitimate, that you should be able to do as you want. You don’t have to. Just concentrate your attention (as General Motors does) on finding those people who are appropriate for you. You can ignore the others.
  • The three forms of security most often sought are financial security (the assurance that one will never be poor), intellectual security (the assurance that one is right in his beliefs), and emotional security (the assurance that one will always be loved).

The author has identified various types of traps that binds us to life in unreasonable ways and has provided ways to get out of those traps.

  1. Identity Trap
    There are two Identity Traps: (1) the belief that you should be someone other than yourself; and (2) the assumption that others will do things in the way you would.
    There are four basic principles whose recognition can help to avoid the Identity Trap:
    1. You are a unique individual — different from all other human beings.
    2. Each individual is acting from his own knowledge in ways he believes will bring him happiness.
    3. You have to treat things and people in accordance with their own identities in order to get what you want from them.
    4. You view the world subjectively — colored by your own experience, interpretation, and limits of perception.
      Until you discover and accept yourself fully, you won’t have the conviction or the courage to be free.
      As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.
  2. Emotional Trap
    When you’re in the Emotional Trap, you don’t know — in any long-term way — what you’re doing. And when you’re in the Intellectual Trap, the why is lost.
  3. Intellectual Trap
    The Intellectual Trap is the belief that your emotions should conform to a preconceived standard.
    You’re in the Intellectual Trap when you try to deny your bad feelings — such as hate, fear, jealousy, or guilt. Or when you hold back tears because “crying isn’t manly.”
  4. Previous-Investment Trap
    The Previous-Investment Trap is the belief that time, effort, and money spent in the past must be considered when making a decision in the present.
  5. Box Trap
    Box is any uncomfortable situation that restricts an individual’s freedom. And the Box Trap is the assumption that the cost of getting out of a bad situation is too great to consider. It’s easy to slip into a box and just as easy to stay there.

    To be free, you have only to make the decision to be free. Freedom is waiting for you — anytime you’re ready for it.

The author has provided these thumb rules for our freedom:

  1. Never expect anyone to act from your knowledge, perspective, or objectives. Assume that his viewpoints will differ in some ways from yours.
  2. Never make an important decision when your emotions are dominating your mind.
  3. Never lie or appear to be something other than what you are — unless you’re sure that your life or the life of someone very important to you is literally at stake.
  4. Never invest any resource (time, money, emotional involve– ment) that you’re not prepared to lose.
  5. Never take on a new responsibility, time commitment, or liability without recognizing what must be given up to accommodate it.
  6. Always leave some free time in your schedule to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. If there are no new opportunities during the period, the free time can always be used for pure pleasure.
  7. Never use someone’s property in any way that he doesn’t approve of — unless your life or the life of someone very important to you is literally at stake.
  8. Never focus your attention on anyone’s weaknesses — his temper, sloppiness, poor logic, dishonesty, whatever. Recognize these shortcomings, take them into consideration, but don’t waste your time complaining about them. Instead, pay attention to what your actions should be in order to deal with him.
  9. Never quibble over a price you didn’t expect to pay. Pay it and move on to better things.
  10. Never form a partnership (an agreement in which responsibilities or rewards will be shared) for any purpose.
  11. Never become directly involved in violence unless it appears to be the only alternative to prevent more serious injury to yourself or to someone very important to you.
  12. Never forsake your rules because of someone’s actions or opinions.

The author wants to inscribe this on his epitaph which summarizes this book as:

When I die (if ever), I’d like the epitaph on my tombstone to read:
I didn’t do everything I wanted to do, I didn’t become everything I wanted to be, But because I aimed for the stars, I reached the top of the world. I don’t advise being careless or sloppy. I do advise that you hold fast to your beliefs and act in the best way you know how — but then forgive yourself whenever you fail to measure up to your standards. You will never be perfect. But you can be free and happy. I hope you make it.