Radical Lifestyle Transparency

Editor’s note: this post is a little longer than I usually publish here, but it is worth the read. I lay everything on the line here, because I believe that transparency will help us all reach our goals. Total read time is less than 10 minutes. Let me know what you think.


I have to say that I’ve been “practicing what I preach” in some areas and not in others lately.

If you read New Economy Superstar, you know that I’m big on finding like-minded people and interacting with them. If you’re trying to reach any uncommon goals, it’s really important to build a support group so that “normal” society doesn’t drag you back into the fold.

That’s the part that I’ve been pretty good about practicing lately. And doing that has helped me realize that I’m not doing other things I should be.

A couple of posts by fellow aspiring radical life changers have caught my attention lately. The first, Introducing: Radical Financial Transparency by Adam Baker (Man Vs. Debt) made me examine exactly how transparent I’ve been lately, and I think I haven’t been transparent enough. That was the original inspiration for this post.

The other post that really struck me today was Bullshit with Bullets by J.D. Bentley (Wage Slave Rebel). J.D. was ranting about how list-style blog posts (you know, top 10s and the like) are really useless to readers. His deeper point was more about how we all need to work harder at contributing something to collective journey we’re on. List posts just aren’t enough for J.D. He wants to facilitate organic growth and to be a leading participant in the conversation.

I’m not ready to abandon list posts (I think the structure is useful if the content is right), but I was really taken by his sentiment. I’m guilty just as much as the next guy of not giving 100% all the time and not sharing enough of myself to really help everyone else cut through the bullshit that is out there.

The point was further driven home in a comment on the post by Alaya Morning:

After initial excitement, I’ve been quickly disenchanted with current content on personal development/lifestyle design/etc.. It seems to favor quick sets of “instructions” over what people really need: the reminder to get in touch with themselves, and find their own path through life.

Amen. Enough with the empty instructions. Let’s get in touch with ourselves and find our own paths through life.

We all need to work on being more open and honest with ourselves and our readers. Authentic conversations are needed to help all of us reach our goals. Platitudes and how-to’s will only get us so far. Those of us in the personal development and lifestyle design communities need to lay everything on the line.

I’m going to lay everything out today, here, in this post.

This is a summary of exactly where I stand, and where I want to be. I don’t want to come off as though I have everything figured out. I don’t want to be a part of the B.S. that goes on online where people sell experience they don’t really possess or teach things they don’t really know.

I’m on a journey of my own, and I’m simply sharing with you what I find and what I know from things I’ve already experienced. I hope all of you bloggers reading this will open up and share more of your personal stories as well. If you don’t blog, you can share too in the comments.

Let’s Start With Money

This is probably the single biggest question about lifestyle design and location independence. How do you make money? How do you run a business or work from somewhere while traveling abroad?

I’m not going to answer the question in the generic sense, because there are lots of correct answers. Instead, let’s look at my specific situation so you can use it as a guidepost.

I get this question a lot: “I don’t see any advertisements on your blog. How do you make money?” Great question, and the answer is I don’t make any significant income from this blog. I think I’ve made maybe $300 in affiliate revenue from the blog (from that little Thesis Theme link at the bottom of this page). On the whole though, this blog has cost me much more than I’ve made. So far.

My goal is to eventually earn a living from this blog. It won’t be my only source of income, but I do plan to make something meaningful from it. And that’s okay. You shouldn’t feel guilty about trying to make a living from what you do. Your dentist doesn’t, and your plumber doesn’t either. The difference with blogging is that people expect to start making money right away, whereas your dentist went to school for like 7 years, and even your plumber was an apprentice before making a living at it.

So, I’m not going to rush the blogging income. I will start to review useful products here soon, and I also plan to write and sell a book on the site within the next few months. But I don’t expect blogging to support me anytime soon. Some people have become probloggers in less than a year. I’m not counting on it. The beauty of blogging is that it can be valuable in a lot of other ways before (or instead of) bringing in any income directly.

If I’m not going to make a living from blogging, how do I support myself now? How will I make a living?

The short answer is that I’m in a transition now and living mostly off of savings. My wife works as well, but we’re definitely spending more than we’re making right now.

We’ve been back home for just two months now from our life changing sabbatical in Mexico (sorry that’s a list post). On that trip, I formulated an entirely new life plan. The foundation of my new life plan is in joining the New Economy, and making a living as a location independent solopreneur. More on that in a sec.

How Did I Get Here?

I left my “traditional” cushy career (and my big salary) of technology/business consulting to big companies back in early 2006. I wanted to pursue a life-long dream of being an entrepreneur, and I did. Only I didn’t really think about what the lifestyle of an entrepreneur could be and just jumped into the typical Silicon Valley version of entrepreneurship.

I found a partner (a former colleague) who already had a business idea, and we got to work. We built a prototype version and started shopping it around to venture capitalists. We ended up raising a couple million dollars from a really well-known firm, and we were written about in the Economist and a bunch of other top publications.

By all accounts, we were doing quite well, but I didn’t feel satisfied. Something wasn’t right for me. Maybe I wasn’t passionate about the product (an email prioritization tool), or maybe I didn’t like the day-to-day of operating a company like that. Sure, I was a founder, but with VCs, a co-founder, board members, employees and an office, it ended up being more stifling than when I worked for a big company. Boo hoo, I know, but that’s how it felt.

When it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to raise a second round of financing big enough to grow the company (and would have to lay people off), it was time for me to go. And I’m so glad I did. That’s when my wife and I decided to head to Mexico for the first half of this year to reevaluate what we want from life.

That’s what brings me here today, and I’m grateful for the way things worked out. Even with the stress of completely changing what I’m working on, I am so happy about our outlook and feel like I’ve found myself again after spending the better part of a decade doing what I thought I was supposed to do (instead of what I wanted to do). I would definitely go through the whole startup experience again because of everything I learned, but I’m much happier now that I’m doing something I’m passionate about in the way that I want to do it.

Funding My Future Happiness

Achieving my new life plan is going to take some time, and I’m making a conscious decision to fund my future happiness out of my savings now. Is it fun living with almost no income and watching our savings shrink? Hell no, it scares the shit out of me. But, I know it’s the right thing to do now.

I realize that my situation may be a little different than yours. That’s OK. Everyone’s path and life plans are different. That’s why I’m being open about where I’m at so that what I write about here can better help you.

Instead of living on savings, maybe you have a day job. Most people do. I’m not saying you should quit your day job before having your next income source in place. The stress of not making an income might be harder than creating an income in your spare time. I’ve tried both, and they each have advantages and disadvantages. That’s a whole separate topic.

I’m actually about to create a type of “day job” for myself. To do this, I’m going to rely on the skills I already earned from paying my dues as a technology/business consultant. I’m going to start taking on some independent consulting clients and help other people become successful in the new economy. This will be my primary source of income until either blogging or my other projects take on a life of their own. I actually enjoy consulting with people and small businesses, so I’ll probably continue that even when I don’t “need” the income.

What are my other projects? Well, I’ve told you about one of them before, Morning Spanish. That project hasn’t been a wild success yet, but it is cash flow positive, requires little effort to maintain, and it does earn a couple hundred dollars per month just one month after launch. If it keeps growing like this, it will be a respectable little side business within a year.

And I have other similar projects planned. The goal is to create a number of smaller projects (some with partners) that I can run with a decent return on investment (ROI). My investment in these projects consists mostly of time, although I’m not opposed to investing cash in the right opportunity.

So, to sum up my current income, and my plans, I currently make less than $500 per month from all my endeavors. We’re living off of savings and my wife’s income (she’s an artist and teacher) until I get things worked out. I’ve given myself until April 1, 2010 to earn an income that exceeds our expenses.

That income will come from three things (in order of most to least earnings): consulting, this blog and side projects (minisites). If I don’t reach my goal by April 1 of next year, than I’ll reevaluate. How confident am I that I’ll reach my goal? I feel great about it. There have been days when I question myself, but overall, I’d give myself a 90% chance of being able to support myself in the way I’ve laid out. I’ve succeeded in the past at things I consider much harder than what I’m attempting now.

And the Lifestyle Part?

So, what does all this mean for my lifestyle? Why do I care about earning a living in such a specific way? How will that help me live how I want to live? Why would I give up a big salary and a comfortable career for so much uncertainty?

I tried the “regular” career thing, and it just didn’t work for me. I constantly felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy it. I also didn’t understand why things operated like they did, with hierarchies and inefficiencies and people going through the motions without any passion. It still blows my mind that so many people are willing to endure life in a job they don’t like.

That’s why I’ve resolved to so something different. My goal is to work doing something I really enjoy (helping others succeed in the New Economy), while being able to control my own schedule, earn a decent income, live where I want to and travel when and as often as I want to.

Getting there is going to require plenty of long days. I have no delusions or intentions of 4-hour workweeks anytime soon. And I’m fine with that, because I actually really like what I’m doing now. Finally, for the first time in my working years (15 years if you count my full time job in college) I actually like my “job.” It’s ironic that in my quest to find a way to work less, I found something to be passionate about.

Am I out traveling the world now? No, I’m writing this from San Francisco, which I consider home now, and which is one of my favorite cities. Even when I achieve full location independence, I plan to be here at least six months out of each year. We love it here, and my wife needs to be here (or a similar big city) to continue her career as an artist.

Our next major adventure will start in January, when we head back to Mexico for a couple of months. We really came to love a little beach town there, and want to continue learning Spanish and reconnect with our new friends. This trip will be different from the sabbatical in that it will be a test of how well I can work in another country for an extended period of time.

The Bottom Line

So, here’s the bottom line (thanks for sticking with me until the end). I’m in transition myself and don’t have all the answers. I’m committed to living a better lifestyle and to sharing everything I learn along the way with you. I also happen to believe that the way all of us live and work is changing rapidly and that location independence, lifestyle design and earning a self-reliant independent income will become much more common in the future.

To help accelerate that process, I think we should all be a little more transparent. We need to share with each other the real truth about what works and what doesn’t (and less empty instructions). If we do that, there’s no stopping us.

Share your thoughts!

Is this all transparent enough for you? What else can I share? What do you need to know to get where you want to be? Please share in the comments! Also, feel free to contact me anytime. I want to help.

I'm Corbett Barr, co-founder of Fizzle and entrepreneur for a decade. Get my weekly curated email of useful things for independent entrepreneurs »

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