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Raptitude and When Lifestyle Design Efforts Fail


(RIP a Lifestyle Design Effort)

I want anybody reading this to take note. I found a very important case study that relates to independent income and your overall happiness in life. (Note, David Cain himself kindly offered some addendums to this post to clarify what’s really going on from his side. Please see the comments section).

I recently discovered a great site for people interested in the topic of lifestyle design, exploring humanity, and just enjoying life: Raptitude by blogger David Cain (also check out his book on Amazon). I love this guy’s work, and one particular post on this site is now drawing viral (to put it mildly) traffic, despite that it was written back in 2010. It’s called Your Life Has Already Been Designed. The article has been picked up by major media outlets, and could become a fundamental read among those of us rebelling against the 9-5.

In essence, Cain discusses how the 9-5 work philosophy exists to keep a consumerist system in place. After a 9-month journey abroad, Cain describes his return to the working world at an engineering firm with spot-on condemnation of a work philosophy that is designed to promote our modern-day spending habits. An unhealthy, unhappy society is the cornerstone of the economic systems that keep big business in power, Cain argues.

If you had perfect self-esteem and a happy lifestyle, you wouldn’t come home and watch TV. Media would go out of business, pharmaceutical companies would lose profits, and the machine would effectively stop.

While I agree with everything Cain writes, when I read between the lines, I see something very alarming about the nature of his story, at least at first. You see, I would perfectly understand Cain going to work at an engineering firm if it were something that he felt inspired to do. As I discuss in my book Freedom, you can experience liberty in your life by ensuring the work that you do is congruent with the sense of purpose you have in life.

But, as I read this article, it becomes apparent that Cain did not give up his 9-month backpacking stint out of a passion and higher-calling to become a great engineer. I think he did it more because he was broke and needed stability. And, if that’s the case, it’s an example of a guy with every opportunity to be a permanent lifestyle designer who decided to retreat.

Of course, as one reads his blog, it becomes clear that this was just the start of a journey that eventually led to him waking up out of the matrix. But for this argument, let’s look back at where he was at in 2010. If I had discovered that article back then, I’d have been hopping mad. Here’s a guy with every opportunity to make money online, with a blog massively growing in popularity, who decided to abandon a lifestyle as a backpacker that he thought was awesome–to go join up with some company that he hates. WTF??

Based on the glib tone of that article, including the title “How Your Lifestyle is Designed For You”, I assume that this post was a reflection of David Cain’s brief period of lifestyle design failure, and it’s a really important lesson that you can learn from.

Today, Cain has 15,000 subscribers and hundreds of thousands of monthly visits. But in 2010, it was still a popular blog with plenty of opportunities to turn it into an income powerhouse

Where this post might be terrifying to a prospective lifestyle designer is that it would seem to indicate that to get even the barely-sustainable figures of $500+ a month, Cain had to become a top-blogger, beating out the 98% of other similar blogs to secure vibrant social media popularity. And then, despite blogging success, Cain was still forced to retreat–abandon his life abroad, and abandon the idea of maintaining sustainable income on his own terms. And, tragically, he instead imprisoned himself into an engineering job that that he obviously disdained.

Of course, the happy epilogue is that Cain’s site massively expanded, a few months ago he finally quit his job, and now I assume he’s quite comfortable through his income streams.

But this story is such a great lesson for you. The moral is that if a situation you’re in stinks, don’t just trudge through it longing for skies that will eventually turn bluer as you go on, or you’ll become so adapted to the misery that it won’t suck anymore. In retrospect, Cain could have probably called it quits much sooner.

Big Myths About Blogging

Cain’s post is an example that you can hit it big as a blogger, but not be monetized enough to escape the corporate world. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that it’s possible to be a no name blogger who still lives comfortably and independently, which is maybe something Cain didn’t realize when he wrote his 2010 post.

I have several blogs. None of them approach a fraction of Cain’s traffic, even back in 2010. This blog gets a couple of hundred hits a day (hi, guys!), but it’s not some type of phenomenon. My men’s interest site gets 300-400 hits a day. That’s a fun site to run, but its traffic and growth is totally average.

This month, my mostly passive income is approaching $1,200. This is from: book sales, Adsense from tons of Infobarrel and Hubpage posts, and affiliate products on micro-blogs that usually earn me a solid sale every day or two.

So that’s $1,200 passively. Non-passively, my income this month is going well past $2,000 from enjoyable projects I’ve been working on with clients (including a novel I am editing), and some fun paid jobs I do in Los Angeles in the field of marketing and being a promotional model.

Am I filthy rich? No, but just doing independent stuff, with primarily passive income as my bread-and-butter, I assume i am making several times more than Cain was making when he felt he needed to give up his days as a backpacker and return to the corporate world. But this is all without having a single very popular blog. All it took was about a year and a half of part-time work, designing income strategies. This is something he could have done, as well–and perhaps he wouldn’t have had to give up the traveling that he expressed so much passion about.

Another big lesson from this story is how going abroad without a plan to make money is a big mistake. If you do that, you’ll accrue credit card debt and return to your home-city in an even weaker position than before, which may explain why Cain felt he had to return home and get back to work so quickly. I’ve seen this pattern repeat itself many times.

If you’re going to travel, take it seriously, and try to return with less debt versus when you left.

So, if I could go back in time and talk to the owner of Raptitude after he wrote that post, it would be this: Stop wasting time. It’s inevitable that you’re going to quit, anyway. So develop more products. Get on Clickbank and get more affiliate links up. Become a consultant or offer different services to people via Skype or in person. Brand yourself more as a professional.

And quit that job now instead of later. Seriously, walk the fuck away. You don’t have to be part of the 9-5 system that you admit is designed to benefit our corporate overlords. If you don’t like the forty-hour work week thing, then just get out of it. While I do agree that there’s a system in place that keeps people as unhappy little consumers, it’s not a conspiracy that it’s impossible to escape from.

If you’re in Cain’s position from 2010 and you’re still shy of reasonable income, then check out my book How to Make Money While Traveling and supplement the money from your blog by designing other services like a Fiverr business. You’ll still be working every-day, but you can scale it down to a 10-3 or 10-2 schedule, with hours more free time every-day to enjoy and explore–without ever going broke.

And finally, never be allured by the temptation of higher salaries at the expense of your lifestyle. The temptation of “stability” is high, and the pressure we feel from peers, friends and family are also powerful, but to those passionate about living life on your own terms, it’s a simple matter of sticking true to what you believe in.

8 thoughts on “Raptitude and When Lifestyle Design Efforts Fail

  1. Just awesome! I am happy that he finally quit his job!
    Sometimes, one needs to make some kind of sacrifice to achieve one’s goals…

  2. Hi Cyrus. I feel like I should explain a few things about my story.

    I really took my time to make the move towards entrepreneurship, and that time was 100% necessary for me. While I recognize that many people are keen and confident from the start, and only need to put in the elbow grease, for others there are serious barriers to striking out on one’s own.

    My whole adult life I’ve been recovering from crippling levels of shyness, procrastination and pessimism. I’ve improved vastly in all these areas, but I started from a very rough place. These are paralyzing traits — the worst possible traits for a self-starting, high-flying entrepreneur.

    My backpacking trip was never meant to be endless. I never went into debt. I have been debt free since long before the trip. But my travel fund was running out and I was tired of being on the road. When I left I had the vague idea of building a business while I traveled, but I quickly realized I was more interested in hiking and exploring these wonderful countries than sitting behind a laptop. It was absolutely the right choice. I got a job working with my best friend when I returned, and as jobs go it was a pretty sweet deal. That made it easier to take my time.

    I had also been reluctant to emulate a lot of the standard monetization methods I saw a lot of my blogging peers using. They promoted products I know they didn’t use, they would write about a particular topic just because it allowed them to make a particular sales pitch. They would all promote each other’s launches. I didn’t like to see those methods as a reader. I don’t like being pandered to, and I don’t like pandering.

    As well, certain niches and sites are much more monetizable than others. Make-money-online, lifestyle design, fitness, and other selling-the-dream sort of niches are relatively easy to monetize. Philosophical musings not so much, unless you want to position yourself as a guru rather than a peer.

    I’m doing fine now and will soon be expanding into running courses and private mentoring, and I think that’s where I’ll settle. But I think it’s important to recognize that “leap and the net will appear” is not good advice for everyone. If you have a history of being a go-getter type, then by all means go for it — you probably are wasting your time lingering in a line of work you don’t like. But many people aren’t, and the right traits have to be developed first.

  3. Hi David, thanks for getting in touch with me, I’ll update the front of the article to tell readers to read your addendum.

    Hopefully there’s no offense taken by my interpretation of your work. “How Your Lifestyle is Designed For You” is a hard-hitting post, to put it lightly, and my reaction was “:-O” (open mouth gaping) when I first read it. It seemed like everything I dislike about corporate jobs encapsulated into one powerful piece.

    But I guess it also made me wonder why you returned to a field like that despite being so perceptive of the things about that job that you didn’t like, and how it was harming your ambitions.

    Of course I had a feeling there was a lot more to the story then what I interpreted. Getting a job offer by a good friend really changes the dynamic. Even now, with my online businesses beginning to pick up steam, if my buddy offered me six-figures I’d probably have a mini-meltdown because a big part of me would want to go for it.

    But you make a lot of really good points about state of mind, and what it really takes to get off the road (and on the road, in some cases). It takes a lot of psychological conditioning to try and make something work. For me personally, I discovered a high-paying copywriting job on my laptop. I’d work 3 hours a day in Thailand and spend the rest of my time doing whatever else I wanted.

    I guess to me, that rhythm was my epiphany. I realized I was a lot happier then any time before going to work at offices. It was also after I had to get out of a really weird full-time job in that part of the world, and trying to make sense of my situation.

    As for the standard monetization methods that you felt reservations about. I’ve felt the same reluctance. It’s also why I am strictly against bullshit. I started reading books about exploiting Amazon / Kindle to make money, with various underhanded tactics, and promoting niches I had no interest in. Soon myself, and the rest of the writers on my team, realized what a crock it was.

    What we discovered was by dropping the facade of the internet marketer, our sales actually picked up versus decreased. And that’s probably a really good point for beginning entrepreneurs to learn.

    There’s 1,000,000 weight loss products online. The ones most likely to succeed are by people who are actually fitness coaches who spend some time promoting themselves in an honest way and aligning what they care about with what they promote.

    In other words, business is still for the realm of professionals–not hacks.

    So that’s mostly what I talk about. Becoming a sleazy online marketer will always be intimidating, especially for people who are honestly trying to improve their lives and going on a slow journey like you went on. But I am constantly looking at case studies (you were one of them!) and discovering a repeated pattern: success happens through authenticity and a slow buildup.

    Thanks a lot for getting in touch,


  4. No, no offense taken. I think it’s an important discussion to have.

    I returned to the field because I knew it would take some time to build a business, and I didn’t want to go into debt. But once I returned I noticed how little time and energy is left outside the job, and that’s what I wrote the article about.

    My impression of the location-independent-laptop-business dream has wavered a lot. I went through a cynical period where I believed it was only exceptionally lucky or exceptionally aggressive marketers that succeeded in it, and they succeeded by convincing ordinary people that they could do it too, selling courses that promised to make it easy.

    I settled somewhere in the middle. I see now that while there is a lot of smarm and pandering, there are also a ton of legitimately helpful businesses out there doing great, and that the location-independent lifestyle business is absolutely an achievable reality for me.

    My hindrance has been my lingering pessimism and the fact that I do everything incredibly slowly. Blog posts take me 6-8 hours or more to write and edit. But I saved up and cut my expenses and bought myself a lot of time to learn the ropes.

  5. Location independent work is a pretty varied topic, too. As I mentioned, lately I’ve been working with two (maybe three, soon) clients who are coming to me for novel editing purposes. If I had a full stream of this type of work, I could effectively take it anywhere as a part-time job and maintain a decent salary.

    But another big skill involved is self-motivation on your computer. I wrestled with this for a while, until I started to eliminate writing or product development about anything that didn’t 100% interest me. Suddenly, my productivity shot through the roof because I was focusing all of my attention on what things I want to do. It’s amazing how much nonsense I was doing that was just holding me back (here’s Pareto’s principle again).

    But also I don’t think laptop work is the only option. I know a couple of people who happily have the freedom to go wherever they want in the field of English teaching.

    Another example, I knew one woman who (quite hysterically) was a traveling stripper. “There’s always work in any city in the world, and one night can pay big. So, I can just decide ‘Hey, I’m going to Australia’ this week”.

    But I think for lifestyle design purposes it’s important to not only do what you don’t burnout on, but to also find a way to aggressively lower your work hours per week. I could be in Paris right now, and I’d still be working 13 hours a day on my computer, so how would I really get to experience that city? So my focus right now is shrinking stuff down. My longer term goal is to give myself 4 (!) days off per-week, with three days committed to getting as much stuff done as possible.

    The rest of the time will be spent doing things I’ve scheduled to do in my city of choice, or just socializing and exploring.

    Since I have passive income streams established, I could theoretically cut myself down to 3 work-days right now. But there are still problems with consistency if I’m not manning the ship. In another 5 months I hope to maintain greater consistency.

    But the over-arching point is that I am, at the end of the day, still doing what I want to do. That’s all that really matters. I’m not working at Arby’s or a desk-job I hate, feeling like a serf in some dictator’s office empire.

  6. Very interesting conversations going on here! Like David, I think I also once suffered from paralyzing traits of “shyness, procrastination and pessimism”. Getting better right now. But still need to work on this. That is part of what I like about online business. I am taking this opportunity to develop myself (yes, I hugely believe that entrepreneurship is such a great platform for self development). Recently I’ve learned that “we are all born to be a genius; and it is the process of living that de-geniuses us.” I view working an online business, to me, is a way to filter all the negativity to reveal my true self…which leads to my next point – authenticity!

    I’ve been blogging for more than a year right now. But it’d been moving pretty slowly. And I wasn’t feeling I was in the right mood as I produced content. I think part of it is because I am still looking for a direction/positioning, part of it is because I seemed to not reflect my true voice.

    But I guess everything takes time to develop. I am now slowly feeling the momentum (thank God!) and feel that I am reflecting my voice and personality inside. Like Cyrus was saying, when you write something you are passionate about, your productivity shoots through the roof. I can totally relate to that. Even though my productivity still needs to improve, I am thankful for the fact that I am gradually picking up more momentum by reveal my true self and personality via one blog at a time.

    Like you guys, authenticity is huge to me. It took me more than 6 months to realize that having a ghost write isn’t my thing…I once told myself it was okay. So, I tried it; didn’t really like it; but tried it again somehow; and still didn’t like it…@@…I feel that writing is a way to communicate my thinking, my voice, my personality and connect my spirits with my readers. I feel that I need to take 100% ownership of this…But that’s just my personality opinions.

    Anyway, great advice on designing an income strategy, learning how to make $$ while you travel. Will def. check out your book when I am about to travel (actually, I am planning a trip to India. But that is not happening until I generate some income from what I am doing right now right lol).

    Speaking of traveling while making money, have you ever heard of “MagCast” by Ed Dale, an Australian internet marketer (link is here: Haven’t gotten deep into it. But, basically it’s about publishing magazines on mobile devices. There is one case study about a lady who is a photographer in CA traveled to Cambodia for months. She joined this program, published albums of photos taken by herself about her experience in Cambodia, and made some good money while traveling! Another potential way to travel while making money by doing something you love. By the way, Ed is an internet marketer I have been following for over a year and who I truly respect.

  7. Hey Tracy, thanks a lot for stopping by, and great points of view. I know about Ed Dale, I used to watch some of his videos way back. As for Magcast, that sounds like a really interesting opportunity and the type of thing that I could get into. This is definitely going to be filed in the front portion of my brain.

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