Bucking Conventional Norms

Last week, I listened to MadFientist interview his younger brother (Brian) on his podcast on a canal in Venice, Italy. If you don’t know who the MadFientist is, he is someone who saved and invested a high percentage of his income and retired from corporate America in his early 30’s. His younger brother on the other hand is a musician, who currently is not employed, living off his savings, and traveling Europe, while figuring out his next path in life.

The way Brian was able to do this was by bucking conventional norms and charting his own path of what most people would describe as extreme frugality. During the podcast Brian ventures into some frugal lands which others would not dream of adventuring to, including living in an “apartment” with no plumbing or HVAC. Now, while at first glance you might say “I’d never do that,” it brings up a point that I’ve noticed over the years. If you’re willing to buck conventional norms and not live the American Dream of buying a house, a new car on loan, etc., then you can accomplish many things for a much lower cost and with less constraints.

Let’s run through an example. Say you have a couple who is 25, married, and just bought a house. They make about the same money and could not afford the house on one income. One of the spouses, we’ll call them Spouse A, has a dream of opening a yoga studio in town and blogging about yoga full-time. Well right away they have a problem. Businesses, usually, are not running in the black from the start and these people have a mortgage they can’t afford on one salary. Therefore, if they want to keep their current lifestyle, they would have to build up a big stack of cash to make this dream a reality.

Now we have another couple, with the same goal. Only difference is this couple is willing to buck some conventional norms. They definitely don’t care what others think, and therefore are willing to sell the house, move in with one of their parents, or pay a friend a couple hundred bucks a month to crash on a mattress on the floor in their basement. They’re also willing to sell one of their two cars, not go on a vacation for a year or two while they get the business up and running, etc. In this scenario, I think it’s easy to imagine a quick path for the spouse to start the business, making their dream a reality. While this couple is willing to chart their own path, right now, the other couple continues to work, saving a little bit of money, while hoping they can get to their goal in 36 months.

If you had to pick which couple’s business would be successful after three years, who would you pick? The first couple might not have even started their business at that point! If you have a goal or a passion that you without a doubt want to pursue, you might need to buck the trend when it comes to societal norms to reach your goal in a timely fashion. Those who care less about what others think and what their neighbors are doing have a leg up on the competition.

4 thoughts on “Bucking Conventional Norms

  • Doing anything only because it is what everyone else is doing is usually a bad idea (no, it is always a bad idea – you may do the usual thing from time to time, but it should always be a conscious choice). Most folks float through life without much thought about how things will work out. They are only concerned with meeting the next need. Purposeful, thoughtful living will usually lead one to the better individual decisions for them and, over time, to a divergent path from the crowd.
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  • New businesses unfortunately have a high failure rate. What about running the yoga studio out of their present home, in the living room. area for example. I agree that thinking outside the box opens opportunities. I listened to the podcast also. I thought at first he had no toilet, which would be a deal breaker for most but it was just on another floor. My parents first lived in a small apartment where four families shared the toilet down the stairs. That was quite common in Europe where there were also bath houses for the weekly bath.

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