How to Create Your Own Smalltopia: An Interview with Tammy Strobel

August 31st, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I don’t really need to say much about Tammy Strobel, because I’m sure you all already know her.

Tammy runs the super-popular small living blog Rowdy Kittens. She was recently featured in not just The New York Times, but also, Yahoo Finance, and a bunch of other places. Why? Because she’s one of the pioneers of the minimalist movement that is changing the foundations of our society.

Tammy just released an amazing digital work: Smalltopia: A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself.

I was lucky enough to still be able to interview her after all of her recent media coverage.

I’ve read the e-book from start to finish, and it is one of the more remarkable guides to self-employment that I’ve read this year. I’m not going to say anymore, and let the interview with Tammy do the talking. I even contributed a small bit on my own experience creating a minimalist business.

On to the interview! We spoke about developing multiple streams of income, quitting your day job, and how simplicity is the ultimate freedom:

Everett: For our readers who haven’t been following your exploits religiously on your blog, Rowdykittens, can you briefly describe what a Smalltopia is?

Tammy: Smalltopia is a practical guide to working for yourself. The guide reviews tips, tools, and strategies that will help folks leave a traditional 9-5 job and create personal freedom through a very small business. The guide is broken up into three sections: Smalltopia Philosophy, Smalltopia Essentials, and Smalltopia Case Studies.

The part I’m most excited about is the case study section. It features stories from more than a dozen folks that run the gamut of experience. From those who are just getting ready to break up with their day job, to crazy successful small business owners. The list of rockstar contributors include: Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, Jessica Reeder, Chris O’Byrne, Russ Roca, Laura Crawford, Karol Gajda, Chloe Adeline, Victoria Vargas, Karen Yaeger, Jules Clancy, Heather Levin, Matt Cheuvront, Tyler Tervooren, and the one and only Everett Bogue!

Everett: Imagine I’m the average reader of Far Beyond The Stars, why would I want to create a Smalltopia?

Tammy: You said in a recent blog post that Far Beyond the Stars is about one very specific thing, freedom. Creating your own Smalltopia will give you the structure to live life on your own terms and the freedom to pursue your dreams.

Everett: You recently quit your job in order to build your own very small business. Why did you decide that working for other people wasn’t what you were into?

Tammy: During the past ten years, I spent time working in the investment management industry and then transitioned into the social service sector. I learned a lot in both of these fields, but working for someone else wasn’t fulfilling.

I love working with others, but I disliked the rigid routines and unequal ranking of people in traditional office environments. And spending over 40 hours a week trapped indoors was starting to make me feel crazy. I wanted the freedom to be able to work on projects that made me happy, and more importantly, I wanted the freedom to choose when, where, and with whom I wanted to work with.

Everett: In Smalltopia you talk about the importance of diversifying your “moolah”. Most people have all of their income coming from one source, which obviously means if you lose that job you’re sunk. How important is it to have multiple streams of income?

Tammy: I believe having multiple streams of income is essential to financial security. For example, my income streams currently come from freelance writing projects, books sales, consulting, and some web design work. For instance, if my book sales decrease one month, I can easily take on more freelance writing projects and adapt accordingly.

Like you said, if you’re laid off from a “traditional job” you’re stuck with no income stream. So in reality, I don’t think traditional jobs are very safe. It’s a myth that many of us (including myself) buy into. The generation of folks working for one company and building a pension is fading away. The collapse of Enron and recent bankruptcy of many financial management corporations demonstrate the illusion of “stable” income. Everything changes with time so it’s better to build a diverse and dynamic income model.

Everett: How has living a small lifestyle allowed you to focus on creating multiple income sources?

Tammy: Living a small lifestyle has reduced my expenses tremendously. I can afford to gamble on “risky” opportunities to develop more markets for my work. Now that I’m not shopping so much or constantly worrying about maintaining my stuff, I have the time and energy to focus on a variety of projects.

Everett: How has living a minimalist life contributed towards building your successful Smalltopia?

Tammy: Minimalism allows me the freedom and focus to pursue projects I’m passionate about which makes a huge difference in the quality of work I’m producing. Being happy and motivated comes through in my work and has contributed to a greater success in my business :)

In addition, I have the time to build relationships with people. And that is critically important to creating a resilient business.

Everett: What is one action that our readers can take towards moving towards building a Smalltopia of their own?

Tammy: Well you only asked for one action, but I’m going to give our readers two tips.

First, get your finances together and pay of any outstanding debts. This is essential because it will give you a lot of freedom and flexibility in the long run. Make sure you prioritize paying off your debt by setting aside part of each paycheck. Little by little your debt will decrease and you’ll have more freedom to do what you love.

Second, start a blog. Blogging is an incredible way to connect with like minded individuals, the perfect place to test business ideas, and build a fan base. For instance, all of my freelance writing contracts and books sales have occurred because RowdyKittens. Without a home base on the Internet, building a small small business can be difficult.


You can check out Tammy Strobel’s new e-book Smalltopia: A Practical Guide to Working for Yourself here.

How to Define a New American Dream

August 30th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

For the last 50 years we woke up, flipped on the TV, and saw what they wanted us to believe.

The American Dream was always a lie, it just took us awhile to figure that out.

If we’d just buy one more car, got a bigger house, or upgraded our surround sound system, we’d finally be happy. We watched hundreds of sitcom families shopping for new designer digs and we thought to ourselves ‘I deserve that too.’

Then we went out and bought so much more than we could ever afford. And you know what? That was just fine for the corporations, because they made money. And the banks, because they made money. So they loaned you all of the money you ever wanted to buy whatever it was you saw on TV.

Was it fine for you? No, because now you’re stuck in debt and living the sedentary lifestyle.

When you have it all, you can’t be free too.

Every item that you add to your inventory of useless junk in your closet or the 2nd half of your two-car garage actually contradicts your ability to achieve the true American Dream.

The American Dream changed, the new definition is freedom.

How do you achieve the new American Dream? Realize that buying more isn’t the answer. Burn your TV (or throw it out the window.)

Stand up from your couch and never sit down again, because this freedom is real, and you can’t buy it at Walmart.

Declare independence and start to realize that how you experience the world is the real dream.


This was my contribution to Karol Gajda’s newly released right-on manifesto titled The American Dream is Dead (Long Live the American Dream!)

Karol asked 25 incredible people, including heroes of mine such as Derek Sivers, Chris Brogan, Leo Babauta and a whole bunch of others. Check it out.

Imagine a World Without Books

August 27th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

How to Liberate Your Library in 3 Simple Steps

[Note, before you read this: Far Beyond The Stars is written for digital nomads and vagabonding minimalists (see sidebar), not necessarily academics with huge libraries — though they are welcome to read.

Obviously there are great reasons to have a huge book collection, and books as artifacts and souvenirs will never go away. What I’m offering here is an alternative to the status-quo based on what I perceive the future to be.

That being said, I do still read physical books. I just don’t keep them after I’m done with them. I gift, donate, recycle. If I kept them, I wouldn’t be as free as I am now.]

Seth Godin announced last week that Linchpin was the last book that he’d publish in the traditional form.

In addition, Tim Ferriss published a sizable post about how authors really make money. His answer: not by selling books.

Who knows if Seth is pulling a Brett Favre or actually abandoning the publishing industry, but the point he makes is clear:

Physical books are a thing of the past.

They’re expensive to produce, difficult to distribute, and it’s hard to get one published. More importantly, the publishing industry does not compensate writers nearly enough for their time and impact on the world– for example, Chris Guillebeau is spending more money out of pocket on his book tour than he was paid to publish his upcoming book.

The world is changing.

Ebook sales on Amazon have outpaced the sales of hardback books. It’s no secret why, physical books just aren’t practical anymore.

Yes, books are kind of nice to hold and read, but for a digital vagabond the idea of lugging around a library is terrifying.

This is the age of the digital, it’s only natural that authors will start moving towards complete digital distribution.

I already have started pursuing this digital reality, with my own reading habits and the way that I’ve published my books.

I’ve never been involved in the physical publishing industry, and probably never will be. Though I have been courted by lit agents promising me riches (really?) and fame, in exchange for giving up my profitable business. That’s nonsense.

Would you get on the Titanic if you knew it was going to sink?

There are of course many more reasons to abandon the idea of a physical book, many of which benefit the reader more than the author.

1. Less impact on the environment.

Printed books are produced on paper (which comes from trees) and then shipped all over the country. A large amount of fuel is wasted between the creation of the work and the eventual arrival in your hands.

2. Ultra-mobility sans library.

When I made the decision to begin living a minimalist lifestyle, I abandoned the idea of having a physical library of books. Any physical books that I purchase I eventually gift, recycle, or resell to a used bookstore. Why? Because maintaining a large library and being location independent is a costly endeavor. If I kept all of my books, I never would have this life.

Shipping an entire library every time I picked a new city to live in would be financially irresponsible and would impede my freedom.

3. Less barriers to entry for writers.

Writing a book is easy, getting a publisher to publish your book is about as impossible as winning the lottery. You have to prove that your book will sell ahead of time, and for most people this is a difficult task — sometimes you don’t actually know how well a book will do until you put it out into the world.

If you skip the publisher and go straight to the digital market, you’re skipping the gatekeepers and have an easier chance at success.

4. You actually support the author with your purchase.

When you buy a physical book, the author is lucky if they get 10-15% of the sale price. Where does the rest of your money go? Production costs and fat people sitting behind desks deciding what your read — we like to call these people gatekeepers, and they’re obsolete.

If you buy digital the author can get anywhere from 30% to 100% of your money, depending on the platform. Amazon’s Kindle platform pays anywhere from 30% to now 70%! (If you let them control the price.) My own sales from my Minimalist Business Bookstore achieve 50%-100% of sales, and all of the money that I’m not getting goes to readers who are supporting my work.

That is an amazing change and allows me and a growing number of idea makers to have the ability to actually make a living from our work. Why choose to get your book printed if you can actually make a profitable business around a packaged digital idea?

For example, one of my top sellers this month for my books was the amazing Tammy Strobel, who was recently featured in The New York Times.

5. Access to your library anywhere.

Our society is increasingly mobile. Sometimes you’ll want to check a fact in a book, but you’re in Thailand (with Ross Hill, Cody McKibben, and very soon Colin Wright) and your book is sitting in a basement in Idaho. This conundrum is avoided by building a digital library that is accessible from anywhere in the world.

6. Less waiting for books to arrive.

When you buy a physical book, chances are you’ll have to either commute to pick the book up or order it from Amazon. Either way you have to wait for the book to arrive. You can avoid this by declaring independence from the physical and downloading books from the Internet.

With bookstores closing as fast as they are, it’s even harder now to find a bookstore that will stock the book you want to read anyway. Most bookstores only stock bestsellers and new books. If you want a rare but brilliant find, good luck!

7. Knowledge over ownership.

The information in the book is in you after you read it. The information, if valuable, becomes a part of your brain’s knowledge-base.

Why keep a physical reminder of the ideas?

Truth be told most or us will never read a book twice, so why are we keeping books around for our entire lifetimes? To me that’s just silly. Read the book and get rid of it. Alternatively, just buy digital on Kindle or from indie authors and read on a device or computer.

8. You need less fans to support the work.

With traditional book publishing, you need hundreds of thousands of people to make a book a success. This is because of the costs of distribution — most of the money you spend on a book goes towards the printing and shipping of the physical object.

When you go digital you only need Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans.

This means a lot more authors have a chance at being successful in a digital world. If I’d gone with traditional publishing, I would have starved long before my message reached the world — but because I embraced the digital world my writing business is insanely profitable. To me that decision is a no-brainer.

9. It’s a simple way to achieve freedom.

All of these reasons lead back to the central theme behind this blog: freedom is our goal. Embracing the digitization of knowledge will lead us father along with that journey.

How to liberate your library from the physical.

Alright, so by this point I imagine I’ve convinced you that maintaining a physical library is a pointless act routed in the idea of what our lives should look like.

The American dream of everyone having their very own private library is a fallacy and is directly imposing on our quest for freedom.

So how do you make a change?

Liberating your library is incredibly simple:

1. Embrace the idea of information abundance.

You can have most books at your fingers instantly using Amazon’s Kindle distribution system, by searching for information, or purchasing independent digital books like mine and others. This means that you don’t have to maintain a library at all, because the library is a shared resource that we all enjoy at any moment. This is a brilliant moment in the evolution of the human race, we should embrace information abundance and free our minds.

2. Downsize and eventually eliminate your library.

Your physical library is keeping you from being free, so you need to eliminate it. This is no easy process, I know from experience. We tend to become very sentimentally attached to the books we’ve read.

We say ‘what if I want to reread page 324 of Harry Potter 4 someday?’ Well, you can always download that book again! However, chances are you’ll never re-read 99% of the books you’ve already read, so saving them is pointless.

Start by getting rid of every book that you’ve read that you didn’t like or are certain you’ll never read again.

Next eliminate every book you’ve already read.

Then move on to books that you wish you’d read but seriously have never had the time. Really, you’re actually going to read the collected works of William Shakespeare from start to finish? I think not. Even if you do wake up in the middle of the night wishing you could decode Hamlet, you can download it online.

Then read and eliminate systematically every book you still own that you actually want and can read.

Then donate, sell in bulk, or recycle all books.

3. Declare yourself free from the idea of the physical book.

Once you’ve embraced the idea of information abundance, you can basically do anything you want. Travel for five weeks in the Australian outback, hike up to Machu Picchu, or perhaps sit on the beach in Nicaragua for seven weeks. The possibilities are, as always, endless.

When you combine the ideas that I present in The Art of Being Minimalist with your freedom from your books, you can become free and live and work anywhere in the world.


Thank you, as always, for your help spreading the word about this story.

I have an interview with Tammy Strobel coming up on Monday about her new book Smalltopia. Don’t miss out! Join 5,700+ subscribers and sign up for free updates via RSS or Email.


Don’t forget, you can still comment, even though I disabled comments. Write about this on your blog, or get in touch on Twitter.

7 Ways to Invest Your Time (besides commenting on blogs)

August 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why I ‘simplified’ commenting, and what to do about it.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

We all know that time is your most important asset.

How you spend your time decides whether you actually eliminate your attachment to your many physical possessions, build your minimalist business, or sit in front of the TV.

We also know that the Internet is interactive.

We’ve been told that we need to discuss or contribute to ‘the conversation’. Many blogs thrive on people coming back again and again to be spoon-fed new content.

A good way for bloggers to ‘be interactive’ is to promote commenting, because it asks their reader to invest physical time into a site. This in turn builds a mental connection between the reader and the site, which leads them to come back more often.

When I used to work at New York Magazine we had a number of commenters that, as far as we could tell, spent up to ten hours a day commenting on every single story that the bloggers there put up –and I photo edited an average of 64 blog stories a day at New York, so imagine how many blog comments this was!– I’d obviously never want you to spend your time this way, but yet some people do.

Here’s the thing:

I don’t want to spoon feed you, I want you to create your own work.

You might have noticed that I’ve had commenting turned off for the last 4 weeks. This is partially because I was taking a digital sabbatical, and I needed peace of mind while I was gone.

Well, I’m back now, but comments aren’t.

I realized while I was gone that perhaps the most important thing I could ever do to help you, is to turn comments off on my blog.

Why? Because the comments you leave on my blog are wasting your time — you have better things to do that to comment on my blog.

I might bring comments back, who knows, it all depends on how I feel. I might bring them back once in awhile for a post or two that needs discussion. I just know that for now, they’re going to be off for the majority of blog posts.

Further reasons for eliminating comments on your blog.

  • My average blog post receives 35 comments. That’s around 7% of my blog audience. Most people don’t care that much.
  • Most people don’t read blog comments. How often do you see actual conversations take place? Most skip to the bottom and voice their opinion without regard to what was said above.
  • Most of these commenters fall into three categories: people who have an opinion about everything (but never do anything), bloggers who want to get my attention, or confused first time visitors who want to know why I’m ‘crazy’.
  • There are also spam comments that take time and effort to deal with.
  • The more time you spend answering comments, the more you get. This, like email, is an endless cycle that will eat your time. This is why I don’t answer most blog comments, because if I do, I get twice as many blog comments.
  • Many A-list bloggers choose to eliminate comments on their sites after a certain growth period. Seth Godin has had comments off for years, Leo Babauta opted to remove comments Zen Habits half a year ago (and was still named the top blog of the year by Time Magazine for 2010.) There are others, but those are two of my heroes, so I mention them here.
  • My blog traffic has exploded to 64,000 readers per month while I was not even here to oversee the operation. Obviously being away from my blog encourages growth more than sitting around all day reading comments does.
  • I’m going Vagabonding. I’ll be spending extended periods away from the Internet and computers in the coming months. The last two weeks I was isolated away from the Internet in Wisconsin with my family, and in October I’ll be headed overseas to Peru for an extended period of time. I won’t be able to answer my blog comments from these places, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself in the experience as much as I could if I wasn’t constantly checking blog comments. One of the keys to vagabonding, as Rolf Potts would say, is disconnection.

The most important reason of all:

I believe that every moment you spend commenting on blogs, you’re wasting precious time that you could invest in finding your own freedom. It’s hypocritical for me to continue to teach you how to have a 2-hour workday and continue to have comments on this blog. I want to prove that a blog-based business can work without commenting. I think it will actually work better.

You should spend your time making work instead of getting caught up in the endless cycle of blog commenting.

What are you going to do with your time, now that you can’t comment on my blog?

There are many more important ways to spend your time, other than commenting on my blog. Here are 7 ways that you can interact on the Internet that don’t involve commenting.

1. Write about the blog post that you enjoyed (or hated) on your blog.

Did you hate what I said about not having cars? Write about how much of an obnoxious bastard I am for trying to save the planet and reclaim the streets. Or, better yet, If you really love my post, write about how much it changed your perspective. If you don’t have a blog, the best decision you can make is to start one right now. Go to and sign up for a free hosted blog to get you started.

2. Interview influentials about what they said in their blog post.

Only the most overwhelmed bloggers will say no to an Interview. I never will say no to an interview request — but it might take me some time to get back to you. Text interviews are best, as Skype is difficult to schedule. Interviews are one of the best ways to grow your own blog, get free consulting, and expose your readers to new ideas. A good interview can result in your blog receiving thousands of extra hits per day, depending on who you interview.

For a few good examples of how to do a good Interview see:
C.J. Anyasor interviewed 16+ bloggers about how to create the life you want.
Tyler Tervooren interviewed me about how to start a minimalist business.
I also have conducted interviews with dozens of people who I admire, including Joshua Becker, Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta, and many more.

Interviews really are the number one way to grow your blog (if you heard it was commenting, you were lied to.) Get out there and send people good questions to answer! Stop commenting on blogs.

3. Create your own work.

Nothing is a better use of time than working on your own stuff. Every moment you spend commenting is time you’re not making your own work.

How do you create your own work? Well, that’s up to you. Some people paint, some people photograph, some people write on blogs and create e-books, some people negotiate peace treaties between angry nations.

Creating work involves taking an action to create something in this world.

4. Learn.

Another great use of time is to learn new things about the world. Read a book, participate in an e-course, enroll in a college course, read a good blog from start to finish (I did this recently with Sivers’ blog, and I’m currently doing it with Ramit’s blog. I’m learning so much.)

How you learn is up to you, and depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to learn how to start a simple business, the best way to spend your time might be to actually start a business.

5. Promote work that you believe in.

Instead of blog commenting, why not invest your time in promoting the blog post that you really enjoyed? Sending a blog post into your social media network is a great way to contribute value to the people who follow you on these services.

I commonly retweet 2-3 blog posts that I really enjoyed from my all-star inner circle on an average day. This builds a connection between myself and the author in a much better way than leaving a comment does, because I’m exposing their work to new people. If I’d just commented, I’d simply be taking up their time.

6. Earn money.

Another great way to spend your time instead of commenting is to earn some money. A simple affiliate link to a product that you support can go a long way towards bringing in extra money. Most of the bloggers that you read have digital products that you can earn anywhere from 50%-65% commission selling.

For more information, see: How to Pay Your Fans to Support You or $2,300 in a Day, How to Support Quality Work.

7. Enjoy the sun.

You have finite time on this Earth. Someday you’re going be old and frail and wish you’d spend more time at the beach getting a nice tan, making hot love, or traveling the world.

All of these things are much more possible if you don’t spend all day commenting on blogs, and instead invest your time in the decisive elements that I listed above.

Surprise section! Should you turn off blog comments?

This section for A to B-list bloggers. If you’re not aiming to have a blog that supports your location independent life, you probably don’t need to read this.

No doubt this blog posts is going to shock a lot of people. Bloggers have a love/hate relationship with commenting.

Some bloggers have invested thousands of hours commenting on other blogs in order to try and get people to pay attention to them, others have comprehensive blog post answering schedules that take up hours of time.

One blogger I know sets an alarm in the middle of the night in order to wake up and make sure no one trolled his blog during the night! Yes, this is true.

When to turn off blog comments?

In the beginning of a blog, comments are essential. If you only have twelve readers, chances are you want them to stick around, and blog comments are a great way to do that. You can make every reader feel incredibly special and maybe they’ll write about you on their blog or something, and you’ll get more readers. I met some very cool people in the first month of my blog through comments.

So, I wouldn’t recommend turning off your blog comments until you reach what Chris Brogan calls ‘Escape Velocity.’ This is the moment when you’re able to support yourself exclusively from your blog. If you’re not living a full-time income from your blog, keep comments on until you do. Just don’t spend all day answering comments. Making work matters so much more.

Will my blog DIE if I turn off comments?!?!

As I said above, commenters are only a small percentage of your audience. That being said, it might be a good idea to give people an alternative call to action. Make it clear to people that instead of commenting, they can help you by spreading the word or doing an interview with you.

Paradoxically enough, having 35 people interview you about your blog post every time you post might take a lot of time, but your blog growth will explode. 35 comments won’t make your blog explode, it’ll just take up more time.

Turning off blog comments isn’t for everyone.

If your blog is built around the idea of a conversation, I’m not kidding, if you turn off comments everyone will probably leave.

However, if your blog is built around your ideas, if you’re a leader, if you’re a change-maker in your space. Chances are you’ll instead be able to dedicate 25% more time to creating great work.

I imagine because I won’t be spending time moderating comments, I’ll be able to double my blogging income over the next few months. I can probably write another whole e-book that helps a lot of people in the time that I used to spending making sure that people weren’t trolling my comments.

The most important part of this whole post is that I believe wholeheartedly that you can probably double your income if you stop spending so much time on comments. Stop commenting on blogs, start focusing on the important.

There are better ways to use your time, and now is the time to change the way that you invest.


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The True Purpose of Simplicity

August 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

We sometimes forget why we’re here, we aren’t looking where we’re going, or even where we’ve been.

We get all caught up in an idea about what we should be doing, and forget about what we really want to do.

I think what we want to do is to be free.

Instead we’re told by society that we’re supposed to buy a new car. We’re supposed to get our hair done a specific way. We’re supposed to go to college. We’re supposed to work all day and still somehow we’re in outrageous debt, and we wonder why.

There’s a weird misunderstanding about what simplicity actually is.

I get a lot of emails from people saying that they would never want to live this life.

For example, recently someone told me that the only reason they’d ever stop driving is if there was a mass extinction of the human race. I asked her why she was reading my blog if she was so opposed to everything it stands for.

The problem is, that I haven’t really defined what this blog is about, so it’s understandable that some people would be confused.

Far Beyond The Stars is about one very specific thing:

1. How to achieve freedom.

It’s not about skipping your coffee in the morning, it’s not about getting out of debt, it’s not about growing your food in your backyard, it’s not about checking yourself into the monastery on the corner and meditating 17 hours a day.

The origins of my simplification, and how it helps you.

I never intended to follow the set career path that society laid out for us. I didn’t go to high school, instead I took ballet and modern dance classes every day. I went to college to become an artist, and then hopefully at the end I secretly hoped that I would be inducted into the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers.

But it didn’t happen.

Instead I watched in horror as society crushed the dreams of every single artist friend I had. One by one every single one of them settled in some way for an outcome that wasn’t what they intended.

Slowly, one by one we didn’t make the audition for the dream that we’d always had.

Instead, we went out and got jobs at restaurants, we stayed in the basement of the university library, we did a good interview at a corporate job and got fat and lazy sitting at a desk all day.

Maybe in our spare time we kept working on our art, secretly hoping that we’d get a record deal or a publisher would pull us up by our bootstraps.

Seldom does Deux Ex Machina happen in real life though — the only person who can save you is you.

I believe this is actually everyone’s story. Some of us made it farther along the road than others, like we actually got into dance school or we had one show at CBGB’s on the Bowery with a packed house before it closed.

Eventually I gave up and settled for a job, because everyone else did.

Four years later I woke up and realized that I was missing the point, that somewhere along the way we all did, and this is why we failed.

The reality that was broken.

So every morning I woke up and took the subway into work. I sat at a desk and made other people’s stories look nice (meanwhile being told every time I pitched an idea that I’d never be a writer- HA, now who’s the more successful writer?) It was fun, we thought we were doing good work. I was paid just enough to survive, but it was never enough. My student loans just sat there accumulating interest.

But slowly on the fringes of my social radar, I noticed as one by one people started to drop off the radar. They said ‘fuck you’ to the corporations and started wandering the streets of America searching for the answer — what the tiny little voice in their back of their heads said.

“There must be a better way.”

What these people did, and what I did, was to radically refine our meaning of success.

We start to realize that the success that we thought we needed was implanted in our heads by the advertisers.

  • Coca Cola wanted us to think success was sitting at the movies chugging cokes watching Tom Cruise dodge explosions.
  • American Airlines wanted us to think of success as once a year taking an expensive flight to the caribbean.
  • Nikon and Canon want you to believe that you’ll be a famous photographer if you just buy one more camera lens.
  • The Bush administration wanted us to think success was not getting blown to bits by terrorists (which statistically is much lower than the fact that you have a 1 in 100 chance of being crushed by a car or flying through your Subaru’s windshield) while getting our permission to bomb the crap out of a foreign country in order to keep oil prices low.
  • American Idol wanted us to think success was texting 1 to their magic number while we sat in our chairs and munched on Lean Cuisine.

You get the idea.

Meanwhile I saw one by one my friends wake up and realize it was all a big fake magic reality that we’d have if we just bought one more Budweiser in the Meatpacking District.

We were in The Matrix, and the only freedom was truly to opt out.

So I did, I destroyed all of my stuff, quit my job, and got off the grid permanently.

Far Beyond The Stars is about waking you up.

It’s about telling you that your reality is broken, and there is another option.

You didn’t make the choices you made because you wanted to, you did it because The Man Behind The Television told you (because he wants your money.)

The Internet gave us the tools to create this revolution in the way that we think. We no longer live in the illusion that buying one more video game will make us happier. We no longer believe that a fancy handbag will make us find love.

We no longer believe that success = Donald Trump.

Instead we’re slowing redefining freedom as a reality you can have right now, if you just stop consuming.

Destroy all of that crap the television told you to buy and never go to the mall again.

Because buying more isn’t the answer. Freedom is.

And that my friends, is what Far Beyond The Stars is about.


Oh! And retweet this, because I can’t change reality by myself, I need you to join us in this movement, because we can make a difference.

P.S. I’m still on a digital sabbatical. That’s why commenting is off. I can’t answer your emails until I get back from the forest on August 23rd.

But don’t worry, I’m still posting work while I’m gone. That’s the magic of automation. Don’t miss out, sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

Corbett Barr on How to Pay Your Fans to Support You

August 10th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

The Internet has fundamentally changed the way that we distribute media.

Imagine for a moment that you really liked a band or an author, say Radiohead or Seth Godin, in 1998. The only way you could support the band would be to to buy the album and tell your friends that the band is awesome.

Fast-forward to the present day, August 10th 2010. –> Distribution of media is free, you can automate the sales and distribution of a product to almost anyone in the world, and you can do it all from anywhere in the world.

This is the fundamental reason that living and working from anywhere is possible.

Now, you can pay your fans to support you. There’s no reason not to.

What’s the key ingredient of paying your fans?

Well, you can be paid to support the work you love.

One of the happiest days of my life is the 1st of every month, because I get to send affiliate commission money to all of the amazing people who market my work. This wouldn’t have worked in 1998, because printing my book would have devoured all of the costs, but now it does.

A good number of the people who read The Art of Being Minimalist or Minimalist Business make back the purchase price my recommending it on their blogs. High-performers make anywhere from $100-$500 a month spreading the word about how much they enjoyed it (you can even make money from spreading how much you hate it, but I honestly don’t recommend that.)

Larger bloggers, of course, end up giving much more. As you might remember, one day I made $2,300 selling one person’s amazing work.

Now, you might not be able to get paid much to support the work of Radiohead or Seth Godin, because they’re not giving 50% commissions. However, a small group of amazing people are starting to adapting to the changing nature of digital media, and well, it’s changing everything.

Anyway, enough fawning over digital media, this is an interview with Corbett Barr.

Do you know Corbett? You should. He lives in San Francisco and runs two blogs: Think Traffic (which is literally blowing up right now) about building blog traffic and Free Pursuits about living a freedom lifestyle.

Since I moved to SF Bay, Corbett has become one of my trusted advisors on making my digital media distribution happen on a broader scale. We’ve met up on multiple occasions, and full discloser: he took Alix and I sailing on the bay once.

Just last week Corbett was teaching me, over a beer in The Mission, exactly how to set up a powerful e-mail list that will hopefully bring my business to a higher level –with minimal effort.

Today Corbett is releasing an epic product to teach beginners about how to start affiliate marketing successfully. I’ve looked over the work, and it’s excellent. He even interviewed me for a special add-on pack. We discussed at length the strategies that I use to pay my fans to support me.

Anyway, you can check out Affiliate Marketing for Beginners over here –but read the interview first for some free introductory tips.

Before you buy Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: This product isn’t for everyone. If you’re already making $100-500 a month supporting my work, you might learn a trick or two, but the product honestly isn’t aimed at you. This is for absolute beginners, and Corbett promises me that by the time you finish the course you should be able to break into the affiliate marketing space and begin to bolster your income (or your money back.)

Onward to the Interview!

We spoke about why affiliate marketing isn’t sketchy, part-time location independence, and the #1 best opportunity out there right now:

Everett Bogue: As our readers know, both you and I make a significant portion of our incomes from affiliate marketing — I like to refer to it as “paying your fans to support you.” How can it help make more of our readers income?

Corbett Barr: Yes, I love the way you call it “paying your fans to support you.” That’s a great way to look at it.

The way our readers can make income from affiliate marketing depends on if they already have a site/audience or not. If they do, they can start telling their existing audience about great products and services. The key is to talk about products you have really used and love. It’s not really different from how you might recommend a great restaurant or reliable accountant to your friends. In this case, you get compensated for that recommendation.

When done correctly, everyone wins. Your friends or readers get an awesome product or service recommendation, the business gets a new customer, and you earn a commission (and reputation points).

For people who don’t already have a site or audience, you’ll have to build one in some way to profit from affiliate marketing. You can build and reach an audience with a website, blog, in social media, through videos or in email. The course I’m releasing on affiliate marketing teaches you how to build a new site from the ground-up.

Everett: Affiliate marketing sometimes gets a bad rap — we start to think about mid-level-marketing pyramid schemes and scammy websites trying to get us to buy stuff that we don’t need. How do you get involved in legitimate affiliate marketing offers, and avoid the garbage that’s out there?

Corbett: The affiliate model is just a model. It’s a referral system, and there are no pyramids or scammy websites required. But, like anything on the internet, lots of get-rich-quick, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-my-customers types have influenced how we think about affiliate marketing.

And that’s too bad because there are lots of really awesome products and services that have affiliate offers. Things that you have already purchased or used probably have affiliate programs. Word-of-mouth recommendations are a big source of sales for businesses, so smart companies encourage that with affiliate programs.

It’s really pretty easy to avoid the garbage that’s out there. Start by looking for affiliate programs for the things you already use. They don’t have to be digital products either, although those tend to pay higher commissions.

Everett: What steps can we take to un-sketchify the reputation of affiliate marketing?

Corbett: Funny you ask, because I just wrote a post about this recently. James Chartrand of Men with Pens suggested that we rename “marketing” to “beer.” If we called it beer, everyone would love it, right? But then people might start not liking beer, and I care too much about beer to do that to it.

Instead, I think the best thing is for legitimate affiliate marketers to start being more vocal. We need to spread the word about how fantastic affiliate marketing can be for your business when it’s done right. We need to share what we’ve learned about doing affiliate marketing while also caring about our customers and the products we recommend.

If enough of us talk openly about it maybe we can change the reputation of affiliate marketing, at least within our little corner of the world.

Everett: You live a part-time location independent life. Can you share a little bit about how that works?

Corbett: Yeah, sure. My wife and I have lived in Mexico for 9 months over the past two years. We also spent about two months up in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.).

We’re not completely location independent though. We maintain a “home base” in San Francisco. When we’re gone for extended periods of time, we sublet our apartment. We really like having the fixed residence to return to, and consider it the best of both worlds for us.

We’re able to live the “location flexible” lifestyle because we’ve built businesses that let us take extended time off or work from anywhere.

Everett: Many affiliate programs offer 50%+ commissions, it almost seems like we’re giving free money away just for a link. Why do you think affiliate commissions are so large in the digital world?

Corbett: And I’ve seen commission rates of up to 95% in some cases. That means you get paid $95 for referring every $100 in sales. It’s pretty amazing considering you don’t have to do any of the product development or support.

I think they’re so high for a few reasons. First, because these are digital products we’re talking about (physical products have much lower commission rates), and digital products have nearly a 100% profit margin when you set them up like you have in Minimalist Business.

Second, the sellers of those products think, “I wouldn’t get this customer otherwise, so earning 50% is better than nothing.” Third, with all the products available for affiliates to represent, you have to compete with a compelling commission rate (and great product).

Everett: How can affiliate marketing allow you to live anywhere and achieve more freedom?

Corbett: As I mentioned, as an affiliate you don’t have to develop the products or support them. It’s an amazingly hands-off business model. And it’s highly scalable.

If you’re trying to live a minimalist lifestyle and support yourself by working online, I can’t imagine a much better opportunity than affiliate marketing.

Everett: What’s the #1 best affiliate opportunity out there right now?

Corbett: The affiliate program that comes to mind that most of your readers (and mine) are probably familiar with is Chris Gullebeau’s Unconventional Guides. Chris writes about how to live unconventionally, do extraordinary things and start a successful small business. The guides are really great and have been a big help to me and a lot of people I talk to.

Chris runs an affiliate program for people who have purchased at least one of his guides. He pays a 51% commission, which is awesome, and the guides sell like hotcakes on a cold Minnesota morning. I’ve sold thousands of dollars of his stuff, and it tends to convert better than most other programs for my readers. I personally know a few other bloggers who have also had really good luck selling the Unconventional Guides.

Another great option for your readers would obviously be your own premium guides to minimalism. The key with affiliate offers is relevance. Offer things to your audience that is relevant to them (and high-quality) and they’ll be happy you recommended the products.

[Editor’s note: If you are interested in joining the affiliate program of my e-books, it is here.]

Everett: Say I want to figure out how to make a small sum like $100 by the end of the day, how would I doing this using affiliate marketing?

Corbett: If you already have an audience to reach, that’s easy. Find a product you already use and love that has an affiliate program. It could be an eBook (like the ones you’ve written, Everett) or a piece of software or a WordPress theme or a financial service or something else. Then, write a blog post or an email or create a video recommending the product to your audience. The key is to pre-sell the product, don’t over sell it. Just tell people why you love it, and share a link where your readers can find out more. If it’s a good fit, some of them will purchase it.

If you don’t have an audience, you’ll have to decide how you’ll reach people. A simple website that attracts visitors from search traffic is an easy approach. My course covers how to do that in detail.


You can check out Affiliate Marketing for Beginners here. Don’t forget: it’s just for beginners. No affiliate marketing rockstars need apply. If you’re new to this and looking for more solid education, this is the place to start.

P.S. I’m taking a digital sabbatical, camping in Wisconsin with my grandparents until August 23rd. This is why comments are off. I’ll do my best to get back to any questions or emails when I return. Thank you for your patience.

How to Unplug

August 8th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue

Kevin Kelly believes that the human race is building the planet into one giant brain with our technology.

He’s not sure what it’s called, but some call it The One, others call it The Cloud.

I’m not sure what to believe, but I do know one thing: we’re all plugged in. Some of us never unplug.

This is why I believe that it’s an absolute imperative to turn it all off once in awhile.

We have to take the time to get away from the cloud, head into the forest, and discover what it is to not be part of The Borg.

I love being plugged in, but there are stories on the fringes of my imagination of a day when people can’t turn it off. When to tweet is a necessity of human nature.

We are closer to this reality than you and I believe.

Recently one of my heroes, Gwen Bell took a month off of the net. No working, no tweeting, no checking email. She’s back now, but the experience taught her to listen to herself again.

This is why I’m leaving you for awhile.

I’ll be camping in the wilds of upper Wisconsin from August 10th-23rd.

I won’t tweet. I won’t check email. I’m going without a computer, I’m going where there is no 3G (for now.)

My blog and business will run on auto-pilot. I have a post scheduled for Tuesday, Monday, and Monday.

Comments will be off until further notice.

If you miss me, read my blog archives. A good place to start is at the beginning. Or, check out my books. Some say they’re quite good.

Some say that I will miss opportunities while I’m gone. I think going away is the opportunity.

August is a slow month on the Internet. Many people take this time to get reacquainted with themselves. Maybe this is a good time for you to do that as well.

We’ll all be back in September, and the work will continue.

For now, a break.

Free E-book –> Minimalist Workday: 50 Strategies for Working Less

August 3rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

A Free E-book Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

What is Minimalist Workday?

I’ve been tossing around the idea that our average workday is too long for awhile now.

Over the past year I’ve managed to build a business working an average of 2 hours a week. I’m not saying this to brag, but simply to let you know that it’s possible.

When you make slight behavioral modifications like turning off e-mail and focusing on what is important for your business, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

Minimalist Workday outlines 50 strategies that I use to keep my workday at a comfortable 2 hours a day. This way I can dedicate more time to research, travel, self-improvement, cooking good food, yoga, and helping others.

This started as a blog post, but spiraled out of control. The e-book is around 5,000 words, over the course of 30 pages. I hope that it helps you.

Why is Minimalist Workday free?

To be honest, I probably could have charged for this information, but then it wouldn’t help as many people. I’ve already doubled my income over the last year, and while more money is always better, some ideas need to be free to have the largest impact.

Minimalist Workday isn’t for everyone.

To be honest, I wrote this specifically with self-employed professionals who are running simple one-person businesses in mind. It really is a free addition to Minimalist Business.

That being said, with a little mental tweaking, I imagine you can apply this knowledge to a 9-5 in order to free up more time for launching extra-income earning side-projects or get yourself promoted. If you’re part of a ROWE company, even better.

Click here to download your 100% free copy of Minimalist Workday.

If that looks bad on your Kindle, try this version (thanks @jprichter.)

What can you do to help?

If you enjoy this e-book, I’d really love if you could share it freely with as many people as you can.

  • Retweet this post to your Twitter friends
  • Stumble this post on Stumbleupon
  • Email this post to friends.
  • Bookmark it on Delicious.
  • Etc, etc, any way that you can help would be great. Ideas can’t spread without your help.

Thanks for your time, and for your help sharing this with the world.



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