(2011-06-12) Rao Lifestyle Design Gamble

Venkatesh Rao frames Lifestyle Design (a la Four Hour Work Week) as gambling. There are two kinds of resources you can gamble with: time and money. It used to be much easier to gamble with money than with time. That is what has changed in recent times, hence my definition. Newbie drinkers of the 4-hour Kool-Aid don’t seem to get this. They think lifestyle design is a guaranteed path out of their crappy lives in cubicle prisons and the burden of the Middle Class life script, mortgage and all... Without an element of gambling, the sort of lifestyle design model implicit in the question is far worse than the regular middle class lifestyle. If you are not willing to gamble, you shouldn’t attempt lifestyle design. Your paycheck (DayJob) is a much better deal... Lifestyle design isn’t a path to Freedom. It is an opportunity to gamble your way to freedom. Which means you can lose, and end up worse off than if you had taken the traditional paycheck route. But unlike in the Middle Class paycheck life, you have a non-zero chance of coming out on top. (Lottery)

He applied this thinking to a Quora answer about doing a One Man Show side-biz. A regular job has a higher guaranteed upside that hits its ceiling very quickly. Even if you beat this scenario 3-4x and are in a job that pays $120-$160/hour, you'll never get off the treadmill, because the treadmill is designed to never let you off. It is Hotel California. If you are making $300k, chances are you are a mission-critical linchpin, and The Man will figure out a pattern of incentives to keep you where you are... But there's a 10% chance that you'll hit upon an idea that just hits some market nerve and takes off on a wild trajectory of success, requiring no marketing and escalating inbound demand, and growing so fast that the competition cannot catch up (if you are willing to get off your lazy behind and tighten your grip on the tiger's tail that is; otherwise someone will very kindly take your market away from you). There is almost NOTHING you can do to make this happen, other than to place as many bets as you can, as frequently as you can, without shortchanging any of the ideas on the effort side.


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