Jeremy Hiebert

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Cost of Living

The Experience Designer ruminates on all sorts of lifestyle factors from the financial angle -- commuting, cost of living, debt load, financial education, inflation -- but brings the discussion around to our sense of purpose and the non-financial costs of the decisions we make. Do we properly consider our levels of consumer debt, the effect of rising interest rates on over-mortgaged homeowners, our societal lack of savings, and the reality of increasing incomes that don't buy as much because of inflation?
"The link between commuting and heart attacks is symbolic of a culture(s) that places money, something vacuously referred to as 'progress', and the pursuit of materialism ahead living a vibrant and rewarding life."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Teaching Lifestylism

Curt's "rant" is spot-on. Why don't educational institutions focus on helping students figure out what they really want to do with their lives?
"No wonder people's careers end up wonky. The very institutions they are paying to prepare them for their careers and expand their horizons are blatantly ignoring the question, 'What's going to make you happy.'

What if our schools did teach that? How incredible would that be? When I was climbing down at Smith Rock with Erden Eruc and his wife Nancy a few months ago, Erden introduced me to a high school teacher he had met on an earlier climbing trip who teaches a Careers class.

The teacher said he constantly gets in trouble with parents because he keeps telling the kids, 'Follow your heart. Don't buy into what is expected. Make your own decisions. Explore. Do what feels right. Don't let other people decide what you should do.'"

Lament

Garth was recently lamenting his work schedule and asking some tough questions about purpose:
"Ironically, if I would maintain my current workload I most likely would be sacrificing my children on the altar of "doing." The hours we spend at work each week (even if it is a job that we truly enjoy) obviously are more than the hours we actually spend with our families right? In fact, even when we are home away from our workplace, often we are still at work solving some type of problem. The problem of our age is that often never leave work - our computers now fit in our pockets and tell us what to do hour by hour."

Pause

Jory's Pause blog seems to be picking up steam. I've gotta keep a couple of these gems:

The Bright Side of Status Anxiety
"This raises the question, is someone who is 'downsizing'--giving up that big-title job and paycheck for a simpler life, not desirous of status? I argue no; they are swimming against the more ubiquitous notion of what we've deemed as status symbols, but not of status itself. If we lived in this world with no respect--from others, but mainly from ourselves--we couldn't function, or we couldn't function to our potential."

The Soloist
"But Leanne has known both worlds: she’s followed her bliss and she’s feasted on the artificial freedom a regular paycheck provides. Eventually, the body rejects this unnatural nourishment; it screams for something else. Still,in the absence of the nourishment we’re seeking as soloists, we can get mighty hungry. Hell, anyone who’s traveling a lonely road and starving would likely stop at the first place she could eat, even if it was McDonald’s."

Extended Adolescence

Joanne Jacobs points out that growing up is hard to do and links to this USA Today article about extended adolescence:
"In the 1970s, a bachelor's degree could launch a career and support a family. Not anymore. Now, graduate school is almost a necessity and that means greater expenses, often when students are still saddled with college loans. More years of schooling also mean a delay entering the workforce. In this down economy, there's also stiffer competition for jobs. Financial independence is but a dream for many."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Conflict Between Dreams and Values

In Spidey Sense, Doug digs into an issue that I've thought of every time I hear or read someone writing "follow your dreams". He points out that our dreams are often not a very good match for our identities:
"This movie highlights a common conflict for people who proactively pursue a life. It would be nice if life construction was as simple as commonly heard advice like 'follow your dreams'. Unfortunately, some things we dream to do don’t wear well. They conflict with our natural inclinations."
Esther and I have been going back and forth on this one a bit in the comments section of my post about personal evolution. She and I both seem to agree that it would be good for everyone to have their values reflected in their current lifestyles and dreams for the future. But ask anyone a half-dozen questions about their lifestyle (how they spend their time), their values (what they think is important) and their dreams (what they'd like to be doing), and you'll see the conflicts and contradictions flying every which way. I guess it wouldn't be hard to make a list for ourselves -- three simple columns of words and concepts...and then see how well they're aligned.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Adbusters

I've been thinking about posting about Adbusters for a while, but couldn't really figure out how I wanted to connect it to this concept of lifestylism. In some ways, they symbolize the sort of lifestyle activism that may be required to help us wake up to the mismatch between our values and our lifestyles. They're at their best as corporate watchdogs, asking good questions about the true costs of doing business, waking people up to their consumerist tendencies, and taking on big media.

I think these are all important initiatives. If enough people internalized these ideas and made lifestyle choices that were guided by these principles, the world would be a better place. The idealism shines through in a quote like this:
"Our planet is drawing into a dark winter, as the runaway effects of our consumer lifestyle threaten to knock the earth out of whack for one thousand years. Species are dying, climate change accelerating, and we carry on regardless like addicts in denial.

But there is always hope. We need a new way of doing business that doesn't thrive on the death of nature, a new way of thinking that will redefine progress. We introduce the economists trying to shift the paradigm, and we explain the true cost revolution that will help reprogram the doomsday machine – and save the earth for future generations."
Heavy-duty rhetoric. They've been criticized for using the same tools as the marketers and corporate interests they're battling -- slick production, stylized design, powerful images -- to get their messages across. I don't really have a problem with that. They've also taken some heat for their Black Spot Sneaker venture, designed to subvert Nike and other shoe giants by selling a decent shoe produced in better conditions. So they've created a strong brand billed as an anti-brand.

Pat Kane pointed me to Rebel Sell, which digs into some of these issues:
"Culture jammers are not the first to try to break the system through consumer revolt. Countercultural rebels have been playing the same game for over forty years, and it obviously doesn't work."
Some very interesting ideas in the exerpt -- would probably be worth checking out the book. But where does this leave the person who wants their values reflected in what they purchase (or don't purchase) and how they spend their time? I look at the growth of organic foods, environmentally friendly cleaners, ethical mutual funds, farmers' markets, and other alternatives that are actually better for the world and I see hope. Even small choices can make a difference if enough people are making them, and the awareness this creates may lead people to take more action to align their lifestyles with their values.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Real Costs

I've labelled Robert Paterson a lifestylist. Not only has he crafted a great setup with his family on PEI, he's proven that the "lifestyle ratchet" doesn't only go up in cost and consuption. He left behind the banking world in Toronto, downshifting and unjobbing to take control of his time, and I'm sure his quality of life improved immeasurably. Today he wrote about The Real Costs of Going to Work, which cover the lifestyle costs of climbing the corporate ladder, but also the real financial costs to the individual and employer, which end up making the entire exercise look kind of ridiculous.