To Conform Or Not To Conform, Your Life Is Your Own Thumbnail

Last year, I had the opportunity to pound back a couple beers with Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, Maren Kate from Escaping The Nine To Five, and Everett Bogue from Far Beyond The Stars.  I even got to grab a bite to eat with Srini Rao from Blogcast FM in San Francisco before he headed off to Costa Rica.  All of them are very special in their own way because each of them has a unique story to tell. They are all nonconformists who make a living doing what they want to do.

It was a school night for me (work the next day that is), but I decided to go anyway to this dive-bar in the Mission to meet these colorful personalities. You could smell the aroma of beer-stained wood floors as a bunch of folks gathered in the back. Ahh, my first meet up. In true journal writing form, I jotted our beer-hazed discussions down in order to share them below with all of you.


Leo is originally from Guam, but grew up in the Bay Area as a kid. In his later-thirties, Leo could easily pass for a man 10 years younger. Guam is a very closed community according to Leo, and it’s important to fit in. To do something different and to be successful beyond the island is almost frowned upon. It almost seemed like Guam was suffocating Leo and his family, so he decided to return to San Francisco this past year.

What I’ve wondered about Leo for the longest time is when he decided to become a minimalist blogger. Specifically, was it before or after he had 6 children. Leo, with a gracious smile replied, “Oh, definitely after.” And then I got to thinking, perhaps everything we do is a result of something we’ve done? Would Leo have become a minimalist blogger if he was still a single man teaching high school English? Perhaps not, or perhaps absolutely.

There would likely be no Financial Samurai if there was no economic meltdown two years ago.  I wouldn’t need the initial catharsis. I suspect that Leo’s blog has been a great catharsis for him, that has attracted millions of readers worldwide with similar needs of simplicity. As a result, not only has Leo been able to heal himself, but heal others as well and make an incredible living as a result.


Maren Kate is one of the most driven people I know in the online world. She has a goal of making $33,333 a month in passive income because that’s what her $10 million in proceeds would earn her at a 4% rate of return. She’s working hard on her virtual assistant business called Zirtual and passed the grueling Founder’s Institute program in Palo Alto by commuting 4 hours each way from Reno once a week.  Now that’s dedication!

There’s a level of determination about Maren that I rarely ever see. She is self-proclaimed unemployable because she cannot stand the thought of working for someone else. As a result, she works double digit hours constantly, which is fine, because she is working entirely for herself. This is where going out on your own is really different from working for someone else. The sustainability of investing in you is much greater and perhaps that much more rewarding if you succeed.

The biggest fear for many of us looking to go out on our own is  that we may never succeed.  What if we invest $10,000 in our idea and one year of our lives to watch our project fail?  It’s not just the $10,000 and year of your life you lose, it’s also the opportunity cost of making whatever you could have been making and the added experience on the job as well.  If you’ve taken the time to evaluate your business, have some savings, have nobody to support but yourself, and have an unmatched level of determination, why not go for it, especially if you’re still in your twenties?


Everett is a big proponent of the minimalist movement which has amplified itself ever since the recession hit in 2008. If memory serves me correct, Everett quit his job in NYC as a photographer’s assistant making $30,000 a year to move to Portland and re-discover himself.

At 25, Everett is on an adventure. With only 50 or so total possessions, he’s inspired me and others to cut down on a lot of the things we own. Just the other day, I brought another 5 bags of stuff I seldom ever use to Goodwill.  That makes 12 bags of stuff over the past 12 months, which is a record and also indicative of how much stuff I have.  To see uncluttered shelves and clean wood floors makes me happy.  I love it.  My mind has been fortified and trained to consume less and get rid of excess thanks to Everett and Leo.

Maybe Everett will grow into the next Leo with 200,000 subscribers, or maybe Everett will do something else as he grows older.  Nobody knows because our interests keep changing.  But at the moment, he’s doing what he wants to do, and that’s most important.


Srini Rao is an unlikely surfer.  He picked it up while living in Southern California and loves it so much that he’s now in Costa Rica living a location independent lifestyle!  Srini runs one of my favorite podcasts, BlogcastFM, which is all about helping us become better bloggers.  You might have even caught an interview he had with me earlier in the year.  Srini also has his own blog where he talks about overcoming fears of uncertainty at The Skool of Life.

What’s interesting about Srini is that he went to UC Berkeley for undergrad, Pepperdine for his MBA, and after all that still decided to live the nomadic blogging lifestyle.  It might not have been entirely on purpose, but what Srini has done is make the most out of his situation and enjoy the ups and downs while sharing it with all of us.  I think that’s awesome, and I’m excited to see him flourish at Blogworld 2011 in NYC!


My outing with these four reminded me that you can do whatever you want with your life and thrive.  Everybody has a different path they choose to take, and believe me, it’s a choice and not a mandatory sentence.  You have the power to change the conformity around you by doing something outside of work.  It’s whether you truly want to our not.

Almost everything about me fits an average lifestyle, which isn’t so bad, but something I strive to continue improving.  I went to college, found a enjoyable career, take public transportation, invest in a 401K, play sports, travel international, went back to graduate school, and dabble a little in the online world. What I do love to do is discover new lifestyles and take the best of each and apply them to my own.

The more interests you have, the more interesting your life will be.

On some weekends, I just love hanging out with musicians at a musical coffee lounge to get inspired by their amazing finger picking. For just an afternoon, I’m a musician too, and nothing else.  On other weekends, I’m with friends in the mountains looking to get a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean and discussing how we can populate the city with more trees via the Friends of the Urban Forest – yes, I’m a tree-hugger.

Every other Friday, I attend our internet start-ups/venture capitalists poker game hoping to not lose too much money so can listen to fascinating stories about Facebook poaching Googlers for big bucks.  For those five hours, we are all entrepreneurs bluffing our way to big wins or heinous losses.  And finally, at least twice a week, I’m on the tennis courts playing with friends and clients, working up a competitive sweat.  Sometimes, we even talk a little business!


I’m looking forward to attending future blogging meet-ups to simply learn and listen to what great things others are doing online.  It’s simply fascinating to hear your stories!  Perhaps I can help spread the word about the Yakezie Writing Contest initiative, which Leo so graciously donated to the very next day.  For those couple of hours, I’m just another blogger looking to collaborate and earn a living online.  Hopefully we can all find a time to meet up one day and grab a drink.

I say embrace your lifestyle and meet with others who have completely different missions. Take the best aspects of their lives and apply them to your own. No one lifestyle is better than the other. The best life is simply the one you enjoy the most.

Members and readers, what are the things you like to do and what do you wish you did more of? What’s stopping you?