When you Google "lifestyle business" and switch to images, you get something like the screenshot above. Images of people in convertibles riding into the sunset. Working on the beach. Coffee shops, hammocks and words like "luxury", "freedom" and "millionaire" all pop up. Is this what a lifestyle business is about? Working on the beach? Travelling to exotic locations? Being a laid-back millionaire?
That's what the hype promises. But is that really what you want?
For most of us, there are only two things that we really, really want:
- money, and
- free time.
A life without money worries is great. Enough money, in theory, means we have free time and the means to enjoy it. But what exactly would you be doing?
So here's a three-part exercise you should do to determine what your ideal lifestyle looks like, and how to get there.
Part 1: Imagine no boundaries
In the first part of this exercise, you need to imagine that you have unlimited money. Sit down, imagine that you have $10 million in the bank and you never have to worry about money again.
Now write down what you would do. Would you travel a lot? Read a lot? Visit rock concerts all over the world, or indulge in your favourite hobbies? Party a lot? Who would your friends be? When you do travel (as many of us want to), where would you go and what would you do?
Back in 2010 my wife and I took a 10-week road trip. We were in a situation where we could afford to, and there were places we wanted to visit, family we hadn't seen in a long time, and memories we wanted to revisit. The trip was great (if you can survive 10 weeks living out of a suitcase with your spouse your relationship can survive anything).
But when the trip was over, we were glad to be home. Living out of a suitcase is overrated; we wanted roots, not having to travel every week or two, being stable in one place and not having to feel as if we were just visiting and had to move on soon.
So even if we could have done this indefinitely, we wouldn't have. Don't get me wrong - the trip was great. But my idea of an unbounded lifestyle took quite a reality check. If we hadn't gone on this trip I may not have had the perspective I have now.
So imagine that money is not a constraint, and write down what your life would look like. If it's a perpetual road trip, write that down, by all means. But be as specific as you can.
Part 2: What does the next phase look like?
Now for part 2 of the exercise. Take a piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. Title the left column "Now" and the right column "Next".
Now take stock of where you are in your life right now and write down the things you like and dislike in the left column. Don't take too long and don't try to be too scientific about it, just write down the thoughts that come up first.
Now think about what the next phase of your life could look like. What can you reasonably achieve over the next 12-24 months? How much different would your life be, and which of the things you dislike about your current life would be gone?
Write these things down in the right-hand column.
For example, I think it is achievable to take 3 months vacation every year within 12 to 24 months (not all at once, a month at a time will be great). I don't get to see my sons often enough - I would love to have the time and the means to visit with them more.
Remember, what you're trying to do here is write down just the things that you think you can reasonably achieve over the next 12 to 24 months.
Then you're ready for part 3.
Part 3: Make a (simple) plan
You now know what you like about where you are, and what you dislike. You also have a pretty good idea of what you can achieve over the next 12-24 months.
Now it's time to make a plan. The plan is designed to take you from where you are to where you want to be in the next 12-24 months.
But rather than spending a lot of time building a sophisticated plan, keep it simple. At the very least, you only need to know what your next step needs to be. If that step is to get your money management in order, great. If it is to build a product you can sell online, great. Just one step at a time.
Creating a detailed "master plan" of how you're going to get to your ultimate lifestyle - or even to the next phase - is difficult and mostly a waste of time. Life is going to happen while you're making plans, and you will have to adjust as you go on.
So it's enough to make a simple plan, and you don't have to shoot for the stars yet. The next step up is good enough.
Keep your vision simple and know what you need to do next
We can so easily get lost in the day-to-day stuff we have to deal with (or battles we have to fight). It's easy to forget that what we're doing is because we want a better life for ourselves and our families.
But we can just as easily forget the things that are good about our lives right now. The exercise above is a simple one designed to remind us that we have a lot going for us right now. Our ultimate lifestyle may be some way off, but the next step up may not be that far.
So keep your perspective and take one little step forward. That's all you need to do, and in a year from now you will be so much closer to where you want to be.
And by the way, working on the beach is not what it's made out to be. You're being interrupted while you're trying to relax, wi-fi usually sucks and bright sunlight makes it almost impossible to see what's going on on your computer screen.