The 1000 Day Rule : What Living the Dream Really Looks Like

The 1000 Day Rule : What Living the Dream Really Looks Like post image

Every so often I’ll stumble upon a blogger who is lamenting the impact of the lifestyle design trend. “Tim Ferriss makes it sound like it’s so easy to get started with your muse business and mini-retirements…”

Cry me a river.

One thing the 4HWW doesn’t do is give a clear idea of how the ideas have been implemented by entrepreneurs, and what their experience looks like when they do.

There are some huge misconceptions out there about muse businesses.

Less than 1%* of lifestyle designers make their money by selling eBooks and courses on how to be lifestyle designers, travelers, mobile business owners, or similar.

I only know a small handful of muse business owners who make their money this way. Contrast that with the 100s of mobile entrepreneurs I’ve met in the past few years and interact with daily. Most lifestyle designers are too busy with their business to blog about it. Be sure to thank the ones who do! Off the top of my head, I’d say less than 1% of 4HWW inspired businesses are in the business of “selling the lifestyle.”

So How Do You Pay for Your Rockstar Lifestyle?

So how are 4HWWers making money? Here are the 5 most popular ways I’ve seen:

  1. Software developers. They own a web app, a popular forum, do freelance database management, or similar. Developers are highly represented in the muse business world, and there is no question they are the most successful freelancers.
  2. Old school marketers. Long form sales letters? Yes. Affiliate marketing? Yes! Porn? Sheebang! These folks have been on the trail way before 4HWW. These were some of the few sources of online income available before Skype changed the game and made mobility a possibility for freelancers and people with virtual teams.
  3. Classic entrepreneurs. These are the deal cutters, the folks who have built something scalable. They have teams, they have processes, they have crazy ambition. They cut deals and make hay. They own valuable stuff. They rarely blog about it.
  4. Online gambling and trading. I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you tons of people living the lifestyle are making money grinding at online poker tables, day trading, or something similar. A lot of the guys who got involved building muse businesses got their feet wet in poker or trading first. Me included… another story for another day.
  5. ‘New’ marketing. The emerging crowd of social media oriented freelancers, often focused on PPC, SEO, copywriting, niche blogs, you name it. This crowd is newish and generally operating at lower levels of income, but this income can come fast since these markets are developing and scattered.

The 1000 Day Rule

I was chatting with my friend David from Greenback Tax Services the other day about these misconceptions. I said: “people don’t understand they need to be poor for 1000 days.”

Our basic hypothesis: you’ll be doing worse than you were at your job for 1000 days after you start your muse business.

I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times. For many of us it’s been almost exactly those 1000 days it took for us to get back to the level of income we enjoyed in our corporate days.

In my experience, here is what those 1000 days often looks like…

Before Your 1000 Days (the yearning**)

  • You are writing a blog about YOU. The reason you do it is “networking.”
  • You are hating your job.
  • You quit your job and travel on savings.
  • You are buying products from blogs that make a little money on how to make a little money with your blog.
  • You talk about this stuff with your family and friends.
  • You are failing at affiliate marketing.
  • You try to partner up with your best friend or girlfriend/boyfriend.
  • You are buying a bunch of domains, starting a bunch of projects, and stopping when competition shows up.
  • You love Zen Habits. You think you could probably do something similar.
  • You write bitter blog posts about 4HWW.

Day 1 to Day 333 (the great hope)

  • You stop playing around with your GoDaddy account and get to work on putting a buy now button on a website.
  • You start calling potential clients and customers.
  • You regularly use expressions like “margin pressure” and “QC.”
  • You stop talking to friends and family and start hanging with entrepreneurs and people who share your journey.
  • You work out some funky deal for cash runway. You start working during your lunch breaks.
  • You take on freelance work.
  • You negotiate a severance package.
  • You ask friends for money (like an idiot!)
  • You wonder what the FUCK you are doing.
  • Everyone thinks you should take a vacation and get back to your old self ASAP.
  • Most people quit here. You do not. You have the eye of the tiger.

Day 334 to Day 666 (the grind)

  • You have customers. You have clients.
  • You have too much work.
  • Your friends and family think you have gone mental.
  • You don’t visit your family even though you are “location independent.”
  • Your old friends think it’s a fraud. You are chasing a dream. “Get a real job!”
  • You have no money.
  • Your business gets written up in that thing you wanted to be mentioned in– no clients come from it.
  • Constant paranoia. What if my shit is hacked? My competition just made an update!? What did he say?!!?!
  • You get by with a lot of help and hustle. Stuff you could have never planned for starts working out.
  • Clothing and dinners on the town used to be your indulgences. Now you’d take an extra virtual assistant.
  • Your developers are totally fucking you over (you think, but you just don’t know about development yet).
  • You wasted a bunch of money on that one thing that you don’t want to talk about.
  • You are trying to cut some big deals. They’ll “think about your proposal.”

Day 664 to 1000 (the sunrise)

  • Your friends ask “so what does your business do again?”
  • Family is thankful for your extended vacation time.
  • Your VAs are doing good work, but still pulling the disappearing act.
  • You love to travel, but won’t spend 1 day away from your inbox. You don’t understand people who’d want to.
  • Meeting other entrepreneurs and learning from them becomes a huge priority.
  • You could make money, but instead you think you’ll hire somebody.
  • You have too many business ideas to act on.
  • You are thinking… this just might fucking work!
  • You are thankful.
  • You want more.
  • You’ve got a list of high quality problems.
  • Despite your intensity, you can still do all the Zen Habits stuff, if you so chose.

What day are you on?

*made it up.
**yes, that is a Coheed reference. LISTEN UP!


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Published on 09.08.11
  • The 1000 day rule is so true. I started Financial Samurai in the summer of 2009 and by the spring of 2012 I negotiated a severance package, wrote a book on engineering your layoff (instead of quitting and getting nothing) and just going for it online.

    It’s been about a year now and I cannot believe the progress. The progress has beat my expectations by a couple years, so much so that I’m thinking of going BACK to work because online doesn’t take much time and working while not needing to work in finance would be fun!

    Stand strong and last folks. Good things will happen!


    Financial Samurai 2013

  • Dan


  • Dan

    yeah buddy! this keeps poppin up and a i like the expectation for folks starting out that they should have the long view on the work they are taking up and the value they are building. congrats on your success.

  • I just left my job and entered the grind. It has been one of the most stressful transitions in my life. I think I’m on day 335 or something like that. I just now have almost too much work to handle.

  • Dan


  • It’s been 162 days since I launched the first episode of my web show. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’m not surprised though.

    I’m part of the “new-marketing” group and I’m pretty sure I live at or below the poverty line (I’m in Los Angeles). I make no money from the web-show but I’m working on my first product. I’ve built a small list and a few people I regularly communicate with. I finding out that there actually are people who believe in what I’m trying to build.

    I struggle with getting clearer on what I want to do exactly, who my audience is, having the feeling that I’m doing what I need to be doing on a daily basis, and this depressing sense that I’m not spending enough time to develop as a musician.

  • Dan

    I defo remember feeling that way. The tough part during this stage is deciding if you are in the ‘dip’– which many businesses experience, or if you are seeing bad feedback. Do you have a canary in the coalmine– some metric / test that you can run that can give you a sign of things to come / value of the list members etc? why not put an offer in front of them?

  • I have a close friend, guy I trust, who runs a business online that he works full-time from. He thinks I’m in the first big dip.

    I did send out a survey this morning to gather intel on how my list would react to a music marketing product I have in the works. I’ve done research and I see that musicians are buying products on marketing and distribution for music. There’s competition, always a good sign.

    My list is small and I get and average of 1.1 subscribers a day. My average open rate is 28% and click rate is 7%. I thiiiiiink this is good…

    I can’t really say that I’ve gotten any legitimate bad feedback, as in, “what the hell is this crap?” haha. Should I offer the product before it’s created? Can you recommend an episode of your podcast that might help me? (launch a product, test price points, etc.)

    Thanks Dan!

  • Dan

    This might be relevant.

    Yes you need to get the offer out there ASAP. Perhaps it’s a 4 week training course, so you lay out the proposition and see if they bit.

    At minimum you need a landing page that clearly says what they are going to get if they opt-in, rather than just generally following your stuff.

    It’s really important to make sure you are building the right list. I’d say those stats are a little soft if you are just getting started (and those are your first set of opt-ins).

    Try to break the thing ASAP.

    If the competition is having success, duplicate what they are doing but make it way better by differentiating in a very legible way (see Rip Pivot Jam episodes).

  • Thanks Dan, this makes things much more clearer.

  • Dan

    You got it man… hustle on!

  • Damn right!!! Haha

  • Mike Harrington Sherry

    I like the sounds of all of this –

    Especially the buying an island part. =)

  • Career Sidekick

    Amazing! I was linked over to here from a post on an internet marketing forum and boy am I glad I clicked.

    I still work a 9-5 but this is all super exciting to me. I’m close to trying it!

  • Dan

    cheers thanks!

  • Andy Brice

    1000 days sounds about right. It took me 1000 days to get to the point where I had made up for the low income in the first year. You can see my graph at:

  • Simcha

    Amen sister!

  • Jonny Blair

    This is a really great post mate – I thought I’d commented before but couldnt find it. A 1000 day rule sounds about right. Nothing comes overnight, I’m in this one for the long haul too. Jonny

  • Dan

    thank you Jonny wish you the best on your Journey!

  • Oh, my God…you just described my journey! I’m in “the grind” stage but this year I feel like I know what I need to do and I’ve committed myself to “getting out there” in a real and personal way. Up until now I’ve been hiding behind my computer. Before that I hid behind the “Coming Soon” page. But because I broke through that barrier, I know I can break through the next and the next.

    Your description of what other people think of your “vacation” is hysterical and SO true! I found you via A shout out to J.Money for sharing this older, yet incredibly relevant post today!


  • Dan

    hey Ree thanks for reading and for commenting… glad you dug it!!!! best of luck with the grind :)

  • Scott Million

    Solid timeline. I came to HCMC a year and a half ago to save money teaching English after closing my business doors (seo / online video / organic traffic & conversion services) after four years of operation… been through many of those stages and had some nice paydays along the way, but just wasn’t ready for it all. Too young, needed time. Savings are almost there and making some good contacts here. Hope to be ready for 1000 days by end of February. Your info is priceless and THANK YOU. Cheers.

  • hells yeah Scott! you are in a great spot to make it happen… HCMC is a great spot with lots of others on a similar journey

  • AL

    Day 700-something. Learning to relax and enjoy the ride.. and almost making some $$$.

  • :D

  • mony1
  • joseph


    “If you really want to change your life, you need to focus on creating a business vehicle born of an inspiring mission that gives you the energy to endure the entrepreneurial process. Anything less will yield poor to mediocre results, frustration, and possibly permanent failure. ”

    That is a fantastic insight and something I never see mentioned. I am somewhere near the beginning-ish of my 1000 days and I am glad I have chosen things that I am interested and passionate about. thank you for putting it so succinctly.

    ~ joseph

  • Sam

    I’m definitely in the 664 to 1000 but I still dont have funds coming in or a virtual assistant

  • nice! keep crackin…

  • Carrie Cecilia Clark

    Just looked it up: 1020 days and I just recently starting making more from my website than I was working as a teacher. Huzzah!

  • heyo! :)

  • Educate yourself on different ways to spend smart and collaborate online with virtual teams . has changed the way teams work on projects for prodiuctivity.

  • seba112

    chaps my ass or frost my balls :))

  • Alz

    Personally I feel anyone that makes money from “selling the lifestyle” isn’t a real entrepreneur. They are selling hope, snake oil.
    “He/She quit his job to teach others how to quit their job….. insert list of affiliate links for setting up a blog/hosting.,…. Sell the dream endlessly”

    Thats 99% of successful blogs lately. Some of those people are commenting on this thread even.

    Whats your view on that? Personally I find it bogus and wouldn’t listen to a damn word from them. Same as Motivational speakers who’ve accomplished nothing except motivating others on doing business etc… (i.e stuff the coach never did themselves)

  • I think there’s a spectrum here, but share a lot of your sentiments.

  • Travis Fry

    I’m just now getting my feet wet in the location independent lifestyle. This article was great to keep me motivated and grounded. Hopefully I’ll get to day 1000 sooner rather than later. :)

  • Travis Fry

    I’m just now getting my feet wet with location independent lifestyles and this article was a great way to stay motivated. Hopefully I’ll be at Day 1000 sooner than later. :)

  • cheers :D

  • Brian Carpenter

    Too late to comment Dan?

    I’m a lifestyle design junkie now seven+ years in (at age 57 no less) running my own six figure business. I laughed my ass off as I identified with everything in your post (which I just now happened upon through a backlink on another site). Having “operationalized” the 4HWW myself (the book really set me on fire), I’m now working on a book about my experiences, aimed at midlife folks. Still, if I don’t make any money from it, I feel pulled to it, which means that the reward may simply be the joy of having the freedom and ease to work on it that my first business provides. (My real money is my solo consulting business. I work with K-12 schools on shit that most people would be bored by).

  • not at all Brian, glad you enjoyed it! Good luck with the biz!

  • Tom Shooter

    Hi Dan, an excellent post, thanks. I don’t know what day I’m on (more than 1000!) but definitely wish I’d read this several years ago when I started my first business. The 4HWW completely changed my life and I have a lot to thank it for (and Ferriss’ subsequent work for that matter), but the ‘nuts and bolts’ of any business are learnt along the way, on the journey. I’m super skeptical of all of the ‘blueprint’ guides and gurus claiming to give the exact steps etc, a business is an art form that is probably best not to be restrained by ticklists. Loving the TMBA podcast!

  • cheers Tom appreciate it! Changed my life too :)

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  • Seán Feehan

    Great insightful post!

    Perhaps Mr Ferriss will at this to the 4HWW updated version

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