Category Archives: Lifestyle Design

My View of the Rat Race One Year After Leaving It

Check out my update now that it has been four years since leaving the rat race!

I had the great privilege of being able to leave the traditional 9-5 lifestyle just over a year ago for horizons unknown. A year on, I still don’t know where I’m headed and I’m OK with that. Some people after leaving the 9-5 have a strong desire to get their teeth stuck into something that gives their life meaning. Me, I’m just happy to cruise along, attacking mini-projects as they cross my path.

So now that I’ve been out of the rat race for a year, what are my observations?

Pros

  • The total freedom to do whatever you want, when you want (it really is as good as it seems);
  • Choosing sleeping patterns that suit your body (joy);
  • The strange fact that project opportunities beg you to go after them (eg Writing a travel guide, exploring photographic opportunties and management consultancy);
  • A break in the monotony of 9-5 routines;
  • Everything is as finite as you choose it to be – That is, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dire things are (really important for me!);
  • Being able to go to cafes and supermarkets on non-busy days;
  • Travelling outside of peak periods;
  • Above all, little stress.

Cons

  • The very occasional thought of how sustainable this lifestyle is financially (is this too good to be true?);
  • The difficulty of meeting people who are travelling along the same path meaning that friendships are harder to make and keep;
  • Not having a place to call home is sometimes unsettling;
  • The lack of routine can sometimes be unsettling (I’m getting used to it);
  • Being self-consciousness of people thinking you are a bum (ego is still important).

So it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. But the main thing that has reminded me of the stress levels of the 9-5 is a cafe I frequent only during the week. Recently I visited it on the weekend and the vibe was not relaxed. It was hectic, people seemed to be enjoying themselves, but everyone was so amped up that the stress transferred right into me. I left the place jittery! I couldn’t cope with it.

So whilst I never say ‘never’, I just can’t see myself travelling down that path anymore.

Love to hear your thoughts.

If I Had a Million Dollars

Before giving up the 9-5 I often thought about how grand life would be if I was a millionaire. I could do absolutely anything I wanted whenever I wanted without a worry in the world. But as I steamrolled towards greater financial independence through saving and a different mindset, this whole notion of money being a great liberator became somewhat diluted.

I now have a level of financial independence that allows me to travel almost anywhere, anytime and without any consideration of other factors. Yet, the world isn’t all roses. Sure, it’s much better than having to roll out of bed every morning to do something that I’m not passionate about, but the question still remains, “What am I going to do now?”

A million dollars doesn’t solve this problem. In fact, I think having financial independence in many ways brings these life questions to the fore and demands that you tackle them head-on – something which isn’t necessary when burying yourself in the 9-5. The blissful ignorance of the 9-5 allows you to hide from the deeper questions about oneself. Financial independence doesn’t.

So giving up the 9-5 for a life of greater freedom makes you face up to some tough questions whether you are ready for it or not. And boy, they are tough questions to answer.

Has your escape from the 9-5 challenged your notions of what life is all about? Can you even define it?

The Cafe is Packed – On Why Weekdays are Better than Weekends

The conventional view of the world is that weekends are great and weekdays are bad. It’s ingrained in us from an early age that weekends equal freedom and weekdays equal pain and suffering.

I recently visited my favourite cafe on the weekend for the first time ever. What a surprise. It was even more packed than usual with a line out the door and a vibe that was frantic. When you live life in the fast lane, I guess everything becomes frantic and this just becomes the norm. But for me as a person taking a slower pace, this franticness was very uncomfortable. I scoffed my food, slammed back my coffee and just sat there squeezed between the hoards wondering what to do next. This is just not like me. I can ordinarily just hang out for hours doing nothing in particular but watching the crowd and sipping on a coffee.

The realisation for me was that weekends are indeed a good time to retreat to the confines of the house in order to let the masses go about their “leisure” time. When Monday comes around, I can sing “hallelujah”  and return to normal life once again.

I’ve noticed the same crowd patterns on the roads, the parks and even the supermarket. What it really means is that one can live in a crowded city and avoid most of the crowds if choosing your movements wisely.

Just forget the weekends – they’re horrendous.

What are Lifestyle Designers Searching For?

Today, lifestyle designers have embarked on a journey. Primarily due to dissatisfaction with either their own lives or the lives that they are expected to lead by society. We all know what on the surface causes this dissatisfaction. These surface issues are things like having to work the 9-5, little or no flexibility to do what you want to do and the monotony of the consumerist lifestyle. But these are just surface issues and if we fail to delve deeper, we risk treating these surface issues with surface solutions such as quitting our job and running away for a jaunt around the world. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it or are about to embark upon it. Quit your job, sell the house and run away. To account for the gap in income, go and start a new innovative business that avoids those surface issues.

It all sounds so perfect.  All my surface issues are gone and I’m excited about the prospects for the future. But soon the lustre of the new wears off and we are left with feelings that bubbled to surface in our first bout of dissatisfaction. But hang on! We’re now talking about our emotional state, our internal world, rather than our material world of work and home which are our external world.  We’re now starting to dig deeper. Of course there are ills in our external worlds, but without attention being given to our internal state, perhaps what some would call a more important and difficult proposition, we risk living an unbalanced and hollow life filled with ephemeral and fleeting gloss.

Hollowness, emptiness, the feeling of there being more out there…  it all resonates with the Lifestyle Designer. These are internal churnings that need attention directly rather than being glossed over as problems caused by a  poor job, a consumerist society or a lifestyle dictated by cultural norms. I wish I had a solution for this, but I don’t.  And at the risk of alienating myself, I have a sense that it revolves somewhere around two things that most will probably find scary and off-putting .  Community and spirituality.  <gulp> The reason I am sensing that these two things are central to resolving the dissatisfaction issue is that these two things have really only recently disappeared from Western society.

So with that said, I think I owe it to myself to explore these concepts more closely. Does this make sense, resonate with you or sound like waffle? I’d love to get some feedback on my musings here.

Explaining Lifestyle Design = Uncomfortable Discussion

Whenever I get into a discussion with people about what I do for a living and I explain that I do “a bit of this, a bit of that”, the conversation often drifts towards the whys and wherefores of my situation. Why I don’t have a traditional job, why I’m travelling down the path I’ve chosen etc. Mixed in with these discussions are my views on shunning debt, working 9-5, living more deliberately and exploring passions. The problem is that that can sound very preachy and sometimes as is if I’m gloating. Perhaps it comes from a sense of my own insecurity.

People often get defensive about their chosen path and whilst I respect their chosen path, it’s diametrically opposed to mine and therefore being defensive about it makes the whole discussion rather uncomfortable. So what generally happens is that I try and downplay my arrangements so there are no feelings of envy or inadequacy. As a result I just end up sounding like a lazy bum with nothing better to do with my time than sit on the couch (not an entirely false assertion!).

So something that I’m so excited about is now something that I can only really talk to like-minded people about. Perhaps people just freak out when they start thinking about their own lives. Whatever the case, I think it’s important for all lifestyle designers to keep the preachiness factor in mind when talking to people that might not necessarily want to look at their lives with a critical eye.

I’m not sure if anyone else faces these situations, but I’d love to hear about it.

Remaining Positive About Lifestyle Design

Lifestyle Design is about dreaming of a future free from the restraints that are placed on us by societal norms. That is, free from a job we hate, stepping away from rampant consumerism and discovering things about ourselves that we never thought we possessed. Whilst dreaming, Lifestyle Designers begin taking steps to make these life changes a reality and along the way there are inevitably a whole range of hiccups that many of us don’t like to talk about for fear of appearing to be a dismal failure. A recent post by Adam Baker (When to Quit Traveling) about giving up travelling the world earlier than planned and returning “home” to start a normal life again is a great post because it highlights the hurdles that Lifestyle Designers face when trying to find a different life. And it’s authentic – something that is so often missing in the entrepreneurial/Lifestyle Design world.

In the same vein, I face issues which question the very nature of Lifestyle Design. After recently splitting with my good friend and partner of 12 years, my visions of Lifestyle Design have been turned on their head. My plans were interwoven with my partner’s, my financial plans were based on a couple sharing expenses and my whole future was about living independently, but as a couple!

So what happens when you decide to split with your partner and you’ve already started down the Lifestyle Design path? My immediate panicked thoughts turned to the “normal” life.  A full-time job, a nice house, retreating to a place I was familiar with… It all sounded so comfortable and it’s what I thought I needed immediately after a break-up. I think I also seriously questioned whether this whole Lifestyle Design gig was for real or just a charade to mask deeper-seated discontentment. It was almost as if I had switched to believing that a life of discontentment was actually OK because it’s what everyone else is doing.

Well, I’m here to say that I was able to pull myself out of that temporary lapse of sanity. But things are different now and I look forward to the challenges of Lifestyle Design with a different set of eyes. Certainly, life in the future seems a little more open to my own whims – but this question keeps coming up. “Why bother with Lifestyle Design?” And the only answer I can come up with, and it sounds logical, is that it’s too easy to settle into discontentment and that true happiness is something that needs to be strived towards. And that by definition requires effort and perhaps a journey with a myriad of hurdles.

But it also begs the question.  “How does one remain positive about lifestyle design when the chips are down?” It’s certainly something needs exploring as the new breed of Lifestyle Designers journey forth into the unknown and these obstacles present themselves.

Your Sense of Purpose – Quit the 9-5 and You WILL Need One

When thinking about leaving the 9-5, all I could really think about is how free I would be once I was no longer obliged to get out of bed for a day filled with tasks – tasks I was responsible for, but had no personal connection with. I think most people transferring from the 9-5 to the free think this. But once I was free of these obligations and my end-of-work holiday was finished I really didn’t know what to fill my days with. I started practicing being lazy and found others online with the same philosophy. Surely this is what it was all about! The art of doing nothing! No… It’s a cop out. It’s great to be lazy for 9-12 months, but then the “Meaning of Life” question starts to rear its ugly head. In recent times, I’ve been giving deep thought to the purpose of giving up the 9-5. Why give it up? If I’m not compelled to work full time anymore, am I compelled to do anything? If there’s no compulsion to do anything, what am I going to do!? The three points I came up with were:

Pursuit of the Arts

For the ages, artistic expression has been the mechanism by which people have communicated their inner-self in a manner that words cannot compete with. The sense of expressing my inner-self through music, dance, drawing or any other form of artistic outlet is something I want to reconnect with. I’ve never been good at drawing and many of the arts, but I have a passion for music, I’d like to learn how to dance and I’d love to expand on my photography knowledge to the point where my shots are of a professional standard.

These pursuits will be passions; activities which will feed the soul and stimulate the mind.

Self-Betterment

What use are we in the world if we can’t improve ourselves both on an emotional and intellectual level? The intellectual can be pursued through the reading of books and more formal education (whether that be skills-based or academic). The emotional is more difficult and we owe it to those around us to be the best we can be. To be a good person, to forgo judgement of others, to be a positive person. This emotional self-improvement I feel will be a life’s work. If at the end of my life I can say that I gave it a good shot, I’ll be pleased. We are such complex, emotional beasts that the struggle for improvement is destined to be a long and difficult journey, but one in which falling asleep at the wheel can be a waste of one’s life.

Abandonment of the Inane

Many people spend their work lives whiling away the time until 5pm rolls around so they can go home. Surfing the net, endlessly reading and sorting emails, chatting to work colleagues. Much of this is inane and a complete waste of your time. I found that after leaving work I fell back into old habits. Surfing the net for hours on end, constantly checking email, reading and rereading the latest news headlines, doing internet banking daily (!), searching online for stuff to do. This was the inane of my work-life creeping into my personal time. My time will now be filled with all of those things that I said I would do when I left work. Make my own cheese, take more interest in gardening, learn a bunch of new practical skills. Inane begone!

I’ve only managed to realise these issues on a deeper, more meaningful level over the past weeks as I went through some difficult times in Myanmar. This emotional turmoil in the mind lent itself to much self-reflection and an opportunity to set the course for the next chapter of my life. For me, I knew all of this on an intellectual level, but it required some serious soul-searching for it to really make sense and force me to act.

To all potential lifestyle designers, I urge you to tread carefully as this next phase is truly a make or break occasion. Fail and you may fall back into old habits from your old life (and you’ll be poorer). Succeed and you will achieve all of the life-changing experiences that you dreamed of – it just won’t be handed to you on a platter.

How did you manage your transition from the drudgery of the 9-5 to free living?