Why I Refused My Proprietary Self

Adam Hyde

I find myself, after all this time immersed in free culture, amazed at my holding on to some form of the proprietary way of thinking. Sometimes I have found myself consciously going quite a long way down that path before I stop myself and almost forcibly ask myself “hey! What are you doing?”

Some time ago I started a methodology called the Book Sprint. It’s a way to facilitate the production of books in 3-5 days with a group of 6-12 people (or so). It took a long time to hammer out this method. Much financial, personal, and emotional pain to keep going down a road that nobody, including myself, really understood terribly well. Was it really possible to make it work? Well, it took about 4 years of hammering on this methodology, making plenty of mistakes, before I could actually think about it as a methodology. Before I could actually wield it with some form of embryonic artistry, see it in action, build upon it, improve it, teach it to others.

4 years is a long time. It felt like a long time. Truth is, I don’t really know why I didn’t give up, and my stubbornness is something that kind of shocks me, looking back.

Suddenly I could see the prospect of a sustainable lifestyle emerging. How would I make it happen and protect it? I had this horrible feeling that I was not good enough at scaling the project and some big ugly org with heaps of cash would scoop in and ‘steal it’. I guess I meant they would swoop in and copy it. The danger of a ripped-off dream caught me off-guard and I went down the road of lawyers and trade mark protection for Book Sprints. This was my first step towards owning the methodology.

I look back at that now and I’m kind of amazed I went down that path as far as I did. I didn’t actually follow through with trade-marking. The lawyer told me it was going to cost more and more, and it gave me time to wake myself up. What was I doing? The fear of losing my creation led me down a blinkered “IP” way out of line with my personal politics. It brought me awareness to peel off the layers of proprietary living that transpires our skins.

The process is a process of painful personal growth. Sharing my experience with hardened free culture practitioners, I’ve met quick nods of agreement. Only the idealist newcomers look puzzled at my apparent failure: I’m not a true believer. There is no purity on the path to freedom. Walking through the shameful path of not meeting the high bar we’ve set ourselves to avoid proprietary life, I keep learning about how deeply embedded it is in our daily lives. I keep examining it and it keeps surprising me. I keep discarding it. There’s still a long way to go.

Edited by hellekin, 3 Nov 2015, Pourrières, France.