Top Lifestyle Designers
What is lifestyle design? As I mentioned in a recent post on my blog, in its most basic form, lifestyle design is the practice of making changes in your life in order to live the life YOU want. It usually involves shunning certain behaviors practiced by the mainstream, rejecting conventional wisdom, and taking a hard look at what it is you really want from life.
For example, my main website MarriedWithDebt.com, is geared towards helping married couples get on the same page about money and debt reduction. The purpose of this is to eliminate money stress, one of the main causes of divorce, and to use money as a means to do what you want. For too many families, money is simply a slave shackle that causes us to work at jobs we hate and live lives that are unfulfilling. By eliminating your debt, your family is more free to enjoy life, take advantage of new opportunities, or take a less stressful job in order to spend more time at home.
Lifestyle designers are often attacked or shunned because they represent a challenge to authority or the status quo. In the world of personal finance, the status quo is full employment so everyone can be dutiful consumers. If everyone started paying off their debt, spending less than they earn, and saving for the future, our financial system would be in serious jeopardy.
Lifestyle designers are sometimes portrayed as selfish, because they challenge you to reject “what everyone else is doing” in order to put yourself or your family first. But you know what, I think this is okay. If you really think Congress, Wall Street or anyone in a suit is looking out for your best interest, you better think again. Once you reject the idea that selfishness (or putting your own family first) is wrong, you free up a world of possibilities.
Now that we have a basic idea of what lifestyle design is, let’s take a look at some of the best lifestyle designers out there.
Since the mid-nineties, Dave Ramsey has hosted a syndicated radio show about life, money and personal finance. It is one of the top ten most listened to shows in America. He offers listeners and readers of his popular books a simple path to debt freedom and “financial peace.”
So what makes Dave Ramsey a lifestyle designer, since I’m not sure he’d be quick to claim the title? When you compare what he does to my original definition, his philosophy is about making big changes in your life now, so that you can lead a better life in the future.
His 7 Baby Steps transition one from a debt slave living paycheck to paycheck into a financially secure person who rejects consumer spending and instead focuses on charitable giving and leaving a sound legacy for one’s children and grandchildren. He is known for his tough talk and for his noncompromising advice.
Because he knows that debt is a human problem and not a math problem, he advocates methods designed for psychological victories that will keep you on track such as paying your debts off smallest to largest. While it is easy to see that paying off the ones with the higher interest rates will save you money, he knows that psychology is more important. I have heard him say to callers who bring up this point: “Well if you are such a math genius, how did you end up in debt?”
Whether you are a Christian or not, if you follow lifestyle design, you’d be hard pressed to argue with the notion that he is a lifestyle designer. In fact, the Bible is essentially a lifestyle design manual (minus all the stuff about killing, raping, and enslaving).
If you were to repackage Jesus’ teachings, feed them through a smooth talking modern philosopher, the ideas would still be popular. Teachings like loving thy neighbors and enemies, the value of charity and sacrifice, of treating others as you wish to be treated are lessons that transcend time and culture.
Even if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed, it is a hard case to make to argue against his teachings. People like Ayn Rand have tried, but most people inherently reject extreme individualism, punishment for the less capable, and leaving the less fortunate to fend for themselves (though it is strange that some of the most popular politicians in America advocate exactly that, it is clear that a majority of Americans don’t support it.)
Much like Dave Ramsey and other lifestyle designers, Jesus’ teachings would be considered out of the mainstream of today’s culture. While they sound good on paper, many people would be unable to abide by them because they require great inner strength, confidence, and the ability to sacrifice.
Though Jesus does not necessarily advocate putting yourself first, he is a lifestyle designer no doubt because his lessons promise to leave you better off in the end than when you started.
Tim Ferriss (or Timothy Ferriss) is one of the most well-known and successful of the modern lifestyle designers. Tim started an internet-based health supplement company, had it explode in sales, and watched his life and happiness spiral out of control, even as he was making $70,000 per month.
After a near-breakdown, Ferriss restructured his business so that is was almost completely outsourced and automated, and found that he was happier, had more time to do what he wanted, and was more successful.
The main thing that he teaches is that if you are willing to not play by the rules, you can escape the hell of modern life to a world of happiness. He advocates building a “muse,” which is an automated turnkey business (usually internet based) that provides you with passive income while leaving you the free time you need to pursue your goals and dreams.
This can be easily accomplished because he believes in Pareto’s Law, which is the theory that 80% of your results come from just 20% of your efforts. If you believe in this and are able to see it in action in your life, then you have acquired some powerful and controversial knowledge. I believe it because I know at my current job, I could get everything done in 2 hours instead of 8.
Ferriss’ teachings have inspired me to work towards the goal of passive income and the day that I can fire my boss (otherwise known as quitting my job.) If I were to sum up the mission of my main website, I would say “I’m trying to be the Tim Ferriss of married people.” The reason I put it this way is that much of what he teaches is geared towards young and single people who are able to drop everything and pursue a new goal, like permanent travel.
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