I’ve seen the future. It’s not what you think.
In 5 years, we’ll be lounging on tropical islands and working a whopping 10 hours a week.
Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. I was shocked too.
Let me explain. I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for 8 years. I took last year off to explore my passions and live each day like it was my last. I visited over 20 cities, from Detroit to Delhi to Tokyo.
One place really stuck out — a tiny tropical island in Thailand where my days were filled with coconuts, beaches, dance parties, sunset jams, yoga, and amazing people. I worked a little too.
I spent four months living in a community of entrepreneurs and people working remotely. These people aren’t just hanging out and traveling. They live there. They rent beach bungalows, drive scooters, have community, and some even have families.
There’s a huge emphasis on healthy living and healthy working — lots of yoga, vegan food, hiking, beach co-working, and sober partying. It’s basically entrepreneur and wellness heaven.
Some of these businesses gross over $10M in annual recurring revenue with metrics that put Silicon Valley startups to shame. People run e-commerce companies, coach, consult, sell e-goods, manage properties remotely — all bootstrapped, profitable, growing businesses.
When I first stumbled into this world, I couldn’t believe it.
In the tech world, where I come from, many people grind 60–100 hours a week, chase funding, and burn out.
How could this other world exist?
It’s cool, calm, collected — equally focused on being and doing — like the holy grail of life.
After reflecting on workplace trends — this is obviously the future. The thousands of entrepreneurs chilling in South East Asia just saw it first.
There are at least 5 major trends driving the future of work
The rise of the gig economy
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that gig workers will represent 43% of the workforce by 2020. The data is clear: millennials want workplace independence.
A third of millennials already work for themselves.
We’re just getting started. 72% of American high school students say that they want to own a business someday. 61% want to start a business out of college. This doesn’t mean they want to start a “tech startup” — it just means they want to choose their work, the people they work with, and where and when they work.
The rise of remote work
Remote work is on the rise, which provides many of the same benefits. In a survey of over 3,100 professionals, 87 percent of professionals think having a flexible job would lower their stress levels. With remote work you can chose, when, where, and how much you work (assuming you get the work done).
One of my friends worked for an IT company in Australia and took his job to Thailand. Today, he works 1/2 the hours, gets 2x done, and recently got a promotion. When he’s at his computer, he’s full power.
It was impossible for him to reach this level of efficiency in the office — between team interruptions, boss drivebys, pointless meetings, office distractions, and worrying about his commute — he didn’t stand a chance.
Now, when he isn’t working, he’s chasing waterfalls, dance partying, and starting his own projects. Not too shabby.
It’s all about lifestyle arbitrage
This equation is simple — take US wages and live in a cheaper place with a higher quality of life. Statistically, the US has one of the worst income to happiness ratios. People are starting to notice. Let’s break down the math.
A basic room in San Francisco with roommates can easily cost $1600/mo. In Thailand, with that same money, you can live like royalty:
- Live in a private beach bungalow ($500/mo)w
- Rent a scooter ($100/mo)
- Eat out every meal ($500/mo)
- Treat yourself to a Thai massage 3x a week ($140/mo)
- Drink a coconut every day ($60/mo)
- And still have money left over!
While it sounds crazy (and a bit indulgent), for less money, you can achieve a higher quality of life!
Let’s run through a couple scenarios —
- Let’s say you’re a copywriter and charge $40/hr. If you work 20 hours a week, you make ~$3440/mo. While you’d struggle in San Francisco, in Thailand, you’re rich.
- Now let’s say you’re a freelance designer charging $85/hr. If you work 10 hours a week, you make $3,655/mo. Every week you have 100+ hours of free time. Every month you have $2000+ of disposable income or savings. As your hourly rate increases, or your business grows, it only gets better. Pretty sweet deal.
Notably, if you decide to come back to the States and pursue a traditional path, you can save more for a house downpayment than your grinding US peers.
While lifestyle arbitrage isn’t new, Instagram and cheap plane tickets make it impossible to ignore. Overtime, like most good arbitrage opportunities, the markets will likely correct and the arbitrage opportunities with shrink. But right now, this is gold.
The time revolution
When food was scarce, we had the agricultural revolution. When goods were scarce, we had the industrial revolution. When labor was scarce, we had the technology revolution. So, what’s scarce now? Time.
We’ve all heard it a million times. “How are you?” “I’m so busy!”
Life is REALLY short and time is our most precious resource. As psychologist and best selling author Neil A. Fiore said,
There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a nonrenewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever.
People are waking up and realizing that they want to spend their time outside of the traditional 9–5. They want to travel, experience the world, enjoy time with loved ones, work on things they’re passionate about — to truly live life.
Optimizing for time well spent, looks different for everyone. I have two dear friends pioneering a rest and reflect model. They take on projects for 3 months, then recharge for 3 months. They’re professionally crushing it. In the past couple years they’ve launched the most viewed TED talk on blockchain, a podcast, and Animal Ventures. More importantly, they’ve truly enjoyed their lives — they’ve walked El Camino de Santiago, summered in Berlin, and spent time with family around the globe.
The US systems are kinda fubar
For some people, the economics of the US systems, specifically healthcare and education, don’t pencil.
I have two friends who decided to leave the US because their US healthcare costs were stupid high, over $10,000 (co-pays, insurance, out-of-pocket expenses). They started doing medical tourism — flying to Mexico for surgery and Thailand for dental work. They received higher quality, less expensive care abroad. Eventually, they said F-it, and moved full time. Can’t blame them.
I have another friend who was a lawyer in the US. She didn’t want to pay for her daughter’s private school or move to a nicer neighborhood with better public schools. Feeling stuck in the rat race, she evaluated her options. She found some good homeschooling resources online and decided to peace out to Bali. While unconventional, she’s never looked back. She consults virtually on “lawyer-y things.” Her daughter is the most worldly 16 year old I’ve ever met and remotely manages a lifestyle brand’s Instagram.
It’s clear we’re in the middle of a transformational shift in the way we work and live.
But why does it matter?
You can design your life and make work work for you.
I acknowledge that drinking coconuts on the beach and working remotely isn’t for everyone. But the point is, we’re at a unique moment in history, where we have more options than ever.
When I was meeting with people remotely from Thailand, they’d say, “OMG! You’re living the dream!” I admit, it was dreamy. But here’s the secret, you can do it too (if you want!).
By 2027, nearly 60% of us will work for ourselves or will have worked for ourselves.
Today you likely have a job, skill, or passion — and you’re probably pretty good at one or all of those things. That’s monetizable. Worst case, it’s never too late to learn a new skill online or start an online business.
Like anything in life, it will require trade-offs and lots hard work — but it’s definitely doable (yaaas!).
If there’s one thing I hope you take from this post, it’s that you can make work work for you.
We need to rethink how we build and collaborate with teams
Companies will look different in 10 years. We’ll realize the benefits of team members drinking coconuts, being less stressed, and having less overhead. Today 70 percent of companies describe stress as a top problem; over $500B is lost due to workplace stress.
The system is broken and it’s changing fast. A study at a Fortune 500 company showed that when employees were given more flexible work options, well-being increased, while productivity stayed the same.
As the workforce becomes more project based, gig based, and remote — the way teams collaborate will evolve. Our staffing models, incentive structures, benefits, communication tactics, processes — all will shift. Heck, as a business, I’d rather pay for someone’s travel insurance ($1,100/year), than their US health insurance ($10,000 year).
For entrepreneurs and investors, it’s a potential gold mine
We’re still in the early days of this new world. Companies like Stripe, Stride, Upwork, Loom, and others already capitalize on this trend. There’s still lots of opportunity. From better business tools, to a Linkedin for gig-based workers, to new funding models, to flexible affordable housing… the list is endless.
I’m excited about this new world, and not just because I love coconuts. I’m optimistic that these shifts will lead to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled world. A world where people can pursue their passions, innovate beyond the traditional tracks, and contribute more meaningfully to society.
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Originally published at medium.com