My Definition of "Lifestyle Design"

Happy Sunday ya’ll!  Hope it’s chocked full of rest, golf, movies, brunch, and mimosas or bloody marys wherever you find yourself on this fine day of rest.  As for my wife and me?  Well, today we find ourselves in Boston, and we’re both making our inaugural trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox take on the Orioles.  It’s special for Claire because she loves the Red Sox, and I’ve no doubt that it will be the central topic of her daily blog this afternoon over at… but I thought I’d share my comments on it today as well, and for a different reason.

Growing up as a Tigers fan in suburban Detroit, my Dad used to take me to see ball games at Tiger Stadium on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, and a little piece of me died the day they closed it down, tearing it down several years later.  I loved Tiger Stadium… as a kid I remember the bright blue steel rafters that held the roof up (I’d always stare at them as I held on to my Dad’s hand for dear life in the crowd as we walked to our seats).  I remember listening to the roar of the crowd as Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson or Sweet Lou Whittaker would step up to the plate and knock out a home run or maybe just a single.  I remember the magical summer of 1984 as clear as it were yesterday, with the cheesy “Bless You Boys” song that they’d constantly play on the radio.  The Tigers won the pennant that year, and to this day I’ve never loved baseball more than I did during that summer.

After they played the last game at Tiger Stadium years later, it dawned on me that there were special places in the country that I wanted to make sure I visited and experienced before they were gone.  As far as baseball was concerned, I figured that in my world there was a bit of a holy trinity that I needed to make it to:  Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field & Fenway Park.  I made it to Wrigley in 2002 or 2003, and it was a wonderful experience… and today will round out my baseball trinity.  And that makes me happy.

The reason I bring any of this up is really because I believe fiercely in the notion of lifestyle design, and although at some point in the future I may have had some happenstance circumstance crop up that allowed me to make it out to Fenway, I can’t help but be skeptical that I’d be able to do it as easily as I am today… and certainly not on my own terms.  Let me explain…

I’ve certainly heard the term lifestyle design before, but in my experience it seems to typically apply to a single guy or girl with a pair of jeans, sandals, 3 t-shirts, a backpack, a laptop, a passport, an ipod and a sneaky-cool web-based business startup that has them flying from London to Singapore to {INSERT COOL TRENDY CITY HERE} at any given moment.  These folks are typically described as dripping with charisma, and let’s face it… they seem pretty damn cool.  Who doesn’t want that lifestyle design?

I’m not that cool.

From the time I was a freshman in college at Michigan State University, I’ve always thought about the notion of lifestyle design in a much more pragmatic way than that.  I thought of it in a way that described more of what I actually wanted to be doing with the hours in my day more than anything else.  I’ve always felt it crucial that I actually have a real, thought-out, honest answer to the question of what I wanted to be doing in my day… and not in the sense of a profession, but in the sense of “eating lunch in New York City” or “sleeping until 10am”… whichever was more appropriate to me.  For me, the challenge was all about overcoming my walls and fears that gave me automatic answers to those questions.  After all, how in the world could I even consider where I was going to eat lunch everyday or when I’d be able to wake up in the morning if I was worried about just trying to find a way to survive in this world we live in?

Like many college students nowadays, my biggest fear at the time was money – where I would make money, how I would make money, how the money I would eventually make would serve me moving into the future, yadda yadda yadda…. you know, a pretty common thing for any 18 year old to consider.  Then I came up with an idea that changed my life… I decided to make a deal with myself that I forced myself to adhere to (and luckily I had the intestinal fortitude to do so).  Believing that you can’t really be successful in the modern day world without taking some serious risks, I did what I thought was the unthinkable… I decided that I absolutely wouldn’t hold myself accountable for for making money at all.  I’d of course scrape by to live, but I wouldn’t worry about “the money thing” too much.  However, in exchange for that weight off my shoulders, I made myself promise that I would just work my ass off as hard as I could.  Calvin Coolidge said that persistence and determination alone are omnipotent, and I was taking his words to heart and making them the basis of everything I stood for.

What happened next was really rather curious, and taught me a lot.  What I found was that without the mental burden of being overly concerned about “making money” and living up to “societal norms”, but adhering to the notion that I had to funnel an insane amount of energy and effort somewhere, I began asking myself some fundamental questions including:

  • Do I want to have somebody telling me what to do?
  • Do I want a boss?
  • Do I want a set schedule?
  • When do I want to go to sleep?
  • When do I want to wake up in the morning?
  • When do I naturally work the best and do my very best work?
  • When am I entirely unproductive no matter how much time I put in?
  • Where do I want to live?
  • Do I want to live in a calm place or a busy place?
For my own part, I began to see a trend that I hear many people talk about now… when you take money out of the equation, my priorities had a lot more to do with the when and the where.  I realized that I was more than happy to work my ass off, but working for anybody who would restrict my schedule really bothered me.  Further, I wanted to live in a nice place… not necessarily an expensive place, but in an environment that I would enjoy.  And so for me, becoming a self-employed entrepreneur made tons of sense… and was a place I came to out of definitive planning, thought and design more than anything else.  It didn’t happen by chance… it happened on purpose.

All of that brings me to this weekend here in Boston.

Claire and I are here this weekend for two reasons… Because Claire works with me now as a project manager and is the implementation concierge for the business venture we share with Jason Silverman, it made sense for her to be in Boston with me while we met with Jason on Friday.

Yesterday, Jason & I helped run a mastermind workshop with another partner of ours here in Boston working with doctors to focus their business systems and online marketing.  Today, both Claire and I are all done… we can go home.  And if we had “jobs”, we would have to go home because we have to work on Monday morning.  But that’s not what’s happening, because it’s not what has to happen.  I’m able to make the choice to stay in Boston and go to Fenway with my wife… and that feels damn good.  And it’s not an accident, or something that “just happened to work out”.

So as Claire and I take in a ballgame at Fenway this afternoon, I’ll be grateful that I’m blessed enough to live the life I’m able to lead.  And while I know that I’ve had plenty of help along the way, I also know that it’s not all just happening by chance.  And I hope the same for us all… I hope that each of us has the strength, courage and desire to go out and life the life we really want to by design, whatever that life is.  It’s in all of our power to do it… just make it so.

And just for kicks… “Bless You Boys” – This just might be the year again.  Go Tigers!  And yeah, go Red Sox too! 😉