Design a Lifestyle

Making a Deal to Design a Lifestyle like Tim Ferris

Lifestyle design has entered our cultural zeitgeist in a big way over the last few years. The propagator of this increasingly popular concept is Tim Ferris – the “world’s greatest self-promoter” dubbed by WIRED magazine. While the ideas Tim shares on lifestyle design are compelling and relevant to our modern predicament, we must deeply consider his formula for success in light of our higher needs towards self-actualization.

The Four Hour Work Week - Tim FerrisTim Ferris’s #1 New York Times Bestseller and International Phenomenon, The 4-Hour Workweek, lays down some of the foundational concepts for taking your life into your own hands and becoming part of what he calls the new rich. The new rich as Tim explains are “those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency… [of] time and mobility.” This in my opinion is a direct call for people to gravitate towards a way of life that is an expression of new freedoms once more basic needs such as financial security have been addressed.

Tim uses a simple and appropriate acronym – DEAL – to break down his process for entering this emerging social class of the new rich. Characterized as having a lifestyle that has “escaped the 9-5 and can live anywhere,” there is a very strong desire in all of us that really wants this kind of freedom and for good reason given our dissatisfaction with spending the majority of our lives working for others in a single location. Here are my cliff notes on what Tim explains about the DEAL we need to make with ourselves to design a more ideal lifestyle:

  • D stands for Definition : There are a few key concepts that we must define to really get the “lifestyle design recipe” that Tim Ferris recommends.  He suggests we practice Dreamlining which is the  process of envisioning our desired lifestyle. Specifically, we need to define what we want in terms of Having, Being and Doing. Then, we need to break down their associated costs and state the specific actions required to get there. Once you have your dreamline in mind, we need to figure out the Target Monthly Income (TMI) that we need to cover the costs of our lifestyle design. Finally, to bring in that TMI, we need to establish a Muse that is an “automated vehicle for generating cash without consuming time.”
  • E stands for Elimination – As Tim explains, the first and most important ingredient to lifestyle design is TIME. He suggests that we need to cultivate a “selective ignorance, low-information diet, and ignore the unimportant” to be the most productive we can be. Productivity in this context boils down to both greater effectiveness (getting more done) and efficiency (in the least amount of time). Tim often recommends applying the 80/20 Rule to understand the 80% of the outputs that results from 20% of the inputs to find room for improvement. He emphasizes that lifestyle design requires “massive action” or output that necessitates decreased input. It’s so true that we must be brutally honest about the “time wasters, time consumers and empowerment failures” and eliminate them as much as possible for maximum productivity to focus on those things that are ultimately more important. Tim explains a pantheon of strategies for elimination in the book but some of the most noteworthy are limiting availability, batching activities, and setting guidelines for workflows.
  • A stands for Automation – The second ingredient to lifestyle design according to Tim is INCOME. He is a strong advocate for finding ways to put “cash flow on autopilot.” In his philosophy, we need to find a muse that creates management-free money and then eliminate ourselves from the picture all together. Given the internet, there is now more ways than ever to find ways to make money in easier and more automated ways. Finding a niche market to target then testing for its profitability are two essential steps to creating a product or service offering that can generate that kind of income. The key strategy for automating a muse advocated by Tim is outsourcing the essential aspects to workers in other parts of the world. In particular, leveraging virtual assistants that can do things cheaper with similar quality is a central theme. This requires that we become masters of work delegation, remote management, and clear communication. Creating systems for the business to essentially operate on its own thus enables the last component of lifestyle design.
  • L stands for Liberation – The third ingredient that Tim presents for lifestyle design is MOBILITY. Freedom that comes about by having the ability to live and work wherever you want in the world is the luxury of the new rich. By creating a muse, it liberates us to leave our job if we choose to do so, take mini-retirements and spend our time on things that we are passionate about. This sort of flexibility when taken full advantage of can lead to an incredibly fulfilling collection of peak experiences.  Once liberated from the regular work routine, Tim urges people to “fill the void” by pursuing continuous learning and service. He dedicates a very small part of the book to elaborating on these sort of higher aspirations that lead to self-actualization. However, it’s clear that the objective of the book was to explain a host of strategies and provide case studies for people to address the more fundamental (i.e. base) needs especially in regards to creating passive income streams that can serve to finance our global travels and passion projects.

To the new rich, as Tim explains on numerous occasions, money is seen as just one form of currency. He makes it a point to clearly explain that “money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it and with whom you do it.” The DEAL that we make with ourselves may not result in us becoming the richest person we know in an absolute sense (i.e. total dollars earned over a given period of time) but our relative income (i.e. ratio of dollars earned to time spent) from our lifestyle design will undoubtedly be preferred.

Chris Porto and Tim Ferris at Samovar Tea LoungeThe 4-Hour Workweek provides a great roadmap and an incredible list of resources to leverage on our quest to design a lifestyle with the means to do whatever our heart desires. My encouragement however would be for people to take these strategies and apply them towards cash flowing ventures that are as closely aligned with your core values and higher purpose as possible. As your target monthly income is met, we then can direct our attention even more so towards pursuits that are rewarding and developmental to the self as well as benefit others given that, in the end, is what life is all about. So I’m all about becoming part of the new rich but let’s make a difference doing so both in the process and once we arrive!

Do you have experience setting up a muse that is serving your lifestyle design? If so, it would be great to hear how you went about doing it in the comments below.



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