Like most people, I want to become a better person and a happier person (ah the great American ideal of self-improvement is alive and well!). So my Google Reader is full of personal development blogs. In the past few years, lifestyle design have become a huge niche in that sphere. A few nights ago Krystal of Give Me Back My Five Bucks and Clare at Never Niche and I got into a conversation over Twitter – about work, passion, and the rise of the lifestyle design blogs. And that conversation clarified some of the mixed feelings I have on those blogs.
On the one hand, I love the idea of lifestyle design – I want to design a life that matches my priorities and values, I want to live with intention. Many of the lifestyle design blogs I’ve read are inspiring and interesting, and many of them have good tips and tools. Besides, I truly admire people who are going after their dreams.
On the other hand, some of these blogs are full of egregious self-promotion and barely disguised disdain for any other kind of lifestyles. The theme seems to be: if you are not (1) starting your own business in social media, web design, or personal coaching, (2) working in Thailand, Bali or another developing country with a low cost of living, and (3) spending money on lifestyle design e-books and e-courses, then you must be too scared, stupid, and naive to grasp your One True Passion. Oh, and your soul will wither and die.
I also hate the fact that the default definition of lifestyle design – which sounds like a concise and elegant way to describe “living with intention” – is “I am going to be on permanent travel selling e-books and information products (with limited time offers and modules and super value-add bonuses!).”
Being OK with being conventional
Conventional has a negative connotation in the language of lifestyle design – it is a catch all for “average,” for “complacent,” for “ordinary.” Conventional people are unsuccessful mice who are too afraid to change their lives, or even worse, they are deluded saps who doesn’t even know what they are missing. Who wants to be ordinary when you can “hack” or “test” your way to extraordinary, epic, radical, and awesome FREEDOM!?
I say that in jest, sort of. The truth is, I am envious of people who have figured out exactly what they want their life to be and have pursued that with passion (either that, or they are doing a great job faking it). I just wish they
cut out the smugness for the rest of us.
Being OK with not wanting what these lifestyle design bloggers want doesn’t mean that I am lying to myself. If I am truly honest with myself, I know: I am wary of taking on very big financial risks. I don’t want to live in Thailand and work on a beach all day. I write a blog because I enjoy it, and my hourly income is somewhere in the neighborhood of fast food and retail. (Monetizing a blog is hard work – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). I want to go to business school. I want a career that is interesting and financially rewarding, but it will still be work. I want to live near my parents when they reach their 70s. I want a nice house. I want a few rental properties to supplement my cash flow. I want to travel, but I plan to have a home base. I want a dog. I want to marry the man I met in high school.
Conventional doesn’t mean we are dead inside
As you can see, my aspirations are quite middle-of-the-road. The fact that I have a corporate job, I have an apartment, and I have more than 3 pairs of shoes certainly doesn’t mean that I look into the mirror and see “dark, hollowed eyes match the dark, hollowed soul that once was a vibrant, enthusiastic one, looking forward to all of life’s gifts.” This isn’t an attack on Nina. She has written some thought-provoking stuff, and she seems like a pretty cool person. But the sentiment that “if you are not doing what I’m doing then you are a dead shell of a person” is a prevalent one among lifestyle design bloggers, and that frankly irritates the heck out of me.
I can’t make $97,000 traveling through Latin America. I certainly don’t make this money charging a $20/month VIP subscription to read about how I make money. Again, this isn’t an attack on Ash. I respect anyone who can make six figures selling and hustling in Chile and has the time to drink wine during afternoons. I respect people who have found work that makes them happy and fulfilled. I respect people who work hard for what they have and I believe that lifestyle bloggers who make a living at this work very hard. We all work hard.
But am I a dunce because I have a long commute, I have long travels and I take client calls at 5am on Saturday mornings? (Wait, do I really want to hear the answer to this?). I think I can learn from lifestyle design bloggers, which is why I still read their blogs. Call me crazy, but I am getting just the tiniest inkling that the respect’s not mutual. Hence the hate part of my love-hate relationship.
Share your stories, don’t be a jerk
The bottom line is that like most of the population, I do not have goals that consist of getting rid of 95% of my stuff, living in a developing country and selling e-courses on teaching people how to do the same. If that’s what someone wants to do, he/she should absolutely go for it. Regale us with stories, tell us about your struggles, teach us what you’ve learned. But please, please, don’t be a jerk about it.
photo by DanBrady via Flickr