The Lifestyle Design (un)Manifesto

By Eric Schiller on May 19th, 2010 1

If you hadn’t noticed, Beyond Growth has been very quiet in 2010.  We had a few strong posts at the beginning of the year, but since then the feed has been quiet.  In a sense this is because Beyond Growth (and it’s authors) have been experiencing a kind of existential crisis within the personal development and marketing fields. When Beyond Growth launched, we really made few of our goals clear, aside from an intention set in the sidebar to focus on several broad topics.  All of our intent and ideas were exposed either in the context of the posts or our surprisingly successful comments section.  The truth is that our goals for Beyond Growth were and still remain quite broad.  We have plans to ramp up our posting in the coming weeks and months, and to begin this post will make one of our goals more clear.The biggest criticism that we receive is that we rarely offer tangible solutions to the problems of the gurus that we criticize.  While I think ‘don’t cook paying customers in sweat lodges’ is a pretty obvious solution, the truth is that many of the problems we see in personal development and related fields are just that, obvious once you stop sipping the kool aid.

In many ways personal development and marketing resembles a series of large and interconnected cults, and when one is unplugged from such ideologies it is easy to see how deeply we were buried within an elaborate fantasy.  In the case of lifestyle design, the fantasy of conscious consumption has become embedded in the very fabric of its culture.  It is assumed that if you are participating in lifestyle design that you are also somehow more ‘awake’ and intelligent than ordinary Wal-Mart gobbling consumers.  Life style design itself functions in the greater western culture as a form of elite-consumerism,  by building one’s ideal lifestyle around specific artisan consumables, foreign locations, and ‘freedom’ individuals are taking part in a state of fully realized consumerism.

I am not particularly interested at this time in defining who is and isn’t ‘conscious’, (I’ll leave that to the likes of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson for now) however, it is very important to realize that the entire notion of lifestyle design is a fantasy itself, derived from the same consumption-based ideology that powers Wal-Marts and sweatshops around the world.  As Slavoj Zizek might suggest, the problem is not that we are participating in a fantasy, but the fact that we do not realize it is one. We truly believe that we understand what is going on, and that our role in the system is ethical and even contributing to the greater good.

This fantasy within the lifestyle design community is problematic because as a movement it could be so much more than an elite ‘more conscious’ form of consumption.  It is pretty obvious to anyone looking that this planet is in terrible trouble, if not from global warming, then from the fact that we are raping this planet’s environment in the name of our own comfort.   By participating in lifestyle design as laid out by Tim Ferris and his ilk, followers believe they are bettering themselves and the world by becoming narcissistic “self-actualized” consumers, traveling around the world like Chris Guillebeau contributing countless tons of c02 into the environment all in the name of “excitement,” “changing things,” and completing pointless personal goals. To the gurus who spread these ideologies, any change is good change, so long as it makes you happy, richer, or both.   We can do better than this. It goes without saying that most of the people who try on the lifestyle design…lifestyle find themselves failing long before they buy their $50,000 dream car, and likely go back to their normal dreams of becoming the next James Arthur Ray (okay, maybe someone who isn’t into baking people.)

In my interactions with bloggers such as Charlie Gilkey, Mark Silver, and Jonathan Mead, I’ve discovered there is great merit in engaging bloggers in conversation.   In that sense, this is not just a critique of lifestyle design, but a call to action.  Lifestyle design community needs a wake up call. Lifestyle design needs to become a true movement; it needs to find a meaningful cause that will actually better the planet and its many citizens.  I contend that lifestyle design needs to become a movement focused on building a society that actually works in a sustainable, ethical way, a society that feeds its poor, and renews its natural resources or it will simply not survive. We need to put our creators, hackers, and designers to work engaging culture outwardly, showing mainstream culture that the future is not as bleak as backwoods commentators on Fox News would have them think.

What we need to do is stop focusing on individual desires, and start converting lifestyle design into a collective of people who can influence the greater culture for a sustainable future.  The truth is that lifestyle designers aren’t any different than anybody else on this planet, and as people with a great deal of influence, we have a responsibility (and I hesitate to say this)  to change the world far beyond our own ends.



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46 responses to “The Lifestyle Design (un)Manifesto”

  1. herkamon says:

    OK boss, what's the plan then?

    Plenty of fantastic (and strangely practical) resources already exist, but I suppose reprinting the Principia Discordia won't make anyone rich the same way that "how to make an OK living selling ebooks to people who want to make $$$ without doing any real work [but they'll probably just end up selling more of the same]" courses will.

    Although one finds that more goofy clip art and odd pictures == less critical thinking among people who read the books. i.e. people don't get Bob.

  2. @ericnormand says:

    When I first started reading Tim Ferriss, I was excited that someone was actually doing something unique and original with their life. Something that could really change the crappy workaholic culture we are becoming.

    After a few years, I am really disappointed with what lifestyle design has become. I thought it was a movement of creative people out to change things–a counterculture. What it really is is young people realizing that the getting is good to make easy cash by creating mini-corporations and using the power of the internet. It's business as usual. Only the tools have changed.

    But business and capitalism as we know it are here to stay. Unless someone has a really good idea that is totally beyond me. (Please share it if you have such an idea.)

    In Tim Ferriss's defense, there are lots of useful ideas in his work. Ideas that could be put to use. The part in his book about freeing yourself from corporate drudgery is good. And about not living for retirement is good.

    I can't blame people for coming up with useless goals. Our culture has had a serious lack of purpose since the end of the Cold War. The space race was the last hard thing we attempted. People need to commit themselves, join communities, etc. But our culture doesn't help us, since the predominant goal is getting rich. Helping others confers very little status.

    Great essay. Thanks for starting the discussion!

    • I agree that freeing one's self from corporate drudgery is good, as is not living for retirement. Notably, most popular business books are on these exact subjects, and leading-edge corporations (Google anyone?) are making changes in these directions. In this way I see lifestyle design as pro-corporate and pro-Capitalism. In some ways Ferris' critique (repeated by a million clones) is a straw man. While many still have boring, soul-sucking corporate jobs, the future of corporate work is meaning- and passion-driven. Whether this is a good thing or not is debatable! And I think we should be highly skeptical of a "counterculture" that promotes the same values as the main culture.

      Personally I think Capitalism is fatally flawed, at least Capitalism based on classical economics and on an interest-bearing currency. What is the solution? This is a very complex question with many angles.

  3. Perhaps the best response to "lifestyle design" is community design.

    People seeking a better lifestyle often speak of authenticity, meaning, purpose, implying or stating directly that their lives and jobs lack such things. But what could be more meaningful and purposeful than community, than working towards something larger than one's self?

    The challenge is not to make a new consumer identity out of this community involvement, a "philanthropic self," but to actually care about others, about the greater whole without making it into a merit badge, a personal brand, or a lifestyle. Easier said than done perhaps, but more worth doing than traveling to every country in the world, completing an Ironman triathlon, or creating a stream of passive income so you can have lots of time to cheat at martial arts!

    • @ericnormand says:

      Exactly right. And this was the unfulfilled (to me) promise of The Four Hour Workweek: you would have time again to spend with your family and friends. Flitting around the world is more of a personal choice for how he spends his time.

      Ferriss is unquestionably pro-corporate.

      I think the Maker counter-culture is interesting. It gives the means of production to the masses. I also like the new urban garden movement, though technologically, they have a long way to go before they can build anything self-sustaining.

      As to whether capitalism is fatally flawed, I think that is a truism. What system will not die eventually? Is there a specific flaw? Will it die in our lifetime? That is, is it an emergency? Would it be bad if it died?

      I find it a bit amusing to talk about capitalism in such a negative light when I definitely benefit from the fruits of it. Mercantilism opened up the world, and capitalism developed it. I think it's really sad that so many places are filled with cultureless corporate franchises. But to so many people, the Walmart coming into town meant access to so much that they needed but couldn't get otherwise. Its the very efficiency that makes it mistreat employees that enables communities to get access to the outside world. Which they want.

      I wish they could do more with what they have locally. You know: why do you need Walmart to bring you broccoli from California? Sure, it's convenient, but if you develop local agriculture more, you'd have more stuff. It's so much easier to wait for someone to bring it to you.

      I witnessed the same thing in Guinea. I was shocked when I first got there by how much stuff in the market was cheap Chinese plastic crap. Where was the twine made from local fibers? Where were the handcrafted baskets? What about local ingenuity?

      The truth is that industrial products are cheaper and stronger than artisan-made goods. Even when they have to be shipped from across the globe. Cheap, plentiful oil is the culprit. And just like Walmart, where profits fund the corporate center and the expansion of new stores, money from the local economy in Guinea was siphoned straight to China. Individuals got richer (with goods) but the whole community got poorer (because there was no export of goods where money could enter the economy).

      Capitalism may be on the way out. Who knows. I do know that I left Guinea pro-capitalist. Not that I believed in a consumer-oriented culture. But some of the criticisms of capitalism just don't hold water. I don't think capitalism makes people poorer. People started out poor, with sticks and rocks. Now some people are wealthy, and the numbers are increasing. Competition (along with cooperation) is in our blood.

      But there are a lot of things I don't like about our current system. The value of everything is based on the amount of money it directly brings in. Terrible. People accumulate more than they need, and that fire is fanned by the culture that TV has created. We've got enough stuff, already! Let's turn car factories into some other kind of factory, or just slow them down.

      A lot of the problem is that we are in serious debt. You finance a huge factory, promise so much monthly payment, so you have to sell so many units. You start selling a lot, then you grow. More debt. Instead, you should build the factory, sell enough units to own it outright, then you won't have to scale. Or you could plan your own obsolescence and move to a different product. This will happen as factories become more flexible. Note the "Maker" movement.

      I think this hits the nail on the head of my current thinking. We need the system. The system is a tool. But we should use the system to bootstrap ourselves out of it. We have a lot of oil right now. But we are using it like it will never run out. We need to use it like it's capital, to be invested to build more. That's what you see happening (to their credit) in the middle east. Countries are taking their oil money and building tourist traps. Now, I don't care much for tourist traps, but the idea that we can build something external to the system that will be valuable no matter what kind of economy we have is a vital one.

      Maybe we would need fewer people to work. Or to work fewer hours (instead of more!). Bertrand Russel had an essay where he showed how inefficient we are. During WWII, so many men were busy with non-productive work (killing each other). A large segment of women were also helping this endeavor (making weapons in factories). And yet basic needs were met. That means that most of what we do is not productive. It just spins the wheels of the economy.

      One last thing: would it help if we innovated at the bottom instead of at the top? Like with housing, food production, education, etc. Currently, most venture capital is in the next big thing, or so it seems.

      • I find it a bit amusing to talk about capitalism in such a negative light when I definitely benefit from the fruits of it.

        I think that is precisely why we should criticize it. If we do not, our privilege goes unchecked.

        I agree that the questions of Capitalism pro and con are quite complex. Debt is on everyone's mind these days, and is a particularly interesting topic to me. I've long thought it was mathematically obvious that a system of interest-bearing currency would inevitably lead to an unsustainable exponential growth curve that would lead to a crash. Yet we can't find a better solution until we need one, and it wouldn't even be advisable perhaps.

        Most importantly to me, we need to have these discussions in the context of personal development. I appreciate your comments precisely because they are political and economic, asking questions about structures and culture and not simply personal solutions to structural problems!

  4. @ericnormand says:

    And something else. You seem to be criticizing the pollution caused by Lifestyle designer's flights. The problem I see with this reasoning is that nothing starts out sustainable. That is, it is entirely possible that the increase in travel, along with the increased price of oil, will open up new markets for more efficient means of transportation.

    And, well, flights are environmentally costly, but life in the 3rd world is less costly than life in the 1st world. Who knows how if it's better to fly to Equador and live there for a year. Which is the kind of thing Tim Ferriss promotes. Of course, some people just fly all over.

    • EricSchiller says:

      I'm sorry Eric, but I find it the possibility of flying around more causing new markets to open up and cause more efficient transportation very unlikely. It is along the same lines as how we deal with capitalism, just spend more and things will eventually even themselves out; it doesn't work.

      I'm not suggesting we shouldn't fly or travel at all, but Chris G explicit states that he is traveling around the world simply to complete his goal of stepping foot in every country in the world. If you read his travel logs, he often flies to countries for one or two nights, and then heads elsewhere for the sole purpose of crossing a country off of his list. I find this to be entirely wasteful and somewhat narcissistic on Chris' part.

      This is part of his whole trope of "world domination," which is very frankly, an overly patriarchal view of how business and our lives should be run. I believe it to be a serious step backwards in how we should be be viewing the world.

      I have nothing against world travel if done in a way that respects the planet and its people. Methods of slow and long travel allow you to actually take in the cultures you are visiting, without the ego centered "look at where I've been" mentality I notice in Chris.

      I'll respond to your other comments later, when I'm not working on a project :-P.

    • Specifically I thought Eric S was referring to Chris G.'s goal of traveling to all the countries in the world. That goal takes a huge amount of air travel. Also the "world domination" and "empire building" themes in Chris G.'s work are interesting to me precisely because they involve taking colonialism to the personal level in the same way that "personal branding" applies the corporate ethos to the self.

      • Ivy says:

        The book "Life Inc." has some very pointed criticism of these exact ideas. When humans take on the tropes of corporatism (which are historically so enmeshed with colonialism that they are almost one thing), we can only lose. The playing field isn't level. We can only fight back by taking on the roles that are specifically humanistic: sharing, community building, localization of resources, sustainability of small groups.

        From this perspective, I don't see any value in "lifestyle design" as a movement whatsoever (at least as currently presented)… even when it's not just a cover for the kind of bullshit where you make money selling the idea of how you make money. It's still a method by which the person becomes the corporation — with all it's branding, marketing, institutionalized lack of ethics, impersonal exploitation, and non-sustainability. The irony is that it's sold as a method for escaping the evil grip of corporatism, when it's really about become thing thing you purport to hate.

        I have seen the enemy and it is us.

  5. Fabian Kruse says:

    First, a question that rose while reading the articke: I would have expected something a little different after reading the headline – is this really a lifestyle design manifesto, or is it more a call for action and discussion to create one?

    To me, it’s very important to discuss these matters, but we probably should get the term straight first. If I understand you well, you describe the core of lifestyle design as a "fantasy of conscious consumption". While this might is a part of it, this appears to be a little too narrow to me. As far as I see, the term was coined by Ferriss, inviting people to "experience what they believe only millions can buy". Here, the "conscious" part doesn’t even play a role. It’s all about you, about tricking the system, buying and doing whatever you want. To me as an European, this seemed to be kind of an "American Dream 2.0", if you could pardon me the term, and as such it was inherently capitalistic. Instead of leaving the exploitation of cheap labor in poorer countries to the big companies, it invited individuals to do the same.

    But there are also other things to it. While I think there is not really a strict definition everybody agrees on, we can understand the term a lot wider, and I would propose to do this in an effort to be able to describe what we’d LIKE to see.
    "Lifestyle design", first of all and as trite as it may seem, is about designing your own lifestyle, opposed to just living like you "should", being a member of a certain group of people. This could be the starting point to discuss whether or not we should include an ethical notion to it. If we did, we might need a new term, as I currently don’t see this in LD a lot.

    Concerning your attack of Chris Guillebeau: I am quite puzzled by his style of traveling, too, but I really don't think it is a broader problem. While there may be a few dozen people worldwide with similar plans, it doesn’t seem to be a growing trend, not even within the LD niche itself. Most people will just go to a cheaper country and stay there for a few months or even years, but not travel around all the time. Of course, I’ve got no statistical evidence for that, it’s just my personal impression.

    Some other thoughts:
    I think that personal development is a useful thing for my life and those of many other people, but I strongly dislike its all too close ties to (passive-aggressive) marketing.
    I also think that the idea of simply having the opportunity to "design" our lives as we want is worth spreading.
    The discuccion here in the comments might be a good starting point, but we should probably think about continuing it in another form, as not to lose the momentum. A real (un)manifesto of (ethical?) LD would be something that could become very valuable.

    • "American Dream 2.0" — well-put.

    • jacqjolie says:

      Hi Fabian,

      FWIW, and I'm showing my age here – over 25 years ago was when I first read of Barbara Sher talking about "Life Design" in her book Wishcraft – on the link below at page 48.

      This really was one of the original "bibles" of life / lifestyle design before Ferriss entered kindergarten – although I think because it's aimed at a different generation, the generation has actually influenced the message and messenger – being more of a "greed is good" generation today.

      I devoured Sher's work (who's also quite a shining example of humanitarianism) when it came out as a template for how I want to live my life, also influencing me to make "passive income" through saving and investing by working my ass off (at a j*b) and retiring at 44 y.o., capitalist that I am.

      When Ferriss' book came out a few years ago, I could only get through about 1/2 of it and gave it away, just wasn't as inspiring or as useful to me as the original stuff by the masters who had said it before, only much better (ie. Richard Koch in the 80/20 Principle too) without all the rah rah travel around the world while working as little as possible b.s. Their work was more about finding meaning in your work, not doing as little of it as possible. It may be a fine distinction, but a key one I think. The implication being that if your work is meaningful, you will probably want to do more of it, not less.

      Sorry, I may be digressing from the topic at hand, but that's the direction that I wish life design would move back towards and the philosophy I'm trying to promote on my site.
      My recent post Above and Beyond – who says they don’t like Mondays?

      • Fabian says:

        Thanks for the reference! Interesting to see this, and certainly a different (and wider) approach than the one that Ferriss advocates.

        Anyway – digressing a little, too – I took the liberty to head over to your post and also the one on frugality, and for me this just isn’t what I want. Living on $8000 and saving $12000 may sound like win-win, but in reality, the biggest part of the $8000 spent will contribute to hollow consumerism that’s currently killing our planet. That’s why I personally wouldn’t want to live like that. "The best things in life are free" is a truth I have experienced during the larger part of my life.

        So I think there’s the question: How (and with which motivations) do we want to work, how much do we want to earn, and how much do we want to spend… and here it gets really, really complicated, as people’s opinions on that differ a lot. This is why I feel that the term "lifestyle design" just wouldn’t fit a smaller definition that includes these kind of "ethical" questions.
        My recent post How to Live Life at Your Own Pace (Part 4): Travel

        • jacqjolie says:

          Hey Fabian, more digression… that's a reasonable assumption to make that the $8k would be spent on material goods for oneself. If that's what someone would spend it on. Personally, I don't feel it's hollow consumerism to pay for my son's education or to give both my time and some money to others. The only time I've personally come close to that amount anyway is when putting some money into a house renovation. Of course, one could just let a roof rot away or something. Or we could all live in tents I guess.
          Admittedly, I chose to make a lot of $ at something I'm good at and enjoyed in the corporate world and save a lot in order to retire early and spend my time how I want at a younger age. I don't see anything wrong with wanting to donate my time to friends, family, absolute strangers and organizations. It's incomprehensible to me that anyone would find that unethical. That's MY version of lifestyle design I'm afraid.
          Sorry for the O.T. digression.
          My recent post May, 2010 Tracking + Small Honors

  6. @ericnormand says:

    I'm going to use experiences from the Peace Corps because I think this is a question of development. We've obviously past the point where we need to build basic infrastructure to support our population. But as a model, it could generate some good ideas.

    There was one tactic that might help the good stuff spread. One development project focused on raising a village out of poverty. It worked on one village at a time. Then, the village was able to help other villages out of poverty.

    The issue is that, like Fabian emphasized, is that LD bloggers sell a dream. The more their message spreads, the more money they make. And their message will spread, because they use MLM techniques (affiliate sales) to sell their products. But they aren't using money from sales of their ebook to help someone else achieve their dreams. They help others achieve their dreams by selling more stuff.

    What we need is some idea, some message, that spreads by helping others achieve it.

    Or maybe I'm on the wrong track. Maybe we need to copy the same strategy (affiliate sales) but have a better story to tell about the dream. What do you think?

    • Fabian Kruse says:

      Interesting twist, Eric. But I think (and hope) there are already some people out there that want to help others. They put free info up, and they generally also sell stuff. The online stuff to sell is generally overpriced (compared to a book like 4HWW), because they want to make money, don’t sell large numbers and give 50% to their affiliates – but it can help nonetheless. It CAN get the buyer going.
      On the other hand, it doesn’t make the world a better place. Sure. And I would also like to know how many people really "liberate themselves" after buying such a product, and how many just have another credit card debt. To my estimates, the numbers could be something like 10-90. This number is probably similar when it comes to self-help books etc. When it comers to creating a muse business like Ferriss proposes, it’s sure to be even less (1-99? Or still less?).

      Before thinking about selling the message, though, what would BE the message. This is what I’d really like to read opinions about…

  7. jacqjolie says:

    It seems to me that any kind of ego goals aren't usually great goals to have. I usually put a filter on my own goals to check and see if I'm doing it for ego purposes or not. A little bit of it is fine, but not as your life purpose.

    What boggles my mind is that someone like this 16 y.o. girl who sailed around the world solo for 7 months:

    is not as famous on the net as someone who takes a lot of plane trips and knows how to market it. I would be embarrassed to call myself a "lifestyle designer" next to that kid.

    I just think people need to disconnect from the net a bit more and get out in the real world. The net has become a big clusterf**k of everyone begging for attention and nobody listening. At least people at work (in a normal boring job) aren't always trying to make a buck off me or tell me how great they are.

    • @ericnormand says:

      I would normally say, "Yes, we need to disconnect more." It's true. But I also (used to) blog in technology (programming languages, to be specific) and it's such a different game. People are much more critical and less stuff is sold. People would sense if you were just seeking attention (there's even a name for it–link baiting) and you'd see your respect go down.

      I really think it's the get rich quick mentality of blogging blogs (problogger, etc) and this new ebook fad that are making it much more a competition for eyeballs.

      My diagnosis of the blogosphere is that we need a better clearinghouse for good posts. Reddit is great for sorting posts and getting the best ones up at the top. It's not perfect. But it does let bloggers focus on good content. Just write what you think is important and Reddit might pick it up. Less focus on numbers of subscribers, but some posts will get read.

      • @OurOwnPath says:

        I think the programming world tends to view things in a more scientific light. New ideas are what gets you a good reputation and open discussion is always encouraged. In fact, a lot of programmers blog specifically to get input from the community instead of just trying to attract eyeballs. I really miss that aspect when reading LD-type blogs.

      • Steve Pavlina permanently banned me from his forum for what he called "link baiting." Tim Ferris just today accused one of his commenters of "link baiting" as well. Meanwhile Pavlina and Ferris are just about the biggest attention whores one could find anywhere, pulling many publicity stunts online and off to get more links and site visits (and bragging about such).

      • Also of note re: social media ranking like Reddit, Leo Baubata of ZenHabits and others made it to the top largely by gaming social media–especially Digg and They knew well-connected people who would seed their posts back when everyone trusted the social media sites to be fair and based on true interest.

        The point being that power dynamics are always at play, *especially* in contexts where we think they are not, which makes them much more easily manipulable.

  8. Lifestyle design needs to become a true movement; it needs to find a meaningful cause that will actually better the planet and its many citizens. I contend that lifestyle design needs to become a movement focused on building a society that actually works in a sustainable, ethical way, a society that feeds its poor, and renews its natural resources or it will simply not survive. We need to put our creators, hackers, and designers to work engaging culture outwardly, showing mainstream culture that the future is not as bleak as backwoods commentators on Fox News would have them think.

    Agreed, 100%. The devil is in the details.

    For us to change the system, we have to step outside of it; corporate capitalism and the mutations seen in academia and the government largely maintains a status quo that only perpetuates the destructive behaviors that you rightly point out. If you work within those environments, you're pretty hamstrung.

    Non-profit organizations in theory provide another alternative, but employees of those organizations oftentimes lose their ability to contribute to the broader society because they're involved in the special issue of their organizations.

    So entrepreneurship is an option where you do get an unprecedented amount of autonomy and resources, and I agree that there is an incredible amount of waste and self-centeredness in all of it. YAY! You put food on your table and buy nice houses, but are you really making a difference?

    Of course, the challenge is in what people will buy and how they've been conditioned to buy it. Because people generally don't have the patience for ethics, philosophy, deep thinking and such, it's hard to sell something about those things – at least directly. It's also hard to sell products that are based around people contributing to the greater good. Then you run into problems around having to use urgency and scarcity to prompt people to respond to your call…

    I'm not blaming consumers any more than I'm justifying the actions of some creators, but, really, we all have our hands in the cookie jar in one way or the other. To complain about capitalism while working for capitalists only reinforces the reality that we have work with the rules to survive. There's some small chance that, by becoming an entrepreneur, you can at least work with some autonomy and be able to treat people with compassion without just following company, government, or academic policy.

    And somewhere along the line, you might form a community of people who can collectively make a difference. Sure, it may be Tribe-y, but I've yet to see a sound a priori argument as to why such a collective of people can't share resources in different ways without fundamentally caring for each other and the world at large.

    Thank you for the food for thought here, Eric. I appreciate it.

    • Working in a context of Capitalism is precisely why we should think critically about Capitalism and the support structures and ideologies. We have the political power to change how things operate.

      The reason why "lifestyle design" specifically is important in my opinion (which may be different than Eric's) is because it is, as an insightful commenter put above, "American Dream 2.0." A big question right now is whether we should continue the "American Dream" of upward social mobility based in consumerism and a promise of a better life through working hard and starting a business, or whether the American Dream is a sham sold to us by power elites to maintain their power and increase the disparity between rich and poor.

  9. Incredible discussion in these thoughtful posts, Eric. Thank you for calling out us lifestyle design bloggers. I sincerely do find myself disillusioned with it sometimes—especially in extreme circumstances such as right now: when I find myself fleeing from Bangkok—a city full of wonderful people that I have come to love—and watching it spiral out of control and crumble apart because of social tension, inequity, and hurt feelings—and at the same time bloggers are worrying about their twitter/feedburner/RT counts…

    You guys all raise great points, I definitely agree that "LD" encompasses a wide range of people like the examples above, and could even include all kinds of folks who have never heard the term (even disadvantaged people around the globe). I guess *my* definition includes anyone who consciously makes decisions about their lives—steps back and chooses to do thing outside the norm, outside what they were taught in antiquated education systems, outside what they are told is "patriotic" or "capitalist" or in some cases even "right", in order to thrive and help others do the same. Sometimes it IS purely for fun, sometimes it IS a bit selfish, and I am definitely guilty of that, as are we all, but many times it IS also genuinely motivated by helping those around us, by solving social problems, or "going against the system" to create a better world (although it certainly IS marketed this way MUCH more frequently than it deserves).

    "…building a society that actually works in a sustainable, ethical way, a society that feeds its poor, and renews its natural resources or it will simply not survive." I found this bit extremely meaningful to me personally, as a big part of my motivation for building my business and my influence IS in fact so that I can use it in the future to make an impact in situations where I currently feel powerless, to open people's eyes to injustice that is built into the "systems", and to direct people's actions to make a positive difference in others' lives.

    Right now though, yes I am focused on ways to increase my own income—first have to look out for oneself and then look out for others. I do still feel like someone with very little influence in these BIG problems in the world, but I agree that a new purpose, a new mission, is necessary for a lot of what we do online—no more just churning out recycled content in hopes of making a buck. But there is the question of where to start. I will definitely be one of the first to jump on board with a new unmanifesto! 🙂

    Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion as usual…

  10. @OurOwnPath says:

    There are a lot of topics touched on by the comments and the post, I don't even know where to begin. But I guess I have to…

    I'm finally glad so see someone calling out Chris Guillebeau on his travel goals. I mean, really, who cares if you go to every country in the world? You've learned nothing except how to get from point A to point B. Hooray. However, I do think he does some good things to help people start small businesses. I don't pay for any of his products, but he does seem to have a knack of inspiring people to start their own little gig. And that's better than nothing.

    I agree with your main point that lifestyle design has become sort of a cult where everyone bows down to the philosophy and practices without really thinking about why they are doing it. I can't stand this notion of "passive income" whereby some product is created and then the creator sits back and reaps the rewards. I don't see how that's rewarding at all. There's very little benefit to anything other than the pocket books of the creator and the affiliates. For the most part, there's no real value created for the consumer at all.

    What they don't talk about is that if you get one of these "muse businesses" with a steady stream of passive income, what do you do then? There's now all of this free time to "do what you really want to do" All well and good, but why weren't you doing what in the first place? Why were you f-ing around making your passive income source instead of living your life the way you want to live it right now? Everyone thinks that it'll be great to only work 4 hours a week and spending the rest of the time on the beach, but in reality, after a couple of weeks doing nothing, it gets boring and inevitably you're going to want to do something meaningful. So quit planning to do something meaningful with your life and get to it. You don't need a passive income source and loads of free time to do it.

    I'm also with you on the unmanifesto. So, let's all get together and do this thing!

  11. Mark Silver says:

    Oh, I'm sad. I wrote a long post, and then tried to post it, and it got lost in the interwebs. And I'm too tired and sick to rewrite it in the moment. I'll be back…

    I'll say this: As I've said before, I so appreciate the perspective that you and Duff bring to the topic. I love the idea of community design as opposed to lifestyle design, and I also love the critique of capitalism as the framework.

    And then bring my other thoughts back later.

  12. […] his “The Lifestyle Design (un)Manifesto” Eric calls for the transformation of lifestyle design “into a collective of people who […]

  13. Greg Linster says:

    I'm a first time commenter and I must say that I really like what you have going here. It seems to me that the widespread epidemic of using lifestyle design to promote get rich schemes has grown exponentially. Of course this is purely anecdotal. There is so much garbage online these days, but every now and then I come across a blog like this one that is concerned with using lifestyle design in a positive way.

    Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity… I think this should be one of the pillars of lifestyle design. It's good for your you, your wallet, the environment, and the world. In my opinion there are a lot of parallels between lifestyle design and philosophy. For some reason, the movement has lost its roots in the latter. I'd like to change that.

    My recent post Workaholics

  14. Evan says:

    I endeavour to provide useful knowledge for people to improve their health for free on my blog.

    Many blogger are providing stuff for free. Not all of it useful of course.

    There are lots of green blogs and blogs about frugality too. There are lots of people designing worthwhile and sustainable lifestyles.

    Maybe the easiest way to start would be providing a logo people could put on their blogs or a manifesto they could sign up to.
    My recent post Coming Soon: Habits for Authenticity

  15. Oh, what a refreshing post and refreshing comments!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am breathing such a sign of relief to finally see the "Life Design Movement" questioned. I don't have much to add to this thoughtful discussion except to say that I agree completely that we need to have much more of a community and socially conscious based movement…and we probably shouldn't call it Life Design. Thank you Eric and Duff for keepin' on saying what needs to be said. I LOVE you guys.

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. […] designers be better people? When reading the recent discussion on the topic over at Beyond Growth (1, 2), one could reach the conclusion that this indeed should be the case. And, honestly, why not? […]

  18. […] Kruse responded to our ongoing discussion about lifestyle design on his blog the Friendly Anarchist: Should lifestyle designers be […]

  19. […] discussion unfolding in the online personal development and lifestyle design communities (see here and here, including the comments) about the merits (or lack thereof) of consumerism, pitting […]

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