Is Lifestyle Design Only for Slackers?

Is this Lifestyle Design? (by PabloPM)

Is this Lifestyle Design? (by PabloPM)

Most people seem to associate lifestyle design with an easy life. Perhaps the most common ideas are about quitting your job to travel the world while working only a few hours a week. That is great, I want that life for a while too, but I feel it is more of a longer vacation then a life plan. What do you do after you get bored of living out of a suitcase? Where do you find meaning in your life? What is next?

If you are working in a boring dead-end job doing something you hate, I can understand that your primary focus is to stop-working. Quitting your job to focus on your own personal freedom and entertainment can be essential to re-inventing yourself. It may be absolutely necessary for a short-time, allowing you to recharge your energy, clear your thinking and devise a way to make your mark in the world. I am personally looking forward to a break from my own business just because I have been doing it for more than 10 years now and I have lost interest. However, I won’t be able to roam around the world for too long with out going crazy. It usually takes me about a week or so on vacation until I start itching to move forward on my business or personal ideas.

The Age of Affluence

We live in amazing times; we have almost unlimited opportunities to earn income and the price of goods and services are cheaper than ever.  There are real options to live inexpensively and exist on only part-time working hours. It is no longer a dream, people all over the world are proving that it is a real and relatively easily achievable goal. So is that the purpose of life, to just exist, working as little as possible? I don’t believe the quality of our lives is measured by how little work we do or how many parties we go to. There has to be something more. Something bigger than just a life of ease and entertainment.

The Decline of Consumerism

I think I am safe to assume that rampant consumerism has been taken to an extreme. We consume too much, pollute too much and work too much in jobs without meaning or real challenge. So the first step is cutting back on our purchases. Give up the new car every two years. Stop upgrading the size of your house. Don’t buy the third 50 inch TV? With the money you save, work less, take an extended sabbatical, travel the world and generally turn your mind back on again. But then what?

What do you do after you are managing to live on a 4 or 14 hour workweek? What do you do after you have traveled the world for a couple of years? What do you do when you are sick of working on passive income opportunities that fail to inspire you? What is next?

Is quality of life about 4 hour workweeks?

Do you want your doctor and dentist to be working four hour workweeks? How about teachers, nurses, care-workers, public servants? What kind of a world would we have if everyone focused on working as little as possible? I don’t want my favorite restaurants and cafes to only be open 4 hours a week. I don’t want airports and hotels open only part time. The world would come to a stand still if everyone were working as little as possible.

Bill Gates has devoted his life and his fortune to solving some of the biggest problems in the world. He could buy an island and every luxury imaginable and sit on the beach for the rest of his life, yet he strives to do good things in the world. Does the rock star Bono focus on minimizing the amount of work he does every week? How about Mother Theresa and Ghandi? Did they choose the easy way?

I believe excellent living is about finding ways to contribute as much as possible to society. It is not about taking as much as you can with as little effort as possible. How about a 60 hour work week where we are all striving to create as much value for our fellow global citizens as we can on our short time on this planet?

Lifestyle Design is Not New

There have always been people have always been living unconventional lives. For centuries, maybe longer, a small percentage of people have been choosing their own paths in life. Peasant farmers in China are designing their own lives when they give up rural life to work in factories in cities. Our ancestors did the same thing during the industrial revolution.

Devoting your life to volunteer projects around the world is also lifestyle design. There are thousands of people around the world that have given up comfortable and secure western lifestyles to aid disadvantaged people around the world.

Joining the military and being stationed overseas has to be the most extreme mode of lifestyle design. Risking your life to protect the lives of others is a conscious lifestyle design choice that millions of military personnel around the world have made.

The World Needs More People to Rise Up to the Challenge

You can focus your time on building passive income streams to survive in low wage countries, or you can work to help put disadvantaged children through school. You can spend your energy pumping out niche sites to market affiliate programs or you can work to feed the millions of starving people in the world. You can work on the next Silicon Valley start up with plans of cashing out big, or you can skip the fast cars and expensive networking events and just start working on something that has the power to change the world.

Certainly there are many people doing great things in the world now, we just need more. If lifestyle design is about minimizing work hours and pursuing a life of hedonism, than I am blogging about the wrong topic. What do you think “lifestyle design” is about?

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My name is John Bardos. My wife and I gave up our business, house and possessions in Japan to search for more meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We've discovered that a satisfying life is about rich experiences, quality relationships and meaningful contribution, NOT consumption.

24 Responses to Is Lifestyle Design Only for Slackers?

  1. Dave and Deb says:

    Great post, it goes well with our Giving Back, Travel the World and Make a Difference Series. Traveling is great, but I think balance is important. I am inspired by the Bono’s and Angelina Jolie’s out there. They could disappear and live the good life, but instead they are compelled to help. We want to follow their lead and keep raising awareness about problems and issues that we see in the world. As travelers, we see a lot of suffering and poverty. We may be striving to travel full time as well, but we are also hoping to make a difference while we reach our goals.
    Well said about the 4 hour work week. I think the most important thing in life is having a purpose. If you love what you do and have a purpose, you don’t care how long you work, as a matter a fact you thrive on the work and can’t wait to do more.
    .-= Dave and Deb´s last blog ..Giving Back, Teaching Monks in Nepal =-.

  2. Nate says:

    I can’t even tell you how great this post is.

    Lifestyle design for me is creating enough time, due to easy income streams, to help others and provide some value to society.

    I’m never going to be able to work 60 hour weeks. I know that, it just won’t happen. I’m not going to be providing any value for others in that way, because I will be so miserable. Working less, to have more time to help others and live how I want is my version of lifestyle design.

    You just gave me a lot to think about for the rest of the day!

  3. Robert says:

    This Rocks.
    I love posts like that challenge you to think about what you are doing. Lifestyle design is certainly for people cut from a different mold, I think thats part of why we don’t go hawking crap. We may look for niche websites, or sell information products…but we do it with quality and care in mind. We ultimately want to live out our dreams and from the people I’ve met, that usually means making a difference somewhere. We recognize 40-80 hours a week behind a desk just isn’t doing that. We will be more effective elsewhere.

    Life design for me is straight forward. Life design is…

    constantly taking the time to have an opportunistic perspective on life by retraining our minds to how the world can work

    creating hyper effective and efficient thought out processes for living life, from outsourcing, to managing income sources, to doing laundry. smart living.

    building income sources that take the shape of a business, but are built to be managed easily, generating money for following dreams and real business development/investing.

    the idea as a whole is to mold a system out of life so in the end your efforts fuel your passions. otherwise this life will run you silly. i fully believe when people have that freedom, they’ll be helping others. if you gave me a billion dollars right now…after getting over the fact i had a billion dollars…i’d still support my friends, family and people i meet with their technology, that’s how i will continually make a difference to the world.

    the “molding” i’ve realized in the last couple months isn’t some ticket to free money and unlimited travel. gladly, its something of much more character. IT’S FREAKING HARD. but the work is a training, a putting in place systems and practices that will create money, skill, education, friends, and freedom for dream pursuit. i for one am trying to chronicle my journey there at my project site, it isn’t easy but the outcome makes “working for the weekend” and the typical bar scene, saving up for a big tv, and mortgage payments laughable…how did that ever become our goal? i’ve gone on too long! great post!
    .-= Robert´s last blog ..Real Life | Work Work, Get Friday off with Pay =-.

  4. Karol Gajda says:


    Thank you, this was an incredibly thought-provoking post. The beautiful thing with lifestyle design, or life in general, is that we can choose to do what we want. Some people want a fancy car or a big house or the newest toys. I know I did. Once I achieved some of that that I realized it’s not what’s important. But that doesn’t mean it’s not right for others. We need people on both ends of the spectrum or life would be boring.

    If everybody only worked 4 hours/week it would make life difficult, but if everybody only worked 60+ hours/week it would make life unenjoyable. I’ve worked 100 hour weeks and I’ve worked 0 hour months. I’m much happier doing less work, but like you mentioned, not working at all gets really stale really quickly.

    Again, lifestyle design is about doing what you want, whether that’s helping others, helping yourself, or doing both.

    Thanks again. This really got me thinking.
    .-= Karol Gajda´s last blog ..Get Fit In Just 1 Minute or “Am I Gonna Die From Heat Exhaustion?” =-.

  5. Walter says:

    Interesting insights you have written here. It’s more of a question of what to do with our lives. No matter where we are there is always the feeling of lack, there is always something to we need, but we don’t know what it is. And so we search.

    You’re courageous to make and face change. 🙂

  6. John says:

    Thanks for the comment Walter! I also appreciate the compliment, but I don’t really see it as being courageous. We all have the opportunity to do what we want in life. I just want to do something different now.

  7. John says:

    Thanks for the comment.
    I agree that lifestyle design is about doing what you want. I also believe that we have more opportunities now to do the things we want. The key issue is that we think we want an easy and convenient life, but maybe it is hard work, sacrifices and real contribution that are most enjoyable in the end.

  8. John says:

    Great, thoughtful comment Robert! Thanks.

    I also believe in working smart. Working 40 plus hours a week on non-productive tasks is fool hardy, and many jobs seem to fit that category. From that sense, optimizing your work, outsourcing, and finding high reward activities to focus your efforts are the only sane choices. I do the same with my business and my web projects.

    My post was more of a cynical look at many online marketing efforts. More and more people are chasing opportunities for the highest potential payout. It is not about doing something they believe in or are passionate about. It is only about the money. I admit, I entertained some of those ideas for a while too. It would be great to quickly set up websites and earn a steady income stream indefinitely!

    However, the reality as you mentioned is that, “IT’S FREAKING HARD.” The reality is that most people seem to be working for a few dollars an hour on those projects, with the hopes of some eventual payoff that may never come. I also believe that it will get increasingly harder as more people try to capitalize on those generic opportunities.

    I want to see more authenticity in the world. I want to see people working on projects because they want to be great and world class. Write a blog because you have a message to share with the world, not because it has the best paying affiliate programs. There are far too many spam sites in the world with the only purpose of maximizing revenue. Profits are important, but there are more personally rewarding ways to earn a living. Greatness takes monumental effort. Regardless of what project we are working on, there will always be someone new that is willing to work harder and smarter. My belief is that we can strive to be great now and raise the bar for everyone, or we can do the minimum and get ran over by the growing tsunami of online competition.

  9. John says:

    Hi Nate,
    Thanks again for the comment.

    I guess it depends on what we call “work.” You think helping others is not work, just as Tim Ferris doesn’t count the hundreds or thousands of hours he invested promoting himself and his ideas. I think once you start working on your own projects, there is no difference between work and personal time. It is all your life. I always work 60 hour weeks, because the projects I work on are more interesting than other forms of entertainment.

  10. John says:

    Thanks for the comment, Deb!

    In all honesty, I am not contributing much yet. I am still pretty selfish and doing things for my own interest and future benefit. However, I am trying to build a more meaningful life and I think contribution is the only way to achieve that.

    I also love travel and an easy life, however it is not enough. I need to be working on ideas and creating value for someone. I think you and Dave have found a good balance, but more importantly, you are working hard to improve.

  11. Great Post, John

    To me, lifestyle design means living on purpose, living on your own terms.

    What that translates into for me personally is to spend less time on income generating activities and more time on meaningful activities such as travelling, photographing, reading and writing, and inspiring others to live life on purpose and on their terms.
    .-= Rasheed Hooda´s last blog ..Overcoming Fears and Taming the Ego =-.

  12. John says:

    Hi Rasheed,

    I like your expression, “living on purpose.” It is easy just to set our lives on autopilot and do what is expected. It takes work and courage to live on purpose.

    Thanks for the comment.

  13. Andy Hayes says:

    Great post. I don’t think Lifestyle Design is for Slackers. It’s only for slackers if that’s what you want, because Lifestyle Design is designing a life you WANT that WORKS. What does work mean for you?

    People get so hung up on Tim’s 4 Hour Work Week when they don’t pay attention to his definitions of work vs play. Instead they should be asking themselves: what works for me?
    .-= Andy Hayes´s last blog ..Darlene and Thomas Talk about Life after 40 =-.

  14. Cath Duncan says:

    I’m with Andy’s definition of lifestyle design – it’s about designing a life you want, that works for you. All sorts of ideas abut how you “should” live your life have become wrapped up in the idea of lifestyle design, and I’m concerned that it’s just becoming another template that people try to squeeze their lives into, trying to be Tim Ferriss.

    Lifestyle design is about consciously, proactively deciding what you value and designing your life around that. My sense is that everyone values making a positive contribution and being active, doing and creating. I don’t believe in the concept of lazy people. Sure there are disappointed people, tired people, de-motivated people, people who hate what they’re doing, angry people, passive-aggressive people, overwhelmed people, and many other reasons why people might appear to resist “work” or making a positive contribution, but there are no lazy people.

    It’s great to pick ideas and tools from each other’s lives, and I love the examples you highlight on your blog, where you share real people’s stories of how they’ve designed their life. But it’s so important to remember that lifestyle design is about creating your own mix, and the happiness and feeling of freedom that we all ultimately want only comes from being free to be YOU and feeling free to create a life around the things and experiences you value. Trying to copy someone else’s lifestyle is a recipe for feeling confined… like trying to squeeze into someone else’s shoes that are the wrong shape and size for you.

    .-= Cath Duncan´s last blog ..How to Find the Hidden Opportunities in Crises =-.

  15. John says:

    Thanks for the great comment Cath.

    I agree that lifestyle design is about designing your own life. I also agree that many people are chasing Tim Ferriss’s idea of lifestyle design, and perhaps not choosing their own path.

    I don’t know if I agree that there are no lazy people. I am definitely lazy sometimes. People naturally want to do as little as possible. It takes monumental effort to be at the top of your field. Most people don’t achieve success by whatever definition they create for themselves because it is hard work. I wanted to be a rock star, but I didn’t have the motivation to practice 6 to 8 hours a day. I wanted to be a competitive triathlete, but I was only training about 10 to 15 hours a week. I needed to double that if I were to get anywhere. I think I was lazy towards those goals.

  16. Hi John,
    Great ideas here, and it is very timely. I think when I first started \trying to figure it all out\ I was submerging myself in books that talked excessively about passive income and working less and less hours. Even when I started my journey as a business backpacker, I was in severe need to take some time off and sort things out.

    I would say initially, the lifestyle design of working less, spending less, and living somewhere cheaper gave me the opportunity to do something I had never done before: figure out how to relax & determine how to share my passion with the masses. When I was living the California based lifestyle, my focus was on Making More and Putting Less Time In. However, after I got away from that mindset, I was able to clarify that I could Put More Time In and Help More People. Because my cost of living is less, I can lower my prices, and help more folks that need it the most.

    This post is great because it forces you to look at the reasons you want to design a new lifestyle. I would just say to be open to phases– relaxation, inspired ideas, and getting motivated to help in bigger ways. I think it is OK to reside in the transitions and notice how we are changing over time :0) Thanks for sharing this great info!!!


  17. Greg Rollett says:

    Hey John – I love reading the comments just as much as the posts itself. For me, I think it plays back to your core influences – whatever they may be. For some, passive incomes and cheap traveling is what drives them to produce. For others they will risk all to help others and some just want to beat the rat race.

    No matter your direction in life, your need to be happy and live a full life are determined by your actions in creating your day-to-day. It matters less about what you, me, or anyone says and about how they feel doing what they do. In the end, the people making niche sites will wake up and feel unfulfilled (or they may be the ones laughing last), or maybe I might wake up and see that all the time I spend helping others I could have been spending with my family or friends instead of alienating them or trying to get them to join in my mission.

    Just like Brooke said above, you got me thinking again and that is super important to inspire ideas and keep us growing. Great work.

  18. Brandon Pearce says:

    Fabulous post! I’ve enjoyed reading the comments as well. This is exactly the topic that’s been on my mind for the past while. I’ve built a “real” (non-affiliate) business that supports my family, and while I worked many 60 hour weeks to get it going, I now maintain it with less than 10 hours per week. However, my main purpose in creating it really was to free up my time, and to make me money. So even though the business is helping people, it’s not really my “passion” so much (in fact, I’m a little burned out even with the few hours I’m spending on it), and I’m still searching trying to find other meaningful ways to contribute to society, that will also leave me feeling fulfilled.

    I also quickly realized that more money and material possessions don’t equate bliss. So we’re trying the travel thing now. My family is selling everything we own and moving to a foreign country for a while. We hope it will be a good growing opportunity, and give us a chance to rethink our perspectives and goals. We’ll do some volunteering. Maybe I’ll find time to get back into composing music, which I enjoyed as a teenager. Or maybe some other talent will reveal itself, and I’ll find a way to make a difference somewhere. I wish I could know it all right now, but I’m learning to try to enjoy taking life as it comes.

  19. Is quality of life about 4 hour workweeks? | | Ramblings of a non-conformist | Tomasz Gorecki says:

    […] environment so much that we can’t stand it such as our jobs. But as the article states for lifestyle design, look around at Bill Gates, do you see him buying his own island and moving to it and living there. […]

  20. John says:

    Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for the great comment. I think your life is what ‘lifestyle design’ should really about. You have built a real business, not chasing illusive passive income. You are home educating your children. You are searching for more meaningful ways to contribute. You want to explore the world. That is fantastic.

    I don’t like the term ‘passion’ so much. Too many people are giving the impression that there is some dream calling out there that is going to keep you so excited and energized for the rest of your life. The truth is that fun things like music, sports, eating and even sex get boring if you do too much of them. By all means, do things you enjoy, but have realistic expectation of what happiness work will bring you. Satisfaction must come internally; from doing excellent things regardless of the work; from spending quality time with people important to you; and from being yourself. The type of work matters much less than how you approach the work.

  21. Carmen says:

    This post gets at a really core issue not only for those of us living independently of location but for the rest of the community who is looking on. As others have already said, lifestyle design is about making conscious choices about how and where you live your life. It doesn’t mean you have to fly off to the neighboring country. I guess my related question would be, “what is a slacker?” I think in our western society a lot of people assume that anyone who refuses to plug into the corporate machine must be a slacker. That includes any creatives no matter how busy or how successful. I mean, a lot of people see musicians as slackers, right? This is far from the truth. I believe that a “slacker” is actually the opposite of someone engaged in lifestyle design. A slacker is a person who lives life unconsciously, going through the motions and refusing to look at their options. You can find slackers anywhere, and believe me, there are plenty in corporations. And to be balanced, you’ll also find slackers on the beaches of Thailand. Location and occupation have nothing to do with being a slacker or being engaged in lifestyle design. It is a state of consciousness.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..3 Questions to Ask to Make Sure Your Nomading Trip is Environmentally Friendly =-.

  22. John says:


    Thanks for the great comment!
    I don’t think anyone could call a professional musician a “slacker.” Getting your “10,000 hours” of practice to become great takes years of dedication. However, there are many slacker musicians who play 30 minutes to an hour an day or less and will never be particularly talented. I am one of those slacker musicians. 🙂

    I completely agree that “location and occupation have nothing to do with being a slacker or being engaged in lifestyle design.” I wasn’t trying to link location and occupation to lifestyle design. I am only talking about effort.

    You said that “people assume that anyone who refuses to plug into the corporate machine must be a slacker.” I don’t think that is true at all. As you said, there are plenty of slackers in corporations. That is precisely the problem I am talking about. Go into any business any you will not have much of a problem finding slackers, in western countries anyway. There is a surplus of slackers and many of them have feel that there are easy riches in online passive income opportunities. (The same is true for get rich quick schemes, instant diets, learn languages without studying, etc.)

    My definition of “slacker” is someone who tries to put in minimum effort into everything in their life. That could be school, work, hobbies, basically anything that requires effort and practice to get good. Those people exist in and out of corporations. I didn’t mean to imply that if you don’t have a regular job, you are a slacker.

    Quite the contrary. Artists, entrepreneurs, writers, athletes often work longer hours, take less vacations, put in more effort and make greater sacrifices than employees. Those people have “designed their lives” and are putting in the work (effort/time) to back it up. I don’t believe this is what is commonly thought of as “lifestyle design” now.

    What I was trying to say in this post is that the current meme of “lifestyle design” has been co-opted to mean – work as little as possible and do as many fun things as possible.
    It is not about doing work you are passionate about, it is about ease of earning money. That is the part I do not want to be a part of. I am all for designing your own life. Hardworking people have been designing their own lives for centuries. A small minority will always make conscious choices to live life on their own terms. The trouble in my view is that masses of people are now following Tim Ferriss’ idea of “lifestyle design.” People have been sold on an easy life of exotic experiences. I don’t believe that that type of life will create lasting enjoyment and fulfillment.

  23. Carmen says:

    Hey John,

    Believe me, I’m with you 100% on your points. My comment was really directed at what I see as a common public interpretation of “lifestyle design” as being, like you said, about seeing how few hours you can work so that you can go sit in a hammock or take tango lessons while you sip wine. While I’m a big fan of tango, wine and hammocks, I believe the notion that Tim Ferriss has created that if you’re working more than 4 hours per week and don’t have a team of virtual assistants running your business while you are being “new rich” then you’ve got it all wrong.

    I believe the most blessed people in this world are the people who LOVE what they do. If you get up in the morning excited to take on the new day because you LOVE your daily life, whether it’s being a CEO, a fisherman, or a mom, then you are among the lucky few. When you love what you do, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’re doing it. You’re not even thinking in those terms. And to be super-blessed?! That is to have your work matter in the bigger picture. To have work that helps the world in some way makes everything even better.

    Some of us are born from infancy knowing what we love to do but most of us aren’t sure and go through many changes as we develop our interests. For that majority of us, lifestyle design coaching can be a key in helping to know where your passions like and forming a plan to reach them.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..3 Questions to Ask to Make Sure Your Nomading Trip is Environmentally Friendly =-.

  24. www.BreakingOut.NET » Why I Hate Lifestyle Design says:

    […] John Bardos over at write an excellent post on this subject: Is LifeStyle Design Only for Slackers?  […]

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