When Lee Stranahan and I were recording our course Question the Rules, Lee pulled out this concept of his “Celebrity Mansion Life.” And it was brilliant.
(NOTE: Because I’ve been carrying this concept around in my head for the past two weeks as the “Rock Star Life,” I’ll bastardize Lee’s phrasing and use that instead. I can do these things because this is my blog.)
Basically, the idea is to imagine what life would be like if you were a celebrity or a rock star. Leave out the drugs and illicit sex, and think of the day-to-day stuff. What do you imagine life under those circumstances to be like?
Some people will imagine racing Maseratis off of cliffs, but most of us will think of more basic things. Rock stars live in awesome houses in awesome locales. They can sleep in as long as they’d like. Then you see magazine articles about how they have all this time to work out, and they’ve got a private gym, so they do that for a long time. They eat some fancy food and do what they want with their time, and so forth.
Boil that down: Nice house. Nice locale. Nice home gym. Lots of time to work out. Eat well. Do what you want. All just for example, but you get the idea.
Once you remove the trappings that probably don’t matter to you anyway (original masters’ artwork on the walls, thirteen expensive hookers bathing in a slurry of cocaine and Cristal), you may just realize, as Lee describes he did, that you can have most of that now.
Let’s say you’re working from home, or working for yourself. Do you, when you wake up, immediately sit down and start working? Do you have a task list on your desk that you’re bound and determined to complete, as if it were a mandate from above? Do you beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish enough in a day, the way a boss might beat you up if you had one?
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Even if you’re independent and don’t go to a job every day, there’s still a tendency to follow a nine-to-five way of doing things.
Lee describes how, after realizing that he was living as if he had a job (and he doesn’t), he started thinking like a rock star.
Instead of working first thing, he started going down to his home gym. Really nice treadmill bought off of Craigslist for $100. Nice, big TV from Craigslist for $80. Nice sound system with BOSE speakers someone gave him for free. He could even follow this rock star morning workout by eating some of that butcher shop thick-cut bacon he talked about, and the fine cheese he paid $1 more per pound for.
Here’s the rub: If he had millions and millions of dollars, how different would this picture be?
The treadmill might be a little nicer. The TV might be flat. The optional breakfast might be served by a butler. But who cares? He gets up when he want, and goes to the gym first thing. It’s a damn nice setup with damn nice stuff in it. It was cheap. And he can do it RIGHT NOW.
The rock star life follows the 80/20 rule just like everything else does. Lee got 80% of the important elements of what he wanted. Chasing the remaining 20% would offer rapidly diminishing returns.
I was thinking about this because last week I went down to Charlotte, North Carolina with Robin to scope out our own rock star lives.
I’m tired of tolerating things that suck
Every winter, I get depressed because Ohio winters are miserable.
Never mind the sub-zero cold. Never mind the mountains of snow. The worst part is the skies. Around the middle of October, the skies in Ohio cloud up with a chronic gray haze that lingers until mid April. The days get shorter, and we as a nation to do what some assholes suggested years back, making the situation far worse by changing the time so that the days are effectively even shorter. Whereas we used to play in the sun until nine in the summer, we huddle inside in the winter to avoid the cold darkness outside that arrives at five.
You lose motivation. You hibernate. Whatever healthy habits you acquired in the summer, you either abandon or manage to maintain (and adapt to a shittier form of) using superhero-like will. You watch a lot of TV. You get irritable, and low-grade depressed. You get bored. You gain weight, because you can’t take the kids outside without 45 minutes of preparation. The chronically overcast skies rob you of sunlight, and you start to feel like the ceiling on the world is very low. If you’re me, taking in the short, cold, and sunless days, you can actually start to feel claustrophobic after a while.
Every winter, I get depressed because Ohio winters are miserable… and every fall, I get depressed because winter is coming.
I’ve realized the last few years that I spend at least three full months wishing that it wasn’t one of those three months. That’s stupid. That’s no way to live life. It’s like how people hate Mondays, think of Wednesdays as getting them “over the hump,” and start to get excited on Fridays because the weekend is coming. Why would you spend five-sevenths of your life wishing it were the other two-sevenths? And why the hell would I continue to spend a quarter of my life wishing it were the other three-quarters?
If things go according to plan, we’ll move to Charlotte next spring or summer. It doesn’t get nearly as cold there (but there is a change of seasons, which I’d like), and even on the shortest, coldest days, there is sun. And the city’s downtown area is safe, unlike Cleveland’s rob-you rape-you eat-you inner city. And don’t get me started on the lack of culture and things to do around here, and how much cooler the Charlotte area is.
But get this, because it’s important:
Charlotte isn’t any more expensive than where I am now. The property values are about the same. Even the restaurants and gasoline cost about the same. I can work from literally anywhere there is an internet connection, and Robin’s job is unnecessary and totally replaceable. We have very few friends here, and those we have we see very infrequently. Robin’s parents are close, but they’ll be moving down when we do. Other than proximity to my mother, there is literally no reason to stay here.
So why did we stay where we are for so long? And if you don’t like where you live, why have you stayed there for so long?
Hell… if you have a lamp in your house that you hate, why is it still there? Why do you go to restaurants that are okay (but that you don’t love) if there are alternatives? If you’re in a shitty relationship or marriage, why do you stay? If you’re independent, why do you still end up working nine to five, or tell people “I can’t do X because I’m working”? You’re the boss, aren’t you?
The answer is: Inertia. And overcoming inertia doesn’t take money. It just takes effort.
Moving will be hard. We’ll have to sell our house, and my in-laws will have to do the same. We’ll have to find the perfect property near Charlotte — close enough to the city to get to things without a long drive, but far enough out to have horse acreage. We’ll have to do the actual move — which always, always, always is a shitty and annoying process.
Staying would be comparatively easy, because overcoming inertia is hard.
But it’s not too expensive to move.
It’s not unbelievably difficult.
It’s not true that I don’t know how to do it.
I just need to exert enough effort and initiative to overcome inertia and get this ball rolling — to get out of a comfortable rut — and I can be living in a warm, sunny place with a ton to do, great amenities, and already more local friends than I have right here.
That’s a rock star life. And it’s totally achievable, now, for about what life currently costs me.
We act like the people who live in nice places have rock star incomes. The people who do what they want with their time? They must be independently wealthy. People who travel? People who have beach houses? They’re loaded. This is a lifestyle that is totally inaccessible to us normal people.
The illusion of the rock star life is a very, very fragile misperception. The smallest bit of thought will cause it to shatter, especially when you use the 80/20 rule to get 80% of what you really want using 20% of the time, money, and effort that the 100% version would take.
Can you have a six-story mansion? No, but you can have a house like the one you currently live in, in a really nice place. Can you lie around all day? Maybe not, but you can occasionally sleep in, and go to a movie in the middle of the day. (Note: You can do this even if you work for a boss. Just call in sick.)
It’s amazing how what holds us back sometimes is nothing. Nothing. Nothing but an illusion.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a run, and then I’d like to get some work done before I go to the theater to watch Inception again.