The Middle Class Mind

The Middle Class Mind post image

I was in Barcelona to attend a business conference. One evening, a small group of us found our way to a fancy bar with quiet music.

We knew each other – we’ve met all around the world, from developing-world resorts to New York City cafes. Our conversations are mostly stories and laughs with like minds. But in the middle of all the jokes, I got offended.

Someone in my group had said: “Nothing annoys me more than people who call themselves “entrepreneurs” while sitting around somewhere cheap like Chiang Mai and convincing themselves they’re living the dream.”

Everyone burst out in laughter and agreement. Definitely we weren’t those types. After all, our gin and tonics cost fifteen bucks.

Chalk it up to my palm tree pedigree, but for all the horrible things I’m willing to say and endure in conversation, this was the moment I got indignant.

Now, it’s easy to do what my friend had done – notice a small difference between your group and another, and then make a big deal of it. And yeah, it’s good for a joke. In my world, I hear cyclists criticise triathletes all the time. These are fellow endurance athletes who ride bikes, but – God pity their ignorant souls – also run and swim. Same goes for the war between vegans and Paleos – they savage each other and leave fatties like me to our ice cream.

And I’m guilty of it all the time. But that evening, I couldn’t help but get pissed on behalf of broke-ass entrepreneurs. I can relate to them; I was one for a long time. And although being a broke-ass entrepreneur certainly doesn’t guarantee that you’ll become a wealthy one, I believe those who are willing to be broke – on purpose – are more likely to become rich.

One of comedian Adam Carolla’s best bits is called “Rich Man, Poor Man.” The idea is that the rich and poor share things that middle class people don’t. (For the sake of the bit, “poor” doesn’t refer to people who are struggling – it refers to those who’ve opted out of traditional employment and chosen a different lifestyle. Think of the guy who paints houses half the year so he can backpack the other half, or the Uber driver who works three days a week to fund his art project. Think of the #vanlife fisherman, or Fat Tony from Nassim Taleb’s books.)

Anyway, Carolla offers some shocking similarities between the lifestyles of the rich and the voluntary poor. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Drinks coffee and reads paper all afternoon on a Wednesday.
  • Spends all day in pajamas.
  • Owns a boat.
  • Hosts a wedding at their house.
  • Comfortable telling you how much money they earned last week.
  • Has backup cash under the bed (or equivalent).
  • Has five cars (for the voluntary poor, theirs are in the yard waiting to be rehabilitated and sold for profit).

More cleverly, there’s:

  • Has outdoor showers.
  • Sits at the top of the stadium…

It’s a fun game, but we can think about it more seriously, too. What if there’s something that the rich and the voluntary poor both see – but the middle classes don’t? And, more seductively, what if there’s something about being broke that illuminates the path to wealth?


When I was a broke-ass middle-class kid, I thought about rich people through media images. (Cue Robin Leach voiceover.) After all, I didn’t meet many rich people. And when I occasionally did, they were gone just as quick as they came – off to wherever, while I was back to work.

Weirdly, I’d have met more rich people if I’d gone downscale. Go into a dive bar near a marina and strike up a conversation with a diesel engineer – you’ll learn a lot more about the wealthy than by hanging out with well-paid professionals who call themselves “Vice President.” Or, cut out the middleman and work for the rich directly – on their yachts, in their gardens, as a tutor to their children, or in hundred other ways.

Spending time around wealthy people (or the people who know them well) will teach you a lot about what being wealthy is like. But the same goes for living poor: by doing so, you might discover more about building wealth than you would by living high on the middle-class hog.

How? By beginning to claw your way out of the middle-class mindset that conflates income (or spending habits) with success. This is the whole point of baselining – to act on the idea that our time is more valuable than our money. I’ve spent a lot of time in Chiang Mai, and I can tell you that there are hundreds of entrepreneurs there who’ve had this exact insight – and are pursuing their dreams (including building successful businesses) because of it.

Of course, you don’t have to have a financial goal in mind. If you quit your job and head out somewhere cheap to explore your hobbies, your thoughts, and your world, you are living the dream. They even have a parable for that. In many tellings it’s called “The Fisherman and the Businessman.”

But once you have some success with your business, it’s easy to get snobby. My friend’s joke, back in that bar in Barcelona, depended on the in-group agreeing that we’re doing something right. We’re in the right cities. In the right industries. With the right business models. We all have high rents and expenses. “Responsibilities.” We laugh because those Chiang Mai kids are fooling themselves.

Except, of course, that none of us has it figured out either. In that Barcelona barroom, there wasn’t a single Mark Cuban or Elon Musk. We’re still seeking answers, too. But now we were using money and status symbols to prove something about our business prowess. It all felt a little too middle-class to laugh.


It also means that we’re blinding ourselves. We’ve had a little success, but what if that success is actually making it harder to achieve our next set of goals? What if it’s easier to go from the bottom to the top than from the middle to the top?

Let’s say you have fifteen thousand dollars to invest. You can choose between two entrepreneurs, both of whom have small service businesses. Your money buys you 20% of the company you select, and you only see that money again if that company sells for over $1M. So, your possible outcomes are either $200,000+ or nothing.

Here’s the catch: you only know one piece of information about each company – the location of its founder. One entrepreneur has lived in San Diego for fifteen years. The other sold house and moved to a small apartment in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Knowing only those two variables, where would you place your bet?

By now, you can probably guess where I’d put my money: on the entrepreneur in Vietnam. Because despite my buddy’s joke in the bar, being content to sit around somewhere cheap actually is a pretty decent strategy for becoming wealthy.

Of course you can’t just sit around. Self-made wealthy people are ambitious – without exception. But the sitting around part is valuable; it’s a way to clear your mind from all the things you’re “supposed” to do.

These “supposed-tos” dominate middle-class thinking: buying a decent car, getting a decent job, making decent money. They’re about appearing good enough. And they’re the kinds of pursuits that often stand in the way of getting wealthy.


“Sometimes I Wonder If I Should Go Back and Work for a Big Company”

A few nights after hearing my friend’s joke, I met a guy who was the butt of it.

He was piecing together a shaky income from a variety of sources. He was starting a family. He was nervous. His dream wasn’t working out as planned.

“All my friends from high school are further along than me. They’ve got homes, big paychecks, and nice lifestyles. I could have that too. I could go back, put my degree to use, and get a good job.”

By the standards of the digital entrepreneur crowd, this guy is doing okay – not great, but okay. But by the middle-class standards of everyone back home (or of the joker in the bar), he’s doing terribly. In fact, he’s doing so badly that he’s tempted to trade entrepreneurial stress (“What the hell am I doing?”) for a very different kind – the kind that comes with a steady paycheck.

This guy is fragile. And when you make fun of those who are “okay” with very small businesses on very small islands, you recreate the pressure that keeps so many people in ‘safe’ career paths. You tell them, “Do something that we perceive as successful, and do it right now. Look like us, or we won’t recognize you.”

That pressure sucks. It ruins people. And I’m committed to a romantic idea of what’s possible when you stay clear of all that.

But staying clear of it is tough. The middle class mind is handed to many of us in childhood, and it’s extremely difficult to shake.


Getting Poor to Get Rich as a Barbell Strategy

Nassim Taleb has a hundred cool insights about the world, and one of my favorites is his Barbell Strategy for investing. It works like this:

  1. Cover all your downside: put yourself in ‘no lose’ situations most of the time. Then,
  2. Expose yourself to many small investments that have the potential to win big. (For example, keep the majority of your money in cash (not the market) and live in a home you own 100%. Then invest 10% of your money in 10 highly volatile startups.)

You can take the same approach to your career. That’s baselining: saving some cash, living somewhere cheap, being frugal, and devoting all your waking energy to building assets.

For those with an adventurous temperament, it’s a lot more fun than having a job. Better yet, I’ve seen it work many times. I’ve been writing this blog since 2009, and one of the things happening around me is that our readers are getting rich. These are not the people that you’d expect, either. They didn’t go to fancy colleges – and in some cases, didn’t go to college at all. They’re travelers and free spirits and computer nerds, people living out of their backpacks, showing up on random islands to talk about Google algorithms and VPN networks and website referrals. Often, society looks at these people as outsiders or failures – but now, they’re building wealth.

“Your Chances of Getting Rich Are Better If You’re Broke”

Felix Dennis, founder of Maxim magazine, delivers a similar message in his hilarious book How to Get Rich. He takes great pains to outline the difficulties of becoming wealthy [emphasis mine]:

Now you must leave the safety of the ant colony and the hive. You are to become a loner, an outcast, cut off from the very thing that defines what many of us believe we are. What is the first question usually asked by strangers of each other? Right, it’s “What do you do?” In some cultures, the way of answering may be different; but it nearly always relates to work in the West: “I’m a teacher; I’m in banking; I’m a dairy farmer;” … Our job defines us. But it cannot define you. Not anymore.

For Dennis, “being normal” and identifying with your job are risks. In fact, he argues that people with steady careers might as well give up on becoming wealthy. They have too much to lose. They have the middle class mind. What starts as a risk-management strategy – get a career! – ends up guaranteeing a lifetime of low-yield returns.



Even the Losers Get Lucky Sometimes

Venkat Rao reflected on the same phenomenon in The Gervais Principle, his brilliant analysis of career politics.

Check out the middle layer of the pyramid. This is where you’ll find people who call themselves “Senior Vice President of Marketing and Sales.” They really believe in the company, and they cheerlead and contribute. But they never quite make it to the top, because they don’t break or build anything.

To paraphrase the author, those in the middle lack the competence or mindset to flow freely throughout the economy. They believe the company – and more broadly, their careers – will take care of them.

Look at the bottom layer, too: here you’ll find those who don’t feel any passion for the company; instead, they do the minimum necessary to avoid getting fired and perhaps do big things with their spare time. (Think of a competent, punctual, semi-bored programmer who listens to audiobooks all day long.) Occasionally – but only occasionally – these people get noticed and groomed for more powerful roles.

$1000 and a Backpack

In the early days of this blog, I often said that all I needed was “$1000 a month and a backpack.” Living at a low baseline appealed to me – and still does.

Lots of people lampooned the idea – and still do. But when I met Derek Sivers for the first time – a guy who built and sold CD Baby for $22M – the first thing he asked me was:

“Are you the $1000-a-month-and-a-backpack guy?”

“Yes,” I said, because I was.

And then he said something I’ll never forget.

“I love that idea.”

Thank you, Derek.


The Strange Identity of the Middle Class

Baselining. Using a barbell strategy to design your career. Valuing your time over money. There’s a pattern here.

In The Millionaire Fastlane, MJ DeMarco phrases it another way: he declares that “in order to become wealthy you need to produce more than you consume.”

Does this sound obvious? For a huge percentage of the middle-class, it isn’t. These people devote huge chunks of their lives to earning money, and then spend it on fancy gadgets to prove that the time spent earning it was worthwhile. At the same time, they’re sheepish about exactly how much they have, because they know that others have more.

The middle class mind is one that has come to identify with money. Those who have it can believe that the amount they earn says something important about who they are.

It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking, and hard to claw your way out.

So when our friends are working their tails off to change, let’s not make it any harder for them.

Instead, let’s give them a hand.




Like the TMBA? You can subscribe here.


Further reading:

Published on 05.16.17
  • “It’s a way to clear your mind from all the things you’re “supposed” to do.” ← This. There’s an incredible freedom that comes from extracting yourself from the environment that so heavily pushes the 9-5 career ladder as the norm.

    Tommy Griffith gave a great example in TMBA 370 when he talked about opting out of 2-year olds’ birthday parties. It’s not easy to remove yourself from the thousands of social obligations your time gets spent on in your home country – and wonderful and tempting as they may be, that’s time not spent building your business.

    Yes, moving to a foreign environment can provide a lower cost of living and take some of the pressure off your business in its early years. But it can also take the pressure off you to conform, alleviate a lot of the second-guessing and self-doubt early-stage entrepreneurs are prone to, and give you the mental space you need to grow into someone with the attitude and track record to stand up for the life path you’ve chosen in whatever city and culture you choose next.

  • Middle class mind is a powerful deterrent to success.

    One element not covered (I don’t know if we ever talked about it together) is “luxury dulls ambition.”

    I’ve seen guys head out to somewhere cheap in Asia to build their business, get to $2000 to $3000 a month in income while living a great life on a fraction of that, stop advancing. Then they go for a long visit to their home country or a wealthy country and can palpably feel the energy of hustle.

    All their peers for the last couple of years were content with a couple grand a month, and who wouldn’t be when you have a great life on a beautiful tropical beach?

    I’ve seen luxury dull ambition with people in expensive cities, too. They start hustling and make a few hundred grand a year or have an exit for several million so they can afford toys and nice places to live and $15 cocktails at a rooftop bar.

    Then they think, “I’ve made it. This is great.” Soon their $100 million dreams fade.

    There isn’t anything wrong with either making $3000 a month or $300,000 a year.

    What I’ve noticed through my work is that people who let luxury dull their ambition actually think they made a choice.

    Complacency isn’t choosing.

    The joke you started the article off with was most likely about those who baselined to do something bigger, but got complacent because life became luxurious. The punchline being that they don’t realize that they are still baselining.

  • Did you say anything to the group at that moment?


    I think there is a word for the concept of the haters within subgroups of what should be on the same team. Can’t remember it though. Anyone? This phenomenon is everywhere. Quite fascinating from a psychology standpoint.

    If there are 6 location independent internet entrepreneurs in a room and there are 3 saas and 3 FBA, 2 in Chiang Mai, 2 in SF, and 2 in Seoul they will argue all night about how different they are.

    Now zoom out.. and if there are 4 “normal” people and only 2 of them they do “the same thing” to the outsiders and are on the
    same team explaining / defending / promoting their life to the other 4.


    Funny how Chiang Mai has a such a reputation. And depending on who you ask, that is a much different reputation.

    It can be a bit hard to ignore the groves of super baseliners complaining about the “insane” prices of a restaurant that is $3 instead of $1.50 for a similar meal.

    It also is a bit hard to ignore what it has to offer for the non-baseliner. I’m increasingly meeting more people moving there for the general city size and convenient, nature filled lifestyle. Yep $1k goes far there, but $5k goes really far and so does that other $?????k that’s going into the bank and into new projects.

  • Michael

    I’d like to take this one step further, because I think its a mindset fault of the almighty entrepreneur to take issue with those living and working in the middle class (in corporations or governments) vilifying those who don’t spend their days thinking about creating wealth or escaping something. Without the middle-class doing their best on behalf of whatever shared goal they’ve attached themselves to, much of the society we depend on doesn’t run. Period.

    Garbage men, police officers, firemen, nurses, accountants, architects, engineers, researchers, teachers and even lawyers (hehe) all work in essential sectors that build and maintain a society worth living in. If everyone was as self-important and money focused as many of the entrepreneurs (lifestyle or otherwise) we’ve all met this would be a very different world. I don’t claim innocence here, and I work hard to not let my ego and lifestyle (that i’m very grateful for) give way to overlooking the importance of people working in jobs that I don’t want.

    We can still pat each other on the back for the fun and adventurous lives we’ve built ourselves but let’s beware the perils of the entrepreneur circle jerk.

    It’s tempting to claim superiority over those “poor souls” in Chang Mai or those “rat-racers” grinding out a tough day in their cubicle but lets keep in mind that there are limits to the utility of individualism and that profit and value aren’t always the same thing.

  • BostonRob

    So many of the same sentiments I’ve been ruminating on lately, Dan. I’ve decided not to hate on the Coconut Cowboys, after much consideration. We’ve all got our lessons to learn and who was I to say “You’re not really successful if feeling ‘success’ requires exploiting a less developed country?” I was just as bad, letting my ops manager run everything while I faffed around Europe.

    So now a bunch of us have “made it” and in the aftermath of our exits we are given to ponder on what it’s all about. Having accomplished by our 20s and 30s everything that might have been on our fathers’ bucket lists, we wonder “what’s next?”

    Personally, I think it’s just as much of a cop-out to sit on your ass and be idle as it is to build another company just because you feel you should make that much more that you don’t really need and some “middle class mentality” holding you back.

    Class is irrelevant to happiness, and so is money (to the extent that it exceeds what is necessary for basic comfort).

    If we look to Aristotle’s advice on what brings a person true happiness, we’ll see some pretty simple requirements: Meaningful friendship, respect, sufficient material comfort and making a virtuous impact on society to some degree.

    It’s so simple, yet so elusive.

    A life of leisure and doing the minimum to fund it, he would say, is the prerogative of simple animals.

    For a human to be truly happy, he or she must develop virtue.

    Sorry for the rant!

  • Hannah Blue

    Thanks Dan for the words of inspiration. I’ve been following since about 2011 and I fell off the blog for awhile but this one article brought me back in. I resonate with your words here. When I read this I’m reminded I’m not the only one living the dream in a way society isn’t used to. I’m only 23 and I now co-own an art gallery in Hawaii on Big Island. We are the closest store to the lava flowing into the ocean. This wasn’t in my sights when I started listening to the podcast 5 or 6 years ago. I do my pottery and bodywork full time now, I’ll say I was inspired to Island entrepreneurs lifestyle listening to you guys. Although I now have a brick and mortar store to operate, we have world class glass artists coming through our shop (think 50k+ for a single water pipe-look up Phil Siegel and Etai Rahmil before you hate) and we identify with them and host them in our home, and I feel like I am living a rich and famous lifestyle by virtue of who I know and what I do on the daily. I may live in Hawaiian time but it sure is sweet. I have a charmed life and reading this reminds me it only gets better from here. Thanks Dan
    Hannah Blue
    Ps I feel like I’m not as eloquent as the other comments here but again the whole purpose of the article is to bring each other to a higher vibration

  • Marcia Yudkin

    This post got me thinking. I agree that middle-class mores can be a trap, with false or illusory values, like needing to look successful to other people.

    But I wonder if the key is just finding a lifestyle or milieu where you and the other people you most associate with relate to you in terms of who you are, not what you do for a living or how much/how little you have in the bank or in other assets.

    Most of the year I live in a very small New England town where it might take 8-10 years before you figure out or find out what your neighbors do for a living. People relate on a totally different level than that.

    It also seems to me that being or feeling financially free often goes along with valuing yourself as who you are and being seen by others in that way, also.

    What do others think?

  • Awesome

  • Love it, makes me think of Steve Jobs recommendation to kids graduating college, “stay hungry, stay foolish”.

  • Holy sh*t I love this post, Dan! So frickin’ spot on, on so many levels.

    This hits home especially:

    “We’re blinding ourselves. We’ve had a little success, but what if that success is actually making it harder to achieve our next set of goals? What if it’s easier to go from the bottom to the top than from the middle to the top?”

    Gah. This is so true! Especially when one has worked hard to get where they are… coasting at the comfortable level is so easy! And “normal” (not that any of us are and/or want to be ‘normal’ here – haha)!

    If you’ve gone from ‘barely enough’ to ‘just enough,’ there’s a tribe-like comfort in getting to ‘comfortably plenty’ – which is a different number for everyone. You’re no longer struggling, you’re living a good life… so why press on and work harder when things are going pretty damn good?

    In fact, I think many self-sabotage their success, just so they have a problem to solve (sometimes to the point of a dire need), which ignites them find their grit & purpose again. An exhausting and unnecessary way of going about it, but most entrepreneurs have experienced it at least once.

    So many gems in here and great food for thought. Thank you!

  • Giles

    “Nothing annoys me more than people who call themselves “entrepreneurs” while sitting around somewhere cheap like Chiang Mai and convincing themselves they’re living the dream.”

    I just love the total arrogance of this guy who thinks he knows what other people’s dreams should be- what a dick!!!

    I lived in Barcelona for 3 years, worked on those yachts for the super rich for 20 years, built a 7 figure business from zero and now I have a house in Thailand (not CM though).

    Personally my dream is to work a few hours a day and earn enough to beach for the rest of it.

  • Chris Reynolds

    Love this post Dan! I think it goes hand in hand with entrepreneurs feeling like imposters. Maybe a reason they do is because entrepreneurs that were once in their shoes make comments like that. There is a reason guys like Richard Branson are kind to everyone and guys like Donald Trump are not. At the end of the day we have to ask ourselves….who do I want to be more like? I know my answer.

  • Truth.

  • Well said.

    As someone who has moved back to Chiang Mai in order to cut my expenses and pursue a dream (music), this resonated. I first came here in 2012, stayed for almost 3 years, then left in search of greener pastures. I was making more money, but I wasn’t happier.

    About a year and half ago, I decided that what I really wanted to do was to spend all day making electronic dance music. So I packed my bags and moved back to Chiang Mai. My burn rate dropped and I had more time for music.

    Since then, my priority hasn’t really been to make more money, but to simply make more music. Money only matters insofar as it supports and enhances the music.

    The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that this is quite a contrast with the typical attitude in the entrepreneurial circles… it’s as though you’ve gotta be hustling all the time, always making more mine, buying certain toys (or having certain experiences)… and if you don’t, well, you’re a failure. You’re not a real entrepreneur.

    It’s ironic. When we all read the “4 Hour Work Week”, we got excited about creating all this free time to do cool shit. But in the end, most of us end up spending all day in coffee shops and coworking offices.

  • Self-sabotaging success… this is so common yet so often overlooked.

  • Pedro

    This is interesting. I work in an office job that I love in the nonprofit world. When my grad school colleagues look at me they feel sorry for me. They’re at consulting firms making crazy money and I’m at a nonprofit earning a decent salary (for a nonprofit). Sometimes I do wonder how much easier it would be to take a job at one of those consulting firms instead of working at a nonprofit and hustling on the side.

  • Daniel

    Well this is an entirely separate topic. Every single luxury that capitalism affords (at least at any price you wouldn’t consider outrageous) relies on mass poverty, exploitation, and inequality.

    I don’t pretend to have a moral position on this, but I think it’s a bit misleading to say that teachers, architects, and lawyers are responsible for the society we enjoy. The middle class is still part of the consumer class, ie the wealthy class.

    If we’re going to dip into socioeconomics, pretending that the middle class is full of unsung heroes is to parody reality itself.

  • Kristopher Howell

    The counterpoint is that nobody is a hero, and everyone makes sacrifices to achieve their goals. But if you don’t define the reward you’re pursuing, you can’t claim victory. Entrepreneurs have goals by nature, but they’re fantasies as often as they are plans. The only way to tell the difference is whether or not the goals have been achieved. So if someone in the middle class wants to raise kids in a stable household, there’s an obvious way to accomplish that. If an entrepreneur wants to risk stability for future wealth, there’s a path for that too.

  • Michael

    I don’t think its misleading at all, we just see the world differently considering I think your final sentence is exactly the problem.

  • Christina

    You make some great points, however I don’t think it’s right to generalize across the board on either side. I don’t think all entrepreneurs are smart, but many of them are. don’t think all middle class people are lazy, but many people on this planet are (regardless of socioeconomics). Some of those happen to be middle class. They want more, they complain, but they don’t want to work just a liiiiitle bit harder to get it. I know some people have so many responsibilities that they can’t risk it, and that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is so important to realize where you stand. Many people aren’t even aware that they are choosing one lifestyle over another, they just live on autopilot day-to-day. They don’t know what they are capable of! Again, not wrong. It’s less about “taking issue” with the fact that many people who are in the middle class choose to be there, but it illustrates the type of societal norms that keep many brilliant people (in the middle class, or not) held up or too distracted in their “comfortable lives” to really push themselves to accomplish more (if they wanted to). It’s not about what’s wrong versus right. For the people who want more, but are afraid to take the risks and give up short term comfort for long term accomplishment, this realization can be the catalyst for a better life. At the least, if everyone was the best version of themselves we’d be so much better off as a whole, but that obviously means different things to different people :)

  • What a great read. Man do I know the middle class mind. I’m surrounded by them. So focused on buying a house and mortgage themselves to death as the work up the corp ladder. So many of them unhappy yet putting on the facade of success and happiness.

  • Totally. Just like there’s a “ladder” to climb in the mainstream world (high school – college – career – marriage – house – kids – retire – etc) there can also be a sort of ladder for entrepreneurship (bootstrap – moderate success – build team – huge success – company sold – start next biz even bigger – etc.) and it’s tempting for people to look down on others who are “lower down” on the ladder.

    But the reality is that both success and the journey to achieve it look different for every person. Some people want a big buyout, others want to run their company forever. Some entrepreneurs love managing a big team, others thrive as solopreneurs.

    This is why it’s so important to constantly be reflecting and seeing if you’re actually on the path you want to be on, as you did when you got back to music.

  • Exactly! The definition of a “lifestyle business” is that it enables you to live the lifestyle YOU want… which could be baselining on a beach, or it could be buying a million-dollar yacht, or it could be a modest home base in a beautiful country, or it could be perpetual travel… the options are infinite.

  • Michael

    Not everyone defines “accomplishment” in the same way.

    I would say, for example, nurses, firemen, police officers, scientists, researchers, etc – are accomplishing quite a lot, in contrast “successful” entrepreneurs are sitting at their computer figuring out new ways to drive affiliate traffic. Context is important.

    Clearly I am cherry picking examples here and you could do the same. My point is that there’s a lot of value on both sides, not to mention that many entrepreneurs are in the middle class.

    You also said, “Many people aren’t even aware that they are choosing one lifestyle over another…” – if they’re not aware then they aren’t choosing.

  • 100%.

    I think it’s important to get out of the digital nomad “bubble” and reflect on what you really wanna do, outside of all the pressure to perform and live up to people’s expectations. In the end, it seems to come down to… do more of what makes you happy.

  • Mattia Settimelli

    Love it. Will come to Chiang Mai asap and I’m also an electronic music producer. Like your point of view.

  • Awesome. Hit me up on Soundcloud – john lavido.

  • Awesome man. well said

  • Jason Lee

    wow, as one who is struggling with his video marketing agency, feeling like a chicken with his head cut off and now getting a full-time job so I can cover my baseline expenses and move out of my parents house, this is very real. Thanks

  • Amy White

    Good content! very well expressed the elements.

  • This makes me feel so much better about being broke. lol but on a serious note, I strongly agree with what you say here. I remember speaking to my boss when he found out I was about to quit my job to start a business. He started to enumerate the things I was going to lose if I quit: a good pay, health insurance, professional peers, and all that. This was from a guy who was earning three times more than me and was still struggling to live because he had to maintain so much luxury in his life. I almost felt sorry for him. I quit my job, became broke, and pursued what I wanted rather than remain stuck doing something that makes me miserable because it affords me the “lifestyle” I should be having. There’s days when I wonder how life would be like if I had stayed at that job. I would feel so much remorse for not doing it soon enough and I would not trade anything else for the freedom I enjoy now.

  • Ben Bowen

    Great article and really good question: “We’ve had a little success, but what if… it’s easier to go from the bottom to the top than from the middle to the top?”

    Reminds me of a blog I wrote recently called Comfortably Profitable:

  • SK

    Building wealth is important, no doubt. But building a future that your heart desires also involve relationships, whether it’s with family or with friends. I don’t think it’s fair to say that working in foreign environment should be the solution because it requires you to get out of the states and be far away from your family and close friends. What is the point of building wealth if that means you cut off years of precious time spent with people that you truly care about? The majority of us are plagued with the middle class mindset, and it’s important to realize that $ earned is nothing but just one of the element to happiness. And to me, happiness and fulfillment are the true wealth that Dan mentioned here.

  • Toptenia

    Interesting read. Thanks for putting the effort.

  • Ben Bowen

    “These people devote huge chunks of their lives to earning money, and then spend it on fancy gadgets to prove that the time spent earning it was worthwhile.” Very astute observation, Dan.

    It’s so dangerous when people start to define themselves and their success by stuff, especially for the entrepreneur.

    An alternative is a growth mind set. It says, “no matter what I can afford, no matter how much stuff I have, I will always try to grow!” This worldview keeps you sharp personally and professional and helps you avoid being Comfortably Profitable!

Next post: