Illustration for Adirondack Life by Tom Froese

The Power and Pain of Being a Lone Wolf

What Makes Me a Lousy Employee Makes me a Great Freelancer

Tom Froese
9 min readMar 4, 2022


I remember in art school, one of my instructors took me aside one day and told me that some of my classmates requested not to be teamed up with me for group projects. I was devastated. I thought that, if anything, people preferred to be in my group over most people, since I was a responsible, hard-working student. I overestimated myself. I thought that, because I was academically top of my class and had more real world experience than most, I had a lot to offer. I also perceived myself as generally likeable.

It was a shock to me to know that, not only did people not want to be teamed up with me when we had group projects, they went out of their way to make sure they weren’t.

It was a bold move on my instructor’s part to report this fact to me. How did she know how I would respond to this information? What was her point? Of course, I knew why she told me: she wasn’t trying to take me down but give me some important feedback. As I entered the group-oriented work world after graduating, she knew this part of my personality would become one of my greatest challenges.

Coming to Terms with Who I Am

Every now and then, I realize something that challenges my assumptions of who I am and what I’m like. My baseline is to believe I’m a good person who does no harm. It is always upsetting to know that, while I’m just living life, just being me, I’m hurting someone else. Other people around me are hurt, not as the result of malicious, intentional action, but simply by me being who I am. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

Honestly, the only thing I can do is to ask whether that thing, which other people might be hurt by, is something I can change. If I can’t change it, I must ask if I can change something else in my life to avoid hurting others. But ultimately, who can I be but myself? I must accept who I am (that includes embracing quirks and forgiving myself for known flaws) and at the same time, be sensitive to how my words and actions effect others, and to adjust when necessary.

While the act of creating, writing, painting, or composing often requires…



Tom Froese

Illustrator. Creatively Empowering Teacher/Speaker. Represented by Making Pictures/UK & Dot Array/USA. Top Teacher on @skillshare.