Corbett Barr of FreePursuits.com asked a brilliant question in a recent post: “Is lifestyle design dead already?” There is still a fantastic discussion brewing there that I highly recommend for anyone interested in the subject. The fact that so many people are discussing the topic indicates that the moniker ‘lifestyle design’ is growing old despite the fact that designing your own lifestyle is getting easier with more opportunities than ever.
There seems to be at couple of immediate assumptions with ‘lifestyle design.’ The first is that all work is some indentured servitude. Employees are all ’slaves’ sacrificing themselves to someone else’s benefit. The second is that self-employment is some sort of utopia where you bring in wheel-barrels of cash while having the freedom to do whatever you want.
If you don’t like your job, just quit
I have been self-employed for most of my life, but I know that I was never a slave to the short-term jobs I had in the past. My employers provided me with a wage I deemed fair in exchange for work. Both sides found value in the proposition. When I no longer received enough value from the jobs I had, I quit. I always had the freedom to choose. No one forced me to work. I doubt anyone is forcing you to work in a job you dislike either. I also happened to enjoy most of the jobs I had. There is something to be gained in any type of work if you are open-minded enough to want to improve yourself. I would love to find a job in a creative environment working on cool projects. Not for the money, but just to be working closely with talented people on interesting things. The first assumption above doesn’t make any sense to me.
Entrepreneurship is not all fun and games
I have felt like a slave in my own company. When you are the owner, your job doesn’t end just because the clock says you are finished. There are problems and customer needs that have to be addressed. I ended up keeping my last business for several years longer than I would’ve liked out of an obligation to my customers. I wish it was just a job because I would have had the freedom to get out long ago. Self-employment is great, don’t get me wrong. It is just a lot more work and headaches than any job you will have. Many people talking about how great self-employment is probably haven’t had their own company with employees yet.
‘Lifestyle design’ = work as little as possible
I personally have eliminated the term ‘lifestyle design’ from this blog’s tag line because I think it is getting associated with quitting work to travel. Everyone seems to be looking for short cuts to a good life. I personally don’t think making a couple thousand dollars a month from niche sites and drinking buckets on Khao San Road is a particularly meaningful existence. Backpacking is a lot of fun but I wouldn’t want it to be a long-term lifestyle.
Are we all entitled to a good life?
What I find most disappointing is that so many people feel they are entitled to a great, easy lifestyle with little work or sacrifice. The idea of working to provide for your family and improve the lot of mankind is a foreign concept to many. I realize that we are more affluent and comfortable then ever in history, but the laziness is getting to be too much. Who is going to build our houses, make our clothes, take out the garbage, teach children, take care of the elderly and do all the other very real and valuable work in society?
Maybe the lifestyle designers feel that drudgery should be outsourced to cheap overseas workers? They feel above the degradation of work so spend their time searching for easy passive income. Many of these same people find no hypocrisy in outsourcing to low wage countries for subsistence wages. Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with that notion?
I am still naive enough to actually want to make a difference in the world. I want to excel in various pursuits and create value for others. That can’t be done in four hours a week. Greatness in virtually every field still takes a lot of work. There are no short cuts to being a great athlete, musician or writer. Why do people think their are going to be short-cuts in creating value for others? Sure there are examples of people making disproportionate returns on their effort, Wall Street comes to mind, but I don’t think it is wise to expect those over-sized profits for the rest of your life. Easy come, easy go. Lasting sustainable value takes time to build. I could be wrong though. I keep reading about get rich quick schemes regularly so maybe I am the only stupid one working long hours?
The Zero Hour Workweek
Of course, pundits will say that if you enjoy something enough then it is no longer considered work. To that I call bullshit. I love to run but it is still a chore to get my shoes on and get out the door. I love the feeling after having finished a good workout but getting started is not much fun. I love to play guitar. However, making serious improvement requires a level of effort and motivation that is difficult to sustain. Practicing scales for an hour or two everyday is not particularly enjoyable. Great musicians do it because the importance of excelling at their craft is worth all the pain and sacrifice. It is still work. I love sharing my ideas and connecting with others on my blogs, but it still takes a lot of work to research, write and edit decent posts. I too want all the rewards without the effort, but that would be foolish to expect something for nothing. Or is it?
It is easy to say that you want to make a living as a musician when you are only practicing an hour or two a week. That amount of playing is always fun. Just like all the lifestyle design dreamers who long for an easy life making huge passive income doing things they love. It sounds really nice when you are getting started but it starts to look a lot like work after you realize the easy money is not so easy after all. The opportunities are there and they always will be for those willing to hustle and adapt. I personally believe their are more opportunities than ever. I also know that every successful person I have encountered is not afraid to put in the hours to continuously learn and really strive to improve. There are no overnight successes unless you are talking about Chris Brogan; 11 years to an overnight success.
Is lifestyle design dead?
I don’t think so. We are fortunate enough to live in affluent societies where we expect more out of work than just a paycheck. Most of us are striving to find meaningful and fulfilling work. That takes conscious lifestyle planning or design. I will continue to use the term because I feel there is a common understanding about the idea that we indeed have the freedom to shape our own lives more than ever. With that said, I can’t wait for the get rich quick, miracle diet, speed learning, quick and easy version of ‘lifestyle design’ to die a quick and painful death. Expecting a lot for a little effort is for dreamers. People who are willing to put in the work to master their dreams and lifestyle goals are infinitely much more than the hype behind the phrase. Designing your lifestyle is for people with vision, courage and work ethic. If you want the miracle ‘lifestyle design’ pill I am sure you won’t have much trouble finding someone to sell it to you for only $97 per month. Hurry it is only a limited time offer!