interview

A few months ago I posted a review of a life-changing book I read recently titled UnWorking: Exit the Rat Race, Live Like a Millionaire, And Be Happy Now by my friend Clark Vandeventer.

Today’s Clark’s back answering my questions on how to design a life that involves two or more passions, how to know when it’s time to make a change in your lifestyle design, how to build the life of your dreams and still have enough money to take care of your family, and more.

Enjoy!

Can you briefly introduce yourself and let my blog readers know how lifestyle design became such a big passion for you?

My career got off to a fast start and I was probably the oldest 25 year old in the world. Then I faced a string of failures that led me to moving my wife and then two kids into my in­laws garage. It was an embarrassing time for me personally and I retreated from many relationships, but what I did love about that season of my life was all the time with my wife and kids. When I thought about going “back to the grind,” I thought about all of the time I would be sacrificing with my family. I wanted to be a full­time breadwinner, but also a full time dad. In the garage I started to realize the best way to accomplish that was to not get a job, so I started learning then how to make money on my terms through jobs I could do that were designed around my life instead of getting a job and designing my life around a job.

Your family’s financial resources come from having a patchwork income. This is something many people find fascinating…including me! So many people are told to settle for one career or job because it is the only way to have financial security or to be financially independent. What advice do you have for someone who has 2, 3 or even more very diverse passions and she/he doesn’t want to focus on just one?

I would say keep going! Lots of people will tell you to focus on one thing and take that one thing as far as you can, but I think that’s bad advice for two reasons. First, let’s assume it makes good financial sense to go all in on one thing. Still, is life all about financial sense? Life should be lived to the fullest and when the end comes do you really want to look back at your life and wonder what could have been if you hadn’t given up on that thing you loved? Second, I actually don’t think it’s a good financial decision. If you get all of your income from a job, that means that if you lost that job, you’d lose all your income. Where’s the security in that? If diversification is such a good idea for retirement, why not bring that idea into your thinking about income all throughout life. By having several “patches” of income, I can lose a patch and the effect won’t be devastating. If I lost one of the larger patches, sure, it would hurt, but I wouldn’t be destitute. I could survive on my remaining patches until I replaced the old one.

In UnWorking you write about how your vision for life isn’t set in stone but will always be changing and evolving. How has that been true for your family? How do you know when it’s time to make a change in your lifestyle design?

Two years ago we moved out of the house we’d been renting in Lake Tahoe, put all our stuff in storage, and entered a season of semi­nomadic living. After travels in Thailand, Malaysia, Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and a road­trip across the United States, we’ve decided it’s time to settle again. All that stuff is coming out of storage and we’re moving into another long­term rental in Lake Tahoe. This wasn’t a result of the lobbying efforts of any one member of our family. We were all ready. I think this is because we’re all on the same page as a result of truly living a shared life and being in sync with one another. In my book I talk about how my wife and I have maintained a shared vision despite drastic changes in our life since we first met. It’s the result of lots and lots of talking. And lots of wine!

My favorite quote from the book is “hoard experiences not money.” How can we design our lives so that building experiences in a high priority and at the same time provide enough money to take care of our family’s financial needs?

This is a tough one. I think it comes down to whether your view of the world is based on scarcity or abundance. My worldview is based on abundance, so I’ve never hesitated to spend the last bits of money to my name on an experience because I figure I can always make more money. When I turned 35 earlier this year, though, I started thinking about certain financial milestones I wanted to reach by the time I turned 40 and built those into a 5­year­plan. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, though, so I don’t want to just put my nose the grindstone. That’s why there’s still plenty of adventure in the next five years. For my wife and I, it’s gotten easier over time for three main reasons. First, we’ve learned how to actually make money. When we started out, all we really knew how to do was be employees. We had to actually learn how to make money and how to make money on our terms. Second, we’ve gained momentum. An object in motion tends to remain in motion. Third, the world is adapting to us. This way of thinking is weird now, but it’s the future normal. And, I should add a fourth reason it’s gotten easier to take care of financial needs and live epicly: we’ve already burnt through lots of bad ideas.

One of my favorite ideas in UnWorking is that if you don’t live epicly right now­ today­ you won’t live epicly in future no matter how much your life circumstances change. Why do you think that is true? What are some ways readers can make sure they are living epicly every day?

So many people keep waiting for things to turn their way. Instead, we must do the turning. We’ll all find ourselves down and out from time to time. Some self­loathing is okay and hopefully you have a good friend who will commiserate with you for a while, but then it’s time to take charge and make the most or your circumstances, wherever you are, and then go to work at changing your circumstances if need be. I don’t want an epic day or an epic week. I’m not looking for an epic vacation. I want an epic life. A day or a week are like an escape. You want to arrange your life so that everyday is an amazing day. From time to time, I think it’s important that we ask ourselves what’s around us that we’re not taking full advantage of. In my book I share some action steps you can take for living epicly now. One is to plan an epic week. Not a vacation, but a week at home where you’re still engaged in the business of life. Plan a week that includes work and routines and that you are passionate about, and… Write a love letter. Have sex. Eat delicious food. Exercise. Live.

For readers of this blog who are wanting to take and active role in designing their own lifestyle, what are some practical steps they can take this week?

Make a list of five things you value most in life. Now look at your budget. Where is your money going? Are you spending your money on the things you say you value most? If the top line items in your budget don’t line up with what you say you value most, that means you are giving your life energy to things that don’t really matter to you. Whatever we have in life, we have because we’ve made a trade. We traded part of our life to get money and then we traded the money to get stuff. So whatever we have, we have because we’ve traded part of our life to get it. What are you willing to trade your life for? Ask yourself this question constantly. You want to make a good trade.

If readers would like to learn more about your family, follow your adventures, order your book, or invite you to speak at a conference, where can they keep in touch with you?

Check out unworkingbook.com where you can read the Prologue, Introduction, and detailed chapter descriptions of my book as well as link to where you can buy the book. You can also just search for “unWorking” on Amazon or go to the book directly on Amazon here. My travel and lifestyle design blog is FamilyTrek.org and you can like Family Trek on Facebook. I’m also on Twitter @ clarkvand. I’m really interested in speaking at conferences, so would love to hear from anyone who’s organizing events. I love talking with anyone who’s read my book or who’s trying to live deliberately in their own way, so I’d love to hear from your readers!

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