Why “Lifestyle Design” Will Never Die

By Sean Ogle •  Updated: 07/30/12 •  7 min read

Man, that term sucks doesn’t it? Lifestyle design.

There are so many negative connotations associated with it and other terms like: “life coach” and “location independence”.

They’re all buzz words that have gotten a shockingly bad reputation.

Why? Because many in our society perceive those who are pursuing any of those things as faking it.

The “Lifestyle Design” Backstory – Here’s what happened:

In 2008 the economy tanked.  People were laid off, received paycuts, and WordPress was just starting to really hit the mainstream.

The Four Hour Work Week came out, and thousands of people decided to declare themselves “lifestyle designers” because they had no better options.

It was a way to disguise their cluelessness about where their life was going next.

Many started a blog, took off to Thailand (or talked about it), and all of a sudden became qualified to give you advice on your life and business.

No wonder it got such a bad rap.  All of a sudden there were bloggers all over the internet who didn’t know what to do with their own life, so they started giving you advice on how to live yours.

Now 3 or 4 years later, what’s changed? Well there are still just as many people who are unhappy with their lives and are looking for answers, but the vast majority of those original lifestyle design blogs have come and gone.

The ones that have survived have done so for a few very key reasons:

Key Reason 1: They Shifted Gears

Take Corbett for example, he took the focus of his brand off of “Free Pursuits” and started Fizzle which has been thriving.

I’ve followed through with my original goal of working and traveling and have switched gears from being clueless (see the first year of archives), to “hey I know how to help you successfully start a small business.”

If you never found the answers you were looking for, then you ran out of content (and/or money) pretty quickly, let your blog die, and found something more stable.

In this post it’s no wonder that Kevin laid into me thinking I wasn’t going to make it on my own, because most people didn’t.

Key Reason 2: They Actually Learned Something

Most people don’t have the time and/or diligence to improve their own knowledge and skillset.  They go to college because they don’t know any better (with the exception of professional degrees, and a few other specific programs).

They think college is going to give them the skills they need, so they blindly fork out tens of thousands of dollars to do it – without questioning what they’re really learning.

In the end? Most didn’t learn a whole lot besides how to build a resume and find a job they don’t like.

The “lifestyle designers” that have been successful did so because they recognized that in order to design a life that they really wanted, one with freedom of time, money, and influence, they couldn’t simply rely on their sparking personality.

They had to provide real value.

In order to do that they not only had to learn how to encapsulate their current skills, but they needed to learn something new (or a lot of somethings) in the process.

The ones who have been successful have carved out a specific niche, and learned countless other intangible skills to make that successful: copywriting, psychology, persuasion, SEO, basic design, project management…the list goes on.

While they were actually working on that beach in Mexico, most others were treating their “lifestyle design” saga as an extended vacation or gap year.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with that.  If you started a blog, tried it, maybe did some traveling, and then realized it didn’t work for you, for whatever reason, that’s awesome – you’re better off for having done it.

But there’s a reason it didn’t work. You were lazy and didn’t work as hard as the ones who were successful.

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Key Reason #3: They Surrounded Themselves with the Right People

Dan kicked it in Asia for years.  When you’re in places like Vietnam, Bali, and the Philippines, do you have any idea how easy it is to get sucked into the expat or backpackers lifestyle?

Incredibly.  It’s scary how easy it is.

Dan could have done nothing but hang out with those gap year guys and fallen into the same boat as the thousands of other lifestyle designers who ended up designing a more traditional path. However, he continued to make Asia an asset rather than a liability.

When you’re willing to seek out the right people, access in Asia is much easier to get than it is in the Western world.  I’ve golfed with owners of giant nightclub syndicates in Indonesia, had drinks with executives for large corporations in Bangkok, and met countless traveling entrepreneurs everywhere I’ve been.

Dan has done the same thing.  He’s stayed focused, leveraged being with the right people, and used it all as an asset.

He’s recorded hundreds of episodes of the Tropical MBA Podcast. If you’re not surrounding yourself with the right people, there is zero way you’re going to be that consistent.

So, Why Won’t Lifestyle Design Ever Die?

The fact remains, people are always going to be dreaming about something better in life.  The “grass is always greener” effect has been around forever, and it’ll continue to stick around.

The vast majority of society will still not be completely happy in their lives, and they’ll let uncertainty get the best of them – yet they want to believe there’s a better way.

They want to believe they can design their own life, and not fall into the same 9 to 5 trap everyone else is in.  And you know what? That’s not a bad thing. To quote my favorite movie:

“Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies.”

It was hope that got me through the dark times where I wasn’t happy and didn’t know what I was personally going to do with my life. It’s hope that will continue to inspire millions of people to try out their hand at “lifestyle design” – in whatever form that may take.

It’s what will keep them buying self help products from people who, let’s face it, probably aren’t qualified (in the traditional sense) to be writing one in the first place.

But even if so many of these blogs and products are very similar, it doesn’t matter.  Because often all it takes is one person, one sentence, one idea to hit you and change your life.

If you buy $1,000 worth of ebooks, and on the $1,001st dollar you learn something that’s life changing – wouldn’t you say it’s all worth it?

Lifestyle design will never die, because hope for a better life will never die.

In the end, there will only be a few that will be able to capitalize on the movement, because there are only a few that have deliberately taken the time to set themselves apart, and learn the skills that allow them to provide actual value to a larger audience.

That said, to the blogger who writes up a little ebook about following your passion or any other cliched topic. Keep writing! If it sucks, it doesn’t matter, I’m sure you have a great return policy.

And if it’s awesome? Then you’ll be rewarded for it.

Regardless, writing that book that will help you figure out your life, even if it doesn’t help anyone else figure out theirs.

Moral of the story?

Lifestyle design is around for good.

A small few will rise above and be able to legitimately help others in their quest to be unconventional, and the rest will try and do the same until they realize they don’t have what it takes to make it as a lifestyle entrepreneur.

What do you think of the current state of “lifestyle design”.  I promise to never, ever use that term this much in a post ever again. Ever.

Sean Ogle

Sean Ogle is the Founder of Location Rebel where he has spent the last 12+ years teaching people how to build online businesses that give them the freedom to do more of the things they like to do in life. When he's not in the coffee shops of Portland, or the beaches of Bali, he's probably sneaking into some other high-class establishment where he most certainly doesn't belong.
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