How to Become a Lifestyle Designer

How to Become a Lifestyle Designer post image

I’m often asked, “how can I become a lifestyle designer?”  I’m not going to focus on what that means. If you are here and have a heartbeat you probably want tons of personal freedom, unforgettable experiences, and boatloads of cash. Let’s talk about how to get that done.

Two Things You Need to Have

  1. Clarity of vision. How detailed are you willing to be about your ideal lifestyle, your business, and how you’d like others to treat you. If you prefer to be vague, let things up to others, or if you are too scared to say exactly what you want in your wallet, you won’t be a lifestyle designer. Get clear or get out.
  2. A Willingness to work. Will you challenge yourself everyday to create and build things that are valuable to yourself and others? This is different from a willingness to be employed. A rule of thumb here is the 5 hour rule. If you are willing to work on a project or craft 5+ hours a day, everyday, you are in great shape. Don’t worry if you aren’t right now, some exercises below can help.

Too much vision mixed with no willingness to work can result in shoulda-coulda-woulda atttitude. When it this mode its easy to find yourself criticizing the contribution of others (something folks who work very hard rarely dare to do!), complaining, or experiencing frustration. Often you’ll feel stuck in a job or a procrastination loop. I felt this acutely when I thought I wanted to be a songwriter– I would think about how nice it would be the kind of guy who wrote songs, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to actually do it. I was procrastinating– for years!

A willingness to work mixed with no clarity of vision makes for the economic losers. Venkatesh describes it well: “those who have, for various reasons, made (or been forced to make) a bad economic bargain: they’ve given up some potential for long-term economic liberty (as capitalists) for short-term economic stability. Traded freedom for a paycheck in short.” This can also be a situation many freelancers find themselves in because its so easy to have your client’s vision for your time usurp your own.

I’m not saying jobs or freelancing are outright bad, not at all. It depends on the situation and your particular journey (and journey is the right word, this stuff takes time!) You can win big time in currencies that are not money, including opportunity, time, flexibility, excitement, learning, self-growth– these are all very real. The right job can be a great springboard into more personal freedom. Ask yourself about your superiors in the organization. Do you want to be where they are? Can you learn specific information and habits that are of real and lasting value. Will developing a trusting relationship with them allow you to meet your goals in the long run? If yes, you might have a good deal on your hands.

How to Improve Your Vision and Willingness to Work

I believe if you focus on improving your clarity of vision and your willingness to work you can pretty much create about any lifestyle you can imagine.

First, articulate and visualize a minutely detailed account of what your ideal day looks like. Don’t bother with conditions or restrictions. Name exactly what you want. “For dinner I eat high quality food, like organic lamb and a fresh garden salad, that makes me feel great, then I generally read for an hour and meet up with friends to talk about our businesses and the different blogs we are reading…” Where are you? How much do you sleep? What clothes do you wear? How much time do you spend writing emails? Write it down if you can. Be happy about it. Be meticulous. Lifestyle designers are not lazy thinkers. These thoughts should be exciting. Get comfortable in your new world.

Find Your 5 Hours

Picturing your ideal day isn’t enough to cut it. You also need to find a way to work in at least 5 hours of high quality creative work. This number is significant to me because I believe everyone– even those of you with jobs and kids– can create 5 hours of extra time every single day. Without a huge amount of working capital (and oftentimes even with working capital) your fantasy life cannot exist without some kind consistent creative output. (Art, deal-making, software development, design, writing, selling, business-building, marketing, strategic relationship-building).

If you find it difficult to identify 5 hours of creative work that you are excited about, try taking an inventory of all the things you wouldn’t mind doing everyday for 5 hours.  Your “work” might be something you don’t think is valuable, or you think others would laugh at (blogging, weight lifting, riding a bike, podcasting, interviewing people, writing, life coaching).

Chose your favorite one and start doing it. Build it and manage it 5 hours a day. Market it. Interact with those in your space. Learn everything you can about it. Focus on specialized and leading edge knowledge. Something will come of it that will lead you to the next level. If you like to paint, start painting, training, networking with painters 5 hours of day. Get others excited about what you are doing. Hire an assistantoffer an internship, find a business partner.

Here’s the critical part: think of it as a business. To think of something as a business means you want to ensure that the audiences you cultivate and build are demonstrated buyers (hint: sell something early) and that you are focusing on the parts of your work that are valuable to others.

Find your 5 and you’ll find your ability to manifest change in your life will be supercharged.

Lifestyle Designers are Hyper Realistic

I don’t mean realistic like your mother says it: “don’t get your hopes up!” Sorry mom, you must get your hopes up. Entrepreneurs and creative types thrive on hope. What’s missing for a lot of would-be lifestyle designers, and ultimately what clarity of vision and willingness to work represent,  is how in touch with reality you are. Some people say “that guy/gal is really plugged in.”

Being the next Bill Gates is a realistic desire. After all, Bill Gates does exist and doing what he does is possible in theory for another human to duplicate. Here’s the rub– strategically identifying the path you need to take in order to duplicate Bill Gate’s success is where clarity of vision and willingness to work come in. Everyone wants to be “rich,” or “travel the world” and most will even state it as a “goal,” but letting that thought sit in your head without fleshing out the exact path, work, and conditions that need to be in place in order to get there isn’t just lazy thinking, its lazy living.

The Entrepreneurial Imperative

If you identified 5 hours a day of “building and growing passionately run businesses” you are in really good shape. There are tons of creative ways to get to started as a lifestyle designer, but almost all of the most impressive lifestyle designers I’ve met have one thing in common (no, its not blogging!)– they are entrepreneurial. These people love a challenge. The love the hustle. They prefer to identify opportunities over liabilities. They love the deal. They love the process of doing business and making sales. They might want to invest in your company. They’ll share all their latest ideas. They are your best employee. They can’t wait to meet more like minded individuals. They aren’t waiting for anyone to tell them what to do, or for any organization to validate their existence. They know what they want, and generally, its way more fun, positivity, and profits.

If you aren’t sure about entrepreneurship, or have never thought about it as a career, the best thing you can do is work with a successful entrepreneur in a small to medium company setting. Focus on results and work your tail off. Learn everything. Figure out if you have that 5 hours. Get moving. It’s a big fun world loaded with opportunity and adventure, and you can have it all.

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Published on 04.20.10
  • Dan,
    Great post and I believe right on with 95% of the information. The only thing I question is your “5 hours a day” principle. Do you really believe that it is that easy to carve out an additional 5 hours, especially if you have a family? I do agree that you need to have some clearly defined amount of time, even if its only 5 hours a week, and to stay on it like a flea on a dog.

  • Dan

    Tyler, sometimes consistency and habit forming activity is the most important thing. If you are getting good results you can ramp up your time input. I didn’t mean to say 5 hours a day is easy, its pretty hard! I do think its possible, though. The hunger and tenacity required to get that 5 hours and consistently create results is often the difference between people who are launching businesses and those who aren’t.

  • Thank you, thank you very much. Tweeted it!

  • Dan

    Anytime! Thanks for the tweet love.

  • Love the content in this post, but not sure the title fits?

    I always thought “lifestyle designers” preach others how cool their lives are, what huge accomplishments they’ve made (normally by moving to one of the cheapest countries on earth) and write content such as “10 ways to embrace the unconventional lifestyle” kind of bullshit.

    This post actually has some value :)

    I agree on the 5 hours, and think anyone, with family/kids or not, can get up a few hours earlier than everyone else, and cut out TV in the evenings, to find the time to get some creative work done. Obviously they’ll need family support, but most successful entrepreneurs did not grow their business while taking their kids to the park everyday.

    As for people who don’t have any real commitments, well… they’ve got no excuses. They’ll either put in the hours and make it work, or they’ll just continue reading and dreaming about it. I’ve found there’s very middle ground here.

    Sadly, there are just too many people out there with little drive. You, me, or anyone else, won’t be able to make a difference.

  • [I remember reading this post the first time round, but did not comment on it back then. Was still just a lurker at that time. So here is what I want to post now…with all of my hugely insightful knowledge I’ve gained since then. LOL]

    While not as wildly popular as the “sit on your ass and become rich” message that we mostly hear in lifestyle design, this is amazing! I’ve gotten tired of how people are passing laziness and slothfulness off as the way to get to your desired life. That’s crap!

    One of the reasons that I love what you do so much is that you do so much! You appear to have a fantastic life and enjoy yourself, but also appear to bust your ass non-stop. That is so encouraging to someone like me who is much closer to the beginning of this journey.

    And as far as 5 hours a day, I’d like to address that. I’m married. My wife is pregnant with our 3rd child. I have a full time job that (with lunch) costs me 9 hours each day Monday through Friday. I have a 3 hour daily commute. If I can find a way to put in over 6 hours each day (and I do!!!), then I believe anyone can. Yes it’s hard. Yes, there are a lot of short term things I have sacrificed. I rarely watch TV anymore and haven’t played a single video game for all of 2010 (which for me is a SIGNIFICANT thing). I’ve cut out a lot of things that are short term “good” things in lieu of long term “amazing” things!!!

    Thank you for this post and for this consistent message with what you do. The 4 Hour Work Week is a great eye opener…but past that, there are few resources as valuable as yours.

  • Dan

    Yo! you know I’m still trying to get my head around the backlash around the term “lifestyle designers.” I still believe 4HWW is the best business book I’ve ever read (and I’ve read :::ahem::: a lot) and the concept of lifestyle design was always really exciting and relevant to me. I was in just the right time and place to hear its message, I’ve heard a lot of people say stuff like “big deal” but I guess it hit me at the right time.

    Maybe we should ditch the baggage and come up with something new?

    BTW, I’m writing a 47$ ebook entitled “How to Find Your Drive and Show the Egg Noodles Guy You Aren’t a Loser”

  • Dan

    Thanks David, man you have the hustle bone man you work way harder than me. I’ve actually been suffering from a little laziness over the past few quarters.. I’ve never worked so hard in my life as I did the first year of my business where I still had a full time job (used that lunch break as working time!) listened to podcasts on my commute, took 12 strokes off my golf game, lost 15lbs, etc etc etc. Now that I have a little bit more freedom on my hands I’m focused a little more on “passion” than “necessity” and the passion bill is harder to fill, for sure. 5 hours though, no problem! :)

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  • Dude, don’t know how I missed this article the first time around!

    Don’t focus on limits, but on possibilities. And it’s not about 4 hours a week, it’s about hustling. This obliterates the misconception that it’s *easy* to slap up a blog, tune out, and start living the dream life. Nice one!

  • Dan

    BOOM. Thanks man! 

  • Jackson

    Hi David. During the work week I’m calculating 9+3+6 = 18 hours / day on work and your lifestyle.  That leaves 6 hours for sleep, family, etc.

    How / when do you get 6 hours?  I’m in a similar situation as you with work and family and struggle to get 3 hours per day.  Any input is appreciated.  Thank you.

  • Sleep time is the key. I target to sleep only between 5 and 6 hours a night for 6 nights a week. Once a week I try and get around 8-9 to charge back up. Mentally committing to this schedule is a big component. 

    Also, when the alarm goes off in the morning and you are pissed that you only got so few hours of sleep, REMEMBER THAT ANGER! Use it later that night when you work on your stuff and think “I could sleep more once I eliminate the need for my safety-net job”.I also recommend being conscious about trying to look for time elsewhere than in one huge chunk.

    Since I wrote this comment originally, I have started dispersing that chunk of time throughout the day. Work on your lunch break, get a smart phone and respond to emails when you are in the bathroom (yes, I do this all the time), keep a notepad within arms length so that you never are without some way of writing down ideas, intelligently batch types of tasks and leverage when you are “on a roll”. Use your commute time to either listen to work related stuff OR (and often better) turn off the radio and use that time to think about your business. When you get to your job (or home, depending on which part of the commute it is), take a moment to write down any decisions/ideas/tasks/etc you came up with.

    Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is a constant mental battle. But that’s why so few people in our situations never LEAVE our situations. Too lazy.

    You have to be delusional enough to believe that there is not even a .01% chance that you WON’T succeed! 

    Hope that helps!

  • I should also add that I changed jobs so that my commute now totals only 40 minutes. Always an option; don’t convince yourself otherwise.

  • Jackson

    That does help David.  Thanks for the prompt reply.

  • Dan

    Wow that shit is balla. 

  • Anna

    I came across this website whilst googling sugar detoxing, but this post is exactly what I needed. I’ve been coming to this same conclusion about lazy living, now I’m more convinced abd motivated than ever!

  • Dan

    hey Anna thanks for that! Cheers and good luck on your journey.

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  • Antony Concessao

    I believe ‘Lifestyle design’ is just a huge marketing wave. Capitalising the whole “live the life of your dreams” aka escapism. Tim Ferriss milked it. From my journey I’ve figured you can never resolve deep issues by making superficial changes. Our main crisis – is a crisis of being. From young we are conditioned to only be ‘happy’ and walk around with a smile stuck on your face or there’s something wrong with you. Distracting ourselves our entire lives by matching external impressions. We bury deep in the hatchet all that we didn’t permit ourselves to experience, while we are where we are in this very moment. PS The Disqus login ap made me enter my password through thrice, still not getting me in. Obstacle to opinion sharing :) –

  • thanks for the heads up there on the Disqus thing

  • Musonda Mumba


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