Sunday, December 26, 2004

Reality Check

Via the Work Less Party comes this excellent newsletter: Reality Check: The Canadian Review of Wellbeing. The November '04 issue (1.6mb PDF) has four simple pages covering a bunch of issues around work: Troubling Trends Overwork, Underwork, Insecure Work, Canada’s blueprint for more jobs & more leisure, and Whatever happened to ‘the leisure society’?. All worth taking a look at.

The work-and-spend treadmill is very short, but it outlines one fascinating indicator of our collective values: "In 1943, the average Canadian house was 800 square feet. Today, the average house has more than doubled in size, to 1,800 square feet. Yet the decline in family size means that these large houses are occupied by fewer people than ever before." Apparently we consume almost twice as much stuff as average people did in the 1960s. Of course the implication is that we're having to work a lot more to maintain this new standard.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Work Less

Via Chris Corrigan comes news of the Work Less Party: "Work less, consume less, live more. By doing this we will have a better quality of life, and at the same time preserve something of our planet for future generations."

At last, a political party I can believe in, and in my own province! They've even got a blog, covering things like the 35-hour workweek in France with intelligence. Worth following...

43 Things

I'm loving 43 Things. It's a web site that lets you record what you'd like to do (goals, dreams, resolutions) and then connects the people who share those to-dos. So you could potentially help each other achieve something, or if you've already done something that someone else wants to do, you can give them advice on it.

They originally launced Twinkler as an earlier version of it, and it still shows the basic concept. The new one still requires an invite, but you can sign up to check it out (I can also invite you if you're interested). It's fascinating to see the kinds of things that people would like to do.

Buy Nothing

'Buy Nothing' campaign aims for different style of giving
I always found the Adbusters version of Buy Nothing Day interesting as a way to get people to reflect on what they buy and why, but I didn't realize there was a movement associated with my Mennonite roots.

Buying piles of stuff at Christmas seems to be one of those unassailable traditions. When I tell people that we do a very low-key version of the present exchange, it's almost as if I've told them that they I don't like puppies or teddy bears or happy children. But think of how much more we have to work to pay for all that stuff nobody needs, which means we're spending less time and money on the things we really value throughout the year.

Two and a Half Things

I met Doug in the lunch room at work last week and we had a fantastic conversation about parenting and values. He talked about how he learned that he could only ever do two-and-a-half things well at any given time, and he's written it up this week:
"When my kids were still young, I wanted to be a good father, a good husband, a good worker, a good rugby player, a good rugby coach, a good friend, a well-read person, a musical person, and a person who was physically fit. I tried to do ALL these things for a period of time. I did not feel fulfilled. I felt tired.

That's when I learned that you can only do 2 1/2 things well. So, I made some tough choices. I focused on being a good Dad, focused on excelling in my work, and any remaining time (whatever there was) was dedicated to continuously building my great relationship with my wife. My rugby playing/coaching went out the window. Our social life virtually disappeared. Reading, music and exercise - gone. But I loved and was energized by the vast majority of my days."
Of course he's generalizing, but I thought it really captured the essence of the tradeoffs we make with our time (and money). Every challenge I've felt as a new parent has been related to this truth -- you can't do it all.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Different Like You

I like Gwen's connection between Different Like You, a wonderful photographic collection about identity (related to this book by Hal Niedzviecki), and The Rebel Sell. Great food for thought that raises some questions about how we perceive ourselves in relation to those around us, and how we spend money to differentiate ourselves...Adbusters territory, for sure. A quote from Hello I'm Special:
"Individuality is now the new conformity. In contemporary society, it is now considered 'normal' to be 'an individual' above and beyond all other concerns. Though the traditional notion of conformity – earning a modest daily wage, regularly attending the religious institution predominant in your community, raising a family – still remains the model we seek to rebel against, strict adherence to traditional conformist structures is now the aberration, rather than the norm."

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Entrepreneur's Paradox

I've had this sitting here for a while already, thinking I was going to turn it into a real post with some thoughtful additions, but I'll just let it stand on its own. Jory frames entrepreurial ventures as almost necessary risks in moving toward self-actualization and personal freedom...which I found inspiring.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Well Said

From some Adbusters coverage of The Play Ethic:
"It's about helping individuals and societies to step back from free market frenzy and create new more creative, independent, appropriate ways of living."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Legacy Matters

The Experience Designer made a great find, called Legacy Matters. Interesting tagline to the category of 'personal legacy archives': "Because your life counts and what you leave behind is the evidence of the life you lived. Why not tell it your way." I'm still not totally sure how this stuff ties into lifestylism, but the connection seems to be through reflection, the idea that a reflective life will be more balanced and meaningful. There's also something compelling about leaving a legacy -- it implies that you've made choices you're proud of and lived your life to its fullest.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Game Developer OT

Also via Play Journal comes the story of a class-action lawsuit by employees of video game giant EA suing for unpaid overtime. It seems like the thing was at least partially set off by an anonymous blog post from the spouse of an EA employee, who describes what she'd ask the CEO if she got him on the phone:
"The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?"
I wonder if this is the case in many "buzz" jobs and industries like video-game design. When you get so many people wanting to work in a field like that, employers seem to be able to treat them however they want, knowing that there will always be others to take their places.

The Pro-Am Revolution

There's something so cool about The Pro-Am Revolution:
"The report defines Pro-Ams as amateurs who pursue a hobby or pastime –which in many cases is an all-consuming passion – to a professional standard. Pro-Ams are involved in ‘serious leisure’, which requires specialist knowledge and a major time commitment.

As people live longer with active retirement years, or downshift mid-career to improve their quality of life, the authors predict that ‘serious leisure’ will become a growing part of our lives.

'Pro-Ams are a new social hybrid who force us to rethink they way we think about work and leisure time,' say the report’s authors, Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller."
Via Pat Kane.

Update: A great essay version apppeared in Fast Company, along with a contrary blog post I mostly disagreed with (read my cantankerous comment at the bottom). You can also download the entire report (315kb PDF). Oh, and one more article from the creator of Twinkler.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Measuring the Economy

The True Measure of Success isn't GDP, and the types of statistics governments collect don't tell us anything about what really matters, says Daniel Pink:
"We measure whether life is getting better by checking whether the good numbers (GDP, personal incomes, and so on) are going up and the bad numbers (unemployment, inflation, and so on) are going down. However, over the past half century, something strange has happened. The US's per capita GDP - the value of all the goods and services a nation produces divided by its population - has nearly tripled, but American well-being hasn't budged. We've grown almost three times richer but not one jot happier. There's ample evidence that in all postindustrial societies, material wealth and broader happiness are no longer closely in sync."
His ideas for collecting data related to well-being are compelling. Idealistic, of course, but why not imagine a better future?

Local Lifestylism

I posted a link to Joie Gastronomic Guesthouse and Farm Cooking School earlier in the year, but followed up on it a bit more this week. Their story may be an example of the type of deconcentration I talked about in a previous post -- moving away from the buzz and opportunity of the big city to create a more integrated lifestyle in a rural area. It seems like the progression often involves parallel transition from jobs to self-employment in some form, because the rural areas don't tend to support much new employment, or at least not the kinds that people from the city tend to be looking for.

I've wanted to write more about food here, because it's so fundamental, and the eating choices we make often don't reflect our values. It looks like Heidi and Michael really get this, and I like the focus on local foods and sustainable agriculture. They even helped start Vancouver Chapter of the Slow Food Movement and now run the Okanagan Chapter. A couple of quotes from the official Slow Food Manifesto:
"We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods."

"In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer."
This reminds me that I've got to bug Tannis to start working on the site she talked about to feature local farmers, food and wine providers, places nearby to get organic foods, and restaurants offering smart (and delicious) food choices.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

On the Virtues of Idleness

Via Chris (and a second recommendation from Brian) comes this excellent article -- QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY: On the virtues of idleness. It's not an easy read, but it's worth slogging through for the pearls of wisdom. A tiny taste:
"Look about: The business of busi­ness is everywhere and inescapable; the song of the buyers and the sellers never stops; the term "workaholic" has been folded up and put away. We have no time for our friends or our families, no time to think or to make a meal. We're moving product, while the soul drowns like a cat in a well."
Update:Brian deconstructs and supports the same article with his usual depth and skill.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

From Here to Autonomy

I quoted Jory in the last post without mentioning that it's part of a series of articles called "From Here to Autonomy". If you're at all interested in how we perceive our roles and level of control in organizations and how we find meaning in our work, I'd recommend reading the entire series:

Life Control

Check out this short, fascinating article from Fast Company -- Ranking Ourselves to Death. I'm a sucker for anything discussing how people redefine success and then work towards it in unconventional ways:
"As far as I could tell, none of them had opted out because they couldn't hack it. Rather, their success had given them the confidence to live life on their own terms. From their point of view, they had opted in -- to what really mattered to them. These folks represent what demographers call 'deconcentration.' It's a historically unprecedented trend of recent decades in which people leave the regimentation of city and suburb, seeking more personal control and meaningful voice in a rural community."
This gem comes from Jory's excellent analysis of how we decide what we should be doing with our lives, and how our goals are often in conflict:
"When I wasn’t dreaming of receiving international accolades for my epic writing in the form of the usual literary decorations—Pulitzers, Nobel Prizes, New Yorker articles, I was fantasizing of sitting in my little cottage in some unknown rural enclave with a view of my wild English garden, sipping coffee. Even while dreaming of my arrival I was planning my escape."
She's exploring the difference between external and internal measures of success. Most of us adopt some versions of the usual suspects in our definitions of success -- wealth, power, fame and the American Dream -- without ever initiating the difficult process of questioning them and making sure our goals are aligned with what we really value.

Cost of Vices

Rob Paterson confesses: I Am an Addict. It's a short post about the "little" expenses we incur that seem insignificant until you add them up. Tannis and I did some figuring last week and found out that we spent $300 in two earlier weeks on eating out and drinking. I'm hoping that wasn't an average week. (As an aside, what is it about our ongoing fascination with high-end beverages? I realize that this happens over time, but it seems like one day we woke up and would accept nothing less than the best dark coffee, microbrewed beer and local wines.)

Whenever anyone needs to cut spending, they look at the disposable-income purchases like eating out. I think it's a legitimate way to get through a tight month, but my criticism of that approach has been that people don't seem as willing to question their biggest actual expenses: housing, vehicles and consumer debt. We assume that they're non-negotiable, but we trap ourselves by tending to by the most/biggest/best we can afford, or often borrow enough to buy somewhat more than we can afford. It astounds me when people talk about regular payments on their credit card debt.

So what does it have to do with Lifestylism? What we choose to spend our money and time on should reflect what we value. Issues of spending are always related to how much income we can generate, and the general equation is that we need to work more (spending more time) to generate more income. But at what point do we not have the time to enjoy what we buy? Perhaps that's what underpins our reliance on consumer debt -- we work enough to cover our "basic" costs, but still expect to be able to afford our favourite extras as well.


Via Curt comes this interesting new application that helps you articulate, share and borrow life goals. It's called Twinkler. While it is pretty nifty, I'm more excited about the potential. Since you can record your lists of goals and see that some goals are shared by many other people, it's an obvious step to give the tool a social element. I'd like to see the profiles of people who share the most number of goals with me. Seems likely that we'd have other things in common, and perhaps give us the chance to work together on some of the goals.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Work Hodgepodge

Since I apparently have no time for real posts, you're stuck with a few great links:

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Teaching the Future

From the editorial in this month's International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning:
We teach history but do not require future studies. The tools of the futurist are basic to research and development, but the future affects everyone, and everyone is part of the future. Do you want to accept the future somebody else designs for you? Or do you want to be part of the process? You cannot change the past, but you can exercise a great deal of control over your own future and positively influence the future of your family, professional associates, communities, and students.
Courses in financial literacy and career planning get pooh-poohed in most schools, as if they couldn't possibly be as important as thermodynamics or calculus, even though the vast majority of students will be far more likely to be faced with real issues surrounding credit, mortgages, budgets, and career moves than they would be to require the use of advanced equations. I like this quote because it frames these things as future oriented activities. Should schools teach the future? Only if they can do it better than they've traditionally done with history.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Parenting Lifestyle

It's no coincidence that I started this lifestylism project while I have two young kids at home. Having kids completely changes the equation of lifestyle choices and values. Time management and financial decisions get a lot more complicated and difficult. Rob Paterson pokes into some of these issues in Early Childhood or Early Parenting. I've added some comments there -- if you have any ideas on the topic, please contribute your thoughts too.

I was interested in a related report the same week: The New Realities of Earning and Caring. Instead of proposing more money for daycare programs, they're looking at some of the root causes and concerns surrounding why families feel they have no choice but to put their kids in daycare:
"A single earner and a stay-at-home spouse is a luxury few families with dependent children and seniors can afford.
Therefore, families 'struggle to care' as well as to earn."
Rob also discusses a provincial program on the way out in PEI called Best Start -- it's worth the read if you're at all interested in how helping kids early can pay dividends later on.

Thinking and Doing

I wish I had enough time and energy to really reflect on some of these things instead of just quoting and linking, but these things tend to be cyclical...perhaps once my course is done, I'll spend more time here. For now, I want to keep some more wisdom from the Experience Designer Network. Brian is consistently writing about the stuff that matters in life, in ways that stretch my brain and make me more curious about how people make decisions about meaning in their lives. A sample:
Many people seek alternative ways of living and experiencing life intellectually. Fewer people, however, seem to actually do something about it. And this tendency is not surprising in a work-a-day world. It is easier and more comfortable to ruminate about our cirucmstances than to step of the edge of a cliff and face the unknown. There is a wide gap between being able to think about doing something, and doing it. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is risk. To dramatically alter one'e lifestyle is an act of courage. We become more aware of and perhaps closer to the abyss. People that take chances with their lives often find themselves on the fringes of social and cultural norms. Not only does this require courage, but it requires a great degree of resilience as well. All of this brings us into closer proximity with our mythological selves.
Also, a note about the Experience Designer Network -- it is becoming a richer and more integrated resource every day. It's like an experiment in managing knowledge...perhaps even a look into Brian's brain. Click into any of his posts and take a minute to look at the links in both sidebars. Most are categories or concepts that lead you to all the posts he's written that include references to the keywords. He's also got the usual links to interesting people and resources, but it's the way he's categorized his thoughts that really kicks.

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.'"


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."


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


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.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Selfless Self-Actualization?

Evelyn Rodriguez crafted an eloquent and critical response to my self-conscious self-analysis about the potential selfishness of self-actualization. It's inspiring and thoughtful and I encourage you to read the whole thing...but here's a quick quote:
"Self-actualization is ultimately not selfish, it's selfless. It's not about what you 'want', it's about becoming who you are and expressing that - not shrinking away from it. "Successful" people may or may not be self-actualized - they are not necessarily correlated. Self-actualization isn't about external success."

Engaging the Slackers

I had commented on one of Pat Kane's posts about slacking off in the workplace, and his response really connects with some of my recent thoughts about transitions for people who are not engaged in their work:
"Slacking is, at least, a temporary sanity-strategy in a pathological workplace. But ultimately, I agree, it's self-defeating - filling people up with cynicism rather than energy. I think slackers want to be players, unalienated and engaged - it's often that their will has been sapped, they're in a cycle of tiredness and defeatism."
Anyone who has worked in a company dealing with mergers or layoffs (often both), or just any really nasty corporate culture has seen or experienced the cycle he talks about. Exactly at the time when you most need the energy and willpower to make a change, you're exhausted and demoralized. It's terribly difficult to regain momentum to get engaged or get out. Pat's thinking that government policy could ease transitions for people seeking a better life:
"But, hell, I still have a dream of an enlightened government that could construct a 'social wellbeing system' that could help people strike out for engagement in their active lives, without them disappearing in a tangle of debts and disillusionment if the Free Agent dream goes sour. A ground of play, as I call it."
We're mostly in a mode right now where we're not expecting much help from governments (although the boomers are obviously riled up about health care funding), but that may change. Some simple policy changes could facilitate this without being too expensive. For example, why not give someone two or three months of employment insurance benefits even if they quit their job? With this lifestylism project, I'm more interested in how people help themselves through these transitions, and Pat makes a great observation:
"I've been talking to a lot of people over the last few days with the book, and I suppose I'm trying to be cognisant of just how trapped and dependent some people are on the their jobs - locked into consumption patterns that require a steady wage, maybe even a love of routine that insulates them from the world, etc."
The latter part is often based on pure fear -- fear of not getting a different job, losing the relationships they've built up at work, having to start at the bottom of a ladder somewhere else. But I'm most fascinated by one of the reasons he gives for people's dependence on their jobs -- the costs of their lifestyles demands it. So one obvious way for people to enable their transitions is certainly to dial down their expenses, which is never easy.

Living Large

I'm not sure why I keep responding in semi-inflammatory ways to innocuous quotes like this almost-inspiring thought for the day. The author was saying that we should be trying to live "big lives", as opposed to "small lives", which is fine, I guess, but it seemed to be implying that anything other than fame and fortune and taking big risks constitutes an inferior existence. I tended to agree with one of the other respondents:
"Finding fullness in each day is another way to address what I think Marcia is saying. The passionate nonsense that the ad-woman lays out can be real and true as far as it goes, but it has a ‘sound and fury’ ring to it... a me generation focus. There are six billion of us. Many of us will never live large, but each of us can make a happy life for ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, simply by adding our loving expression to the mix."
This ties into a comment from a good friend the other day. We were talking about our various quasi-midlife crises and he said that he wants desparately to live a life of consequence. It's a powerful statement. At first I took it in the same way as the "live large" quote, but then he clarified it and I realized that he was talking more about being truly engaged in his actual life, not aspiring to some externally judged measure of greatness.

This talk of big and small lives also reminded me of a smart post I had read about creating a life that is a manageable size. He quotes an actress talking about her life:
"'I'm never going to be a star,' she says, 'but it's nice to be pushing 60 with more to do than I've ever had before. And my life is a manageable size. So if someone gets sick or someone gets happy or a baby is born, I can be there.'"

Monday, September 27, 2004

Moving Ideas

The Work and Income resources from Moving Ideas are extensive and thoughtful. Their report on low wage America doesn't paint a pretty picture of the future of work on our continent. You could read for a week in those two sections alone. Oh, to have the time...

80-Hour Workweeks Are Bunk

An extension of the discussion of Balance vs Big Bucks from Evelyn Rodriguez, who also wrote wisely about a book I'm reading on a truly innovative approach to work. She quotes the CEO, who sets the tone for his entire organization:
"Semler himself says, 'I've halved my work hours to about 30 a week, I spend 80% of my time doing what I want, rather than what people want me to do. I take piano lessons, play squash, do yoga every day. And I almost never feel guilty for lack of time for my little boy, wife, and friends.'
Granted, the guy is a gazillionaire with power, so it might not be as hard for him to be a lifestylist as for us average working schlepps. But if he's managed to free his employees from the charade of the usual corporate culture, then perhaps he's providing a model for everyone else to consider.

Kevin Salwen also waded into the same balance discussion with some well-written wisdom:
"You get the point: Our lives are not so much a teeter-totter as a river of work, family, friends, community, faith, whatever. And the streams that feed the river at any one time can be strong or weak depending on where the influences are coming from. And there's nothing at all wrong with that. Just don't box me into the balance metaphor; it doesn't work."

Self-Actualization and Making a Difference

Curt left a fascinating response to my little post about Maslow's Wants, and I don't want it hidden away:
"I sometimes wonder if my work - helping people identify their passions and create careers that ignite them - is frivolous self-indulgence. It's 100% about self-actualization. Then I remind myself that part of what I'm doing is throwing pebbles in the pond. And the ripples from the self-actualization of the people I touch - what they actually go out and do, and the people they impact as a result - will inevitably make a difference. And some of those ripples will make a difference in areas that are much lower on Maslow's Hierarchy.

So to the extent that self-actualization is about making a difference (I tend to believe that it is, at least in part), what might seem like self-indulgence is actually planting the seeds for positive change."
This goes to the heart of one of my own reservations about the lifestylism concept -- the implied selfishness and even narcissism of focusing so much attention on what I (or you) want. But I also keep coming back to the concept of values, and I believe that what people really value also has the potential for positive impact in the world. The cynic in me sees everyone stepping on everyone else to get ahead...the optimist sees that when people are actually living in synch with their core values, they do good things and care about the needs of others.

As an extension of these ideas, Curt's musing about work that makes a difference has some great discussion about our purpose in life and how it relates to our work.

Personal Evolution or Collective Revolution?

Brian slips an eloquent challenge to lifestylism into his discussion of creativity in transforming education, asking (I'm paraphrasing) whether lifestylists will use their choices to live effectively within society's constructs or to show the way to better types of society:
"Will the presuppositions of lifestylism originate in authentic creativity, or status quo creativity? Much of the self-help speak is status-quo creativity in that the focus of the ideas are designed to find variations on living within the exisiting presuppositions of our society. An artistic perspective on lifestylism, however, would be something quite different in that it would seek creativity by questioning and challenging the presuppositions that establish social norms themselves."
I kicked off this project with the question: What is Lifestylism?...and the answer was that it has its roots in anarchist literature. The true anarchist (one who would destroy or subvert existing power structures) views lifestylism as vacant escapism that can have no lasting positive effect on the evils and imbalances of the world. As I said then, I don't really buy the criticism -- I prefer Brian's question.

At the core, I think lifestylism is about how individuals make lifestyle decisions that match their core values. So right from the start, we have to acknowledge that our values are formed within the existing presuppositions of society. That fact limits our creative capacity somewhat -- if our values are aligned with the status quo, and we're making decisions that match our values, revolution is improbable.

But it also seems to me that we're coming into a time when many people's values aren't particularly in synch with those existing structures and paradigms, or even well-aligned with their own lifestyle choices. For example, if you ask people what's really important to them, most will say that they want to spend more time with their loved ones...but when given the option, they'll almost always choose to work more for more money, which reveals their actual priorities. Not that engaging in our work or pursuing higher incomes is inherently bad, but it doesn't reflect what they say they want.

I think that if more people actually aligned their lifestyles with their values, we'd see more creative paths showing up. What if 50 million north americans suddenly realized that the American Dream wasn't their dream at all, and that they could figure out new ways to live, work, play and create with less negative impact on the environment? What if those ways let them spend more time doing what they want, and less time keeping up with the Joneses? What if their global awareness and local focus got them more engaged in determining their political direction and structures? What if they stopped watching TV and started spending more time working with likeminded folks on fixing some of the most pressing problems of modern society?

Seems like every good question deserves...more questions.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Sustainable Housing

Tannis outlines her thinking on choosing smart housing options, and points out the compromises with great clarity:
  • "Cheaper land and housing are never conveniently located next to cities where most people find work
  • which means you spend more time and money on transportation
  • that equals less time at home to relax, enjoy the family and follow personal pursuits
  • UNLESS you can go all the way and reduce your wants and needs to a low enough level that you can survive on a lot less money, either self-employed or working locally within limited options."
She also talks about the pros and cons of our current setup and some of the unique possibilities we saw in the Kootenays. It reminded me of Rob's recent riffing on how rural living will be the wave of the future, at least for the subset of people who are self-employed and can swing it.

Digital Storytelling

My rambling about how people will be telling their stories for posterity got some attention and generated some other great ideas:
  • VidLit may not fit anyone's idea of a personal memoir or e-portfolio, but watch either of the videos and think about how easy it is becoming to express ourselves with simple images and sound in addition to text. This is fantastic storytelling.
  • I'm reading the Narnia series to Ivy right now and last night we read a passage in the Horse and His Boy where C.S. Lewis asks why schools don't teach storytelling -- it would certainly be more useful than learning to write essays.
  • Stephen Harlow dug up LifeBits, which sounds like a fascinating experiment and includes all kinds of links to related resources
  • Helen had kind words and pointed to StoryCorps, a wonderful project to get people talking to each other and recording their memories
So what does this have to do with lifestylism? I think a good personal journal can help us see ourselves, but telling stories to each other gives us the chance to create better lives and share our joys and failures.

Big Bucks vs. Balance

There's a great thread going at Worthwhile about Big Bucks vs. Balance. The initial post was a response to a Fast Company feature called Balance is Bunk, with the central premise being that the work-life balance is a myth:
"you can't have both a big paycheck and reasonable hours. The laws of economics won't allow it. If we want time with our families, time to give back to our communities, time to stay slim, we're going to have to accept a pay cut -- and even then, we'll have to work darned hard."
I'm seeing the truth in this idea that we can't really have it both ways as an employee, and even entrepreneurs struggle with working too much. This discussion tends to veer into questions about our definitions of success and how we measure our quality of life. I thought this comment from Jeffrey Cufaude was spot on:
"Big depends on your appetite, and if you have reasonable expectations for consumption of consumer goods and the like, you can work modest hours and feel quite financially secure. But that means living in the not so big house and making other choices that I’m afraid too many Americans at least see as counter to their definition of success. In some respects, isn’t our entire economy dependent upon people binging on more and more so they must keep working more and more in order to pay for it."
Although most middle-class north americans believe that they're entitled to their slice of the American Dream and all the goodies that includes, those of us who want to spend less time working will have to find ways to reduce our costs. An old classmate of mine is also wondering about life in the fast lane these days:
"I think many young adults are now questioning the lifestyle choices of the previous generation. Why do we need the two car, 3000 sq ft home, and $100,000 + salary? What is the best way to raise kids in this postmodern society? How do we best educate our children? We all know what a failure the public school system is and universities are not much better. Why do we live the lives we do and are there some better choices that we could make? Perhaps living a life that is simpler and maybe does not require two full-time incomes is the way to go."
And while we're on the topic, I don't want to lose this excellent list of benefits of flexible work arrangements, both for workers and employers.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

35-Hour Workweek

From another interview with Pat Kane from Canadian intellectual zine New World Disorder:

NWD: You refer to the French 35 hour work policy. It's hardly mentioned at all in the U.S. and when it is covered in the business press it's basically dismissed as a "failure." Could you discuss what the French experiment might teach us?

PK: Well it's not a failure - it's still retained by the recent right-wing government in France, after its inception by the French Socialists several years ago. And it's still not vitiating French economic productivity, by all the known indicators (which of course infuriates media like Business Week and the Wall Street Journal). The French experience has been that workers completely treasure their extra day, however flexibly arranged and distributed - allowing more sports, pastimes and consumption, of course, but also more parental childcare, more opportunity to join clubs, associations and movements, more time for cultural and social innovation to happen.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Maslow's Wants

The tagline for lifestylism is "creating the lives we want", which flippantly assumes that your basic needs are already taken care of. I occasionally reference Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in this context, often pointing out how lucky we are to have the priviledge of obsessing about our self-actualization.

Grunge Parents

I love the opening to this article addressed to managers trying to figure out their Gen X employees:
"Let's say you're a baby-boom generation manager (age 40 to 58), and you've got a team of people in their late 20s to late 30s working for you—or, heck, maybe you report to one of them. Does it puzzle you when a 30-year-old employee with a great track record and a stellar future goes out on maternity leave—and decides not to come back full time, opting for part-time work instead? Or when a Gen X dad asks for more time off—a lot more—to spend with his family?"
I should probably send that link along with my next request for shorter workweeks, extended leaves or other newfangled arrangements that don't really fit the corporate mindset. This got me digging into how Gen Xers are approaching parenting:So of course this stuff hits pretty close to home for me, having two young kids at home and thinking back to reading Douglas Coupland in university and remembering seeing Pearl Jam and Soundgarden at Lollapallooza in 1992. I was so Gen X, and I guess I still am, but it seems hilarious to imagine that all of those kids moshing to Ministry back then have kids of their own now. And their values are "alternative", but in a more conservative direction than I might have guessed:
"Gen X moms and dads tend to be homebodies - they are willing to sacrifice one spouse's income to have a parent at home with the kids, and frequently have to go into debt to own a house. Sometimes they choose arrangements, such as each spouse working a part-time job, that ensure that both parents get time with the children."
Much of this stuff rings so true for me -- I see it in the decisions and trade-offs I'm attempting these days, and in the values of many of my peers. One blind spot in this thread is the number of Gen Xers choosing not to get married or have kids, but I also see parallels in those choices because they're showing that we want to rewrite the old rules and create our own reality free of previous constraints and expectations.

At least some boomers resent the implication that Gen Xers are turning out to be better parents than they were, and of course there is always someone looking to capitalize on every demographic trend. The study referenced in all of these articles was done by Reach Advisors, a marketing consultancy that is doing their own kind of lifestylism project, except they're making a lucrative business out of it. Where did I go wrong?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Outsourcing Your Own Job

We all have days when we wish someone else could do our jobs while we sleep in or whatever. Apparently some geniuses have been taking advantage of the global economy to do just that. The Monster Blog quotes a programmer from a Slashdot thread:
"About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He's happy to have the work. I'm happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I'm telecommuting. Now I'm considering getting a second job and doing the same thing."
While there seems to be something vaguely odious about this approach, you have to admire the guy's (or girl's) initiative...a proactive twist on the controversy surrounding the outsourcing of white-collar jobs?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Life Coaching

Yesterday Brian Alger took an in-depth look at life coaching, and the types of education and certifications available for this emerging work:
"The notion of life coach certification provides practitioners with a source of authority and basis for establishing themselves as a trusted professional in the eyes of the public. In general, the market for lifestyle coaching is focused on providing solutions to help people bridge the gap between what they want to do or be in life and their present circumstances. In other words, lifestyle coaching is about providing a service for the preservation (and perhaps the recovery) of an individual's identity in the confluence of everyday life."
I appreciate Brian's cautions about this opportunity -- I have always been somewhat skeptical about companies like CoachU, although I can't really justify my negative stance. Perhaps it's a guttural reaction to the commercialization of every potential problem where we think we must seek out a professional (counsellor, stylist, tutor, therapist, landscaper, housekeeper, childcare provider) for nearly everything in our lives. It also seemed to be too easy to hang a shingle out and claim that you could help people transform their lives.

On the other hand, this lifestylism project is helping me understand how much help people seem to need, so if they're willing to pay for it, why should that be a problem? Although I'd like to see people develop their own strategies and networks for optimizing their lifestyle choices...I have to acknowledge that many don't even know where to start. I glean great advice from Curt's Occupational Adventure, and that's enough for me...but that doesn't mean that someone else won't choose to pay for his services, which I'm sure are excellent. Perhaps since the barriers to entry are so low, the supply of life coaches will outstrip demand for a while. Like any other consulting role, the wheat will be separated from the chaff soon enough.

Food in Lifestylism

The Play Ethic has such a wealth of good stuff. After a longish quote from the NY Times about how "people find that additional experiences give them more pleasure than additional possessions," Pat Kane segues into a discussion of experiencing food in an age when people live more intentionally:
"So many times I've been asked, 'but who will flip the burgers in a play society?' You'll flip your own, comes the reply, particularly if you have a regulation of working hours that allows you to attend to your own nourishment. Or you'll enjoy them from someone who wants to take gastronomic care and give extraordinary service, rather than the sub-robotic assembly of diseased crap (SuperSizeMe)! The Slow Foodies - and their theorist, Carl Honore -- are onto something here. It's another reclamation of the right to order our time, space and materials."
This is inspirational stuff. Food is an important factor in creating our quality of life, but it is so often abused. Makes me wish that Hope would be blogging more often, and that my brilliant nutritionist-friend Sophie would put her food-wisdom online.

Nine Shift

Stephen Harlow discovered this week that he and I are leading very similar parallel lives in opposite hemispheres. My lost twin! He also tipped me off to Nine Shift from authors of a book by the same title -- lots of good lifestylism stuff in there, much of it focused on a fascinating comparison between current changes and the societal shifts of a century ago.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Digital Life

My head has been spinning with ideas surrounding how people represent their lives to others -- not verbally, or with their outward appearance or where they live, but how they record, organize and display their experiences. In contrast to my recent focus on how people envision their future lifestyles, I'm pondering the value of the past.

I went digging into an old journal and found a few pages of notes I had made five years ago sketching out a business plan for helping people construct their personal histories (journals, memoirs, etc). My mom has done some of this kind of work both informally and through her business, Rosetta Projects. We talked seriously then about marketing consulting and publishing services to individuals and groups who wanted to create books, documents, web sites, and multimedia for their own posterity. We were looking at the scrapbooking phenomenon and thinking about all of the grandparents in the next 15 years who will want to reflect their lives for grandchildren and posterity.

Most of us have kept journals and letters, filled photo albums and dutifully saved home videos. Those media seem fairly manageable, and they can constitute a decent (although fragmented and disconnected) records of our lives. Anyone who has had a computer for a few years is starting to also see the mega(giga)bytes of other personal archive material piling up in disorganized folders: digital photos, music, projects, resumes, e-mails. If you could wave a magic wand to assemble all of those artifacts in a way that created a meaningful representation certain events, showing progressions over time and overall showed someone (or yourself) the essence of you, that would be pretty cool.

Now picture the implications of millions of people who always have portable devices that digitize and record anything they're experiencing. Cell phones already do e-mail, take photos and store music, so we're well down that road. Today I found this post on the topic: Personal Life Recorders and Digital Lifestyle Aggregators. I've bounced off of Marc's ideas before, but that was when I was thinking more about the learning and career-planning benefits of e-portfolios. He's envisioning technology that will make it easy for people to create and manage their own personal records and networks (think how easy blogging has become).

I suppose that the technology will eventually be as easy to use as a point-and-shoot camera. It made me realize that although nearly anyone can buy a camera, people still hire wedding photographers. Will people be willing to pay to have someone work with them to assemble the views of their past experiences and stories that they want passed on to their children and grandchildren?

Or perhaps from a less opportunistic angle -- will these kinds of skills be necessary and valued in the future? Just as we're expected to be able to assemble a meaningful and effective resume now, will the ability to digitally represent our stories, characteristics, and learning help us be more engaged workers, family members or citizens? What if we could all create the equivalent of Johnny Cash's video (RealPlayer or QuickTime) for Hurt as we look back in old age? What an intensely powerful personal artifact -- a four-minute snapshot of an extraordinary life, narrated in song by the Man in Black not long before his death.

Mortality is the unannounced shadow behind some of this discussion. People want to believe that their lives do matter; that they'll be interesting ancestors and that someone will care to understand who they were (if not who they are). Since I started paying attention to the blogging world, I've come across sites with a death notice as the most recent post -- the author has passed away, but their words, links, photos and files live on, leaving a fascinating public view of their lives that would otherwise never exist. A blog may be a fairly rudimentary personal history, but spend an hour looking through the archives of any established blog and imagine its value in conveying something meaningful about that author.

But what of the inherent narcissism in all of this for those of us who plan to be around for a while? The knock against blogs is that nobody else cares what I ate for dinner last night, my opinion on Michael Moore, the process of writing my thesis, or whatever else I might think is important right now. I've always found this argument to be absolutely irrelevant (although it stings to hear it from people who know you blog). Just because most people's personal artifacts (letters, songs, writing, videos, photo collection, other creative works) won't have a big audience doesn't mean that it won't be extremely valuable to the small group of people who do seek it out. And the most important member of that audience is the author, who can look through the filtered layers of their life and try to find wisdom, personal growth, and opportunities emerging from their past.

It's also true that although there may be a couple of million bloggers who all think this personal publishing phenomenon is something pretty special, only a small fraction of people will ever want their lives recorded and reflected in the ways I'm describing here. They will clamour for better ways of collecting, creating and sharing their stuff while hundreds of millions of people never get the urge to put their lives on display in any way -- not even just in print for a family heirloom. This does not negate the possibilities in this area, because the I suspect that the number of people looking for easy ways to represent who they are will continue to increase (especially as the boomers age) and the technology will keep making it easier for them to do so.

Friday, September 10, 2004

What Do We Really Want?

Cynthia has been doing some thinking about the differences between the urban neighbourhoods she grew up in and the suburban ones she raised her kids in. She dismisses her own "good-old-days" nostalgia and points to the obvious problems with isolating people in the 'burbs:
"Why and when did things change? And who said that the pursuit of happiness should include spending your whole day away from your children, getting up an hour and a half earlier in the morning so you have time to drop the kids off at daycare and penciling in 'dates' with your spouse...and children for that matter? Why does it seem we are embracing this lifestyle even moreso, even though we see the negative results right under our noses?"
Rob's comment to the post also sums it up nicely: "It seems so strange that we have come to believe that a 'normal" life is a life where we are separated from all that we need the most - our partner, our kids, our place and in the end our true selves." which Cyn responded that it seems like it's time to get back to basics. I agree, but I think it's more complicated than that. My response:

The "basics" seem to run counter to many of our motivators and goals these days. I think at in the past (maybe in the '50s and '60s), the American Dream included the desire for leisure and spending time with your loved ones...but in those days, one normal income was enough for a family to buy the house with the picket fence, and the new car and whatever else.

We still tend to think we're entitled to the same things, but most families need two good incomes to achieve those same goals. For whatever reason, it's very difficult for people to sacrifice the nice house/nice car/nice neighbourhood in order to spend more time doing what they want to do: leisure, socializing, hanging out with their families, etc. Maybe we all say that we want those things, but they're actually lower priority than working more to get better stuff? They must be, or we'd be doing it differently.

Doing it differently for most families starts with freeing up more time to spend with each other, meaning working less (often going to a single income), which probably means reducing costs and standard of living -- perhaps renting, or sharing accommodation, or buying in out-of-the-way places without the usual conveniences, fixing up the old car for years, forgoing vacations and fancy toys -- and most of us aren't willing to do it. We've tried to do some of these things very intentionally, and it works pretty well...BUT it is hard when your peers all seem to be "getting ahead" in all of the traditional measures of success. It's hard to purge the very bourgeois desires for nice stuff, beautiful homes and recreational properties.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

More Optimism

Historian Howard Zinn writes about the optimism of uncertainty:
"An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places--and there are so many--where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
This last line is inspiring, I think. Isn't this lifestylism? We're creating our individual and collective future by living out our values and dreams.

Generation Y's and Values

Pat Kane links to this article from Australia about how Generation Y approaches the world differently:
"For them, office life bleeds into personal life, which means the polarities so beloved of baby boomers are blown away. 'It's a new paradigm,' Chalke says. Upwardly mobile is no longer cool. It is now about 'adultescence', a conscious choice to experiment rather than acquire. Verginis wants a home and family, but is not prepared to be a wage slave to get them. 'I'd get a house quicker if I'd stayed in my job,' he says, 'but I don't want to sacrifice what makes me happy.' Unlike his parents' cohort, the boomers, (aged 43-58), he is not chasing utopia, or claiming to get no satisfaction."
Generalizations about an entire generation of people tend to paint with too broad a brush, but I think there is a shift occurring in how we view our purpose and the things we values in our lives. I think we're less willing to live by simple rules governing our big decisions -- "climb the corporate ladder", "get more stuff", "bigger, more, better homes/cars/toys" -- the old rules just don't capture the relativism and varied expectations and values in play today.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Scottish Radio

Excellent radio show from the BBC, including Pat Kane talking about shorter workweeks and The Play Ethic and an introduction to Tom Hodgkinson's advocacy of idleness in sharp contrast to our fixation on work. Really good stuff.

The clip starts at about 16:00 and the feature is at around 16:26, so skip ahead about 25 minutes unless you want to listen to the rest of the Scottish arts report.

Monday, September 06, 2004


The Creative Generalist linked to this great article from Fast Company last week: Mothers (and Fathers) of Invention. Inventors are real lifestylists, I think -- not only are they working outside of all normal channels, they are creating new things for new kinds of lifestyles. A while back, Doug also tied these innovators to his conception of proactive living.

Worthwhile Clips

Worthwhile Magazine is looking really promising -- I hope they don't phase out their blog after the print version goes into full production. In cleaning out my Bloglines clippings, I found three recent posts, mostly from their Passionate Work category:

Doing vs. Thinking and Serendipity

I'm cleaning out all of the stories I've clipped in the past few weeks, and there were a couple of gems from The Occupational Adventure. This one pulled out a great quote from a book talking about minimizing the intellectual exercise of planning and deciding in favour of actually getting out there and doing stuff as a way to figure out your path:
"We learn who we are - in practice, not in theory - by testing reality, not by looking inside. We discover the true possibilities by doing - trying out new activities, reaching out to new groups, finding new role models, and reworking our story as we tell it to those around us. What we want clarifies with experience and validation from others along the way.
...To launch ourselves anew, we need to get out of our heads. We need to act."
The second one I wanted to keep was Curt's better definition of serendipty, using some advice from a photographer: "Some photographers call it serendipity. I call it being at the right place enough times to give the right time a chance of happening." It's related to the first point because of the focus on doing rather than planning or waiting for the perfect something. I found a similar phenomenon when we used to live beside Value Village (great new tagline: "The Ultimate Treasure Hunt"). If you want to find the coolest items, you don't go there once a month for three go a couple of times a week for fifteen minutes, preferably after they've put out some new stuff.

Oxymoronic Thinking

I love Doug's post on oxymoronic thinking, if only because the opening line makes me laugh out loud: "Beethoven was the Snoop Dogg of his generation." He goes on to explain how every exit is an entrance into something else, especially in the world of work.

Life and Love

Brian Alger is writing profoundly about the role of love in our sense of the quality of our lives. I recommend reading the entire article, but I was most struck by this paragraph's relevance to the lifestylism concept:
"In an enigmatic twist of fate, this questioning happened at the same time, from the perspective of a bystander, that I might have been seen as at the height of career attainment - international travel, the six-figure income, the bottomless expense account, the high-rolling with executives and government officials, and so on and so forth. But what precisely had been attained? There was nothing wrong with that career path, yet there was something missing within. Clearly, my definition and perception of attainment and success were suspect since I began to question the purpose of what I was doing. The source of this personal mind-body-spirit conundrum was love."
So much of our sense of worth or satisfaction with our lives is influenced by (or more sadly, derived from) how we compare ourselves to the people around us. There's always someone further ahead, with more interesting work, travelling to exotic places, buying perfect properties and accumulating the best stuff. But of course that's not the point. Lifestylism is about what makes us happy and what gives us meaning. Achieving The American Dream won't give us purpose and happiness, although the pursuit of it seems to compell most of us for a while even when we know the "result" won't necessarily be what we had hoped.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Gems from the Experience Designer

I need to save a couple of these gems from the Brian Alger. He's done some intense thinking about our relationship to work and learning...and he can articulate these ideas better than I seem to be able to. The first is his review of a book that sounds fascinating: Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity. His take on the book:
"David Whyte asks us to think about our work as a "lifelong pilgimage." What is important here is that Whyte has first asked us to expand our sense of time and to consider work as a journey through life that involves unknowns. Work is as much about the journey of the soul through the world as it is developing a career and making money."
He also references a previous post of his that digs deep into questions of identity, purpose and work:
"People are demanding more not just from the work that they choose (or are required) to do but from life itself. This is not rampant selfishness or greed as far as I can tell, but it is a search for a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life. It is a search for identity and a quest to create a greater sense of unity between the work we do and the kind of life we wish to lead. It places us squarely in the face of the requirement to make money and earn an income in a way that helps us to build our life and the lives of others."

Monday, August 30, 2004

Wannado City

I laughed out loud at Pat Kane's post about Wannado City, a job-focused theme park for kids. He somehow manages to describe the theme park, weaves in the perfect Marxist quote, and throws in a reference to one of my favourite old campy movies about an Old West theme park for adults who end up getting maimed when the robots run amok.

I really like the idea of young people trying out possible futures, but this concept will only appeal to younger kids who won't get any career-planning benefits out of the deal. Why not take your kids to a real fire station instead of to a cheesy theme park? It's one those real-world places that sounds like it should only exist in a Simpsons-Go-to-Florida episode when Disney World is closed for repairs.

Kate Yandoh seems to share my skepticism, wondering whether kids are more into the pizza parlor than the life-like surgeon's hospital their parents are trying to steer them towards.

Seven-Day Weekend

Through a great post in Worthwhile, I found an excerpt from a book called The Seven-Day Weekend, written by the CEO of a Brazilian company who takes a radical approach to his not-very-radical business:
  • "It's our lack of formal structure, our willingness to let workers follow their interests and their instincts when choosing jobs or projects."
  • "It's our insistence that workers seek personal challenges and satisfaction before trying to meet the company's goals."
  • "It's our commitment to encouraging employees to ramble through their day or week so that they will meander into new ideas and new business opportunities."
  • "It's our philosophy of embracing democracy and open communication, and inciting questions and dissent in the workplace."
What he's describing is pretty much the opposite of most corporate culture in North America, which is why so many creative people feel stifled in their work. And it's working -- his company is fabulously successful, with (surprise!) almost no employee turnover.

Career Quizzes

Curt's post today about multiple intelligences reminded me that I was going to link to the the HRDC's iQuizzes page. It's got a bunch of quick assessments to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, mostly tying back to possible careers that match your characteristics.

Most students get pushed through one of these kinds of quizzes when they have no clue what they're doing after high school. Ideally it gives them some vague sense of career direction, perhaps enough to help them choose some post-secondary education. In reality, I wonder how effective they are. How useful have you found these things? If you haven't tried them before, take one of the iQuizzes and leave a comment here. Of particular interest to me:
  • Do they give you any new insight, or just confirm what you already knew?
  • Are the suggestions realistic/attainable?
    Does knowing more about your traits actually help you envision a better future?

Sunday, August 29, 2004


We watched a bit of the Ironman Canada competition today, passing (in our car, lazy as ever) some participants who had finished their 2.5-mile swim, were nearly done their 120-mile bike ride, and still had to do a full 26-mile marathon before their day was done. Tannis checked the site for results when we got home and we saw this clip:
"The crowd goes wild for the local hero: The crowd here is going crazy in anticipation of the first local winner of Subaru Ironman Canada! Tom Evans, a dentist who is only practicing one day a week in order to train, has seen all that training pay off with a win here today!"
I'm blown away by the obvious lifestyle focus of anyone who can even attempt this grueling event, but there's something really compelling about a guy who only works one day a week so he can prepare for his races. I think that's lifestylism.

Friday, August 27, 2004


Ten Reasons to be Optimistic has a bunch of good, big ideas to make you think about the future with less cynicism. A few with huge lifestyle implications across society:
  • Women are slowly gaining power and influence in our society. Young women are better educated and better informed than any generation in our history.
  • Not having children is no longer, for the first time in our culture, considered selfish or anti-social.
  • In the next decade much of the baby boom generation will be retiring. That means a huge number of people, a generation with a penchant for change, will suddenly have an enormous amount of time to think, to learn, to do things for reasons other than financial gain.

Life's Checklist

Tightly Wound writes a hilarious post about Life's Checklist, covering some of society's old expectations of what lifestyles we should have:
"Life's Checklist was the litany of questions that carefree swingin' twenty-somethings received from elders and later from the already marrieds among their social sets. The questions were well-meaning small talk, but they always had the effect of making the questionee feel somewhat pressured, even if the questionee was generally well-adjusted and pleased with her life's course."
Read the whole post for a great laugh recalling every awkward conversation you've had at weddings with people you barely know. Why this overwhelming urge to pressure childless couples into having kids, single people into marrying and independent workers (contracts, consulting, entrepreneurs) into "real jobs"?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Getting Out of the Funk

The only local blogger I follow, Jeffery Simpson, posted a link to Rivers Cuomo's blog (from Weezer). Rivers' introspective look at unhappiness and the creative process got Jeffery thinking about what he needs to do to be happy, leading him to a number of resolution-like ideas for lifestyle changes.

So why link to a couple of bummed-out dudes in Lifestylism? Because I think these kinds of course corrections are essential in creating the lives we want. My mental space hasn't been great this summer, so I have been thinking along similar lines. When anyone goes through an extended period of not feeling happy, they start looking around for things to change. Do I need to quit my job, move, drop a course, take a course, do something creative, make a bunch of to-do lists, spend more time with friends, or just relax? Maybe all of those things, but you don't just want change for change's sake.

Creative Cities

After reading Rob's riffing about immigration and creative cities, I dug into Richard Florida's stuff again:
"Such people tend to be mobile. Having the skills and the means to live wherever they choose, they will be attracted to (or remain in) city-regions that offer the amenities and the broad 'quality of place' they desire."
This report also came out last week, bringing together some of the same ideas: Creative Cities: What Are They For, How Do They Work, and How Do We Build Them? This stuff interests me because it seems to be an obvious manifestation of lifestylism -- these mobile creative folks are living where they feel like it, rather than feeling trapped in any one place. They're also working where they want to in those places, and often when they want to, working as employees only if it suits their needs for a while.

Your Personal Patchwork

Patching takes a fairly radical approach to business reorganization and applies it to individuals trying to represent their skills and abilities. The asset portfolio diagram is most interesting. I'm a sucker for visual representations of a person's identity, even if it only focuses on their work life. Now imagine this taken a few steps further to reflect your non-work values, interests, and relationships...then have each section linking to writing, photos, other people, resources, personal records...and you could decide who gets to see what.

Life Path and Distractions

I've had Chris Corrigan's post about life paths saved for about four months, but never got around to posting it. He talked with a native elder about how distractions take us away from our true nature, and I liked the image they talked about:
"Sonny therefore advocates an approach to life that he calls 'two steps forward and one step back.' There is an implicit distrust of easy progress, requiring one to ensure that one hasn't strayed into a right hand side diversion. Building in periods of reflection serves to confirm progress and also make retreat easier, should that need to happen."
And how to figure out what that true nature or path is for us? By going out and doing stuff -- we probably know when we're in alignment with it (or more likely when we're not). In a way, the distractions in the diagram aren't necessarily bad...they're artifacts of our experiences. Interesting follow-up from Curt on the same post.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Life in School

The Experience Designer sent me over to a wonderful writer named Dax-Devlon Ross. I was fascinated by his account of his second day as a public school teacher following his first reading some advice from education revolutionary John Taylor Gatto:
"Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can."
Ross responded by scrapping his carefully planned lesson for the day and reading Against School out loud to all of his classes. What a start to a teaching career! Gatto's stuff really sets school up as the antithesis of lifestylism, a system designed to beat the creativity and self-determination out of generations of children. It's harsh, but definitely provides food for thought.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Play Ethic and Work

For a guy totally devoted to the Play Ethic, Pat Kane talks a lot about work. And thank goodness he does, because it's always good stuff, showing the way toward a better relationship with that four-letter word. A few samples:

Experience Designer

Brian Alger is writing some profound and enlightening ideas over at the Experience Designer Network. I just clipped a couple of quotes for now, but I need to go back and dig around some more:

Mind: In Search of Pattern Recognition
"One of the key questions I see being asked in a wide variety of contexts is about lifestyle or, more specifically, 'What is the style of life I wish to lead?' And the word style is becoming more closely connected with ideas about purpose, meaning, passion, vocation, integrity and value. The pursuit of this question often invokes the idea of a journey in which our authentic experiences of everyday living are placed under the lens of investigation. It brings us to the well-known metaphorical crossroads that heightens our perception and awareness of our own identity sometimes in stark contrast to the person we wish to be."
This is rich stuff, and the whole article stretched my brain. I suppose that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a when I started reading this quote, I was thinking "lifestylism...this is it!" Every word in the paragraph helps me figure out why it is important to consider how people define and live out their purpose.

My imagination has become my refuge...
"The dreams of what we wish to do in life are easily the most practical 'things' in living, yet the social and economic systems we find ourselves in often work against them. So we compromise in order to 'earn a living' as if living needs to be 'earned.' How many students in education systems feel this inner conflict - the dissonance between what we want to do in life versus what we are compromised into doing?"
I couldn't resist this one because it captures and combines the conflict we feel between what we want and what we believe we need to be doing.