The Power of Living Life on Your Own Terms

Or, what to do when you grow tired of fighting the world?


Photo courtesy of author

“I will change the world,” he always used to say. “Make it a better place. How people think and feel about things. What greater purpose is there? All I need to do is stay committed and persevere, and things will change. I will triumph in the end.”

I always respected my Ph.D. supervisor’s passion and determination. His persistence in his quest to make the world more entrepreneurial, equal, and inclusive was admirable. But the truth is that it was a rough journey. Nobody listened. And ultimately, he failed.

My conclusion from his life of frustration and disappointment?

There must be another healthier, better way to live a life, not by fighting the world but by creating your own reality.

Twenty-Five Years Ago

“They accepted my article.”

My supervisor seemed delighted to have his latest work published in a “leading” academic journal. We sat on the big old leather chairs that dominated his university office to discuss the progress of my research — the musty smells of old books, coffee, and cigarette smoke — very different from the clinical, pale plastics of offices today.

“I have a good feeling about this new publication,” he said, “I think it’s going to make some waves.”

He sighed as if his words were trying to persuade himself as much as me.

He was a law professor, and he believed from an early stage in his academic career that, in general, laws kill entrepreneurship and lead to inequality and discrimination in the labor market. Even though he was a consultant at a large international corporation, he believed his mission in life was to help young entrepreneurs by providing equal opportunities for all. He told me that he wasn’t happy with the inequality in his hometown.

“I think so,” I responded. But I was afraid I sounded too negative and was never comfortable when the conversation was about his life and work.

His arguments were solid, and the proposal in his new article sounded plausible. But, somehow, he could never convince the incumbents. His fellow academics…



Erik P.M. Vermeulen, PhD

Prof (Law) | Sci-fi | Sociological storytelling