A Reply To JW Black

by Frost on January 17, 2012

Raging narcissist that I am, one of my self-indulgent Google alerts led me to this post by JW Black (read it first) over at In Mala Fide. I typed out a pretty lengthy reply, so I thought I’d paste it up here for all and sundry to read. 

Greetings from Sihanoukville, Cambodia!

This is an excellent post. There are indeed a large and growing number of websites out there that purport to teach you how to make money online by – teaching others how to make money online! Gary Vaynerchuck, The Art of Non-Comformity, Advanced Riskology – all of these guys are worth a read, but I take them with a grain of salt. Check out Dan Andrews’ Tropical MBA and Sean Ogle’s blog for examples of guys who are living the 4HWW dream by doing something other than blogging.

As for me, I’m certainly not making enough money off of book sales and affiliate commissions to live the international playboy lifestyle, but I am making enough to travel slowly and like a bum. And this is despite:

1) Having written a far inferior book than I could have (I still think it’s pretty good, but the 2nd edition will be radically different), and

2) Doing an absolutely piss-poor job of marketing it.

I’m coming to the end of my fast-paced ‘vacation’ month of traveling, and am looking forward to putting down some roots for a few months in various cities and grinding out F25 2.0, a new book, and a few other projects that I have a lot of confidence in. By the end of it, I think I’ll be able to say that I am making a good-to-great living, from anywhere in the world I want to be, doing something I love. It’s taken (and will continue to take) a ton of work, but it’s possible.

As I said though, I agree with a lot of your points. Leaving the desk job grind isn’t easy – I wrote shitty stories, articles and blog posts for years before I created anything that anyone wanted to read. Even still, I’ve only ‘made it’ by a laughably easy standard.

I also 100% agree that you should always try to avoid burning bridges whenever possible. In my juvenile angst phase, I flirted briefly with the scorched earth approach to my old job. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and the door back to that life is still wide open. I’m (perhaps irrationally) confident that I will make it as a writer, but even if I don’t, I’ve got an alternative to giving handjobs for crack in a back alley somewhere.

But all that said, I think you are too pessimistic. I come from a lower-middle class background, and went to the Canadian equivalent of a tier-2 state school for undergrad, and that has certainly closed a few doors for me in life. Even though I did my post-grad at a fairly elite school, I went something like 0/100 in my job applications to the elite banks and consulting firms in the world. Many of the traditional, 20th-century paths to wealth and fame are closed to me.

But alternative careers don’t have the same barriers to entry. On the internet, no one knows that you’re a dog – or that you went to public school. The only real barriers are a lack of intelligence and conscientiousness. Not to be a dick, but I consider myself smarter than the vast majority of people, and I have taken a few tests that back my assessment up. If Tim Ferriss were honest, he would include the disclaimer that his advice is only useful for 120 IQ-plus folks, but do you need connections and an IV league degree to start a website? Nope.

Anyways, I can hash out my reasons for why I think the 4HWW offers a valid alternative to men like us, but at the end of the day, I rest my case on this: I have met dozens of guys out here in Asia who REALLY ARE living incredible lives with location-independent businesses. I’ve met a few each with their own information products, artists, adsense-generating website builders, SEO guys, writers, poker players, rental property managers, and so on.

I’ve also met quite a few who are traveling on a budget and making ends meet by taking on jobs bartending, working for hostels, deckhands, ski instructors, and even a few tradesmen. I would put these guys in a different category as the true location-independent crowd, since they still often have to work for 10-30 hours a week, but it’s a valid alternative to 9-5 regardless.

This post is a useful counterpoint to the relentless enthusiasm of the majority of lifestyle design writers (including Ferriss), but like them, you go to far. Connecting technologies really are changing the workplace, and many established industries (publishing, music, film, advertising, sales, politics) are going to be radically upset in the coming decades. There’s a lot of opportunity for smart young people with an ability to ignore conventional wisdom (Hey there, IMF readers!) to build empires in those fields.



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rowan January 18, 2012 at 2:45 am

Writing is not for everybody.

I’m working on my own software company, everything is going well, I’m focusing on building a service for small businesses and have a handful of eager beta testers (And even some paying a token fee for an incomplete service!). I’m happy building a firm foundation while relaxing on holiday here in Australia.

But last week I got an email from my best and oldest friend. An awesome successful guy who did everything society told him to. Got a job at a company, moved up, became the IT manager at age 24, a dozen people under him, sat on the company board, house with a mortgague, the whole shebang.

A few weeks ago he quit. Why work for work’s sake? He’s started a web design company and has a long list of clients and has already completed 3 jobs. He’s only going to make a fraction of what he did before but it’s more than enough. He’s put his house on the market and he’s off to Canada for a year soon.

We’ve been exchanging emails discussing and sharing software startup info. I sense a mastermind group forming…

This has made my year because I was beginning to second guess myself, maybe the cube wasn’t as bad as I remember? Maybe I can just work for a year then take 6 months off and repeat? And so on.

Twenty hours crappy web design work a week but spending all day skiing? Not bad, it’s a start, it’s how I started, just a phase, soon he’ll be working on subscription based software services, then we can take over the Internets!

@js You know what is different and special? Men who write books and get hundreds of popular bloggers to promote their books. I’m a bit different and special myself. I go to a Uni library 6 days a week even though I’m not a student and work on my business. Do you know how many students there are working on a business or a book? As far as I can tell… ZERO. In fact 90% of them arn’t even doing Uni work, most of them are on facebook or playing games. I’ve approached a number of businesses in person to sell my service. Do you know how many other men have approached them to sell a service? No prizes. What’s it worth? About $80 a month for the next decade ( I love slow moving industries!) all for an hours discomfort.

None of us are born special or different. Took me 25 years to figure that out.

js January 17, 2012 at 11:22 am

Here are two questions I hope you asked yourself:

What percent of people who quite their job to become a writer succeed?
What percent of those people, who upon hearing the answer to the first question, say to themselves “Yes but I’m different and special”?

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