Tim Ferriss, the New Rich and Growing up a Missionary Kid

If you’ve been reading CultureMutt for a while it won’t come as any secret that I think Tim Ferriss is awesome.  He is the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body (the latter of which I have a signed copy to confirm my geekdom) and the uber successful Top 1000 Experiments in Lifestyle Design blog.  I like Tim Ferriss because he is very successfully unconventional, traveled and cultured but also because of the way he turns materialism on its head.

Multiply your purchasing power

“I’ve chartered private planes over the Andes, enjoyed many of the best wines in the world in between world-class ski runs, and lived like a king, lounging by the infinity pool of a private villa.  Here’s the little secret I rarely tell:  It all cost less than rent in the U.S.   If you can free your time and location, your money is automatically worth 3-10 times as much…”

He’s absolutely right.  Allow me to illustrate with some examples from my former life as a language student in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I lived in a beautifully furnished apartment in the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires for SIGNIFICANTLY less in rent than I now pay for a bare, humble one-bedroom apartment in an uninspiring little corner of Chico, CA.  I dined at excellent restaurants and hung out at superbly elegant little cafes all over Buenos Aires for what I spend on gas station snacks in California.  I could pay for three of my friends and I to see a performance at the world class Teatro Colón for the price of a movie ticket in California.  It’s not as though you have to make huge sacrifices in quality of life to live cheaper.  The point is that I lived BETTER in Argentina for a fraction of the cost of my current decidedly middle, middle class lifestyle.  I used to live 10 minutes walk from Evita’s grave.  The coolest thing 10 minutes walk from where I now live is Walgreens.

What you do, When you do it, Where you do it, and with Whom you do it

Ferriss elaborates: “Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things.  Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it.  I call this the “freedom multiplier.”

The conclusion?  “Options – the ability to choose is real power.””

Options define the new rich

Guess what, if you are a landlocked chubster stateside CEO, you may make a few hundred grand but you are, relatively speaking, poorer than someone who makes less than $50K freelancing but has the luxury of picking where she lives, is able to spend most of her time with family and is unconstrained by petty workplace politics.

You begin to experience the power of options as you start making successively bolder and more unconventional decisions.  For example, growing up, my family certainly did not have much in the way of material excess.  I have idealists for parents and we grew up on religious academic campuses in Hong Kong, the Philippines and England.  Especially during the first decade of my life – the Asian decade – we got to travel like rich people while my parents were paid peanuts because of overseas worker benefits like paid-for furloughs provided by my father’s employer.  Every year, we would travel around the world to visit grandparents in Scandinavia and hit as many other stops as the allotted travel money would stretch to allow.

As a result I have scattered memories of falling out of a neighborhood tree in rural Nigeria; riding a camel past pyramids in Cairo; splasing in a hot spring with my sister in Iceland; skiing the Swiss Alps with the Matterhorn in the background; taking a river cruise past impossibly pointy mountain peaks in China… the list could literally go on for ages.  And none of the reasons for this exotic world travel has to do with millionaire status, I simply had the good fortune of being born to highly unconventional parents who understood that true riches are better measured in one’s ability to experience the beauty in choosing unusual life options.

As an old college buddy who now lives and works in Paris told me as I visited him a couple years ago, “People talk about how lucky I am and how much they wish they could live in Paris.  I tell them that they can.  It is all choices.”  I am convinced he is right.

Live a life where you can make decisions about your own destiny.  Where, before cash, you value OPTIONS.


Bjorn Karlman

4 thoughts on “Tim Ferriss, the New Rich and Growing up a Missionary Kid”

  1. I`ve been looking to do something like this as well. One thing that comes to mind though Bjorn is that not everyone is a gifted writer and has the option of being a freelance writer. The number of jobs that can be done this way is limited. One idea I have had that falls more in my ballpark would be to buy, fix and sell homes. But that is not nearly as mobile as freelance writing, though it does allow me to live where I want within Canada. I`m looking for a way to free up my time and money to do the work of God. That`s my motivation. I have always wanted to do ministry by not on the church`s dime. I want the freedom of being self-sufficient; I also don`t want to have to rely on donors too much. I`m currently working on my law degree, and am weighing the option of doing international law. This would give me some freedom as well so long as I had my own firm.

    1. Jonathan! Great thoughts. And yes, clearly, the writer thing was just an example. “Remote” jobs ARE on the up and up though… Tim Ferriss was the one that got me started thinking about this kind of work but the more I dig the more I feel I run into people doing really innovative, adventurous, mostly leveraging the internet. Here’s a super cool couple I came across this week: http://positiveworldtravel.com/about/meet-budget-travel-couples-2/
      They run Positive World Travel – check out the mission:
      Our main aim of Positive World Travel is to inspire others to take the leap and travel the world, excite people as to the endless possibilities that this world lays before them and finally to believe that they really can get out there and discover life outside their own!

      “We want this website to be a platform for other travellers to share their adventures as well as a place we reveal all about ours. Positive World Travel is an interaction and culmination of thoughts, adventures and emotions that is the direct result of everyone’s experiences.”

      International law sounds great… I was really inspired by a guy I heard through my friendship network who was doing human rights work for peanuts in Africa… I loved the sound of that. If you could supplement the very basic income you’d get from something like that with a cool online business concept you’d be living the dream life…

  2. Thanks for this article, Bjorn! Lately, I have been practicing a relatively option-rich approach to life and work, and I’ve come to an important conclusion about its value. The point of having options is not to avoid commitment. Rather, having options gives you freedom to be more committed what is truly important. Here are two examples.

    1) My wife is the most important person in the world to me. Because of my very flexible work I am free to plan my schedule around her very inflexible work. I can spend more time with her than might otherwise be possible.

    2) I live in New York, but I’m presently in LA, planning the remainder of my PhD studies with my mentor, writing music, and attending the opening of a good friend’s musical (all very important to me). If I had a 9-5, I couldn’t do this. Flexibility has afforded me the opportunity to be committed to what matters most.

    1. Nick! Thanks for the thoughts on the option-rich lifestyle. Options really are currency , they can lead to a richer life. And, as you said, it is not about irresponsible flitting about… living the choice-rich lifestyle allows you to commit to the very few things that you know will truly transform your life and that of those around you. Clearing the clutter can be painful or scary but I try to do it every day.
      Switching gears a little, what helps you determine what matters most? Some guiding principles?

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