Rules of thumb for starting a way of life business

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series. Part 1 on ways of life business. Part 2 on why starting a business makes sense. Part 3 on picking out stepping stones.

My prediction is that the Ways of Life business is the next frontier. This is where we’re heading in the 21st C. We’re not talking about product services; we’re not talking about desire manipulation; we’re talking about shaping and designing a suitable, meaningful way of life. The good news is that the spoils of Way of Life services could very well go to the good, intelligent, responsible guides out there, not to the charlatans and the cold-hearted bottom-liners. Perhaps you’re one of them?

Here are some rules of thumb for getting things under way:

  1. Identify spiritual needs not being met by our current institutions or social arrangements. I mean genuine life needs. (E.g., The desire for love not being met by the random hookup.)
  2. Come up with a new idea that could satisfy that spiritual need (or those spiritual needs). “But what’s a new idea look like?”
  3. Build infrastructure–forms of communication, modes of address–that allows your idea to travel but that doesn’t require any overhead. Aim for zero overhead.
  4. Make sure the idea can’t be outsourced or replicated because it requires your human presence. You are the Face of the idea. Let’s call this the “charisma requirement.”
  5. Forget about marketing and PR. That’s just fishing and attention-grabbing. Expensive and low percentage. Instead, make the idea look so desirable and make yourself look so attractive that people want to come to you. Let’s call this the “invitation requirement.”

Some examples off the top of my head:

(ex. 1) How about being a consultant who helps organizations in transition become more resilient or more robust? Resilience and robustness are buzz words today. A curator of collapsonomics!

(ex. 2) Suppose you’re an architect and an amateur sociologist to boot. Have you noticed that co-habitation is changing dramatically? The German philosopher Jurgen Habermas wrote that the modern house was designed during the 18th C. when the idea of private space began to take hold. Look at all the private rooms. Strange, huh? Well, we’re living through a “post-nuclear family” period, and I’d like to see homes, apartments, and condos re-designed to reflect all the strange forms of co-habitation going on today. An architect just needs to think imaginatively about how we could better inhabit intimate spaces. Start sketching.

(ex. 3) How about doing a whole survivor’s guide thing for “emerging adults?” These post-college individuals are totally lost in life, and they’d love to get some help–forums? guides? platforms? conversations? above all, stepping stones?–on sorting things out (and quickly)! How about rules of thumb for digging out of the muck? (Note: Starting a band would not be on the list.)

(ex. 4) Too much hedonism and such a profound, untapped yearning for spirit! Ever thought of doing some kind of ascetic retreats over Skype? Asceticism should return as a remedy to the soullessness, vacuity, and nihilism of modern life. Why not get paid to help people with this?

Further Reading

Andrew Taggart, “The Puzzle of Material Prosperity and Spiritual Cultivation”

4 thoughts on “Rules of thumb for starting a way of life business

  1. Andrew,

    Asceticism is alive and well, if obscure, in those religious traditions that still possess a robust character of orthodoxy. But how many North Americans are willing to adopt the strict vegetarianism of Theravada Buddhism and the rest of the teachings of the Eight Fold Path? Would such a person really want to avail themselves of Samsara, even if they knew the happiness of this world is temporary? How many Roman Catholics still pray the brevery daily?

    Not that I want to sound too ecumenist, but what those traditional confessions of major religions seem to have in common is the agreement that the ego has to decrease for spirit or one’s relationship with God to increase. Moreover, for this end to occur, it requires only an attitude change, but a behavioral change through various ascetic exercises, which usually coincides with placing yourself under obedience to someone else that can hold you accountable and encourage in your spiritual struggle.

    The believer can adapt the lifestyle described above because (I think) they have seen the positive changes it has made in the lifestyle of others and because they see the discarding of a lesser love as fair exchange for the gaining of a greater love.

    However, outside of the transcendental promise that comes with detachment/divorcing of one’s self from the world, what would a person without such an orientation have to gain from an ascetic exercise that doesn’t serve to complete some temporary end? Fasting is done to loose weight, keeping vigil is done to put in more hours at the office or to meet a deadline, and prayer to what or to whom?

    St. Augustine in the City of God gives a harsh criticism of pagan virtue and the ascetic acts of stoicism, skepticism, and epicureanism for the reason that it ignores the worst and most immediate threat to man’s happiness, which is death. As long as death cannot be overcome, it would seem (at least in my reading of St. Augustine) that any therapy to heal man and restore his happiness is disingenuous. I have a sense some contemporary readers might identify with this conclusion, but to accept the conclusion takes a monumental act of courage and honesty, and then a further act of courage not to fall into nihilism.

    Love the blog! Keep writing!

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