The Pandemic Proves That Society Was Wrong About How to Live Life
Here’s what to do about it
Upon graduating from business school in 2005, I had two job offers to choose from. The first one was a market research position at a startup for around $75,000/year. The other was working for minimum wage at a real estate office in Costa Rica. A friend found out I had spent a semester abroad there learning Spanish and needed help. He offered me $1,000 per month plus free housing and a 4×4 if I agreed to move to the sleepy beach town of Nosara (population: <5,000).
What would you choose? Well, that depends. Am I speaking to your pre- or post-pandemic self? Today, you might say, “F-k it — what do I have to lose? I’m going to Costa Rica.” (Although, the border isn’t open…)
But what would a previous version of you have chosen — amid economic prosperity and growth? You would’ve been out of your mind to move to Costa Rica during the real estate/tech boom. That’s like flushing your MBA down the toilet. Besides, how the hell are you going to live on $12,000 per year and pay off your student loans?
Faced with this life-altering decision at 22 years old, I asked everyone I knew what they would do. There were two distinct sides:
- Team 1: My classmates and anyone with less than 10–15 years of work experience told me to take the corporate job (duh) — because it was worth way more money. They also warned me I would ruin my resume if I moved abroad to live in a jungle.
- Team 2: Anyone who was my parents’ age or older — successful professionals with beautiful families and white picket fence lives — didn’t tell me what to do. Instead, they responded wistfully with,
“I wish I lived in Costa Rica.”
It was settled. I decided to listen to my elders and move to Costa Rica — with conditions. I justified the decision by telling myself I would only go for one year to improve my Spanish. Then, I would return to the U.S. to start my “real life.”
Fifteen years later, suffice to say that things worked out. I’ve lived my entire adult life as an expat, living and working remotely across 62 countries. After retiring from real estate in 2011 to start my first online business, I became a full-time digital nomad and never looked back.
It’s been a pretty epic journey. I’ve never had a 9–5 job, never commuted to work (unless you count the ocean view real estate office), and have always cleared six-figures per year in income. Along the way, I’ve tried to convince my friends and family members to join me. I begged them to venture outside their comfort zones and abandon the status quo. Few people have dared to make that leap. But the pandemic has since obliterated our old societal paradigm and shattered what we thought we knew about life.
Despite the havoc and destruction that COVID-19 has caused, it has also cleared the way for a new normal. Humanity has a chance at a fresh start — yourself included. Let that sink in for a moment. Now is your chance to redefine how you view the world and live your life.
This is your chance to redefine how you view the world and live your life.
The coronavirus pandemic has made three truths painfully clear:
- Life is short.
- Nothing is guaranteed.
- We are one interconnected human race on a shared planet.
As such, I’ve compiled a few outdated societal rules, norms, and assumptions worth abandoning from here on out. What will you replace them with? What else would you add to this list?
Lies society has told you about:
- You have to go to college to get a good job.
- You should pick one major or one career path.
- Freelancing or working for yourself is “risky” while working in a traditional job is “safe.”
- One income stream is sufficient for financial stability.
- Working in a job you hate is worth it if it pays well enough.
- If you work hard now, you’ll earn a [bigger, better] payoff later.
- Status-signaling is important.
Moving to Costa Rica to make $1,000/month is like flushing your MBA down the toilet.
How business works:
- You need to have meetings.
- Everyone should work Monday through Friday from 9am–5pm in their respective time zones.
- If you can’t supervise your employees at work, they’re probably slacking off.
- People are more productive in the office than at home. (Better yet? In an open-plan office for more collaboration.)
- “Remote work doesn’t work for our company.”
Government & institutions:
- The public school system adequately prepares you for adulthood.
- Your national government is a reliable safety net for times of crisis and disaster. (That depends which country you’re from, I suppose.)
- The purpose of law enforcement is to serve and protect.
- Politicians work for the people, have everything under control, and know what they’re doing.
- “Country-first,” isolationist policies are the best way to go.
- America is the best country in the world.
- The modern-day healthcare system is invincible.
- You can rely on medicines and vaccines rather than taking care of your immune system.
- Managing a stressed-out, overweight population dependent on prescription drugs is normal, acceptable, and the best we can do as a society.
- The U.S. has the best healthcare in the world.
- Racism doesn’t exist anymore.
- Everyone is on an equal playing field.
- Change takes a long time.
- People from different countries are “different” than you.
- Walls and borders will protect you.
- The U.S. is the leader of the free world.
How to live your life:
- It pays to plan for the future more than you live today.
- A better, brighter future is (implicitly) guaranteed if you put your head down, work hard, and follow the rules.
- You should strive for financial security over health, happiness, and adventure.
- External factors are both the source of and solution to your problems.
- You need a lot of money to have a high quality of life.
- Color in the lines and stay in your lane: blending in is better (and safer) than standing out.
- You need to watch the news every day to be a responsible citizen.
- The world’s problems are bigger than you and for someone else to solve. (So, you might as well not even try.)
Society was wrong. What next?
“Rules? I’m just not that interested.”
— Electronic Music Producer and DJ, Mella Dee
Society marvels at people who achieve meteoric success by ignoring conventional wisdom. But what if Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk weren’t supposed to be outliers? What if dropping out of college to build things in your garage was encouraged? What if zigging when everyone zags were the best way to live?
Did you know that there are music producers who don’t know anything about music theory? Or that you don’t have to go to film school to become a filmmaker? Or that you could make six-figures freelancing online from Bali?
What if the flouting the rules weren’t a recipe for disaster, but rather a road map for finding happiness and fulfillment in life?
I’m not saying you have to quit your job, sell everything, and move to a foreign country. But what could happen if you decided to start over right now? What if you wiped the slate clean about what you thought you knew and re-wrote “the rules” to your liking?
Why not? Nothing makes sense anymore. Disruption is the best time for innovation. This is your chance — there will never be another day like today. So turn off the news. Put down your phone. Follow your intuition and get to work.
And remember — no matter how dire things get (or feel), as long as you’re still breathing, it’s never too late to start over.
Written by Kristin Wilson