Are You Focusing On Financial Freedom Or The Tools That Get You There? – Part 1

Written by: Dr. David Phelps, DDS
financial freedom


Being rich is having money; BEING WEALTHY IS HAVING TIME. If you’re still grinding for money after 10 years, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG, and you will not experience true financial freedom.

Most of us are entrepreneurs at heart. We want “the good life” and will do what it takes to get “there.” Go hard, level up, hustle… But is grinding a virtue or a vice? I recently posted a meme in an online dental forum: My definition of grind = friction, abrasion. This post received tremendous positive and negative feedback, with positive outranking the negative by 3:1.

financial freedom


Some people attribute significant self-worth and identity to their willingness to work hard, be resilient, and persevere. Those are admirable qualities as a “do what it takes” attitude will overcome many obstacles and challenges in life. But many entrepreneurs think the longer and harder they work, they’ll achieve financial freedom and bigger and better results.

If you are seeking a path to financial freedom, nothing could be further from the truth.

So many entrepreneurs love bragging about how hard they work, how many long hours they put in, how much they have going on, how busy they are, etc. In my opinion, that’s a terrible way to live.


You don’t get any brownie points at the end of your life for how long or hard you worked. Guess what you get? You get a life of long hours and hard work with very little time spent enjoying your life!

I see so many entrepreneurs and practitioners who are out of shape, not only physically but mentally, spiritually, and financially. Oh, but they boast about how long and hard they work! At some point, the grind should end by putting systems and people in place to run the day-to-day business operations so you can create more FREEDOM.

You’re NOT in business to run a business. You’re in business to create FREEDOM. The FREEDOM to do what you want, whenever you want, wherever you want and with whomever you want!

You should ALWAYS design your business to support your life. You don’t design your life to support your business! The negativity also says a lot about the individual’s frame of mind. Those who pushed back (and some pushed back very hard) are unhappy and frustrated with their lives and found my provocation, though not targeted at any specific person, a personal affront.

Pride and ego are part of the human psyche and can obstruct a path to improvement. Having a business that complements a full life should be desirable. So why are “lifestyle” businesses treated with derision?


Are you optimizing for income or time? (Total dollars earned vs dollars per hour.) You might be willing to work 2,500 hours per year to make $5M per year, while I’d rather work 500 hours per year and make $2M per year. Use whatever numbers that make sense to you – it’s the relative comparison that matters.

For me, the trade of that additional $3M for an extra 2,000 hours per year (40 hours per week) of free time would be a no-brainer. I had to resolve that some 20 years ago when my daughter was dealing with life and death health crises.

Don’t assume that everybody’s utility function for income is the same as yours.

There’s no right or wrong as long as you are making the decision based on personal objectives and not because of limiting beliefs or societal pressure. Those personal objectives are likely to change over time.

Mine certainly did. In this example, one is making $2,000/hour. The other is making $4,000/hour. Are you optimizing for total dollars earned or maximum leverage on your time? Would $2M be enough to provide an adequate lifestyle (after taxes) to free up time for other areas – family, hobbies, creative ventures?

Don’t assume it would be. I’ve seen many high-income earners move the goalposts again and again. What used to satisfy is surpassed by the desire for more. Honest introspection is required to determine what is truly financial freedom to you and “how much is really enough?”


If you truly enjoy the work, the “doing of the thing,” that’s great. But how much of the “doing” do you really enjoy? Are there aspects you don’t take pleasure in that could be deleted and, if so, at what cost? What is it worth to remove from your life an undesired demand on your time? Does there need to be a cost? Is there a better way, and are we simply uncertain and lacking the confidence or guidance to take the risk to enact the necessary change?


Growing up in my family, mowing one’s lawn was a given. It was an assumed responsibility. Until I was old enough to help, my dad religiously mowed and trimmed the lawn every week during the growing season.

My grandfather was the same—all the way to his early 90s. Some people enjoy mowing and caring for their lawn and landscape. I believe my dad and grandfather did. Physical exercise brought the satisfaction of completing a project that was refreshingly different from their respective career work.

Me? I mowed plenty of lawns while growing up. Not only the family residence, but many side jobs, hustling to earn money for my benefit (freedom). Once graduated and licensed as a dentist, I endured one more mowing season and then I sold that lawnmower. Done. I would and did find satisfaction in other pursuits. I learned that paying others to do work that I either didn’t enjoy or was not adept at doing was a major inflection point toward the freedom that I enjoy today.

My focus in my last two decades has been creating or expanding my time options. Not being tied to a schedule for six months or more (the successful dentist’s paradox—a busy schedule means “good business” and concomitantly, a certain loss of freedom. More dollars per hour but less optionality with one’s time.)

This conundrum became starkly self-evident in the summer of 2004 when my daughter Jenna was fighting for her life in end-stage liver failure and subsequent life-saving transplant. I couldn’t be in two places at once—it was either with her or with the business. That didn’t feel good at all.

That was my fork in the road. The hard conversation I had been readily avoiding. How much longer did I need to hustle and grind? Was there any light at the end of the tunnel or would I forsake my freedom and take the path of perceived safety and follow the crowd?

Life will always have its challenges. It’s how we decide to respond to those challenges that can create a life of financial freedom with greater fulfillment, passion, and purpose. In part two of this article, I’ll discuss limiting beliefs and getting more output from the input.


When his young daughter was hospitalized with leukemia, Dr. David Phelps, DDS, could turn to his alternative investments, step away from his dental practice and be by her side. From this experience, he created Freedom Founders in 2012. This community helps dentists and other professionals take control of their retirement investments to produce passive cash flow, security and live life on their terms. To contact Dr. Phelps, visit