Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and leader of its retreat workshops and advanced classes. After a successful career in business and a decades-long inquiry into the values and skills on the leading edge of human possibility, in 1985 he set aside all other professional commitments and began to teach classes and create coursework that address how to create a life of your own design.
Arnold Siegel: The Early Years
Siegel was born in New York City and moved to California in 1960 after receiving his Bachelor of Science in accounting. He joined the competitive marketplace in Los Angeles because he wanted to have a functional stake in productive society, which he believed was essential to a fulfilling life as well as the means to satisfying personal objectives and contributing to society.
First an entry-level accountant in a large accounting firm in Century City, Arnold Siegel rose quickly through the ranks. In 1969, at the age of 29, he became the firm’s youngest partner, and after relocating in 1970, its managing partner in San Francisco.
After this early success as a CPA, in 1973 he joined a real estate development company as partner and chief operating officer to build what is today a large waterfront community in Northern California’s Bay Area.
A Growing Interest in the Concept of Autonomy and Life
During the years that he was actively involved in the marketplace, he was also rigorously engaged in a largely self-directed inquiry into issues concerning autonomy and life—the relationship between personal freedom and the rules that govern social life and the competitive marketplace. The centerpiece of his work is how this complex relationship plays out in thousands of different and often confrontational ways in day-to-day life, how each of us is held accountable for responsibly exercising communicative and cognitive behavioral control over ourselves.
In 1977, having expanded the focus of his career from the abstractions of finance and management to include the concrete aptitudes and skills involved in any competitive arena, Arnold Siegel then formed a unique accounting firm. Its purpose was to provide to entrepreneurs and professionals both traditional accounting services and leading-edge training in the critical skills needed to achieve the company’s vision in the marketplace.
As a result of his experience with competition, communication and performance coupled with his continuing interest in autonomy, in 1984 he formed a joint venture and created a satellite network that was at the forefront of ’80s technological development. The network broadcast forums about transformation and transmitted simultaneously to more than 20 cities across the United States. (The internet’s takeover of the global communication landscape did not begin in earnest until 1993.)
Finally, in 1985, with his marketplace experience and his extensive independent studies, Siegel headquartered his present enterprise in Northern California and began to teach his classes in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Napa Valley.
“Autonomy and Life” Today
Based on Siegel’s original thinking and without precedents to follow, the enterprise and its focus were experimental. Now, 34 years in and with over 5,000 participants—some for a retreat or two, some over many years in the advanced classes—Autonomy and Life’s record of accomplishment is solid. Its breakthrough work is established in a unique cultural and educational niche.
In 2009, Arnold Siegel started a public blog that can be found on this website. In order to introduce people to his work, he has presented over the last nine years a comprehensive look at what it means to live and work in America under its down-to-earth imperative: be responsible for yourself—for your past, present and future. He acknowledges that forging a nation and a state out of disparate communities has always been a hard-won feat. But, he says, “Here in America we met the challenge and built our nation on ideal and practical values. Among them is our commitment, diverse as we are, to be, in principle and substance, responsible for ourselves and accountable to others for being trustworthy.”
Up close and personal, Siegel enjoys a rewarding relationship with his two daughters and son, three granddaughters, his brother and friends.
Arnold Siegel resides in Northern California. When not traveling to New York and Los Angeles to lead two retreat workshops and 12 two-day advanced classes each year, he spends the majority of each day in contemplation: thinking, writing, reading and researching the existential and transformative issues of who we are and what it means to live a meaningful, successful and contributive life. He continues to develop and refine the discipline of autonomy and life—the understanding, means and methodology necessary for realizing a life of one’s own design in 21st-century America. He is working on a book on the subject (How to Think about Autonomy and Life).