Personal Sovereignty Is Built on the Frontier of Society

We are greatly influenced by the environments we live in and the people we surround ourselves with.

A fact of life I’ve thought about the past few months as I’ve moved around. Boston, then Washington DC., and briefly Charlotte, North Carolina. Soon, Hawaii. These places are unique environments. Populated with different types of peoples and influences. It reminds me a lot of my favorite Paul Graham essay on Cities and Ambition.

“How much does it matter what message a city sends? Empirically, the answer seems to be: a lot. You might think that if you had enough strength of mind to do great things, you’d be able to transcend your environment. Where you live should make at most a couple percent difference. But if you look at the historical evidence, it seems to matter more than that. Most people who did great things were clumped together in a few places where that sort of thing was done at the time.”

These thoughts have been on my mind as I work through what comes next. And the idea that I keep coming back to is a simple one. If you want to become a Sovereign Individual, you need to get to the frontier of society.

The Sovereign Individual Age

On a personal level, I’ve become untethered from living in one place. Mobile and motivated to explore new experiences and opportunities that unique areas of the world have to offer. On a societal level, the idea that different places are better suited for different identities is relevant to the digital transformation and the creation of the Sovereign Individual age.

I’ve consciously spent time untethering myself from any single location. It’s an effort to embrace the digital transformation and the Sovereign Individual age.

And through this effort, I’m becoming convinced that in order to embrace the Sovereign Individual lifestyle a person must be acutely aware of their surroundings. Literally speaking, they must understand the localized influences in their lives as well as the digital influences.

And an aspiring Sovereign Individual must aggressively prune the outside influences they expose themselves to when on the path to becoming a self sovereign.

Outside Influences

We are the sum of the content we consume. And that includes the influences in our physical lives.

“A city speaks to you mostly by accident — in things you see through windows, in conversations you overhear. It’s not something you have to seek out, but something you can’t turn off.”

We are to an extent, at the mercy of the influences in our lives. Sometimes, these forces are outside of our control. And because of this fact, we must actively work to remove ourselves from negative forces and external factors that could influence our path towards self sovereignty. And once sovereignty is achieved, we must protect against lowering our guard and allowing any external force to chip away at our sovereignty.

“No matter how determined you are, it’s hard not to be influenced by the people around you. It’s not so much that you do whatever a city expects of you, but that you get discouraged when no one around you cares about the same things you do.”

Get to the Frontier

For most people, the idea of the Sovereign individual is a frontier concept.

It’s foreign to many of the physical communities they live in. That’s why they seek out like minded people online. Yet even with digital influences, they are still heavily impacted by the people and ideas within their physical community.

The conventional wisdom of the ages gone by is a heavy influence on our lives.

Most people would be wise to think about Paul Graham’s essay. To seek out communities in the physical world that are more frontier minded when pursuing personal sovereignty. Places removed from conventional society. From conventional thought and influences.

These frontier communities may not perfectly align with the concept of the Sovereign Individual. But frontier communities of oddballs and DIYers are ideal for building something new. Especially a new sense of self.

“Similarly, although there are plenty of people strong enough to resist doing something just because that’s what one is supposed to do where they happen to be, there are few strong enough to keep working on something no one around them cares about.

Because ambitions are to some extent incompatible and admiration is a zero-sum game, each city tends to focus on one type of ambition.

Whether it be a company or a lifestyle. A frontier in the physical world is a place where you can redefine yourself with less fear of external influences. Where you’ll be embraced for your oddball characteristics. And in this setting, you’ll feel empowered to perform the lifestyle design iterations you need to develop your personal sovereignty.

And so, if you want to reinvent yourself and pursue personal sovereignty in the digital age, get to the frontier. Wherever that may be for you.

Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Personal Sovereignty Is Built on the Frontier of Society

  1. Am I the only one who sees the oxymoron between sovereign individuals and being so heavily dependent upon location?

    1. A sovereign individual is someone that takes control over their actions by seeking to mitigate outside influences. In many cases, that means avoiding dependence on one location. But no matter how many places you live and how many single points of failure you eliminate from your life, a sovereign individual will always be influenced by the places they live and the people they surround themselves with.

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