Financial Freedom gives you Intellectual Honesty

5 min readJan 14, 2024

The last good salary I drew was in June 2011, my last month working at Wipro. Six years and out. Over the next five years, I was at a shoestring stipend at IIM Bangalore, pursuing the full time PhD program and thereafter running Inflexion Point Consulting. 13 years now and I haven’t missed salary a bit. Of course, as any entrepreneur would admit, there are lean periods and the journey poses its own set of challenges. But one thing is for sure, I remain Intellectually Honest. Honest to my priorities and appropriation of time and emotions.

Does financial freedom automatically make you intellectually honest? Not necessary. You have to work towards it. You must make your money count. As one of my favorite authors, Nassim Taleb notes, “If wealth is giving you fewer options instead of more (and more varied) options, you’re doing it wrong.” So, this is for you to determine if money is freeing you or enslaving you.

We all have seen highly paid executives being intellectually enslaved by their employers. Little doubt their salaries are called ‘compensation’. Compensation for what? Compensation for not able to exercise your free will. Often people are paid precisely to not entertain certain radical ideas, let alone voice those. And after a point, they become incapacitated. I sincerely hope that your compensation hasn’t pushed you there (yet).

The one word definition of intellectual honesty is ‘no’. Your ability and willingness to be extremely selective on what you wish to spend your life doing. Remember, the only default in life is death. The rest is up to you to craft for yourself.

Let me offer you three indicators of what financial freedom means on a day to day basis.

Money becomes a means and not an end

As Indians, we have typically valued professions with highest social and financial equity. In 70s and 80s, it was Civil Services, then came medicine and engineering (civil engineering to begin with), towards the turn of the century it was computer science and IT, and today everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. It seems financial worth somehow defines social worth and there is a clear pecking order.

But there are seldom clear directives on what happens when you have money. What next? Money can’t be an end in itself. It must enable you to achieve higher-order goals, which are private and must be discovered by oneself. More money certainly doesn’t offer you greater clarity. If at all, it delays the inevitable, a painful encounter with reality.

Financial freedom must offer you the courage to ask yourself some difficult questions and answer those with utmost honesty. Without much of a regard to popular belief or the opinions of the important others. And this can happen only when you take money out of the equation. It distorts your judgement. If more money is not giving you greater clarity, any more won’t either. You have to decide the cut-off date.

You, and not others, manage your time

In the corporate world you often find yourself staring at a over-booked calendar, trying to steal time from your own time. Instead of having the prime claim on your time, you are often scavenging for it. Others are managing your time and not you. And most such others are ironically juniors to you who were supposed to free-up your time at the first place.

Ideally people around you should be clamoring for your time, for you need to put a premium on it. Financial freedom means that you are moving from low-value add activities to higher ones, for now you are more selective. You are not longer parasitically attached to certain activities even if those have outlived their utility, mutually. Neither you are adding any value nor gaining any value and yet you continue doing such activities for the fear of getting irrelevant.

You must learn to move on. Move on from activities and people to more profound, more enduring causes. It takes courage and intellectual integrity. Something you just can’t borrow.

You do what makes you good and not what makes you ‘look’ good

For a long time, we have been told to behave in a certain manner, initially by our parents and then teachers, and the bosses, spouse, children, friends, elderly and youngerly. But who knows what’s really good (for you)? You must be totally and radically honest to yourself — your likings and dislikings, your motivations and fears, your aspirations and the legacy that you would want to leave behind. And then pursue it with utmost commitment.

In the bargain you would upset a lot of people. But the funny thing is that in any event you can’t please everybody. You would always fall short in someone’s eyes. You can at least avoid falling short in your own eyes. Instead of following a template and doing what makes you look good, you do what is good for you. After some time, people will get used to it and even if they don’t, it’s their problem. I am not suggesting you be insensitive. I am just demanding you to be not oversensitive. Have a healthy sense of disagreement, without necessarily voicing it always.

You must remember that it doesn’t matter.

To give you an instance, when I started my business I used to get into every client conversation with a hope that this business must materialize. But today, I enter a conversation with a premise that it’s okay even if it doesn’t materialize. It’s not that I have lot a money to lose, but now I have become selective. I anyways don’t need too much of a business that I am struggling with my own time and compromising my health. By acknowledging that it’s okay if the client refuses I am under no obligation to make any false commitment or bend over backwards to please anybody.

Money should make you more selective. Chose what suits your own mental makeup and that let’s you remain honest to yourself. Or, else you never will be.




Innovation Evangelist and author of the book, Design Your Thinking.