The Only Certain Freedom

March 14, 2018

I want to share great news. One of my mentors and friends, Patrick O’Neill, has a new book available The Only Certain Freedom.  When I need counsel, Patrick is one of my first stops. Reading this book, I am reminded why.

Patrick O’Neill knows stories. He knows the power of our ancient teaching stories, the world’s myths and legends, and knows how to tell his own. The Only Certain Freedom drops us into Patrick’s hero’s journey as an entrepreneur and creates a page turner. He then draws from the world’s wisdom and decodes how to find your own certain freedom. This is a book for not only an entrepreneur, but also for anyone who is seeking her authentic career path. As an executive coach, I will be using this as a “go to” text for my recovering corporate clients, just as I send those of the non-profit ilk to David Whyte’s Crossing the Unknown Sea.  

I highly recommend this book if “Dilbert” is your favorite cartoon, Patrick O’Neill paints those soul sucking corporate moments where humans are resources and the “divide and conquer” battle strategy becomes a management axiom. For example, I resonated with the description of the favorite dysfunctional work environment past time, “take down the trainer.” Patrick shares that in their PR agency, a poor 60-something trainer has the bad luck of providing their group a strategy workshop, “Rather than waste billable time, we struck instantly by engaging him in a debate about the difference between a goal, an objective, and a strategy. It was a question we employed routinely to terrorize junior account executives. If he’d known the answer coming in to the day, he certainly didn’t on his way out.”  I have been both one of the attacking pit bulls, and the unsuspecting trainer in that scenario over my career and am both wiser and justly humbled because of it.

Yet, as Patrick counsels these are our calls to authenticity and leadership as service. He quotes C.S. Lewis who reminds us “He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

Just as Patrick recounts with humor and expertise, our journeys and their trials refine us. He calls upon not only the great hero’s tales throughout history, but also connects us to our modern guides. For example, learn that Nelson Mandela was not always the man who we remember. This provides comfort that we all may not be cooked just yet. “For twenty-seven years, Mandela was imprisoned for his fight to end apartheid in South Africa. By his own admission, he entered prison as an angry man who favored armed resistance as head of the military wing of the African National Congress. He left his prison cell as a man of peace. In a letter to his then wife, Winnie, Mandela wrote: ‘The cell is an ideal place to learn to know yourself . . . Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, purity, generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve your fellow men [are] qualities within the reach of every soul.’”


Deidre Combs

Deidre Combs is the author of three books on cross-cultural approaches to resolving conflict and overcoming challenges:  The Way of ConflictWorst Enemy, Best Teacher  and Thriving Through Tough Times. The books integrate perennial wisdom from the world’s lasting cultural traditions with systems theory and brain research.

Dr. Combs is a management consultant, executive coach, mediator and core instructor in Montana State University’s Leadership Fellows Certificate Program and Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Global Competence Certificate Program. Since 2007, she has also taught intensive leadership training to State Department-selected students, teachers and professional leaders from throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and Pakistan’s FATA region.

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