Lifestyle design is both a philosophy and a business motto. Like many people, I heard about it the first time thanks to tech geek guru and business savant Timothy Ferris. I was a college sophomore in 2007 when he published “The Four Hour Work Week“. Although in 2014 I can look back at this book as being rather dated, with certain business principles that are no longer applicable, the big idea about “lifestyle design” remains the same.
When I started exploring the idea of lifestyle design, I was at the time taking business classes at my college. Suddenly, I felt there was something seriously wrong in my formal education. I was being prepped for the perfect 9-8 (which is the new 9-5) office job. I was told the path to happiness is to join the herd and climb the corporate ladder.
Secretly, I wanted to rebel.
I sat at my classes, rapidly losing interest and scribbling ideas for online businesses while my teachers lectured me on how to conduct yourself for corporate job interviews.
Lifestyle design, at its core, is the philosophy to seek experiences and activities over financial gain, material goods, or status.
Furthermore, it’s the idea of lining up specific things you want to do, and then using work and business merely as tools to enable you to experience what other people miss out on.
What is not tolerated by lifestyle designers is working for the experience of doing work. Unless you’re in an industry that creates the experiences that you desire (film-making, sports, publishing, or whatever your interests are), the odds are that pushing boxes all day for a pie-in-the-sky retirement plan at the end of the rainbow is going to lead to a miserable time on Earth.
Lifestyle designers are often ambitious and goal-oriented to not allow life to pass them by. This is a very admirable trait to me, in a world where some are afraid to even leave their hometowns.
Lifestyle designers are very likely to be entrepreneurs. But not always. My buddy Joe Ferris (no relation to Timothy) works as a chief mate on oceanographic research ships. While this is a great career for him, the most important thing is that he only works 6 months a year. This means that his other 6 months can be spent doing what he wants (namely, taking award winning photographs in North Korea).
That means, in the most condensed form, lifestyle design for the average fellow means working less at your job, finding a few ways to supplement your income to make up for less office time, selling your big screen TV, and buying a lot more plane tickets to go do crazy, adventurous stuff.
For entrepreneurs, a long-standing tenant of lifestyle design has been passive income or making money online. As a 20 year-old kid in 2007, this made me nervous. I soon surmised that creating passive income models out of vitamin pills and other unlikely products was for the realm of super-geniuses with IQs of 250.
Looking back, I was kind-of right. The idea of working four hours a week as one’s initial goal is not a realistic model. Countless would-be digital nomads have since stumbled hard trying to juggle keeping up with the high-standards and high-competition of an online business, while also trying to limit their upkeep and time spent on their laptops.
Ferriss achieved it because of his ability to tap into markets and create extraordinary systems of profit. In real life, to follow his footsteps could take months or years of hard-work–and a hefty amount of investment money.
Fortunately, in 2014 there are more options to clock in traditional work hours without creating an expensive business, and to be able to work on your own terms.
I’ve now met many people who make their entire living through busy platforms like Amazon, Fiverr, Etsy, Kindle, Nook, and iTunes. It’s still a hard game to create products or develop a freelance career, but it’s a lot simpler than it was 5-6 years ago.
Case in point: one friend of mine earns roughly$50.00- $70.00 a day translating blog posts and marketing copy from Spanish to English (and vice versa) using sites like Fiverr. He works a normal work-day, perhaps a bit less (6 or 7 hours total).
It’s not four hours a week, but it’s less than the 12 hours a day that bosses now demand in the cutthroat employee labor market.
And, it’s work that you can take anywhere. So, if you develop a freelance career with similar hours, you can move to Beijing, work from 7 AM – 1 PM, and be hiking the Great Wall of China (by yourself, or with your family if you have one) from 2 PM to sundown.
Fiverr is one example, but a solid freelance career can be born out of anything, including good-old-fashioned personal marketing. My successful videography business netted me a solid $28,000 / year income just from doing work on my laptop.
This was great in concept, although I eventually closed that business down because…Well, just imagine 14-hour work-days editing video. Not fun. And not conducive to time management and flexibility.
Which illustrates my next point: there are challenges that lifestyle designers face; namely staying motivated and not burning out. For this reason, it’s usually best to find work that involves things you’re passionate about. If you have an innate desire to do something, it’s going to make you last in your industry much, much longer.
Burn-out is your number one enemy. Adapt yourself and avoid it at all costs.
As an example, at the moment, I have now accepted a couple of clients in the realm of novel editing. I love reading, I love writing, and I love editing. So, it makes perfect sense to be helping people release their next best-sellers. I doubt I will burn-out doing this anytime soon.
The Holy Grail
Ultimately the pinnacle of the lifestyle designer is still the ability to put the days of the “work grind” completely behind them. Whether passive income or early retirement strategies, a lifestyle designer wants to eventually devote 99% of his or her time to the stuff they really want to be doing.
As for me, through my niche websites, publishing career and trickling AdSense dollars, I’m getting closer to that goal, although still a ways off. Hopefully, some of my readers will get there, as well–perhaps alongside me.
Here’s to a better lifestyle! Please leave me a comment and tell me what YOUR plans are for lifestyle design for the rest of 2014 and beyond. What are your big plans, things you want to do, and how do you plan to get there?
P.S: Looks like I’ll be attending The Lifestyle Design Conference in Zurich, Switzerland in January of 2015. If you’re completely nuts like I am, you can book tickets at this link. Leave a comment or drop me an e-mail if you’re going, so we can meet up.