I was asked by Eric Schiller to write a response to his recent post calling for a more socially responsible Lifestyle Design. Klint Finley also responded, defined many useful terms, and made some suggestions for how Lifestyle Design could be put to socially conscientious use. I am going to start on a different tack–a personal one–and try to explore what I feel is missing from Lifestyle Design and how it could change.
I have always been looking for a way out of the rat race. My whole life. So when The Four Hour Workweek was launched, I gave it a shot. It promised a lot but was somehow different from most self-development and business books. I have been asking myself two related questions. What drew me to Lifestyle Design in the first place? And what is it that I want from an online business movement?I had not asked myself the second question until Eric started this discussion. The answer turned out to be a little weird. I wanted a rational and practical leftist radical agenda. By that I mean, roughly, people using the Internet and other technologies to build and support development efforts and a new economy.
Imagine one talented Internet marketer supporting a small community of ten living in West Africa who buy a community house. Cost of living is much cheaper, so it is entirely possible. Once the house is paid for, the community has a near-free place to live. They then work with local cooperatives to begin to export handmade goods to the US, taking a small cut. A new business, which supports eleven Americans and many West Africans, has been bootstrapped. Or what about a group of ten lifestyle designers pooling their money to buy themselves houses one at a time?
What I wanted from Lifestyle Design has never been to make an easy living and goof off all day. My idea has been to solve my problems of survival financially, so I can help others do the same. Maybe that is too much to ask of others. Are people that generous? Am I that generous, for that matter? I do not know. It was only a dream I had, not a reality.
I have always seen the idea of passive income as a means of reducing the risk of other, more socially valuable yet less profitable ventures. Why take out a loan when you can sell an ebook? A small group pooling their efforts could solve the housing problem for the members very quickly.And removing a house from the cycle of debt is a good thing. I am going to go out on a limb here with a little theory and appeal to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is cliché, I know. But I have a point. The simplified version of the Hierarchy of Needs is that once you solve the basic survival needs, you get bored and you start thinking about other things like helping others and being a better person. We have not solved the basic survival needs for most Americans.In a sense, we have solved them because we do not starve or go without shelter if we can get a job. But in another sense, we have not solved them because we cannot move on.
Our psychologies tell us to move up the hierarchy and start working on social issues. But we cannot. We are stuck in our job almost half of our waking lives. And our jobs are not helping us self-actualize. An ennui develops. It is this ennui that Lifestyle Design promises to eliminate by reducing working hours to a minimum. It is an appealing alternative to the corporate job.
Imagine a team of seven crack Internet marketers building seed funding for a microfinance organization in Ecador. What about a group of Lifestyle Designers who fund their own yoga/community center. They can worry about making it self-sustaining after they have gotten established because of their passive income. The point is that there are a lot of great things that can be done once you do not have to worry about survival. And if you have a little more cash, you can start riskier ventures. And not just financial ventures. Imagine 1023 lifetyle designers (1 mentors/funds 2 who mentor/fund two each who mentor/fund two each . . .) who pool their resources and fund lobbyists to pass laws to reform corn subsidies. The possibilities are endless. I would propose two drastic changes to the movement.
- Lifestyle Design is no longer about the rockstar lifestyle. It is about being a development rockstar. Saving babies, building capacity, disaster relief, etc.
- Lifestyle Designers stop selling programs about how to sell ebooks and just mentor a few people at a time until they are on their own feet.
These are drastic changes because they totally change the business model of successful LD bloggers. Instead of selling the dream, you give it as a gift with the hope that the receiver will pass it on, too. Of course, there is a limit to how many people can live off of information products. But the idea is not that everyone does it. The idea is that enough people do it to develop something that can get more people out of the mire that our current economic system offers. What that something is anybody’s guess. This something is what I mean by “new economy”.
If people are freed from concern about their survival and have money to spare, what kind of economy would develop? A gift-based economy? An economy of patronage? I certainly cannot say. But I think it would be better than what we have. With basic necessities solved, where does the mind turn to?
The current, most visible model of Lifestyle Design is to sell access to Lifestyle Design itself. I suggest that we turn that around. In theory, Lifestyle Design frees the Designer from day-to-day concern about his own survival. With that new freedom and a little generosity, the Designer could turn to other people’s issues of survival and apply themselves to solve it. Is this too radical to expect? Maybe. But would somebody do it? And could it work?
Eric Normand can be found dreaming up schemes to get himself out of corporate wage-slavery. He currently blogs at Renegade Yogi about self-transformation and his upcoming travels. He might be visiting your neck of the woods soon. Drop him a line or follow him on Twitter here. He would be honored and delighted to meet you in person.
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