Work where you want, Live how you want, Be what you want to be
The Untemplater Manifesto Six Real-World Untemplater Case Studies
Please feel free to share this free manifesto under the terms of the creative commons attribution 3.0 license. © 2009–2010 untemplater.com. Photography © N. Cody McKibben. Design & layout by Cody McKibben.
Table of Contents Introduction to the Untemplate Lifestyle 04 Jun Loayza Untemplating Entrepreneurship 06 Monica O始BrienUntemplating Career 14 Cody McKibben Untemplating Travel 18 Adam Baker Untemplating Family 26 Andrew Norcross Untemplating the Tools 34 Carlos Miceli Untemplating the Mind 38 The Untemplater Team 45
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Introduction to the Untemplate Lifestyle Take a deep breath, look around you, and ask yourself this question, “Am I doing the same thing as everyone around me?” If you are, then chances are that you are on the path to the comfortable, stable “American dream.” You’ll spend your 20’s in a small cubicle grinding long hours to impress your boss, steadily and surely climb the corporate ladder, and retire a wealthy, 65 year old man (or woman), Dinally able to enjoy life’s riches: time with family,
travel, and the opportunity to pursue your passions as a full‐time gig. Is this the life you want to lead?
Cause the house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house. - Danny Ocean, Oceanʼs Eleven
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There are many blogs and books meant to teach and inspire you to leave your corporate existence in order to pursue a venture that you’re “passionate” about. Most of these sites mean well and are inspirational, but they’re written by gurus who’ve already “made it” and aren’t in touch with your reality, or they’re written by pure theorists— people who haven’t actually put their lessons to action—they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
…work where you want to work, live how you want to live, and be who you want to be in 2010
Untemplater, on the other hand, is composed of real people who are in the trenches, working hard to live the life that we want to live. It’s not easy, nor is it glamorous. Below are six real case studies from twentysomethings who’ve done it. You’ll see our pain, struggles, successes, and failures as we create an existence that we are proud of and enjoy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We are MBAs; we are husbands, wives, and fathers; we are scrappy entrepreneurs, authors, and freelancers. We live all over the globe, and we have come together to show you how we’ve successfully broken the template lifestyle so that you can do it as well. This Manifesto is meant to inspire. Below you will >ind the stories of six different individuals each pursuing the untemplate lifestyle—each a founding member of the Untemplater team—describing in detail the ‘breaking point’ that made us want to build our own, unconventional lives, and what we’ve accomplished in a short amount of time. Remember this one thing: if we’ve been able to do it, then you can do it as well. Join us at Untemplater and learn how you can work where you want to work, live how you want to live, and be who you want to be in 2010.
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Untemplating Entrepreneurship Tick tock… tick tock… it was 5:00pm and I had another hour of grueling grunt work to get through before I could catch the train home. I was a Dinancial consultant at a top 50 consulting Dirm making $55,000 my Dirst year after graduating college. In my friends’ eyes, I was leading a successful life and on my way to getting my MBA, working my way up the corporate ladder, and retiring at age 65 a wealthy and successful man. But something just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the 60‐hour workweeks, nor was it the fact that I could only hang out with my friends and girlfriend on the weekends; it was the fact that I was just another drone following the template lifestyle. If I stayed on my current path, I would die an ordinary person who followed the average “American Dream.”
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The breaking point… On a cloudy morning in November 2007, I dragged myself into work and sat in my four‐ walled prison. My Managing Director walked in an hour after me and dropped a towering stack of printed excel sheets on my desk: “Hey Jun, I’m in a real time crunch and I need you to QA these excel sheets for me by end of day. Thanks!”
…I was just another drone following the template lifestyle
Do you know what “QA” means? It meant that I had to take out my calculator, whip out my red pen, and individually check each excel equation by hand to make sure they were all correct! It was salt on an open wound. I stormed into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and asked myself this question: “Would I be happy living the life of my current Managing Director?” The answer was clearly “No.”
That day I made the decision to leave my corporate haven and pursue my own startup venture full-time.
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The transition was anything but smooth… Sometimes it seems so easy doesn’t it? If Mark Zuckerberg could build Facebook from his college dorm room, surely I could build my startup into a large empire and make millions.
One of the prerequisites for entrepreneurship is sacrifice.
Little did I know that one of the prerequisites for entrepreneurship was sacri>ice: 1. I moved back home with my mom and brother to save on costs like food and rent 2. I stopped investing in a 401K, lived off the money in my savings account, and only paid the minimum monthly payments on my student loans 3. I told my girlfriend that we had to signiDicantly cut back on movies, dinner, and that we had to postpone the vacation we were planning
Entrepreneurship is not glamorous.
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Untemplate the entrepreneur A signiDicant portion of the untemplate lifestyle is leaving what you HAVE to do for what you WANT to do. In my case, I broke my template by having the courage to leave my corporate job and pursue my startup dream. But this is just the beginning.
A significant portion of the untemplate lifestyle is leaving what you have to do for what you want to do.
Untemplater is not just about breaking the corporate lifestyle; more importantly, it’s about breaking every template lifestyle, including that of the entrepreneur. The Template Entrepreneur: 1. There is no work/life balance 2. You must use social media to market your internet startup 3. Seek funding to get your startup off the ground My team and I have successfully broken each of the 3 points of the Template Entrepreneur. Untemplater will show you how my team has done it so that you too can break out of the template‐entrepreneur lifestyle.
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I am you… You can accomplish everything that I have done and I will show you how to do it.
You can accomplish everything that I have done and I will show you how to do it.
I have built a social media‐marketing agency from $0 in revenue to over $120,000 in revenue in fewer than 6 months. I’m the founder of an internet startup that has received angel funding, employs over 10 people, and supports an ofDice in San Francisco. I gathered a team of incredibly motivated, successful, and ambitious bloggers towards a uniDied goal to teach others how to break the template lifestyle. I do all of this and am still able to maintain an incredibly happy relationship with my girlfriend Kim Ear, which is proof that you are able to separate your work and life as an entrepreneur.
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Break the Template Lifestyle in 2010 1. How do I run multiple startups at the same time? I often get asked this question. A startup takes an immense amount of time and energy, so how in the world do I build multiple startups and not lose my mind in the process? The answer is simple: Systems and Operations.
The secret to my intense lifestyle as an entrepreneur is my ability to create systems and operations for my companies that allow me to focus on the critically important.
The secret to my intense lifestyle as an entrepreneur is my ability to create systems and operations for my companies that allow me to focus on the critically important. Untemplater will in part focus on the type of systems that I have created and go into excruciating detail about the development, execution, and maintenance of these systems.
2. How am I able to maintain a happy relationship with my girlfriend as an entrepreneur? Three close friends of mine are hardcore entrepreneurs whose girlfriends left them because my friends did not devote enough time to their girlfriends. My friends fell victim to the template‐entrepreneur lifestyle and have suffered a girlfriendless startup lifestyle. Untemplater will show you how to Digure out if your girlfriend or boyfriend is the one for you, and if it turns out that she or he is the one for you, then Untemplater will show you how to maintain a happy relationship even with a busy startup lifestyle.
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3. The concrete, personally-tested methods to succeed or fail with a startup All advice that we give on Untemplater comes from actual experience. You will Dind no theories or untested advice here. We will cover the following topics in excruciating detail so that you can have a chance at building a successful startup: 1. How to test if your startup idea is viable
All advice that we give on Untemplater comes from actual experience.
2. How to build your team 3. Do you need a business model from the very beginning? 4. How to drive traf>ic to your site 5. How to get funding 6. How and when should you incorporate your company 7. And much more…
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The Untemplater philosophy My fun comes from building companies and watching them successfully grow. I get a rush every time I build a new system and successfully implement it, cutting my work hours and improving my effectiveness. I love training my virtual assistant to do a new job that I previously had to do. Sounds kind of nerdy doesn’t it?
…work where you want to work, live how you want to live, and be who you want to be in 2010
But to be honest, I wouldn’t be happy any other way. I don’t need to live the location independent lifestyle right now, nor do I need to get an MBA. I’ve realized that to lead the Untemplater lifestyle, you need to learn how to say “No” to the things that can wait for later, and focus right now on the actions that will provide you with the greatest personal ROI.
Join us this 2010 and break your template!
Jun currently lives in Los Angeles, California – Find him at JunLoayza.com and on Twitter
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Untemplating Career My journey on the untemplated path started in college. In the middle of my sophomore year, I decided I couldn’t be a physics major anymore. You see, I wasn’t a quitter. And for some reason, I always felt that if I quit physics, I would be giving up on something I had started. But it was time to make changes. I needed to stop doing what I thought others wanted. I needed to stop doing things just because I could and they would seem impressive, and start doing things I actually wanted. It was my life—I needed to start taking myself and my dreams seriously. This is supposed to be the part where I tell you I changed majors and found the job of my dreams. It turns out that it’s very dif3icult to complete a degree in 4 years when you switch majors after two, and I would run out of scholarship money after 4 years. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life anyway. So I did the most logical thing at the time—I went through the degree catalog and found the majors I could Dinish in my remaining two years of school, and then picked the one that would pay the most after college. I Digured if I could just get a job that paid a lot of money, I would have the time and resources to explore my interests later.
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Two years later I graduated with a degree in computer science, and started working in the tech department at a Fortune 500 company in the Chicagoland area. Not surprisingly, I hated my job—but every evening, I worked to Dind a new career. I explored photography and considered becoming a wedding photographer; I worked on art projects and researched how to sell art online; I considered fashion design and contemplated going back to school for it.
It was my life—I needed to start taking myself and my dreams seriously.
Finally, I realized I had a passion for business development. I wasn’t a particularly great artist, but I knew that if I had great art I could Digure out how to sell it. I started experimenting online with a number of my own blog projects. I also learned as much as I could about selling products on eBay and Amazon. It was clear to me that I someday wanted to start my own company, and it was also clear that I didn’t know a thing about business in order to do so. Having never taken a business class in college, I realized I wanted to immerse myself in the theory. I found an MBA program and started putting together my application. It was only right before I turned in my application that I realized the school I had chosen was one of the top 5 schools in the country, and you usually needed 5 years of professional experience to get accepted. I was only 22 years old, with less than a year of professional experience. I was accepted to the school and started my MBA with a concentration in marketing part‐time. Meanwhile, I also started my blog and established a name for myself in the digital world by writing about my experiences and what I was learning. I was extremely vocal about wanting to leave the corporate world and start my own company. I concluded that the best way to do this was to >ind a job at a startup, where I could learn how to build a company from others. Within 4 months of blogging, I was offered a position at a startup with a well‐known A‐list blogger named Penelope Trunk.
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I spent about 6 months at the startup, learning and absorbing everything I could. The focus of my job was still in tech though, and I wanted to make a career change into marketing. The founders of the startup also wanted me to choose between Dinishing my MBA and committing to eating, sleeping, and breathing the startup. It was a difDicult decision, and despite my yearning to start a company, I picked >inishing my education over continuing with the hands‐on experience of a startup.
I picked finishing my education over continuing with the hands-on experience of a startup.
Once I quit my job at the startup, I was able to focus once again on my studies and my goals of transitioning from a tech career to a marketing career. I started networking with other marketing professionals in Chicago and began consulting small companies on how to use digital media to promote their businesses. In 2009, I decided to fulDill another lifelong dream—I wanted to write a book. I found a market for the knowledge I had acquired over 3 long years in small businesses, like private practices, hair salons, and restaurants. I decided to write a book aimed at small businesses who wanted to use social media and digital marketing to promote themselves. Rather than get a traditional book contract, I opted to start my own publishing company and bring the product to market myself. The book was published in November 2009 and continues to show strong sales as it builds momentum in its Dirst year.
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I also graduated with my MBA in December 2009, and am planning to take a job at a word of mouth agency in the new year. Everyone will have their own de3inition of the untemplated life. Some will say that it means to quit your job and take the entrepreneurial path. For others, it’s to build your career online. Some might say it’s to get a formal education in a Dield you enjoy.
Self-knowledge is key, and most of the time, you just need to follow your heart.
For me, it’s been a mix of everything. I’ve gotten a traditional education, and I’ve also used blogging and social media to learn, grow, network, and secure jobs. I’ve tried the corporate lifestyle, the entrepreneurial lifestyle, and the freelance/consulting lifestyle, and found that there are upsides and downsides to all three. My hope for Untemplater is that we can help all types of people Dind their paths in life, no matter what that path is. Selfknowledge is key, and most of the time, you just need to follow your heart.
Monica currently lives in Chicago, Illinois – Find her at MonicaObrien.com and on Twitter
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Untemplating Travel Going Through the Motions When I applied to university, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I went because it was just what you do after high school—the next step in the ladder. Neither my dad nor my mom graduated from a four‐year university—because they'd become young parents instead—so you can bet, I was going to go straight to college and get my degree! I worked through college to pay for rent, food, and living expenses, and my dad, bless him, paid for a large portion of tuition and books, but the instant I went beyond the four‐year limit, I had to pay my own way. College taught me plenty of valuable lessons—as did paying my own way. I'm deDinitely thankful to have parents who were willing and able to help me get my education, but the expectations (and consequences) that I was subject to demonstrate the prevailing middleclass Western mindset—the paradigm template lifestyle—that most of us are plugged into starting at birth.
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College to Career Trial & Error In retrospect, if I could go back I would have taken a year break to backpack around the world at that point, or even just to experiment at a junior college to discover what
If I could go back I would have taken a year break to backpack around the world at that point, or even just to experiment at a junior college to discover what I was truly passionate about.
I was truly passionate about before going to university. But I played the game. I thought maybe I'd like to be a social studies professor and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of different belief systems around the world, so I graduated with a degree in Humanities & Religious Studies and a minor in History. After college, like many graduates, I promptly put my degree to absolutely no use! Instead, a part‐time student job I had been doing with the College of Business at my university magically turned into a full‐time staff position. This, again, was really the
easy, boring path for me to take, and although the majority of my job duties were to simply be there from 9‐to‐5 to manage the Dean's ofDice every day, maintain his calendar, and push papers, I was exceptionally fortunate because working with the business professors is what turned me on to my true passion—entrepreneurship—and being assistant to the Dean of the College of Business came with some great beneDits. Serendipitously, I was able to meet and learn from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, a Federal Reserve president, and people like Warren Buffett—the most skilled money‐manager and richest man in the world, and one of my heroes.
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How Connecting with Like-Minded People Empowered Me to Take Control of My Own Destiny I learned a tremendous amount from the Dean and the College's experienced professors, and as my interest in business grew, I'd travel to Stanford's Graduate School of Business in my off‐time for Global Entrepreneurship Week and conferences with innovative green and social entrepreneurs. Two books changed my life: the Dirst one being Tom Peters' short but impactful Brand You, which opened my eyes to the
…even as employees, we need to build and maintain a great reputation and brand ourselves to stay competitive…
emerging "free agent nation" where even as employees, we need to build and maintain a great reputation and brand ourselves to stay competitive in a crap economy where job security no longer exists. In 2006, partly prompted by Peters' message about personal branding, I started publishing my own whacky thoughts online at ThrillingHeroics.com. Starting a blog was probably the best decision of my life—I immediately started connecting with people around the globe. People like Ramit Sethi—a role model for me, as a Stanford grad, cofounder of a successful tech startup, and hugely successful personal Dinance blogger, just a few years older than me—Pamela Slim, who at the time ran a great blog and consulting company around EscapeFromCubicleNation.com, and now a successful author with a book out by the same title, and Rajesh Setty—a student of Tom Peters and Seth Godin and serial entrepreneur who is involved as a founder or executive for about 8 Silicon Valley companies at any given time. Raj become somewhat of a mentor to me, inspiring me with his book, blog, and personal encouragement, and sending tons of clients my way when I initially started up my own small side business.
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How Breaking the Rules Lets Me Live the Lifestyle of My Dreams The second book that radically changed the way I look at life was Timothy Ferriss' The 4Hour Workweek. When I read Tim Ferriss’ lifestyle design bible, I learned that
It doesn’t cost as much as you might think to live your ideal lifestyle or set about on on a jet set travel journey around the world, and it really isn’t all about money anyways!
all the rules of traditional business had changed. Working 40‐ to 60‐hour weeks and waiting until retirement to do what you really want to do—what Ferriss calls the “deferred life plan”—isn’t the only option. It doesn’t cost as much as you might think to live your ideal lifestyle or set about on a jet set travel journey around the world, and it really isn’t all about money anyways! Ferriss pointed out that we don’t really want to be millionaires, we want to experience what we think only millions can buy. Tim noted that Southeast Asia and parts of South America are some of the world's best remaining paradise destinations where Americans can easily stretch their dollar. By bending the traditional rules we think apply to the world, and by leveraging geo arbitrage for example—earning your pay in a strong currency like dollars, Euros, or British Pounds, while you live somewhere with a low cost‐of‐living—extended travel and living abroad can actually present some massive advantages.
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So rather than waiting for retirement and dreaming about my ideal lifestyle, I decided to
create my own Untemplater lifestyle where I could work and travel at the same time. I
rather than waiting for retirement and dreaming about my ideal lifestyle, I decided to create my own Untemplater lifestyle where I could work and travel at the same time.
spent a year and a half building a business that I could run remotely from anywhere on the globe—making my business "locationindependent" and becoming a digital nomad freelancer. And then I went for it! I left for Thailand in November 2008 with a oneway ticket and no plans to return for at least a year. Creating a business I could operate from anywhere has given me the freedom to choose where I live, when I work, and it has enabled me to travel and free up more time to put into relationships, writing, volunteering, and other side projects that don't necessarily have to contribute to my income. Living this lifestyle teaches you that traveling is easier than you think: with a little resourcefulness, you’ll be amazed what sort of great experiences you can have for free or very cheap! You will see some incredible things that will change the way you think about the world.
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10 Random Thoughts for Creating Your Own Untemplater Lifestyle This Year: 1. Most people are content to live a comfortable lifestyle, doing something they're not all that passionate about in order to pay the bills and do what they like on
The Untemplater lifestyle means prioritizing your passion over money, over status, even over creature comforts.
the weekends. But, ask yourself if that's really what you want. Or do you want more? The Untemplater lifestyle means prioritizing your passion over money, over status, even over creature comforts. 2. Realize that nobody else is going to come along and magically Dix all your problems and pay all your bills for you. That is a destructive Disney fantasy that isn't real. In the new economy, "job security" is an oxymoron. You've got to establish a personal brand and maintain your reputation online even if you just want to remain employable. 3. Remember what Tim Ferriss says in The 4Hour Workweek: we don't really want to be millionaires. Instead we want to experience things we think only millions can buy. But money isn't the only currency, and by bending the rules of your reality, it can frequently be easier, cheaper, or even free to accomplish the things you want.
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4. Stop playing the game, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Embrace minimalism, detach your value from the things you own, and ignore others' expectations. When you accumulate stuff just for the sake of having possessions, they begin to own you. More likely than not, you can invest more time and money into the experiences you want to have—time with friends and family, philanthropy, travel—and live a much more ful>illed life. 5. Just because everyone seems to do things one way doesn't mean you have to. And just because a majority of people seem to use a certain set of tools to get the job done doesn't necessarily mean they're the right tools for you. Seek
unconventional solutions that will make the life you want possible.
Stop playing the game, stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.
6. If you still want to discover what kind of work you're truly passionate about and excites you when you get out of bed in the morning, take a weekend retreat to somewhere nearby where you can get away from your normal routine, consider a media hiatus (don't read the paper, watch the news on TV, or read your favorite blogs online for at least a few days) and do some selftalk and search in yourself for what you really care about. How can you provide real value to the world in a way that will return to you and allow you to earn a living? 7. With the increasing availability of free and cheap wiDi internet access all around the globe, it’s becoming increasingly possible for anyone to work from home, the coffee shop, or anywhere. Leverage the different purchasing power of currencies around the world, and you can vagabond your way around the globe while you do freelance work from your laptop!
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8. Social media makes it much easier for anyone with enough motivation to share their ideas with a global audience and build a successful business online these days. 9. If you choose to build an Untemplater lifestyle free of dependence on any one location, if you live abroad or go on extended travel, just by immersing yourself in the unfamiliar, you'll experience an increased rate of learning,
creativity and resourcefulness that will serve to reinforce your
Your time here on this earth is a finite resource, precious short—how will you choose to spend it?
abilities as a producer, rather than a passive consumer—sharing and adding something to the world, whether that's in the form of a business or something else. 10.Even though everybody seems to do it, there is no law that says you have to play by the rules or follow the crowd. Your time here on this earth is a >inite resource, precious short—how will you choose to spend it? I'm excited to launch Untemplater with my great co‐founders, and hope to provide guidance to all of you who are seeking more from life. If I can build a vast, strong professional network, sell my services online, and afford an adventurous, exciting life abroad, you can too. My personal mission in life is to encourage others to pursue freedom—the freedom to live and work anywhere, and to live life beyond borders and limitations. If I can do it, you can build an Untemplater lifestyle and reach your dreams too!
Cody currently lives in Bangkok, Thailand – Find him at ThrillingHeroics.com and on Twitter
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Untemplating Family I was good at Math and Science. I had high standardized test scores. My path was clear… Honors Engineering. What else was there? That was the path. No one in particular forced me into it. My parents didn’t push me into it. My high school counselor didn’t push me into it (or do anything now that I think back). Don’t get me wrong, somebody, or rather something was pushing me. I just couldn’t pinpoint the source of it. It just seemed like that was what I was supposed to be doing. This was my next step. Why? Not because I chose it, but because it was the accepted path on my current life template.
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Well, that lasted 3 semesters. Which I’d like to point out is one more than the minimum required to fail out (they let you go at least 2 semesters by default). So, I had that going for me. I returned home and got to work. I picked up a job opening the local McDonalds in the morning and closing the local pizza parlor at night. After only a month, I was promoted to shift manager at both locations, but that didn’t change anything. I was working shit jobs.
I was blinded by the script that society had written for my life. It wasn’t a custom script. It was a copy of a copy of a copy.
And why? Why did I come home and immediately dive into 80+ hours of work? Why not join the Peace Corps, join the Army, live in a selfsustaining community, hitchhike to Alaska? Sure I needed to pay to live, but there are thousands of options to do that. At 19 years old, McDonalds was my plan B. The sad truth was I couldn’t see any other options. There were no plan C, D, E, or F’s. I was blinded by the script that society had written for my life. It wasn’t a custom script. It was a copy of a copy of a copy. It’s the same one that’s passed down to every middle‐class, white, Midwestern kid in school (and many other demographics, although I can’t speak for them!)
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Modeling the success of giants… Flash forward a couple years. Managing fast food led to playing poker. Playing poker led to running local poker tournaments for hundreds of people. Running poker rooms led to real estate (well, the police dictated that one, but that’s another story). Things certainly weren’t perfect, but I was starting to get a glimpse into plans C, D, E, and F.
There was a common bond between nearly every story I read. They were finding ways to break the template life had dealt them.
I started reading personal development books (the exact same ones I made fun of only a couple years previous). I started studying success stories and business biographies. I noticed that almost without exception, the people whose stories I was reading had screwed up lives. They came from horrible childhoods in some cases. Almost all of them failed out of traditional education. They started in their parent’s garages or some desolate third world country. They worked day in and day out for years, without reward. But there was a reason they were sacriDicing. There was a common bond between nearly every story I read.
They were finding ways to break the template life had dealt them. They weren’t simply playing the cards they were dealt. They were changing the game mid hand.
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Debt, Marriage, & Kids: The lure of the template life. Reading these stories was one thing. But making the jump to apply them to my life was another. I wasn’t quite ready. I had just gotten engaged to my high school sweetheart. Courtney was in the last few years of putting herself through college through a mixture of part‐time jobs and massive student loans. I brought several thousand dollars in credit card debt from my last few irresponsible years.
And life started happening. Quick.
It just seemed like each life event we went through had a ‘next logical step’. It was like we were playing a board game.
Our wedding was only 7 months away from the engagement. Courtney had a year left in college and I started a real estate company. 3 months after marriage, we were pregnant. 5 months after that, Courtney graduated college and starting working. At that time, I myself was working 80+ hours again in the real estate business and had just Dinanced an 8‐unit apartment building with no money down (it sounded cool at the time).
Engaged, Married, Pregnant, Finishing college, Starting a business… Student loans, credit cards, jewelry loans, car loans, and money borrowed from family. We weren’t behind, but we had a nice little collection of burdens that were growing. In fact, the only thing that was missing was the white picket fence and the mortgage. And don’t let me fool you… we were house shopping. Again… why? We hadn’t really chosen this path. It just seemed like each life event we went through had a ‘next logical step’. It was like we were playing a board game. We were rolling the dice and trying to advance around the path just as quickly as we could.
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But then it happened… I’m convinced childbirth is God’s way of smacking people across the face. At least that’s what it felt like in our situation. We had started to clean up our >inances a little throughout the pregnancy, but bringing her home from the hospital took it to a whole new level.
We were paying chunks of our freedom by trying to follow a path that we hadn’t chosen.
We Dinally made the connection that we were fortunate to be granted an enormous amount of freedom in life, but that we were giving big chunks of it back. We were paying chunks of our freedom in debt payments. We were paying chunks of our freedom by trying to follow a path that we hadn’t chosen (at least consciously). So we decided right then and there to take back control over our life. We weren’t sure we were making the right decision (whatever that means), but we were sure we wanted to test out some other paths. We decided that over the next year we were going to aggressively attack our debt, sell everything we owned, and spend a couple years living and traveling overseas.
We knew it wouldnʼt be easy, but we were eager to start living intentionally.
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The first step: Dominating our finances. We realized that the Dirst and most tangible obstacle was our mess of a >inancial life. We weren’t behind on payments or getting foreclosed on. But we certainly were on that path if we didn’t change something.
We realized that the first and most tangible obstacle was our mess of a financial life.
Over the next year, we struggled to adopt frugality, budgeting, and life without constant credit. We had lots of learning to do… some strategies worked great and others failed horribly. But we kept up the intensity until we slowly installed new habits. We slashed our lifestyle and sold everything we could (including our small business and rental property). The more small wins we began to have the more momentum it seemed like we were building. Finally, at the beginning of 2009, we had paid off everything but our student loans in full. We had cut up and canceled all of our credit cards and closed all of our old loan accounts. Most importantly (for us) we had also managed to save over $15,000 for our trip on one income. We hadn’t fully funded retirement. Neither of us had signed a multi‐million dollar contract. But, we had taken the >irst step, and over 18 months had completely turned around our >inancial life.
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Our overseas adventure… Our next big step was learning how to travel. That kind of sounds funny, but people who have done it can relate I presume. Our Dirst destination was Cairns, Australia. We had planned to Dind an apartment get a couple touristy jobs on the beach and just relax. Well… It didn’t turn out that way. We learned quickly that not knowing a single soul in the entire country was probably going to be our biggest hurdle. Over the next month, we worked our way down Australia’s eastern coast, meeting new friends and learning a little bit with each stop.
We were driving the bus. We were the ones in control.
After learning of a shortage of teachers in New Zealand (Courtney’s a teacher), we decided one night to hop on a plane and head to Auckland, NZ. Once again we weren’t sure what the right decision was. We were just going with the >low. There was one thing for sure, though. We were driving the bus. We were the ones in control (for better or worse). After a month or so in Auckland, Courtney found an elementary school willing to sponsor her for the remaining part of the year. It made a lot of sense both culturally and Dinancially, so we took the offer (and work permit). We leased a tiny, one‐bedroom apartment in the heart of Auckland city and for the Dirst time got a small taste of downtown city living. Courtney took the train and a 20‐ minute walk to school each day, while I stayed home with Milligan and tried to get some writing done here and there. As the end of the school year approached (in December), Courtney had the opportunity to make a year commitment and stay and teach. We elected against committing for a full year and instead decided do a bit more travel. Currently, we are wrapping up a two week driving tour of the South Island of New Zealand, before we spend a week in Melbourne, and two months in Thailand.
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Our future… We have no idea what the future holds, which isn’t necessarily something we dislike. There are always going to be ups and downs and we’ve had our fair share. Had we stuck to the template lifestyle we had in Indiana, we’d be farther “ahead” according to a lot of traditional deDinitions.
we are having a blast, learning a ton, and growing more than we had thought we could.
Once again, I can’t tell you what we did right or wrong. There’s a Dine balance between active lifestyle design and recklessness! All I can tell you is that we are having a blast, learning a ton, and growing more than we had thought we could.
For now, weʼll take that. For us, thatʼs what breaking the template is all about.
Baker is currently traveling through New Zealand, Australia, and Thailand – Find him at ManVsDebt.com and on Twitter
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Untemplating the Tools Better Late Than Never At the age of 17, I got a jump on my peers and got a foot into the corporate world. I was able to turn a high school internship into a fulltime entry level position at a well known >inancial >irm at the age of 18. Putting college on the back‐burner, I worked my ass off and climbed up. Within 10 years, I had a vicepresident title (with the salary to match), an ofDice with a window, my own assistant, and managed quite a large sum of money with a high level of responsibility and prestige.
And I couldnʼt have cared less. Prestige doesn’t ful>ill the soul. Neither does money. Following your dreams
does. I tried to maintain a bit of individuality, but the tattoos underneath the suit didn’t do much to help me stand out in a way I felt comfortable. The green spikes and mohawks from my teenage years had turned into a clean‐cut image and demeanor. The decision on where to place new tattoos involved how they’d appear at work. All of a sudden, ‘Norcross’ had a Mr. attached to the front of it, and people began calling me ‘sir’ without a hint of irony.
And I slowly became miserable. After the market crash in late 2008 and early 2009, I lost it. Watching folks who had toiled away at their jobs for 20, 30, even 40 years freaking out because they now had to postpone their retirement gave me a moment of clarity. My job and my lifestyle owned me. And if I didn’t do something about it soon, I’d be stuck.
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How My Dreams Became My Lifestyle Since I was a kid, computers and technology is what I did for ‘enjoyment’. What began as a hobby and being helpful to friends and family began to turn into a realistic career. By this time, however, I was married, had a 1yearold son, and a mountain of debt from my wife’s law school education. I had responsibilities. So my dreams took a backseat. I tinkered at night and on the weekends, but that was about it. So in June 2009, after talking a lot with my wife and some close friends, I decided I was
Prestige doesn’t fulfill the soul. Neither does money. Following your dreams does.
going to do it. I was going to follow my dreams. So I gave my boss a 5‐month notice and began the process of breaking my corporate mindset and
untemplating my life, building a freelance design & development business, while at the same time returning to school to Dinish that bachelor’s degree I never got around to Dinishing. Clients came in quicker than I ever imagined they would. What I thought would take 6–9 months happened in 6 weeks. I worked over 100 hours a week. I slept an average of 4 hours a night. I nearly disappeared from public.
And it was worth it On December 18th 2009, I left my job, the safety of the ofDice and started MY life. The one I chose for myself. At the age of 29, I Dinally started living my own life on my terms.
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How Social Media Broke the Mold
I left my job, the safety of the office and started MY life. The one I chose for myself.
I had long been active on sites like Twitter and BrazenCareerist.com. While I had been blogging for years, it was sporadic at best. I had more fun building and designing blogs than I ever did writing them. And as I connected with more and more people in the social media space, I realized that my skill for assisting folks with technology was a real gift. Like most folks, I learned by trial and error. I have always had a cynical look on the world of marketing and advertising (going back to my punkrock roots), but I couldn’t deny the real connections I had been making in social media. Not to mention client leads and wordofmouth recommendations that I began receiving. Seemingly from nowhere, I was becoming an authority, and expert even. Quite the jump from the ‘geek’ I had always classiDied myself as.
How to Use the Tools to Break the Template Lifestyle I’ll be the Dirst to admit, I’m a gadget geek and a computer nerd. I had a computer in my home the day I was born, and began writing simple dBase+ and QBasic code at the age of 9. So I’m naturally inclined to use technology to make a task easier. So do it! Don’t just run out and buy a Mac because the commercials say they’re easier. Sit down, >igure out what you need your technology to do, then Dind out the best way to do it. After all, technology is simply a tool, a means to an end. And yes, get out there and begin to connect with likeminded folks. Don’t just turn your Twitter steam into another place to spit out your newest blog post, but really connect. Reply to people. Comment on posts you Dind interesting. Have a personality, not just a username.
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Whatʼs Next? Sit down, figure out what you need your technology to do, then find out the best way to do it.
I have no idea. And that’s a good thing. I’m expected to graduate in late 2011 with a degree in IT Management, and my freelance business could get to the point that I never return to an of>ice. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I get to be a better father, husband, and friend. I get to be content with the work I am doing. And I get to be the tattooed nerd in jeans and a tshirt that I always knew I was.
Norcross lives in St. Petersburg, FL — Find him at andrewnorcross.com and restlesslikeme.com, and on Twitter
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Untemplating the Mind The Untemplate Lifestyle Has Never Been More Realistic What an opportunity that we have ahead of us. I’m not sure everyone’s aware of the amazing time that we are living in. Technology and globalization are giving us access to an impressive amount of tools and people that only 10 years ago were unimaginable. Really, what will escape from the realm of possibility for all of us in the 21st century, in 2010? Combine the tools of communication, productivity and automation with people’s desire to improve their lives and form strong relationships, and the opportunities are endless. The untemplate lifestyle is knocking on your door. It’s here. And the reason why you should answer its call, it’s because the possibilities justify it.
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Just to be clear, this is not a dreamy lifestyle. It’s not an unrealistic lifestyle.
Technology and globalization are giving us access to an impressive amount of tools and people that only 10 years ago were unimaginable.
It’s not a lifestyle without any money. It’s not the lifestyle for the immature. And I can assure you that it is deDinitely not an easy lifestyle. It’s the lifestyle for people that are tired of society’s rules and barriers, that can see that there’s something better in the future, and that are willing to work hard enough to achieve it.
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The End Of Standard Requirements And My Personal Untemplater Story
…you have to realize, among other things, that there are no longer any “have to’s.”
To be serious about this path you have to realize, among other things, that there are no longer any “have to’s.” There is no clear decision, no safe choice, no stable life. The biggest consequence of all this innovation and globalization is a fast paced change, and the most important thing about it is that there’s no way to escape it. So if you think that you have to have a college degree or that you have to have a corporate job in order to have a safe life, you are in for a big surprise. The only thing you need to have is independency of ideals. Since everyone can be affected by changes happening in any place on Earth, you might as well take your life in your own hands and enjoy while you are at it. That is what I realized not too long ago. When you consider where I come from (Buenos Aires, Argentina), understanding that I could live life by my own set of rules was not simple. We are way behind the US in entrepreneurial spirit, dreams of professional freedom and de>iance of the status quo. But thanks to the internet, I was able to Dind information that taught me more than college ever did, and connected with amazing people that inspired me more than my family ever could. Only a year ago I was studying Marketing at the best university in the country and was the youngest Sales Executive in B2B at one of the Top 5 Argentinean companies. I was constantly pampered, offered a great corporate future and a dreamy paycheck.
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And I was miserable. So, I had to change something, and just a couple of months ago, I did. I left my job, went into the startup and freelance world, and in June 2010 I’m going to move to Perth, Australia to study. Needless to say, my life has never been better. Hey, we have to walk the talk, right?
Loving The Uncertainty Is The Only Way To Smile Funny thing about untemplaters: they are all happy.
Now, let me explain to you something very important, maybe the key element of every untemplater: you have to live one day at the time. You have to trust that as long as you bust your ass going after what you believe in, things will fall in place. The moment you start getting worried because you can’t see your future clearly is the moment where the claws of fear and boredom will get a hold of you again. In reality, no one can see the future clearly, but some think they can. Nobody knows what will happen, but the only difference is that untemplaters realize it, accept it, and make the best out of their time while believing in themselves and their vision. Funny thing about untemplaters: they are all happy. I am not kidding. When you meet them, you can tell that they enjoy their lives, they like what they do and grow doing it. You shake their hand, look them in the eyes, and it’s an immediate spiritual connection that only happens between two people that have decided to be different, to be better. There’s no denying that glow. Believe me, once you embrace the lifestyle, you’ll see it too. It’s just beautiful.
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The Endless Dot Connection I always quote Steve Jobs when trying to explain my decisions: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.” There’s always some dot, some activity, person or moment in your life that, had it not happened, you wouldn’t be where you are today.
The path is easier than ever, you just have to walk it.
It’s because I hated my job and university that I looked for intellectual growth on the internet. It’s because of that that I started blogging, which led me to connect with all these amazing people who I’m launching Untemplater with. I don’t need to tell you that dot connecting can go very far in your past, but it doesn’t stop being truth. Now, the real reason I like this quote so much is because nowadays the dots are endless. Think about it: how many dots can stumble into your life if you embrace globalization, technology and your dreams? The path is easier than ever, you just have to walk it. But when the whole world is your market and your home, walking it is absolutely thrilling.
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In The End, Itʼs All You. But We Can Help! Untemplater is not for everyone. You have to face your own fears. You have to WANT to have a better and more interesting life. Otherwise, all our advice will remain in the written word, and for you to accomplish your goals, you have to turn the words into action. But, if you actually do have that little voice whispering to you every time you go to the ofDice telling you that there has to be something more (which I’m betting that you do), then we want you to join us. We have all been there and want to help you break out of the template as well. You have no idea how good it feels.
Untemplater is not for everyone. You have to face your own fears. You have to want to have a better and more interesting life.
One last thing: I don’t like cute dreamy visions of the world, optimism for optimism’s sake. I’m a very realistic person. I have a thing for philosophy and psychology, not a thing for fantasy and utopia. I say this because we are serious about our proposal. We want you to break the template lifestyle in a realistic way. We want you to have the time and money you want to achieve your objectives, and the appropriate mentality to enjoy it. It’s easy to say things like “follow your passion”, but we will go far beyond that, we will tackle all the little things that make goals come true. I am very passionate about Untemplater, not only because of the amazing people behind it, but because I can’t tell you how sad it is to realize that few people are smiling their way through life like we do. We need more company.
In 2010, we need your company. Now, whereʼs that smile?!
Carlos currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Find him at OwlSparks.com and on Twitter
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Donʼt Stop There. Take Action! We hope the stories of these six remarkable lives entertained and inspired you. We’re a small group of unconventional folks who hope to build a thriving community for anyone who ever sought more out of life—and we hope to help you learn how to sidestep the traditional life to Dind the career, relationships, and lifestyle that makes you come alive!
For concrete, actionable steps to live an unconventional lifestyle, join us at Untemplater.com to work where you want to work, live how you want to live, and be who you want to be in 2010.
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The Untemplater Team Adam Baker Baker is a husband to Courtney, Dada to Milligan, and kickass blogger over at Man Vs. Debt. The Baker family philosophy is simple: Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love. They are currently trying to do just that somewhere in between New Zealand and Thailand.
Andrew Norcross Norcross is a Wordpress ninja, freelance web developer, IT consultant, student, husband, father, and overall regular geekforhire. He currently lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his kickass wife and rock and roll son. Find him at AndrewNorcross.com.
Carlos Miceli Carlos is an Argentinean blogger, freelancer and entrepreneur with a thing for philosophy, psychology and social media. He got tired of settling with the best Buenos Aires had to offer and is now pursuing the best the world has to offer. In 2010 he’ll move to Perth, Australia, looking for a deeper learning experience than just what a classroom brings. Read his continuous efforts to upset the established order at OwlSparks.
Cody McKibben Cody is a nomadic entrepreneur, lifestyle designer, and traveler who writes at Thrilling Heroics. He provides nonproTits and innovative social entrepreneurs with web development and social media consulting services, and also serves as Advisor, Donor & Volunteer for In Search Of Sanuk.
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Jun Loayza Jun is the CoFounder and CMO of Viralogy and the President of SocialMediaMarketing.com. When he's not building his startup companies, you can Tind Jun doing cardio at the gym, optimizing his Tinances, or spending time with his girlfriend Kim Ear. Find him at JunLoayza.com.
Monica OʼBrien Monica is a Marketing Consultant specializing in marketing strategy and consumer insights at the juncture of new media and traditional marketing. She is author of MonicaObrien.com and the recent book Social Pollination.
Dariane Nabor Dariane is our incredibly helpful intern. She is currently an undergraduate student at UCLA, expecting to graduate in 2010 with a B.A. in Sociology. Born and raised in Delano, a town in California’s central valley, she’s also the founder/editor of The Popcorn Kids, and a Independent Consultant for Scentsy, Inc
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Did You Like this Free Manifesto? Please spread the message! Email this book to all your friends who are stuck in deadend jobs they hate… send it to your relatives who recently got laid off when the economy tanked. Review it. Quote it. Remix it! Whatever you do with it, it's time to start taking control of your life and your career! Anything is possible. But it's up to you to Digure out what you're passionate about and start taking ACTION towards making your dreams a reality.
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