“I put my talent into my work, but my genius into my life.”
Some of my friends characterize me as a dictionary fanatic, an opinion that was recently reinforced when I became intrigued by a new word I stumbled across: Lebenskϋnstler.
The word evokes an archetype that to this day continues to have an influence on the German ethos, particularly as it relates to Berlin culture and nightlife. It connotes a person who, though not actually an artist, pursues life with the same zeal as a passionate artist, making life magical in myriad ways, putting a positive spin on everything and taking delight in the little things that others overlook. Such a person could best be described as a Life Artist.
This echoes today’s evolving millennial mindset; one where ripe opportunities are recognized and seized in an attempt to make the most out of our lives. It’s a life course that’s deliberate, yet fraught with profound risk. For these folks, it’s the deep path of life that holds importance, rather than a static destination.
Lebenskϋnstlers are fiercely independent, individualists who see themselves as architects of their own freedom. In this way, they reflect the core values of Hank Reardon, the hero highlighted in Ayn Rand’s perennial best-selling book, Atlas Shrugged. They care little about their next deal or the Big Win. Instead, only the present moment matters, and how they can create meaning right now.
These individuals are also susceptible to what I affectionately call Career Polyamory. Instead of being faithful to one career, they have dalliances with multiple jobs, designed to meet their psychic needs and/or pay the bills. They are the proverbial freelancers who – in contrarian fashion – abhor rules, bosses, suits, small talk and even formal offices. “
It’s here they are surprisingly resourceful in unearthing varied ways to get by, whether it be trolling free events with complimentary food or driving for car-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Did I mention that they also possess the uncanny ability to face whatever life tosses their way with equanimity and minimal drama?
Immersed in their work, Lebenskϋnstlers often forget about the importance that money plays in advancing their lives forward. Here, I’m reminded of a Physician Assistant who was working a number of years ago at a community health center where I was HR Director. A former monk, he was very passionate about his patients. The problem was he had a tendency to become immersed in his work to a fault, often forgetting to pick up his paycheck at the end of each pay period. After three paydays came and went, and he had not yet bothered to collect his paychecks, his wife finally realized that her husband truly did not give a fig about money.
Money as an Imperative
As you might imagine, because they are survivalists and minimalists, these individuals are not the best with money. Their goal? To live a Big Life, buoyant with brightness and bliss… yet barely held together by a spartan lifestyle that’s a mashup of disparate activities that collectively yield just about enough upon which to live.
This dance with money – which they typically view as being normal – is often seen by the outside world as being irresponsible, such that they are subjected to admonishments from others to “Get a real job. Get a real life.”
In full disclosure, I consider myself a fully-fledged member of the Lebenskϋnstler tribe as a freelance writer, because I abhor W-2 work. How about you? What’s your story?
If, like me, you believe that you fall into this distinguished category of people, then I would encourage you to read this great article by entrepreneurial thought leader Chris Guillebeau, in order to get your head straight about money. Frankly, it is an affront to reality to believe that you can survive off of spare change over a lengthy period of time and be happy as a clam.
A true Lebenskϋnstler is indeed a master at the art of living life to its fullest. Yet, sustaining this lifestyle necessitates overcoming budgetary shortfalls in order to advance forward. For as Rita Davenport once remarked, “Money isn’t everything, but it ranks right up there with oxygen.”
Michael Scott is a Denver-based journalist specializing in disruptive free market themes impacting the new digital economy. More on Michael’s work can be found at BitDisrupt