“Freedom is a mystery.” – Anna Kamenskaya said this sentence during our discussions of the sixth SURPRISE FACTORS SYMPOSIUM.

During our two working days we intensively discussed this mystery and tried to find answers. Because for all of us, freedom still is the most important asset we have. We fight for it, may it be on a large scale or a small one. For us personally or for the independence of our country.

This exactly was the motivation for us to discuss from different points of perspectives the question: “Where does freedom start and where does it end?”. In the discussions it became quite clear: Freedom in all its facets confronts us with challenges, because we are close to disruption of ”the old“: of old ways of thinking and old ways of acting. This collapse raises new questions for which today we do not have any answers yet.

“Freedom and security, it’s kind of a tense relationship.”

This year we again have been inspired by personalities of different backgrounds who have pointed out new guidelines for our future work at ACADEMIA SUPERIOR, so that we can continue to live in freedom in the future, independent of what freedom means for each and every one of us individually.

Taking freedom for granted

During the discussions the difference between inner and outer freedom was addressed. This is a very important thought when you try to define the term freedom. Because if you think about the young generation in particular it seems that personal freedom and self-discovery is the most important thing in life. A comprehensible wish, since we live in times in which we have all possibilities on the one hand, on the other we are shaped by our upbringing and stigmata or clichés of our background. We are often confronted with meeting expectations of others rather than being our own self.

A consequence seems to be that individuality has become the highest goal. “I” comes before “we”. Why worrying about the big picture as long as I am well? Have we really forgotten how privileged we are that we even have the possibility to strive for this personal development? We live in abundance. We live in freedom. And yet, we must not take this privilege for granted. Thus the challenge for the future will be to find the balance between what we need as individuals and what society needs. Because freedom of one person ends where it starts limiting the freedom of another.

The fear of freedom

The last decades defined the word freedom anew. Today we have totally new possibilities which seemed unthinkable a couple of years ago, and which still are in some countries today. Even if we just think about such apparently banal things as the freedom to travel. But above all we have the freedom to express ourselves. Or at least we have the freedom to choose between many options. Exactly this freedom, the diversity of possibilities, however, also causes fear. And fear makes you unfree. What we have learned from the discussions is: If you want to be free, you need to be courageous; courageous to take decisions and stand up for them; courageous to have an opinion and articulate it; courageous to take a path and not to turn and walk back half way.

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” This sentence by Janis Joplin accompanied us throughout all our discussions and demonstrated very well the range between freedom and fear. Because if we want to attain a special goal, we need to give up something else – and take responsibility for it.

Of freedom and responsibility

We can only really be free, if we are ready to take on responsibility for our actions. However, it sometimes means to take on responsibility for others when they are not able to themselves anymore. Often we hear about a lack of political guidance. But is it really the responsibility of politics to guide us? Or is it rather their task to create the framework conditions in which we can develop freely?

“Freedom is not an absolute quantity”

If we delegate all important decisions to a higher level, back out of the responsibility to decide ourselves, how free are we then actually? That’s why we see it as one of our key challenges to create a system in which responsibility is of importance again. However, this also means to create a system in which it is permitted to make mistakes. Because the fear to make mistakes is yet another reason why we shy away from taking decisions – it could be the wrong ones.

Entrepreneurial freedom

Rethinking error culture is especially relevant when we are talking about entrepreneurial freedom. We still live in a culture in which errors stigmatize us, which is different from other cultures in which errors or what you learn from them are seen as a sign of development. It should also be allowed for entrepreneurs to develop. To found a company is risky. No business model, no sophisticated business plan or entrepreneurial talent protect us from failing. People who would like to start a business in Austria nowadays are hindered and irritated by bureaucratic obstacles.

We should encourage young entrepreneurs to create new business models instead of choking ideas with fear. We need to promote entrepreneurial freedom and guarantee the freedom to be able to develop as an entrepreneur, even if this means to make mistakes. Because the young entrepreneurs of today create the workplaces of tomorrow.

The value of freedom

For two days we discussed the term freedom and the discussions have at least risen as many questions as they provided answers. How free are we actually when we are scared to take decisions? How free are we actually if “I” comes before “we”? We are in front of a paradigm change after which nothing will be the same again. And like all unknown things, this future causes fear. We need a compass to point out the right path to us so that we are not sacrificing our freedom to this fear. Values which guide us and show us the right direction.

May it be courage, responsibility, gratefulness, respect, understanding or humility before what we have. These are values which will be of significant importance in the upcoming years and which will guide us the way for our development in how we are going to live together in freedom in the future.