In 1841 American transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote one of his seminal works, Self-Reliance. Given that it has maintained its popularity and appeal hundreds of years later, it is one of the greatest books on personal responsibility and first-principles thinking.
Throughout his essay, Emerson describes a way of life that is free from conformity based on following ones own instincts and ideas. Far from an anarchist piece, Emerson describes a life well-lived complete with how to exist in the modern world (or exist outside of it!).
What's missing from Emerson's work are the practical applications of this philosophy in life especially a modern life completely unfamiliar to his existence. With social media constantly bombarding conformity into our head, one of the most useful paths to self-reliance is entrepreneurship.
Producing Rather Than Consuming
The most striking aspect of entrepreneurship that is useful for modern man is the insistence upon creation. Some cutting edge businesses are creating new technologies never seen before. Other businesses are run-of-the-mill shops and while it might not look sexy, they're still producing something in the world rather than merely consuming.
A modern consumerist culture is one of the most conformist that you can find. People consume products, services, social media, television, movies, music, and only a select few spend their time in production mode. Entrepreneurship almost forces production by definition.
Learning For Yourself
It's been a pleasure to watch my girlfriend start her own business as it's made her far more self-reliant. Instead of giving her the answer based on my experience, I've let her figure things out for herself as much as possible. She spent an entire day finding Wunderlabel for her labels. It's not so helpful that she has a source for labels, but that she learned how to research and find what she needed on her own.
When I first started learning about entrepreneurship I was as clueless as she was and continue to learn every day. It's a process that will never end, but it makes me a far more self-reliant individual which transcends my profession or business life. It makes me more curious, more self-aware, and capable. While there are plenty of opportunities to find a similar mindset, entrepreneurship is the most common and accessible way today.