This post was originally written in 2009 as a 2-part series. I have combined it into one post and left it mostly as is as it still remains a good issue for all of us to ponder.
One of the most powerful overall concepts which came out of Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Work Week was the idea of lifestyle design. The concept might have existed previously (I really don’t know), but it was Tim’s book which first brought the concept into my own world.
Lifestyle design is simply creating the life that you want and doing the things which are necessary to empower you to have the life you want.
For me (and many, I assume), the beauty of internet business is that is empowers lifestyle design.
We don’t live to work. We work to live.
The standard template of life looks something like this:
- Grow up in suburbia.
- Go to college.
- Get a job.
- Get married and have 2.5 kids.
- Retire at 65.
- Play a little.
This is, in effect, the 7-point checklist for normalcy. If you want to be normal, follow that checklist. Be at the mercy of circumstance. Hate your job. Have spousal problems. And generally be bored out of your ever-loving mind. But, take comfort in the fact that you’re normal.
Unfortunately, the very concept of lifestyle design in our society makes it a practice of the non-conformist. Lifestyle design means that you do what is necessary to CREATE the life you want. You actively take life by the reins and guide it to what you want it to be rather than becoming a mere reactive footnote to what life dictates for you.
For me, a big part of lifestyle design is having no J-O-B. It wasn’t something that just happened. I very consciously made the decision out of college to NOT look for a job. Up until that point, I was following the standard template. The moment I decided to not seek employment, I was on my own.
Do you remember the freedom you felt when you got out of school for the summer? It was as if freedom began at that point. And when the next school year began, it was like you were going back to prison. Similarly, when I find myself in Tampa on a workday, I watch all the 9-5’ers come out of their cage at noon for lunch. The restaurants all become really crowded. Then, at 1pm like clockwork, they are all back in their cubicle farms. Back in prison. It is as if they simply replaced one prison with another one.
When you’re normal, you can’t do whatever you want because you’ve got to work. You’ve got bills. You can’t retire until you’re 65 because you need to build up a retirement nest egg. Once you leave prison at 65, you’re supposed to be able to enjoy your life. But, by this point, you’re 65. 65 years of your life were spent in the rat race.
Why wait to live?
An Exercise in Lifestyle Design
Cutting that umbilical with the security of the J-O-B is often pretty hard for people. It is really hard to disagree with the template which our society imposes on us. B
ut, let’s put things in perspective and see how hard this really is.
Let’s say that you want to live on a tropical island. You do want to have a family because kids and your wife are important to you. You want to drive a decent little car. You don’t want to work all day. Maybe half a day works for you. You want a boat so you can go out and fish whenever you want. Alright, great. Let’s itemize the approximate costs associated with creating this lifestyle that you want. You want the island life. Great!
If you want a nice place in a gorgeous Caribbean island, lets throw out a number of $1 million to buy a home. You could go higher, but you could also go cheaper. At a 7% interest rate, a monthly payment might be in the neighborhood of $6,500/month. You could also rent an apartment. A decent size apartment in the Virgin Islands (big enough for a family) might run you around $3,000 per month. BTW, I’m looking at figures here from the Ultimate Resources for Moving To and Living in the Virgin Islands.
Rather than get specific on the costs, let’s estimate that it would cost you about $12,000 per month to have a decent lifestyle on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. Divided by 30 days, we’re looking at $400 per day. This might be a high estimate, but let’s just assume it for now.
Let’s say you created and sold a product for $100 on the Internet. You would only need to make 4 sales per day.
Better yet, you build a continuity program (aka membership site). You price it at $20/month for members. If you get 600 members, you’ve hit your mark.
But, on the Internet, you usually are not a one trick pony. You’ll probably have a few small products out there. You’ll have several different revenue streams. Each one wouldn’t need to sell that much for you to add up to $12K per month.
These figures might be ballpark estimates, but do you see the process? Do you see how it really doesn’t take a superman to create the lifestyle that many dream of? There’s probably a lot of people who would think living on a tropical island in the Caribbean would be the ultimate dream life. It really isn’t that hard.
We’re talking 4 sales. 600 members. When talking about something as big as the Internet, these numbers aren’t huge. But, they’ll work for you.
It is about starting out with your ideal life, then working backwards to see what you have to do to put the money there to live that life.
By coupling this exercise with the action of not committing to things that would keep you from realizing that lifestyle, you’ve got yourself there. And you don’t need to wait until you’re 65.
The flip side of this lifestyle design, however, is not to commit yourself to things which would bar you from living the life you want.
For example, in that exercise, I estimated an approximate cost of $12,000 per month to live this island life. The actual cost might be much less. Now, there are certainly jobs out there where you can earn enough money to live in the islands. A solid, corporate job can pull down a solid income. But, the problem is that it holds you prisoner. You might have money, but you don’t have freedom of movement. So, in terms of your lifestyle design, it isn’t a good move to get a corporate job like that.
As another example, let us say you already have an online business going and it is going fine. However, somebody approaches you with a deal that could bring in a lot of money, but it would require a fairly substantial commitment on your part. So, would jumping into this opportunity fit into your lifestyle design? Perhaps not.
It isn’t about avoiding commitments. You can’t go through life without making commitments. But, it IS about making commitments which are in agreement with your overall lifestyle design goals.
Internet business is very flexible and this is one of the many perks. You can design a business to accommodate your overall lifestyle design. You can use outside labor and/or technology to help remove you from the equation and provide personal flexibility.
Some people don’t like to get into doing coaching online because it commits them to a schedule. Some might turn down a cushy job because it would require them to live in a place they don’t want to be. And you know what? Fine! Life isn’t all about money.
Stop And Design Your Own Lifestyle
Alright, so I have talked about this hypothetical example of the island life. I used this example because it happens to be attractive to me. 🙂
But, what about you? What do you want your life to look like? What do you want to be doing during the day? What goals would you like to be pursuing? Are there any causes you would like to further? What does your ideal day look like?
I would actually spend the time to stop, form this scene in your head, and write it down.
With that in mind (and on paper), begin to work it backwards. What kind of money would you need to bring in to live that life? And what things would you need to do or not do to make it happen?
If you go through this, I think you will have some huge realizations about yourself and how you’re going to get there. Trust me, this is time well spent.
And, please share your experiences, thoughts, and anything else in the comments.