Corbett Barr

Lifestyle Business Weekly

Is Lifestyle Design Dead Already?

Is Lifestyle Design Dead?
There’s no question that lifestyle design has exploded in popularity over the past year. It seems like a new blog about lifestyle design pops up almost daily these days, and my Google Alert on the topic brings me 20+ new articles about it some days.

At the same time, I’ve been hearing more and more subtle backlash against the topic of lifestyle design recently.

Some negative response to the growth of any new “movement” or concept is understandable or even expected I suppose, but I wanted to find out what you think about lifestyle design as a concept nearly three years after Tim Ferriss defined the term in his now famous book, The 4-Hour Work Week.

Is Lifestyle Design Dead?

You might argue that lifestyle design has always existed and always will.

Fundamentally, everyone designs a life for themselves, consciously or not. Some people follow a typical life template, and some people decide to do something a little less ordinary. Either way, your lifestyle was designed to some degree.

For that reason, the topic of lifestyle design can be so broad as to apply to anyone doing anything with their lives. If that’s the case, it doesn’t seem so useful.

On the other hand, much of the current writing about lifestyle design (and most of Ferriss’ book) tends to focus on travel, entrepreneurship and creating as much free time as possible. That’s much more specific, but in some ways gets away from the idea that each person’s ideal lifestyle will be different. Some people love to travel; others don’t. Some people want to start a small business; others would sooner work in a coal mine.

In addition to lifestyle design, there’s the whole question of conventionalism. Blogs like The Art of Nonconformity or the new Untemplater challenge you to live unconventionally.

As Cath Duncan put it in a recent comment at Wage Slave Rebel, are we really just creating a new “bunch of sheep to flock with” by all subscribing to the same idea of what’s unconventional?

There are valid points on both sides, but what I really want to know is if the term lifestyle design has already outlived its usefulness. Would those of us who have identified with it be better off with something else? Does a term that can be both vague and limiting at the same time really help people get closer to living their own personal ideal lifestyles?

What do you think? Is Lifestyle Design dead, or is it just getting started?

photo by tanakawho

Corbett Barr

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  1. Believe it or not, I’m reminded of a South Park episode in which a goth kid tells one of the main characters (shows how often I have actually seen South Park that I can’t remember the protagonists’ names) that ‘If you don’t dress and act like us, you’re a conformist.’ (or something along those lines).

    Today’s rebels are tomorrow’s old fogies. What’s edgy and banned by God-fearing members of society now is played in churches tomorrow (rock n’ roll, anyone?).

    I think having a movement that encourages people to figure out how they want their life to operate is great, but for there to be only a few ways to do it is, well, just being part of the rock n’ roll movement. Sexy for a time and then so common as to be a non-event.

    • (another) Bob

      This is a well written and thoughtful comment. I’m reminded of the 60’s when you (male) were not even allowed to wear long hair to school. There have always been those who sought their own life or style, some more committed to it than others.

      Myagi have [a] hope for you.
      Movie: Karate Kid

  2. I’ll raise my hand on this one. If we all become mini Ferriss’s – then we lose. If we all try and follow the exact path of someone else because it’s “cooler” than the convention, we all lose again.

    The whole idea behind lifestyle design to me is just that – design the life path for yourself. It took me a long time to figure that out. I got an email from someone on my mailing list that really hit home for me, it went something like,

    “Hey Greg your site rocks, but keep being you, stop trying to be Ferriss or Kern or whoever. Find yourself and be unique and have fun”

    It was a cool awakening and since then things have been growing quicker than the past 2 years combined. I got back to being me, having a ton of fun creating cool stuff, meeting new people and delivering a ton of value.

    For me it was going back into the music industry full steam, no holds barred. It was showing people in this niche that there is another way, there are things you can do to have the “rock star lifestyle” in today’s economy.

    Lifestyle Design isn’t dead to me, instead it’s about doing instead of talking, leading and not following and not trying to be a clone of anyone because we are all too unique and talented to be just another. We can gather similar ideas, lifestyle hacks and shiny tools to improve our lives, but we need to get out of bed every morning excited for what is to come and make the most of every moment whether that is working on the coolest project ever or cliff diving or having a beer on a Tuesday afternoon.

    Looking forward to seeing some other reactions.

  3. Dead as a doornail.

    All of the sudden…everyone is a LD expert. Most aren’t actually doing it.

    • Remember when people were saying blogging is dead? They were wrong. It was just evolving just like lifestyle design currently is.

  4. Great point. Something like this happened to the “GTD/Productivity Movement” that really got huge a couple of years ago, then 90% of the people in the community dropped out of sight.
    Innovation stopped.
    Creativity stalled.

    Lifestyle design is just that, designing a lifestyle for yourself that works for your life. We don’t all have to move to Thailand and live on the each to be part of the community.

    I am currently designing my own lifestyle to be a restaurant manager by night and an internet entrepreneur by day – it’s not easy, and there will never be a 4HWW for me in this arrangement. But I like it and it makes me happy to make a contribution.

    Real Lifestyle Design is just getting started. 4HWW wannabe lifestyle design is dead.

  5. If your talking about living the expat dream and sitting in nice places and sipping on margaritas while corporate america is squeezing every last drop of life from the rest of society its been going on for awhile and some folks just found out about it and are calling it lifestyle design.

  6. I don’t think lifestyle design will ever be dead, but it is definitely changing. As the popularity of the concept grows every person involved changes the ideals behind it a little bit. Some people are lifestyle designers who preach minimalism and indefinite travel, some want to make millions and drive fancy cars and live in mansions. That’s really the beauty of it I think. There are endless possibilities.

    With that being said, I think that “living unconventionally” is starting to become a more clear cut manifestation of what LD used to be (when Ferriss went big).

    Really great idea for a discussion here, looking forward to reading many more responses.

  7. Lifestyle design is dead if you believe exclusively in the Tim Ferriss way. The idea that you can do the things you love in places you want to be, that’s not dead. I’ve always considered lifestyle design to essentially be getting what you want out of life, which isn’t going out of style anytime soon.

    The term “lifestyle design” is likely to blame. It’s overused now, the same way that everyone who that signs up for twitter can instantly be a “social media expert”.

    If you want to go all over the globe by bus and jump from hostel to hostel – you can do that. If you want to work 100+ hours a week and try to start a bazillion dollar business, you can do that too. What about working at the desk job you kind of like so your freelance applesauce making business can take off after work hours? Yeah, that works too. It’s not that LD is dead – it’s the fact that the term itself is so vague, it’s starting to build niches within the community.

  8. I recently wrote a blog on this same topic, “Are you a Lifestyle Designer or a Lifestyle Lemming?”

    I won’t re-iterate what everyone else is saying but in my view “lifestyle design” is only new terminology for what personal and life coaches have been helping people do since the 1980’s. The only difference is that Ferriss’ definition has been narrowed to mean “lifestyle design = set up a mobile business, work less, and travel to cheaper countries where you can spend your time pursuing interests instead of working”. While this is an appealing lifestyle it’s only one way to do things and certainly not for everyone.

    That said, Ferriss is not really even the pioneer of this type of lifestyle. There have certainly been others living nomadically for years before the 4HWW and writing about it. Again, Ferriss had the good fortune and brains to create a vocabulary around it and a book that hit it big.

    Is it dead? There always be a desire on the part of humans to better themselves and there will always be an industry of people who claim to be able to help them. I do not believe this dynamic will ever die but the term “lifestyle design” may quickly fade.


    “Railing against the popular lexicon is always a losing bet. Language is formed by collective agreement and it sticks because it resonates and serves a purpose. The words we use to assign to concepts can reveal quite a lot. Rather than dismissing it, we should try and learn from it.”

    I think some of the ideas in the quoted post apply here – the interest in the term is just an indication of a huge change that’s happing. “Lifestyle Design” is simply a phrase that some people have agreed encapsulates many aspects of this change in their own heads.

    They are trying to describe how massive shifts in technology and communication that have empowered individuals like never before and given them the opportunity to forge their own lives away from the maddening and controlling structures of school, traditional labour, big media, government and huge corporate interests.

    That’s a lot to sum up in two words, so of course it’s going to appear to be vague and full of hot air, but that’s not what’s important – it’s what it means to the individual.

    The cynics can snark and snipe from the sidelines however much they want but if people are actually following through on the ideas that this term summons up in their own minds, then that is a great thing. If you want to discuss Lifestyle Design, then we should be focusing on the actions being taken in its name, not the name itself.

    By all means, hold people to account. As soon as a new idea opens up, the market will move in with all the ugliness that this entails and, as Nathan suggests, and I think it’s fair enough to call ‘experts’ on their BS, but focusing on the language used to describe something is missing the point.

    It’s like suggesting that term ‘movie’ is dead just because it encapsulates so many different types of picture in motion. We don’t talk about the usefulness of the word ‘movie’, we talk about the great films being made.

    Having said that, claiming something “is dead” is always a sure-fire traffic builder… :p

    • Great comment Simon.

      The phrase ‘Lifestyle Design’ is here to stay, just because it is popular. We will disagree about its meaning and try to demean its usefulness but it is part of the lexicon now.

      I completely agree that technological and societal changes are bringing about a new way of living. Traditional notions of work are dying as we climb higher on Maslow’s hierarchy. We are looking for self-actualization and fulfillment more than just a paycheck. ‘Lifestyle Design’ is the only description that fits right now.

  10. I look at “lifestyle design” as an action (a process) not a label. We all have the potential of being “lifestyle designers” but few do. Few deliberately plan out/design their lives. If you are making an informed, educated, and planned out choice for your life then you are a “lifestyle designer”… even if your vocation is coal miner. If you are just fallowing the momentum that is your path, then you are not.

    Some of the so-called “life style designers” (particularly of the twenty nothings overly populating the blogosphere as “experts” in this space) are nothing of the sort. While it is true they are living an unconventional lifestyle, they typically have no ability to be part of the 9-5 (if they so choose), and nothing about there choices seem particularly thought out (in my humble opinion). They just seem to be going with the flow of the current that is the river of their lives that to me is not “lifestyle design”.

    I like what Tim has done with his book, because it has made some people question the choices they have made about the direction (the outcome of their individual life design choices) their lives have taken them. As a result, some rebel totally, others have just fine tuned themselves to get a little more ‘me’ time out of life, and I am sure there are the silent masses that are perfectly happy with where they headed and how they are getting there no matter how ‘typical’ there 9-5 cubicle existence maybe.

    I think the term is not over used… but saying: “I am an expert in lifestyle design” it is synonymous with saying “I am an expert at being a human being”.

  11. Whatever “Lifestyle Design” has come to mean to each individual person isn’t dead. That is to say, I don’t feel that the concept behind the term, whatever that may be, isn’t dead. It’s the term itself that is dead. It’s empty and useless and completely unhelpful. It just tricks people into assuming they’re talking about the same thing and lets completely clueless folks claim mastery.

    The act of creating a life that you are happy to live and proud to live isn’t a new endeavor. It is timeless and authentic. I feel that it’s above getting a fad catchphrase and a group of proselytizing know-nothings.

  12. What’s another word for thesaurus? – Jerry Seinfeld

    Since I happened to already have a copy 4HWW next to me that was open to page 179, I’ll make one point… The “lifestyle design is dead” argument that’s based on English language literalism and undefinition strikes me as bogus.

    Here’s the definition offered by Tim Ferriss in the book that coined the phrase:

    …are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility. This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design.

    If that isn’t enough, Section 1 of the book is titled “D for Definition”. This section is described rather non-ambiguously: “This section explains the overall lifestyle design recipe -the fundamentals…”

    For those who don’t have the book handy, the “D for Definition” section includes (among other things) a list of 10 specific rules or principles that further distinguish lifestyle design.

    1. Retirement Is Worst-Case Scenario Insurance.
    2. Interest and Energy Are Cyclical.
    3. Less Is Not Laziness.
    4. The Timing Is Never Right.
    5. Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission.
    6. Emphasize Strengths, Don’t Fix Weaknesses.
    7. Things in Excess Become Their Opposite.
    8. Money Alone Is Not the Solution.
    9. Relative Income Is More Important Than Absolute Income.
    10. Distress Is Bad, Eustress Is Good.

    The “D for Definition” section is 44 pages long, so I can’t imagine that we have a legitimate definition ambiguity problem. Sure, we can reject that definition and impose our own, but if diluting the terminology is the first tactic, it isn’t going to be a very useful conversation.

    If the conversation is framed as… “Is lifestyle design the best term for the principles described?”, we ‘d get farther. Asserting there’s no definition, then attacking the principles of the actual definition isn’t a logical argument.

  13. Lifestyle design might be a fad for some, but it isn’t for me. The core concept behind lifestyle design (or at least as originally proposed by Tim Ferriss) is to radically reduce the time you spend doing things you don’t want to do in order to give you the freedom to do things you *do* want to do (whether you want to travel or not is really pretty irrelevant). Most importantly, the idea is to do this *now*, not many years down the road when you are old.

    There is no going back for me. I hate working for others too much. I’m just not willing to spend the next two decades or so working for others at a job that I hate. I am 40 years old, and I regret the time that I have already wasted. I want to spend radically more time doing things I like while I’m still relatively young. I really just started on this path very recently (I started a new blog on January 1st of this year, and I’m exploring other business opportunities).

    I really think that lifestyle design is something that I will be passionate about for the rest of my life. I find the old model of living abhorrent.

  14. As with all things with a title or a system, things can seem overused and trendy. The internet has shown us more rapidly than in the past how the “next new thing” can turn into a passing fad or something that is “so 2009.”

    The term may have been initially coined by Tim Ferriss, but it has been run with by so many people in different directions. Some people are out there trying to follow his exact model. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are dozens even trying it with supplements like he did. But there are more people who are moving in different directions. The only true theme seems to be people doing whatever makes them happy, and keeps them from having to get a “real” job. Whether you want to jet-set around the world or live in a van down by the river.

    We are all raised on the “get good grades so you can get a good job” concept. Some people are happy with that formula, and it works for them throughout their life. The stability and perceived security that comes from that sort of 9 to 5 life gives them whatever is more important to them than doing whatever it is people like us are doing.

    I think the biggest problem with this type of situation you bring up is when we start labeling life paths or developing formulas and systems. Once that starts happening, you get the “You’re doing it wrong” crowd chiming in every step of the way. These have shown up at every turn, whether Lifestyle Design, Location Independence, or even blogging. There are always people who will be there to say you are not doing it correctly, whatever that means. That the way someone lives their life is not the correct way to be doing it. Usually this simply means that it is not a way they want to live (or are afraid to try).

    There is nothing wrong with not wanting to follow someone else’s template, even if it is not the mainstream template for life we are given. I have found what works for me is just doing what makes me happy. If I don’t think someone else’s version of designing their life is something I would want to experience, I just don’t do it. But I don’t see how judging them to be “wrong” in some way benefits me in any way, so I try not to spend too much time doing that.

    I can learn a lot from others, and need that to grow and develop, but ultimately, I have to do what’s right for me. I may not want to live in Mexico, but if that path works for you, I love hearing about it. (Insert any other way someone wants to live.)

    Lifestyle Design as a term is really far too broad to cover everything. The paths to designing your life are limitless. There is no wrong way to do it. Even narrowed paths can get separated into even tinier niches. You can travel the world on any number of budgets, but there is a big difference between walking the earth living out of a backpack than living off of your luxury yacht with helicopter pad. Both sound fun to me, but they are very different paths.

    So I wouldn’t consider it a “dead” subject. It is just a broad subject. It may or may not fit what someone is trying to get across, at least not in a narrow sense. Those who see it as a trendy thing that means something specific to them — only in a 4HWW muse template, for example — will say it is being polluted by those who are not ignoring emails in Bali while living off of muse income instead of billing hourly as a freelance designer in Pigknuckle, Arkansas.

  15. I think the term “lifestyle design” may be overused, but the concept is not. Especially after the economic meltdown, people are looking for more than just the biggest house they can (not) afford or the latest gadget or fashion. I think hard times cause people to look inward, and that is the real meaning of lifestyle design. What does a great life look like to YOU? Not me, or Tim Ferriss, or anyone else. YOU.

    My life choice is to live simply with few possessions and travel. My mom would be very unhappy without her large flower garden, even though it takes a lot of work year round and means she has to stay close to home all summer. She doesn’t have a passport, and I don’t have a yard. Two very different lifestyles, but two very happy people.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. I think our world, and our economy have changed so dramatically in recent years, that the ability to ‘design’ our lifestyles is in many ways still a relatively new concept. Or at the very least the options available to us are far greater, making it somewhat overwhelming. Some of us haven’t quite figured out what do with it yet, and others are not quite aware the option exists.

      Like many new things, I think there will be iterations and evolutions, but I think there are tons of us just screaming to be more free.

  16. The word may change, but the lifestyle will increase & I just wrote a post about why that also keys into Seth Godin’s new book:

    We started doing “lifestyle design” around the world in 32 countries (as a family) long before Tim Ferriss coined the term or wrote the “game changing” 4-Hour Workweek (which we were thrilled to be included in as a featured case study).

    When the economy changed, I was amazed at how many Lifestyle Design blogs came out & as Nathan mentions, very few had any experience at it. Still, it was all good and I’m sure useful to those in the planning stages.

    As Carmen mentions, MANY people have been doing this for a long time & we mentioned in our NYT’s interview, that we were inspired by the Terhorts who have been doing this for over 25 years (they wrote a hit book in the 80’s about Cashing in on the American Dream). But technology, demographics & the changing economy is what makes it an explosive trend today.

    Even if the word might changes, after all it is just a made up phrase, the idea behind it will continue to grow. It’s a big category really, so hard to confine to vocabulary- digital nomad, location independent, permanent travelers, nonconformists, ultra-mobility, radical telecommuting, work/life balance, global arbitrage etc are all related, yet each has many different meanings as well.

    Tech changes & the new economy will make it go mainstream. Many gen Y folks seem to think Thailand , Mexico or BA are the key places, but we prove that it can be done (living very well) even as a family and even on a tiny budget (even in “expensive” Europe).

    There is no one way to do it…THAT is the beauty! Each person tweeks it to work for them, but can also learn from others going towards greater freedom.

    Those without families are not looking at the educational benefits, but 70% of families dream of extended travel & there really is no better education (as people like Maya Frost and I are demonstrating through our experiences). As work and schools go more virtual (and home values continue to plummet in this years mortgage resets that will add a second big wave of foreclosures, which along with commercial real estate crash add more problems for public schools)…why wouldn’t more go towards the light of greater freedom?

  17. I’m with JD in that the term in itself is pretty useless, although I personally like many of the ideas that it actually stands for.
    The critique I read about these days and I support has the goal to wake people up and inspire them to do what THEY want, not what they see as a somewhat “cool” thing because of intelligent marketers selling it well.

  18. One of the issues I’ve seen are all the absolutes or maybe better stated, connotations out there….that’s where you can run into problems.



    Deferred lifeplan

    The issue is when we state ‘this is better than that.’ Or make the impression that choosing one path is inherently better than another.

    Maybe it’s the wanting that’s the problem after all.

    So, let’s say you don’t like your corporate job. You quit and start a website so you can be your own boss. Maybe you’ll work even more now (maybe not). What does this solve? Well, maybe you can travel more, which seems to be a goal for many following the ‘LD’ approach. What then? What if you see every country and do every possible thing you can imagine? Will you be happy then? Is the world traveler/entrepreneur inherently more free than a garbage man, a janitor or a corporate employee? The answer is ‘no.’

    You see, we keep looking outside for solutions to our problems, striving to achieve the next goal or solve the next problem, but there are no problems. We have freedom. We have it right here and now. If people start to see that, they might start feeling a greater sense of peace in whatever it is they are doing.

    • Preach it, Nate! You don’t have to be nomadic/ traveling/ working four hours a week to feel the way you want to feel. Your experience of the world comes from the inside, not the outside. You can have all the peace, freedom, fulfillment, etc that you want right now. And when you’re clear on that, you’ll naturally start to create what you love and bring more of that into the world. Rather than basing your decisions on an anti-vision or a reaction against what you want to get awAy from.

      Do we need the term “lifestyle design”? Personally, I don’t use that term, even though a lot of what I do is about helping people to custom-design their lifestyles and workstyles. I don’t use that term because Ferriss has reframed the term to mean being an online entrepreneur, travelling the world and having passive income streams. If that’s what you do and what you help people to do, then I think it’s still a very strong and clear brand and you might as well continue using it as a short-hand.

      Where using the term lifestyle design might fail you though is if:
      a) you’re using lifestyle design as another template to follow instead of doing the work of exploring what’s really important to you.
      B) you’re wanting to develop your own brand, rather than living in the shadow of Ferris, and your life you live and what you help people with doesn’t fit Ferriss’ narrow definition of lifestyle design

      Words are powerful. Labels can confine us and they can liberate us. Ask yourself if the term “lifestyle design” and all you associate with it feels like freedom to expand and be more of the person you want to be, or whether it feels confining, as though there are things you’d have to be and do that you don’t love to be and do. You might want to rather invent your own words or phrases for your approach to life. I did – I call it agile living.

      Thanks for raising the question, Corbett. I think these sorts of questions are signs of maturity in a movement, where people start to question the commonly accepted norms of the tribe and want to do more thinking and inventing and leading for themselves. It’s good stuff. Giving people the HOW is good sometimes, but helping them to disobey their true WHATs is just as important

      • My iPhones predictive text thought I wanted to say disobey. I meant “discover.” but it’s a cool Freudian slip :)

  19. I’ll chime in here also.

    I agree with Carmen, the term may fade but the core concept is not going anywhere. Tim’s examples aren’t for everyone, but the philosophy is not dead and it’s core end goals are still very much alive in people.

    I agree with another commenter above, there are tons of blogs about it, but so few people actually doing it.

    I think people get confused easily because the concepts are applied to any lifestyle…hence “lifestyle” design. Lifestyle is an inherently diverse word. The design is the part is where I’d put my foot down that this practice lives. There are some essentials to any coaching or follower of lifestyle design, or living intelligently for that matter that must be there. Things that are required.

    Who am I to define them? No one…but I will.
    You must be on a path to escape the rat race.
    You must clearly define your goals or dreams.
    You must rethink time management to be as effective AND efficient as possible. Tactics vary, but WILL be applied.
    You must approach life in terms of living now, and not living after 59 1/2.
    You muse seek to live out life with what you consider rich experiences.

    You can fly all over the world and live in a Mongolian hut and be “ultra mobile” and “location independent” or you can live in a basement coding. Those “lifestyles” don’t matter at all…but the above efforts must be applied. I believe people are still on fire to do this and this idea is growing, the diversification of income and readyness of technology is pushing it. It’s a journey…and although there are varying degrees of “making it” … it always will be a journey.

  20. I think LD is going to live on regardless. The LD blogosphere however is rapidly reaching total saturation and declining content. I have noticed over the last 2-3 months or so that nearly every single “LD blog” or “LI blog” is a guest post with little content, an inward look at the authors own psyche or motivation level at that second with no real content, or an ebook release announcement on how to make a LD/travel blog.

    One big LD blogger just sold off his blog, getting out while the $ was good. It’s one of the first innovative things I have seen done recently.

    Hopefully there will be a consolidation of ideas/content soon so the over quality of posting does not degrade itself permanently.

    Just noting what I see in general and not picking any one blog out.

  21. As a Lifestyle Design Coach & Strategist, I definitely expand the definition used in the 4HWW, and it’s certainly not dead. Designing the life you want to live will never go out of fashion. What is important is what it truly means to you. In the end, all most people really want is: freedom, exhilaration, and a life that when it’s nearing it’s end one can look back upon and know they lived to the fullest. They did it on their own terms with passion and zest.

    Unfortunately, many people avoid asking what it is they really want. And often those who know invent reasons why it can’t be done. So you must ask yourself, “What makes my life worth living?” What would I love to do most?”

    While most of my clients love travel, they’re not interested in a location independent lifestyle. They’re simply going after what their hearts yearn for. They want clarity and a strategy. And that’s when one designs a lifestyle that works for them.

    “I’m looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” ~ Henry Ford

  22. Allow me to give away the secret to transcending this argument entirely and distinguishing yourself from the noise and saturation: forget about convincing & focus on enabling. The “why” of lifestyle design isn’t dead – it’s simply become accepted and validated as worthwhile. Everyone’s been sold on this, but nearly no one is delivering on what they sold. Steak is delicious – sizzle alone is just frustrating. The concept of LD is a dead horse still being ruthlessly blog-beaten, when people just want the next step – the “how” and the resources to act. We need less talk about “the remarkable benefits of getting laid” and more about the 1-2-3’s of meeting the damn women and progressing the interaction toward that end.

    In other words: we need more coaching, more consulting, more products, more resources and more apps. More hustle and commerce, less philosophical musing. Trust me – there’s little one wouldn’t be willing to pay if you gave them a bulletproof blueprint towards living the lifestyle they’ve so beautifully defined. If you don’t believe me, go look at the numbers around Tony Robbins’ CD courses and seminars.

    How many people do you hear talking about lifestyle design? A sh*tload. How many of them treat it like a business and have opened up at least one avenue to produce income from it? Not nearly enough.

    Sharp comments in here, the whole conversation is timely and necessary.

  23. There’s a gap between the people that can extract principles from a text and then develop systems to implement them and those that can’t.

    This is a psychological issue that many will be unwilling to overcome. The majority of people have an entrenched notion of themselves as subordinates, and will avoid actions that will make them financially independent. People prefer to be “right” about themselves than to be happy.

    I theorize that the majority of people (probably over 95%) who purchase a book like 4HWW only do so to manage their anxiety about their life choices. Instead of taking action, it’s simpler to buy one more book, take one more course or sign up for another coaching session. Tim addresses that tendency adroitly in the book.

    Principles are all that are necessary for the most nimble thinkers, but the majority require a more didactic approach.

    As an aside, I put off actually reading 4HWW for more than a year because Tim’s portrayal of lifestyle design reminded me way too much of my childhood. I grew up in five-star hotels all over Europe. Tooling around the world in luxury is miserable if the rest of your life sucks. I only picked it up last month when I realized that it was actually a business manual wrapped in a slick marketing package.

  24. Great comments here by everyone. The term lifestyle design is so overused it’s ridiculous. What it stands for though is what’s important. Each person needs to find out for themselves what their ideal lifestyle really means. What works for Tim Ferriss doesn’t work for me and my life passions. There is no definitive way to design your life. Trial and error is the only way I have found what I truly enjoy. Having done the nomad thing for 7 months and “living the dream” I can tell you it might not be what you want or need. For my own personal growth I needed to head back state side and get planted again. Taking the chance, getting rid of your own self limitations and seeing the endless possibility we all have is the motivational undertone in lifestyle design. We do all have the power to build the life we want.

    I see way too many people theorizing about lifestyle design and not enough action. less talk more action!

  25. I personally think it’s because of the 90% who try things like Lifestyle Design, fail ONCE, and cry out ” This s### doesn’t work! SCAMMERS!!!”

    For these folks, if it is isn’t “McDonald’s drive-thru easy”, they can’t be bothered to power through the roadblocks that they will inevitably come across when trying to change their life.

  26. I’m pretty much on-board with everyone’s comments here. “Lifestyle design” as a term is definitely starting to sound somewhat sickening, but the principle of the concept is just as strong – and valid – as ever. We all want to better ourselves, but each in a different, personal way… lifestyle design is merely the established buzz word we’ve come to know and love (and despise) that describes the way to accomplish this “betterment” challenge. I certainly don’t think that lifestyle design is dead, nor is it going anywhere. And unfortunately, coming up with another buzz word won’t do anything but add to the noise distracting us from reaching our goals.

  27. Damon

    Lifestyle design is about not wanting to work. It’s the diet pill that’s going to save our fat asses without us exerting any effort. I mean – that’s the sell, right – “the 4-hour workweek”.

    Brilliance. A lot of people bought into it. I’m surprised there isn’t a Lifestyle Design certification course…or is there?

    They’ve been around a long time, but since I came of age I recall 10 years ago multi-level marketing companies seemed to capture the imagination and every Tom, Dick, and Harry couldn’t wait to hand you their card and tell you how they owned their own business. They exclaimed, “I know a guy who retired when he was twenty-five!” And would go on to share the wealth, possessions, travels, and exploits this “Diamond” level super stud attained.

    Now it’s lifestyle design.

    What’s next? And will you jump on that bandwagon as well?

    In the above link, J.D. Bentley of Wage Slave Rebel said of a job, “To me, it was demeaning work that elicited not a single ounce of pride.” Does such a thing exist? Does not every opportunity provide us with insight into ourselves from which we grow, life lessons whose value are only recognized after we’ve moved on, and even something as simple as providing for ourselves and our families? What job has not benefited somebody, somehow? Anything we might do is a service to someone else.

    Yeah, yeah, says the LD camp, but this is about getting what you want out of life. No. What you are selling is the myth that instant gratification and pleasure are more important than work, than service. Again, from Wage Slave Rebel:

    “After six months, I wanted out of the hospital. I wanted the lifestyle that all the bloggers were raving about. I wanted to work from anywhere and to work as a freelancer and to do things I actually enjoyed.

    And that’s what I set out to do. I quit.”

    Lifestyle design is a glossy term for an old niche that takes advantage of the human condition – no different from the fat pill.

    • “Lifestyle design is about not wanting to work.”

      So so close… Most of us tend to look at how we want to spend our time rather than framing things as work avoidance in service of laziness. Perhaps that’s a subtle distinction, but it means everything.

      The part of your critique that isn’t a blatant mischaracterization of LD as MLM hinges almost entirely on the assumption that there is actually such thing as a “work ethic”. There’s certainly such a thing as wage-slave indoctrination, but it’s a far cry from ethical.

      No, there is nothing fundamentally noble about work. Providing for one’s self and family isn’t noble, it’s the cost of entry. In fact, most of human history sees work as demeaning. So demeaning that disdain for labor served as motivation for the actual slavery that ran rampant (and was itself seen as noble) throughout all but about the last hundred years of recorded history. Sure, the overt brutality of slavery has been swapped out in favor of the mental subjugation and pacification inherent in wage-slavery, but both forms of slavery are similar in that they embody working toward death on an installment plan.

      That society has been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the belief you espouse about work being some sort of self-realization is nothing short of en masse psychological mediation. It’s really easy to buy into that sort of industrial age cynicism, but that doesn’t make it the best we can hope to achieve as a species.

      Do all experiences provide us with opportunity for insight? Perhaps. However, that still wouldn’t mean that all experiences are the best use of our time.

      It certainly sounds noble when the abdication of living life intentionally and directly is couched in a veneer of “opportunity”, “insight”, “life lessons”, and altruism. However, subjecting ourselves to the experience of adversity in order to attain such things isn’t enlightenment, it’s masochism.

      I hope you’ll excuse me, but it’s getting late and I have to get up early to back to my yacht so I may take advantage of my own human condition. I’m only lying about the getting up early part.

  28. Patrick Y.

    I think the most important about LD is the existence of the term itself. LD is simply the term describing the “art” (or whatever) to structure our lives and because of that, we become aware of our lives and focus on how to get the most out of it. But obviously it’s not something new.

  29. Archan Mehta


    This is a great post, once again, and great comments from readers.
    Thanks for a great blog and for hosting such a great group of people.

    However, I am going to have to play the devil’s advocate here.

    Please read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature decades ago.

    It has to do with the story of a disenchanted prince in India, who is wealthy beyond our imagination. His well-wishers want this prince to be crowned king when he comes of age. However, they are over-protective(?) and try to shield him from the facts of life.

    As we know, that is not possible. The prince comes across old, disease-ridden and crippled human beings. Finally, he figures out, we not only have to die one day, but life itself is full of so much pain.

    Disenchanted and disillusioned, the prince renounces his family and kingdom, and seeks the forest in order to be find wisdom.

    Gautam Buddha, founder of Buddhism, finds enlightenment beneath a Bodhi tree. He achieves a state of bliss independent of the external factors that Tim Ferrris writes about so eloquently.

    The lesson here? The journey is within and not without, although this may not apply to all people in this world: I am aware of that fact. However, it is instructive to learn about the founder of one of the world’s great movements. And the wisdom he shared with us.

    In fact, in your travels abroad, I am sure you may have come across a lot of Buddhists (especially in Asia). Even in the West, Buddhism has been embraced by a lot of people who find themselves weary of the rat race and its attendant problems. Just a thought.

    In addition, “Location Design” is nothing new. People have been traveling and living a different lifestyle since the dawn of civilization. Read the accounts of ancient travelers and it is right there. There have always been people out there who have followed their bliss (Joseph Campbell) and danced to the beat of their own music.

  30. Great article once again! I think the term is very much alive, although I agree with Cath wholeheartedly. At one point I felt I wasn’t being “true” to the concept, because I didn’t want to be a permanent nomad.
    I’ve now come to define Lifestyle Design in my life as creating the ability to ‘work to live’ versus ‘living to work’. I do understand that’s unconventional in the States, but that it’s very conventional elsewhere. I’m fine with letting go of the need to be a rebel, or to fit in, and am just being me.
    I’ve made a life that focuses on experiences, both at home and on the road, rather than chasing posessions and promotions.

  31. Terms and definitions only limit us. I don’t really care if the term is dead. What I care about is each and every one of us taking the time and putting the effort to have a clue of what we would like to do, regardless of societal expectations.

    Call it whatever you want, terms are fads anyway. The point is to be in charge of yourself.

  32. Liz

    Lifestyle Design is not new and it is not going away. What is new is the notion that in order to live the 4HWW life you must be a 25 year old Internet Rockstar and move to Thailand.

    A good litigation attorney only needs to win one big case to become a lifestyle designer and travel the world.

    Some military officers and other government workers are able to retire, with a decent pension and paid medical benefits, while still in their 40s and 50s, and this enables them to become lifestyle designers.

    Thousands of Vietnam war veterans have enjoyed a work-free lifestyle since the 1970s in places like the Mojave Desert, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and the Caribbean.

    I actually know a Vietnam vet who goes to the gym everyday and drinks rum in the afternoon with other American expats. He has a great looking body and doesn’t look his age (early 60s).

    He was shot in one lung during Vietnam which prevents him from running marathons or swimming long distances and for this reason, he’s been getting a check from the VA administration since 1974. He hasn’t held a job since he left Vietnam. (He’s not my friend in case you’re wondering but a friend of a friend and I met him personally when he came to the US for his annual medical checkup).

    Some lifestyle designers are growing tea in Ecuador, others are running dive and fishing shops in the Caribbean. Many of them have married local women so they can live overseas legally and indefinitely.

    As you can see, there are alternative (although perhaps less impressive or respectable) ways of funding a 4HWW lifestyle without an Internet connection or a laptop.

  33. Lots of great comments. It’s tough to pin down an answer when Lifestyle Design is all about what you want YOUR life to mean to YOU. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing unless there are some things in there that you would like to do. If you want to design your life around being at home for your kids, so be it. If you want to design your life around travelling abroad and meeting lots of awesome people and seeing cool stuff, then so be it.

    It call comes back to making a conscious decision about what you want to do with your life and then making that real.

  34. Probably a little too late for this comment, but interesting post. “Lifestyle Design” is something I realized only a year ago, when I realized I wasn’t happy with my life. Then I read the 4HWW and it was over. I’m trying to pursue passive income and while trying to attract like-minded invididuals, I come across a lot of lifestyle design blogs.

    Colin made a great comment, about that South Park episode. I, myself, would like a balance between what is considered a normal/traditional lifestyle and lifestyle design where people seem to sell w hat they own and live in Thailand. I’d like to be in the middle somewhere!

    If you have a moment, check out my blog. Thanks!

  35. I hope the term is dying, because I’m quite sick of reading about it. And especially tired of hearing the same recipe for a fulfilling life – self-employment, perpetual travel, 20 hour work days (but that’s okay because you’re soooo inspired so it’s not *really* work.) All written by 20-somethings with (usually) no children and (most of the time) no real work skills that anyone would pay a decent wage for. Oh, and no money. Do they travel to Thailand or Mexico because they really love learning about the Thai culture – or because that’s all they can afford? How sad is that?

    Like it was said in the comments above, it’s the new “get rich quick” scheme of the 21st century. Maybe part of the problem is that the barriers to entry are so low that anybody can do it. But it takes years of saving and LBYM to do it like Billy and Akaisha at Retire Early Lifestyle do (retired at 38 and are perpetual travelers with a home base):
    or Paul and Vicki Terhorst:

    I’m in the position of having a 0-10 hour WW lifestyle at the ancient age of 44 which only came about through lots of 70-90 hour work weeks in the past (as a cubicle wage slave who happened to really enjoy it). Five years of working my ass off and saving for a lifetime of choices seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.

    What works for some will not work for others and it comes down to knowing yourself and what really floats your boat. For me, that’s a sense of community, for others who are into traveling as a means of lifestyle design, they appear to be trying to obtain that sense of community online. I’m not really sure how well that works for most, but you do what you gotta do.

    The whole concept of lifestyle design through traveling or any kind of not very well thought out plan like Wage Slave Rebel’s job quitting seems a lot like escapism (to me). I’ve been there, done that too in impulsively quitting a pretty good job years ago to become self-employed. It took 5 long (depressed) years before I acknowledged that self-employment didn’t give me the freedom or satisfaction (and definitely not the money!) that I hoped it would. Or the community / being a part of a team that MY personality craved.

    The key is paying attention to yourself, not just the brain burps you will have or things that other people are enthused about. But the things that you keep returning to time and again. Try new things out (hopefully in a way that won’t cost a lot), leave your options open, be a bit practical, and above all, listen to yourself.

    For real lifestyle design advice, the book “Your Money or Your Life” is classic. It’s not quick or fancy like the 4HWW, but it’s stood the test of time.

    • Ooo so angry. There is definitely some things that only experience ca teach. Who is the author of Your Money or Your Life, just went to Amazon and there’s like 3 books with that title.

      And so sorry that self-employment didn’t work for you and that you don’t enjoy the mobile lifestyle, but don’t rain on the parade of people that have mastered “geo-arbitrage”. The point isn’t get rich. The point Timothy Ferriss makes is to live better off of the amount that you already make by going to countries with weak currency.

      For me “practical” is a curse word. You don’t accomplish anything of note by being practical, but thanks for chiming in.

      • Oh, I did sound angry, didn’t I? Sorry about that, I just felt very sad for Wage Slave Rebel and frustrated at those who advocate the lifestyle yet don’t have the transparency that Corbett does in acknowledging that results or financial rewards don’t happen overnight and don’t even happen at all for the majority of people. The glamour can get played up without showing the hard work that goes behind it.

        I actually am self-employed right now, and it’s working out well and I guess that theoretically I am also location independent since I could work from anywhere. And am also hoping that when I fully retire in six months, I’ll be taking extended sabbaticals and engaging in “geo-arbitrage” myself.

        Many, many early retirees live better off the amount that they have accumulated by moving to countries with a weaker currency. And many have found ways of living below their means in whatever country they’re currently in.

        I would say that Corbett is incredibly practical and has a great business sense. That’s not a bad thing.

        Here’s a link to Your Money or Your Life, my apologies, it’s quite a famous book in the “life purpose / determining what lifestyle will make you happy” category and I assumed everyone would know what I was talking about:

        • Lis, I love your “practical” is a curse word perspective. Love it.

          Jacqueline, this idea that achieving any of these measures of success “takes years of saving and [living below your means] ” is just simply and patently false. It comes across as cynicism at its worst considering there are countless examples to the contrary. Transparency abounds showing the amount of “hard work” required can be measured in units of weeks and months.

          See… Maren Kate and Pat Flynn for examples of ultra-useful ultra-transparency.

          Here’s the important part: It’s all really about the value one brings to the table. If you bring mediocre value, it will probably take decades to achieve the desired goals. If you bring huge value, you’ll get huge results.

          The implication of what you’re saying is that it takes some people a lot longer to figure out their current value or to acquire the knowledge and skill to have value. While the way you talk about it is fundamentally discouraging, the idea itself is very useful. I think the primary flaw in your rhetoric is that of confusing hard work and time spent with value.

          • Hi Andrew,

            Yeah, I guess I do confuse hard work and time spent with added value. But in the world of finance (or any other world according to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”) that I come from, that’s how you get experience which leads you to become valuable. Nobody starts out billing out $300+/hour.

            Re. the sites you linked, I take with a grain of salt anyone’s claims to income who are trying to sell something for you to make the same kind of income. Especially people selling e-books on how to make money online. Years ago, I worked on an audit of an MLM company doing an IPO – same tactics, different industry.

            And with Maren Kate’s website, do you mean this other one of hers that has one bikini waxing client but comes off as a big operation?

            Or Pat Flynn’s sales letters? I’d read this and start running fast in the other direction:

            How long did it take people like JD Roth at Get Rich Slowly, Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar, or Leo Babatua at Zen Habits to quit their day jobs? Each of them took at least a few years to get to that stage while working a full day job and blogging for another 8 hours a day and they had/have huge readerships – and both of their wives still work. And both of the former still have debt, so haven’t made gobs and gobs of money.

            I’m not saying to not enjoy life, not to travel, not to do what you love. I’ve done all of that too but didn’t have to have an online presence to do it. Maybe my perspective is different (and a little too practical) being quite a bit older than most of you, and a single parent for the last 22 years. I just hate seeing people disappointed and spinning their wheels, not getting anywhere and feeling bad about themselves as a result.

          • *sorry if this shows up out of order, Corbett has his reply depth set too low for me to reply directly. :)


            Oi… Since I dragged them into this, I now feel obligated to defend them against mischaracterization despite strongly feeling that they don’t have anything that needs defending.

            I take with a grain of salt anyone’s claims to income who are trying to sell something for you to make the same kind of income. Especially people selling e-books on how to make money online. Years ago, I worked on an audit of an MLM company doing an IPO – same tactics, different industry..

            I share your general skepticism. I really do. I wrote about blogging being MLM or a ponzi scheme some months ago. However, in the case of Maren Kate, you’re making a category mistake.

            She sells an instructional book for a fixed price about buying physical items for wholesale prices then selling them for a higher price at auction. The fact that there’s a little ‘e’ in front of book and a little ‘e’ in front of ebay does not at all make that “the same kind of income”. The internet is involved in both as merely a marketing/distribution channel; this is structurally irrelevant. Further, beyond the initial transaction, there is no hierarchical remuneration exchanged between the parties. It’s a simple vendor/purchaser relationship. Having been involved in the audit of an MLM company, I suspect you know that this doesn’t qualify as MLM.

            So next, you’re going ad hominem tu quoque on us, eh?

            Other ventures Maren Kate is involved with are tangential to this discussion.

            If I’m not mistaken, Pat Flynn’s primary income is derived from a course about passing the LEED exam… Which I believe has something to do with green architecture. Clearly, not even in the ballpark as MLM. The fact that you don’t like his sales copy is completely irrelevant to this discussion. It doesn’t matter if you or I would buy his stuff. What matters is that he provides value to a market that would, and in fact does, buy hist stuff. Did he get significant income rolling pretty quickly? Check. Did he have to be a certified expert to do it? Nope. Does he provide transparency? In spades.

            The debt you attribute to the others may actually work counter to your argument. If you can reliably make a larger return investing capital than the rate at which its borrowed, it makes sense to borrow as much as possible within appropriate risk tolerances, liquidity, et cetera. That’s not a philosophy or strategy; it’s math. Again, coming from the world of finance, I suspect that you already know this so I’m not sure why you’re tossing it in as an argument.

            Corbett! I’m sending you a bill for the time I spent commenting on this post. :)

    • I’m glad that you joined the conversation ( & Andrew & Lis input) even though I don’t necessarily agree with you, because you do bring up some valid points & a different perspective than a typical 20 something.

      Even though I retired before 36, am the mother of a world-schooling young child & am probably older than anyone here, I find myself quite aligned with some amazing & wonderful LD 20 & 30 somethings since I have ALWAYS been a entrepreneur, non-conformist, artist and NEVER worked 9-5 or in a cubicle in my life. (Nothing wrong with 9-5, just not for me).

      I love their enthusiasm & “can do” attitude. Sure, some will fail, (“failure” is part of every life & just feedback from the universe that helps teach us all, so not something to fear) but many are thriving or will thrive!

      I’ve know both Billy and Akaisha and the Terhorsts for some time & don’t see that they are really much different than those who are doing LD in their 20’s. Both lived without a base for many years & both work/promote online! And where do they all spend most of their time? Thailand, Argentina & Mexico …just like the younger ones!

      Not that different & their whole premise (same as ANY one who has lived this lifestyle for any time, be it them or Rolf Potter, Tim Ferriss or the couple from Switzerland that holds a world’s record at it, etc) is that ANY one can do it. “Permanent traveler”, “Lifestyle design”, “early retirement”, “mini-retirements”…just coined phrases & not so different.

      In today’s fast changing world with financial collapse/reset still on the horizon (the dollar will continue to fall due to record debt & can FDIC insurance really cover all the banks that are failing & will fall? ), even if you have a nest egg to help back you….NOTHING is totally safe in this new economy.

      I’m a fan of “Your Money or Your Life” AND 4HWW and I think the latter will stand the test of time AND the savvy tech related info is ESSENTIAL in today’s world (read Seth Godin, Clay Shirky etc) that many ( especially digital immigrants in our generation) miss! (Much to their misfortune as we move more & more to a 3.0 world).

      It’s tech & the new economy that is making this trend grow…they are forcing people to think differently & that’s why LD will continue to explode.

      • Oh & even though I am retired and I don’t have to work at all ( & am sometimes tempted to totally unplug forever), I do work, just out of a passion to let others know (especially the 70% of families that dream about extended travel & those that plan to have families in the future) that this slow traveling, LD lifestyle is easier, cheaper & more enriching than most realize.

        I didn’t know that before we began & others gave me hope, so I pass it on by sharing what we learn along the way. There is something different to be learned by every person who writes about LD, & the smart ones tweek it to make it their own!

        We have enough content & rich experience from our journey that we could already stop now and just produce, create & sell for decades on end….but we don’t want to work that hard & there is still so much left to see, enjoy together and experience. ;)

        The possibilities are really endless for all of us. LD is for the inspiring, enthusiastic dreamers and that’s why I love it.

        “Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” James Baldwin

        • Soultraveler, love your blog!!
          One of my goals is to do the RV trip in Europe for a few months as well – first step is Mexico this winter to visit relatives, but who knows where after that. I love to hear of inspiring stories like yours!

          I certainly don’t know the answers in making this stuff work, I really do hope that it works for people and they’re successful doing what they love to do as I – and you have been – albeit via different methods.

          A friend and I have an ongoing friendly debate on what’s the best way to go – she thinks to work at a job you love completely for 60 hours a week making $40k a year is worth it. I think working for a couple of months out of the year making $40k at an 8 or 9/10 job is worth it to have the rest of the year off to do what you want without having to get paid for it. Neither of us is “wrong”, it’s just a different approach. I think we all agree that it’s not worth it to work at a 1/10 job for 60 hours a week (or even 40) for that same $40k.

          Here’s a good article on irrational exuberance and lucky fools and how it sometimes pay off.

  36. Ooo good title, juicy, controversial…anyway I’m going to need you to explain the comment about “vague and limiting”. People all have their unique definitions of what lifestyle design is. And yeah, we can use as many terms as we like to describe it (global arbitrage, digital nomadism, location independent professionals), but they are only thought of as spin-offs of an idea that was popularized by Tim Ferriss.

  37. A lot of great comments so far. Have enjoyed reading them.

    It depends on how you really define, “lifestyle design.” It really struck a chord with a lot of 20 somethings because they wanted to be exactly like Tim Ferris. They wanted to travel the world, work only 4 hours, be popular online, etc… So I think lifestyle design got defined as being like Tim Ferriss.

  38. Joe Dokes

    This whole thing strikes me as people rationalizing not working and doing as little as possible for as long as possible. Eventually they will wake up and discover they can’t afford to send their kids to school or retire. By then it will be too late to recover.

  39. The problem is not with LD but instead with all of LD experts who have popped up in the recent time frame. If you have to buy a book to follow and show you how to convert your life into a LD lifestyle you will be disappointed. LD is for you to decide what to make of it. The key problem is that most don’t know what they want.

  40. I had one more thought to add. Like blogging is kind of doing right now, Lifestyle Design will die down and not be the trendy topic it once was. Only the true designers will stick around, pushing the ideas and writing original content.

  41. Obviously our current system of going to school, getting a career, working our asses off, and then retiring when we are too old to enjoy life anymore is unnatural. It’s a system that was created by businesses. Most people follow the program because that is what everyone does – it’s just the way it is. We’ve been taught this way of life since we were children – watching our parents do it every day.

    I actually think that “lifestyle design” is a much more natural concept that has been around way longer than the last few years. Before big business and careers, most people designed their lifestyles – by opening their own shops, farming on their own land, and basically building their lives around what they enjoyed and what they wanted to do. I for one want to get back to what feels natural.

    • I think it is important to remember, that before the ‘system’ of going to school and getting a career was ‘created by businesses,’ people used to live much more difficult lives.

      Our parents were not forced to work and have careers. They did it because it meant rising standards of living for their children. By most measures, quality of life has improved substantially over the last two centuries.

      We have more choice, freedom and leisure time then ever. Ask your grandparents what it was like growing up in the past. They went to work in those evil corporations selling corrupting things like refrigerators, cars, clothing and food. The alternative was back breaking work on farms.

      My grandparents were new immigrants to Canada and became farmers. They cut down trees by hand to make way for small crops. There were 8 children in my grandmother’s family living in a one room mud house they built themselves. One phrase that my grandmother say’s over and over is, “I never wish for those days to come back.”

      Many of us have the luxury to work less and focus on more creative pursuits due to the hard work of our ancestors. Sure my grandparents designed their own lives, but it certainly wasn’t ‘lifestyle design.”

      • Great comment!

        I come from a Canadian farming background as well and don’t see evidence of ‘lifestyle design’ – the lifestyle was one of “do this or you won’t be eating next month”.

        Years ago, I asked my 89 y.o. father what he would have chosen to do if he hadn’t come from a family of farmers. He really couldn’t give an answer, the thought of having choices wasn’t an option back in those days (similar to hundreds of years ago where the first son became the landowner, the second a soldier and the third a priest – thank heaven we’ve moved beyond that model).

        My father still puts in 15 hour days in the spring and fall now helping out a sibling on the farm because he really wouldn’t know what to do with himself without it – and I suppose he enjoys it. He doesn’t understand the concepts of multi-tasking, balance etc. – they’re non-issues in his world.

        There’s a lot of interesting research out there on generational differences at work and I think there’s some valuable lessons for all to take away from the other generation’s perspective.

        I think part of the appeal of Ferriss’ book to the millennial generation (and lack of appeal to older generations) is that he spoke very well to their generational concerns.

  42. Haven’t bought into Lifesyle Design yet or read Tim’s book so as far as I am concerned it means what I think it means. Right now, it is the idea that my lifestyle can be what I define. period. May not be easy. May not be quick. May not make it all the way. But it is what I choose. What’s bad about that? Is that different from what Tim says? Maybe I don’t need to read the book. If Tim is leading a flock and I don’t know what he says, I can’t just be a follower, or can I?

  43. Wow, I’m really blown away by all the passionate and thoughtful comments here. This topic has obviously struck a chord. I have a feeling that I’ll be coming back to this post and the comments often for months to come for inspiration and direction about where to take the blog and how to best use “lifestyle design” as a concept and nomenclature.

    Thanks everyone who has or will comment here! This is what makes blogging so rewarding and useful.

  44. I have been designing my life for years. When Tim Ferriss was traveling the globe with the New Rich, I was right there with him – although I had no idea what I was doing. I graduated from college, watched my friends march into NYC Corporate World, and knew that wasn’t for me. So I bought a camera and traveled the world.

    Tim Ferriss just put a name to something that was already happening, calling attention to the fact that most people were not questioning their own life’s path. I had friends who just went to Corporate World because they did not know what else to do. Is that lifestyle design? Certainly. But it is not conscious, it is not aware and it is not something people think about enough.

    Everyone has to design their life according to their own standards, values and beliefs, and sometimes it is frustrating that this isn’t talked about much. THERE ARE NO TEMPLATES TO LIFESTYLE DESIGN. We cant all find muses like BrainQUICKEN and make $70,000 a month. If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. And not everyone even wants to do it!

    However, the point here is that lifestyle design as a technique reminds you that you are in control of your life. You Are Your Life. There are no victims, there are no excuses, there are no complaints, there are only choices. Everything in life is a choice – you are the master of your existence. Granted certain things seem to choose you, but you certainly have the power over how you react to life’s curveballs. And it is how you react to your reality that is the essence of lifestyle design for me.

    Lifestyle design is not dead, it is a concept as old as life itself. It has just been given a name, and taken on an unfortunate aura of self-help, internet-marketable, get-rich-quick mumbo-jumbo. Promising to help people redesign their lives for more happiness and abundance is an easy sell – actually providing people with actionable tools is where the real value in the “lifestyle design” community lies. I respect everyone out in the world, living their lives as they preach – you are examples, inspirations and kings!

  45. Joining this a little late, but here is my take on it all,

    I’m a dumb ass, I’m also annoyingly motivated and my site reflects that. Some people love it, some hate it, but I’m me and I do it my way.

    I hear you about all these ‘different’ sites sprouting up all over the place, you can see it lately with all the ipad posts. Be current in your writing but don’t chase someone elses success.

    This is a really important post and one I will be bookmarking and RT’ing, great job

  46. I agree with a lot of people that say that it is definitely not dead. It’s true that a lot of people have been designing there lives for a long time, they just never put a specific name or keyword phrase to it. So the whole trend might be coming to an end, but the practice behind it will never die.

    Matter of fact, I think more and more people are going to start realizing that they can actually choose the life they live. It’s just a matter of making choices that reflect your ideal lifestyle.

    Can’t believe how big of a conversation this post sparked, it’s awesome!

  47. “much of the current writing about lifestyle design (and most of Ferriss’ book) tends to focus on travel, entrepreneurship and creating as much free time as possible. That’s much more specific, but in some ways gets away from the idea that each person’s ideal lifestyle will be different.”

    That’s been my main qualm from the first time I heard about the movement (from Untemplater, so I haven’t been around it that long). It is simply leaving one template for another. Even rebellion is a template.

    “Fundamentally, everyone designs a life for themselves, consciously or not.”

    I think the key to Lifestyle Design is to make those decisions consciously. To me, designing your lifestyle is about living life purposefully instead of just going along with the flow.

  48. As for “bunch of sheep to flock with”, we’re getting it wrong.

    It’s not about leaving the flock. It’s about heading in the right direction, regardless of the flock.

    i.e. If having lots of free time is a good thing, then it remains a good thing regardless of how popular it becomes.

    Many people make the mistake of assuming that popular things are good, but some of us make the opposite mistake: assuming popular things are bad. The best way is to never assume; judge each thing on its own merits.

    • Great point!

      Popular things are not necessarily bad.

      I think the problem with the notion of ‘lifestyle design’ is that it is popular among people who are not living the life they prescribe. The dream is much more popular than the reality. That is the ‘lifestyle design’ I am tired of hearing about.

      Working less and following your own passions are great even if theyare popular. Why shouldn’t everyone live out their dreams? However, I don’t think the vast majority of the self-proclaimed lifestyle designers are at that stage.

  49. A brave minority will lead the path, for a slightly less adventurous majority to follow in safe distance.

    As for myself, the difference I feel is that the idea of the “low information diet” put me into a position where I am able to choose the flock that I want to follow a slight bit more consciously. That is, I select the material and the people to surround me with, such that they reflect what makes sense to me. Many people I believe are not aware of this choice.

  50. There are people in this world, okay me, that have always worked the 9-5 and/or for some government entity. Honestly, it never was a good fit for who I am…. though I didn’t understand that. I did not thrive. I read “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck during medical non-working 10 week period. I also read “Time Shifting: Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life” and “The Game of Life and How to Play it” during this same time. That was ten years ago and in those ten years I changed my attitude and began designing a path I called my second career or retirement career… while I grew more stressed at being chained to living in the same place (for now 17 years) and working at the same place and being so exhausted after the work day that I could not think or function. It was not the work, it was the insane environment and “fake work” in pursuit of the 20-30 year “retirement”. Basically, I stayed too long at the fair and am now recovering from that. Within a few months of leaving, I realized my plan just got moved up a few years. I went back to school using a perk from that job and seriously started designing my future. The deadline is spring 2011 to complete my new career focus and live much more simply and happily.

    I have specific goals of the end result and I have, though not read, FHWW. I started reading it but it didn’t resonate perhaps because I believe it targets a much younger audience. It sounds like it has a very specific outline and I’m creating my own. I was within 5 years of a retirement after another life re-boot 17 years ago. Now, in my mid-fitties, I have had some time to re-group. Again my plan seems to be moving up on me as I am going to rent out rooms in my home for some income to finance the rest of my plan. I’m horrified by this….. but it is at least different! My house is not underwater, though I’d like to sell by fall this year. I’m not taking on work while I’m in school however I will begin that phase later this year. By my deadline, I should have some sense of how that works. My goal is to do consulting/contracting for 4-6 month periods with 1-2 months in between. Either online or on site for short periods with my home base in a mild climate and low cost of living area, perferably close to water.

    So my stumbling blocks now are mindset and confidence that I can pull this off! It seems from reading all your wonderful comments that I am on the right track. I’ve also gained a real sense that I’m not alone in finding what it means specifically to me in creating/designing my own lifestyle. I’ll be visiting many sites posting in this comment stream. Great stuff! I think “Finding Your Own North Star” gives great tools to specifically understand the change cycle related to to lifestyle and other tools to consider in making that decision rather than a specific lifestyle to aspire to. Additionally, “The Secret” (I’m not a fan) rips off “The Game of Life” (written in 1925) big time!

    I’m gratified to know “Lifestyle Design” isn’t one thing, or another set of rules to conform to, but offerings of insights on what components your particular style might borrow from and/or expand upon.

    Thanks for this great post!

  51. The movement is only beginning. Tim Feriss started a revolution – buzzwords aside, the number of people who are questioning conventional thinking are multiplying. I call my version of LD “creating your own games in life and then playing them just for the sake of playing them” but that’s the beauty of the movement – everyone can (and should) interpret what it means in their own way.

    Whenever enough people start living a new reality, it opens up possibilities for others to at least venture after similar trails.

    “Love, and do what you like.” – St. Augusten

    • I would have to agree the greatest contribution to the movement of “lifestyle design’ Tim Ferris and his ‘Four Hour Work Week’ (4HWW) has made is that he defined some terms and fundamental principles for the world to use. Agree with them or not, he has made his definition the default. He did it by wrapping his principles in a few (enjoyable to read) stories. He did not invent anything, but paraphrased a number of sources, but he did wrap a boring lecture into an enjoyable format.

      Sure there are a lot of specifics that people can quibble about (and they are quibbling), but he has moved something that was underground and not well understood and brought it into the mainstream.

      Did he invent it… no he did not. But he is the one (enjoying his 15 minutes) who is defining the movement at least for now.

      Forester group is reporting that 72% of all knowledge workers will be telecommuting at least partially by 2012. What people do with that opportunity is all up to them? Tim’s book has brought some options to the table that many many people would not have considered before… in my humble opinion.

      I am a student of the 4HWW but my version of the truth is a two hour work day. I personally already work one day a week from home. I aspire to travel one month in four. When I travel I want to work no more than 2 hours a day.

    • You’re right, it IS only the beginning and it is a revolution and will be as big as the industrial revolution!! Lifestyle Design/world wide digital nomading/location independent/ virtual schooling is a trend that is growing fast and will go mainstream.

      Tim is a master showman & PR guy and we’re featured Case Studies in 4HWW (even though we were living the life before it was first written) so I’m absolutely crazy about what he has done and how many people he has inspired and opened their eyes to a new way to view life.

      But timing is everything and tech and the new economy ALSO plays a BIG part in this. Masses didn’t do this before because it was never this easy and they were not as motivated (there use to be at least a sense of security with careers that no longer exists).

      There was a time when getting a good job with the same company until you got a gold watch at retirement made sense. It no longer does today. Haven’t you seen the “we are living in exponential times” videos?

      The U.S. Dept of labor estimates that today’s learners will have 10 to 14 jobs by the time they are 38! (And that research was done a few years ago).

      People don’t always change because they want to, often circumstances force a new way of being. The old ways are dying because they were and are unsustainable.

      Yes, the true beauty of the movement is everyone can (and should) interpret what it means in their own way! This is the wave of the future and those that embrace adaptability, freedom, self determination and simplicity will be head of the game.

  52. Mark Twain has several of my favorite quotes, the most popular of which is: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

    I have always been a hell-raiser, go-against-the-flow-just-for-the-sake-of-it guy. I usually look what other people are doing, and go in another direction. By default, I cannot stand things that are popular. However that is usually because what is popular is dumb. I would be all about a world of peace, a mentality of conservation of resources and the environment, a workforce of satisfied and happy people. If all of these wonderful things came to pass, I would not find myself nostalgic for the days of the military-industrial-complex and 80-hour workweeks.

    Nonetheless, as lifestyle design becomes more popular, we must all stop and reflect. What does it mean to each of us? Who is espousing the LD philosophy just to make some cash (and therefore stand on the shoulders of others’ shoulders)? How is LD appropriate to my stage in life? Be real, focus on what fulfills you, and work towards personal goals that are consciously defined. And as Markus says, the more of us that do this the greater momentum we have to really change the path this world is on.

  53. How about we all change the name of the movement to be more accurate? – Get A Life!

  54. I don’t think the term “lifestyle design” is dead but to think that all of us will become Tim Ferris only buys into the “sheeple principle”. I read an article recently by Annabel Candy recently that states that we need to examine our lives and realize that we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves to be someone elses reality. Enter This article really opened my eyes to the fact that we can do our own thing and not to settle for what someone else’s idea of success might be. We will continue to design our own life but it may not be that “perfect” Tim Ferriss life! And that’s OK!

  55. Lifestyle Design is our generationX’s Liberty Bond ~ it’s our patriotic duty to invest in the life we want to lead.

  56. Funnily enough I just wrote about The 4-Hour Workweek on my blog. I do think that it’s an ambitious model but it’s good to aim high and the book does have plenty of tips on how to save time, travel more or set up an online business.

    I’m new to the term lifestyle design and only discovered it in the middle of last year. Personally I think it’s just a sexy new moniker for self help and personal development. It certainly sounds more interesting and I sometimes wish I’d described my blog as about lifestyle design instead of self development. It’s certainly something I know a lot about as I’ve been working for myself for 12 years and over the past 20 years or so have lived in the UK, France, the US, Thailand, Laos, Zimbabwe and Costa Rica and visited many other countries. It looks as if I was ahead of my time. Now, if I’d only coined the term ‘lifestyle design’!

    A lot of people think I’m lucky but they could have done it to. It’s just about having guts and choosing to do what pleases you. It’s not for everyone, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  57. Archan Mehta

    Ah, yes, we like categories, terms and neat, little boxes because it is convenient and we think leads to a better understanding of the quantum soup. However, these labels can also lead to what scientists refer to as “paradigm paralysis” as we fall prey to our own conditioning (reminds me of Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment). In the event, we fail to see the nature of reality as it actually is, and omit or reject the information that does not meet our theories. In the process, we limit our understanding.

    Location independent, lifestyle design, nomadic this, entrepreneurship, etc….you name it…this is “old wine in new bottle” and has been around for thousands (if not millions) of years. And it may well pre-date the Judeo-Christian ethos and democracy and out notions of progress as well. I think we need to be more curious and open about more ancient societies, cultures and civilizations. Otherwise, we flatter only to deceive.

    If memory serves, ancient travelers have recorded manuscripts (and not always in English) about how artists and explorers were funded by the monarchy (and others) to follow their whims and fancies. Such “entrepreneurs” were released from the drudgery of 9 to 5 and were relatively free to pursue their ideas. Since money was no longer a concern, for the most part, they could go off on a limb or a tangent and make new discoveries. And what they found was that people in “other” parts of the world were also living unconventional lifestyles.

    These ancient travelers discovered that the world is a very diverse place. People in other parts of the world differed very much in terms of cuisine, arts and crafts, languages, dialects, clothes, you name it. And even within those places there were many people who followed their own ideas and lived as outcasts or were honored (if their contributions were valued). I think it would be wise to delve more deeper into the histories of Aztecs, Mayans, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian, Muslim, and “others.” We have the opportunity to learn a lot from these luminaries.

  58. Lifestyle Design is still alive.

    The basic idea of consciously designing your lifestyle (as opposed to just going along with popular assumptions) is an ancient idea and will never die.

    The more specific notion of The Ferrissian Lifestyle (passive income, travel, debt-free, etc.) is also alive and well.

    I wrote a guest post on the subject at Wage Slave Rebel:

  59. You are right….lifestyle designs will never go out of date…The fashion changes every moment….. It never stays stagnant. With ever increasing consciousness about lifestyle designs and with so many fashion platform to dashboard lifestyle and fashion designs….I’m sure, it’ll never die.

  60. I recently wrote a post called, What Time Ferriss Doesn’t Know About Lifestyle Design. I admitted that I was jealous about his travels, and adventures but since I had a newborn baby my life would not be similar any time soon.

    I think lifestyle design is a family on one income so a parent can stay home with the kids or a family that wants to be home when the kids get off the bus.

    It’s just about more freedom to choose what you want to be doing and when. No matter what you call it, I’m pretty sure people will always want to do that. :)

    • Well put, Jaime! Indeed, people will always want the freedom to be able to pursue whatever they desire.

  61. Having just discovered a few blogs in this niche whilst creating my first product, I find this subject amazing but there seems to be perhaps a gap.

    A lot of emphasis on travel and youth and going with baby!

    I wish there was more for people with kids of school age – kids get attached to friends and need rythymn in their lives so moving around every few months isn’t so practical especially if they are sensitive to change.

    Also one thing that is overlooked – old people- our old people.

    For me if I could spend a load of time with my Mum in her final years just a few miles from my house in a nursing home that would be a benefit of lifestyle design.

    Love the blog btw


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