The Coconut Cash Conundrum and Other Money Problems

The Coconut Cash Conundrum and Other Money Problems post image

How we choose to think about money will end up (to some degree) defining how much of it and the quality of it that we receive.

One of the things that’s confusing about money is the way we bake our moral attitudes into it. It’s loaded with judgements good and bad.

Depending on the speaker and the situation it could imply:

  • That which we do not speak of at the dinner table.
  • Necessary evil.
  • That which sullies all artistic enterprises.
  • That which reduces humans to instruments.
  • That which will make me happy and set me free.
  • Freedom.
  • That value which was taken or mined from the efforts of others.
  • Fuel for forces both good and bad.
  • That which is required to make it rain.

It’s common for creative people (read: entrepreneurs) who struggle with money to say things like:

“I want to explore the creative ideas I’ve been having, but I’ve got to make money.”

This statement expresses money as “necessary evil” and as “affront to artistic integrity” (see below). The good news is it’s not that hard to re-load the concept and see if we can get it working for our artistic ventures.

Do you remember that moment in the Four Hour Work Week when Tim Ferriss said that the concept of “happiness” causes people a ton of problems? He suggests that if you want a more useful term, substitute “excitement.” I loved that.

I think there’s a similar substitution to be made for money.

Instead of saying “money,” try “legible value to others.” (Derek Sivers talks about a similar idea in his book).

I find it changes the way people are able to talk about money.

Imagine if instead of saying:

“I want to focus on all of these creative ideas I’ve been having, but I’m not sure I can do any of them because I’ve got to make money.”

People said:

“I want to focus on all of these creative ideas I’ve been having, but I’m not sure I can do any of them because I’ve got to make legible value to others.”

You don’t really have money problems…

You have creating legible value to others problems.

Money as an affront to artistic integrity.

It’s commonly thought that once you involve money in your art, you’ll become a “sell out.” I’m particularly sensitive to this one because I’ve spent a lot of time in local music scenes. It’s difficult for me to imagine that idea being useful to one of my old colleagues. Imagine a struggling musician you know and ask yourself if their art wouldn’t immediately improve if they started making it expressly for the consumption of others.

One of the best meditations I’ve seen on this topic is John Mayer’s talk at Berklee College of Music.

Here’s a few other money problems:

The Coconut Cash Conundrum

I LOL’d the other day when my friend Elisa mentioned the term “coconut cash.” Let’s define that:

The demotivating effect of it being so easy to live so well on so little e.g., a person moving to Thailand with a modicum of keyboard skills can earn $1000 to $3000 USD monthly which is enough to live a life of relative luxury. This almost insta-“success” can be demotivating and hurt ones chances of getting to the “next level” in their business and personal wealth.

The reason I’m not alarmed (but amused!) is that this isn’t limited to coconuts or Thailand or lifestyle designers. Most people operate like this.

See also: “Rice and Fish Heads.”

Hipster Hypocrites

“Hey man, businesses are so bad for the world, let’s boycott them and their corporate interests, and remember to keep it organic and free trade and sustainable.”

-Sent from my iPad

It’s just a joke.

The Cambodia Cash Principle (and Paradox)

The frustrating idea that the easier money is to make, the less attractive or ‘passive’ it is.

PRINCIPLE : “Generally, the more appealing the source of income, the more resources you need to expend to get it.”

PARADOX: We are attracted to business models with highly leveraged income because we want to free up our time, but we have to spend an extraordinary amount of time (relative to other approaches) in order to develop the type of income that we see as “freeing.” Hopefuls often end up under-estimating the cash runway required to create those cash flows, and fail to make the entrepreneurial switch.

Here’s the full post.

Well. That’s pretty random! Thanks for sticking around.

As always, love your thoughts!



Published on 06.03.14
  • The difference between a $300 and a $500 apartment in CM or the islands is a private pool and separate rooms.. You feel like you are onto a winner in Thailand paying so little for nice accomodation but when you come back home and realise people pay 500euro a month for a shit room in a share house + bills, you remember that moving from 10k Baht-20k ain’t so bad for all that you get!

  • Hey Dan & Ian.. An interesting concept with the coconut cash conundrum..
    From my own experience with moving to SEA:
    – Moved with no clients, $4k and no real plan..
    – Ran as low as $400 with a pregnant missus and a maxed credit card
    – 3 months later had a 5k a month (greyhat) biz..
    Would this have happened had we stayed in New Zealand? No chance, we would have continued in shitty 10hour a day jobs to get by..

    The cheap cost of living really allows the newcomers/bootstrappers or whatever you want to call them to re-invest/hire va’s/scale..

    Something nobody ever talks about is how much it costs to run the biz…
    We were making say 4-5k and spending 1k-2 on scaling what worked, marketing, hosting, domains, va’s, content, video, PBN, VPS, software, monthly subscriptions, etc..

    This left the minimum for a VERY comfortable life in Thailand.. Could you do that with such a ‘mediocre’ income in a western country? Nope..

    Shrmenko said at the DCBKK, you’ll be fucked if you move to London or Sydney with that miniscule income. Build something better or charge more.. Or stay in cheap as fuck asia..

    So I guess I am trying to say that its a matter of choice and depends on where you are at.. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with being a cambodia coconut cash hustler and I don’t see why breaking through to the next level wouldn’t be top priority on peoples list. I want to buy a sweet a condo by 2015, not to be renting $300 a month apts..

    Ian was bussing tables at 26 (as you like to remind him) and I was sitting in the Pullman listening to you guys at 26..

    Back to Thailand in 3 months and I cannot wait!

  • Adam you are way ahead of the game! I was clueless at 26. Thank you for sharing your story here too, I agree I don’t think it makes so much sense to critcize those who love the simple life. I think I lionize it for it’s monk like simplicity but can’t enjoy it myself because I’ve got some financial goals I gotta get to as well

  • somehow missed this comment! good one, i can think of so many examples of this:

    “We make sacrifices ($250/month studio “apartments”, $1 meals, Fiverr graphic work, etc) so that we can assume luxuries ($7 massages, $200 beach holidays, $12 rounds for the table) with our independence.”

    agree RE: cubicles to sand, it’s possible to end up in the same spot, confused and stuck although i’ll take the sand!

  • deshakgo

    I am amazed by how closely your thoughts have intwined with many of mine with out really running them together. Even more astonished you your ” coconut cash” I’ll tell you why. For the past eight years I have been living on coconut cash literally! I pick and sell coconuts and enjoy a lifestyle of freedom with my time, and have grown comfortable living day after day making good enough money to get by relatively easy. But the whole time knowing its not changing its just easy! Perpetual without progression. Comfort without prospeirity! Don’t get me wrong its not that I’m not happy its just a waste of my potential. Any way thanks for sharing your thoughts

  • you got it my pleasure! sounds like a good gig! :)

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