It’s a strange world I’ve been falling into: people who track their life in order to quantify their self, who try to design their ideal lifestyle – and live it, too –, people who aim to be location-independent… and it’s oftentimes the same usual suspects one encounters again and again.
Before long, it also tends to be the same approach one seems to find over and over: “manifests” of just how they want to dominate the world, and change lives for the better, a desire to speak at TED, e-books and courses, and ideas to drive web traffic and build a following.
Oftentimes, what’s presented is presented as something new and fantastic – and if only you buy the book, follow the course, you can be all new and fantastic, too!
I’ve seen it before, though.
In German, we’ve been calling such people Lebenskünstler – life artists. They are a fascinating bunch, not holding down a regular job, but still getting by okay; oftentimes following some artistic or environmentally-minded passion. Thanks to such passion, they tend to offer some practical skill, and thanks to their lifestyle, a willingness to help out with it – if only you can handle their odd ways and often somewhat odd character. And yes, they are seen as odd. Somewhat nomadic, certainly different, you aren’t quite sure if they are really a part of their surrounding society, or rather apart from it.
The strangest thing, thinking beyond both, is how we actually have a large number of people who are “cultural creatives,” who don’t live standard lifestyles, but do follow some peculiar interests. Not enough to have changed what is “normal” to something that is more in line with what we want from life, and what we can do without running against ecological limits, but not so few, either.
And so, even – and particularly – as I try to live differently and inspire others to do so as well, I rub up against these lifestyle designers. Hard.
During my life so far, I’ve already seen too many eco-people who were preaching simple lifestyles, railing against excesses over and above ecological limits and fair footprints – and doing so by jet-setting from one speaking engagement to another.
More recently, I’m seeing the personal development-crowd, and there are too many people there who sound like they want to be great teachers, but then all they do is sell e-books and online courses, live large, and use their inspirational status as resaon to live in ways I’d consider to be rather irresponsible.
An educator is what I want to be myself, but first of all, a live-r. Someone who is definitely, obviously not out to live in impressive ways to sell his stuff and be able to live on like that, but to experiment with more aware, multiply better, ways of truly living in this world, and to contribute in positive ways to human lives, lived as part of this world.
That probably sounds like so many others, and there are examples I myself find inspiring. Adam Baker of Man vs. Debt and his absolute openness when it comes to his personal finances, proving that he’s living what he’s talking about, for example. By and large, however, I have a great distrust of people who are rallying followers. Personal growth, better lives, need to be lived, not sold in neat little packages.
I can’t say that I’ve had a chance at a 70,000$-job that I gave up. However, I’d rather hold down some “standard” job, and not forget that this is what the majority of people on this planet live by, or maybe even hope for. And this is where we, if we want to inspire better lives, need to pick others – and ourselves – up: between 9-to-5 jobs that hardly make enough to live by, a desire to keep up with the Joneses even if it means going into debt – and still, a desire to live happier, better lives, if only time and energy allowed it. Not however, breaking with everything that seems to show that you are a responsible, good, person – and certainly not by becoming the world’s greatest self-promoter.
That said, what do I do if things go as I’d like them to, and I happen to inspire people and present my ideas in a book? For one, you’ll find me still working in a garden, still looking not to live like a recluse preparing for eco-apocalypse, but not flying from one part of the world to another to give speeches, either.