Why Location Independence, Passive Income, and Entrepreneurship Won’t Solve Any of Your Problems

by Alexander Heyne · 12 comments

If you think living anywhere and being your own boss / badass entrepreneur will solve most of your problems, you’re in for a rude awakening.

You see, at the start I was like everyone else.

I read the 4 Hour Work Week, I started blogging, I got obsessed with location independence. I thought “how sick would it to be to live in a new country every few years, learn some languages, do whatever the hell I want.”  (Side note: I’m still doing the move to a couple countries thing: Current = China, then ==> Spain )

I thought it’d be a panacea. I figured I was tired of the jobs I was working, I wanted to get out, and what better thing than to work and travel, right?


In fact, there are big problems with being location independent.  One of the biggest ones being this:

“If you’re already a lost 20 something and your business permits you to live anywhere (and you don’t have a home base) you’re just going to get more lost.”

I can tell you that honest-to-God from experience.

In the past few years I’ve been living all over the world.  Yeah it’s sweet, except for the part where I tell people I have zero long-term friends, only a few really close friends (who almost never live in the same country as me), and I’m constantly plagued by the feeling of never feeling at home anywhere.

Seriously — if you’re already lost in life, think about this.

Unless you’ve got some home base (probably your parents’ place or where you got your first job), traveling the world indefinitely is really gonna screw you up in the head.

One of my closest friends is the son of a very wealthy businessman who travels all over the world weekly. He has places in multiple countries, drives an R8 (jealous…..), is divorced (so he can basically do whatever), and loves to party.

After a couple years of doing the work he was doing, bouncing all over and occasionally staying at one of his other pads, he started getting this ghostly whirlwind feeling where he couldn’t figure out where the hell he was supposed to be.

He had everything materially, but he was lost.

So he sought out the help of a psychiatrist, and here’s what he was told: “Set some roots.”

It’s like in business: if everyone is your audience, no one is.

In long-term travel and moving, if you can live anywhere, nowhere feels like home — unless you set roots.

So, the first problem with location independent businesses/working is that unless you have an anchor, a home base, some roots, it’s easy to find yourself getting lost.

I’m here to propose that you probably don’t want location independence, passive income, and being an entrepreneur like you think you do.

Instead, you want three specific experiences constantly present in your life, which may or may not come  through those three qualities just mentioned, which are: freedom, [meaningful] work not minimal work and perceived control/excitement. 

Freedom: I’m FREEEEEE! Now what?

I think that the bottom line for most of us is that we want F R E E D O M.

We want freedom from location (location independence) so that we can live in spain, mexico, the united states, china, hawaii, the philippines.

I want to be able to take vacations wherever we want, whenever we want.

I want to be able to get up at 8 am to work, or 11 am if I stayed out later than usual the night before.

I want to be able to take a siesta from 2-5 pm during the summer, wake up, go to a nice outdoor cafe in Paris or Barcelona or New York (wherever I’m living), and then do business through my computer while drinking an espresso.

It’s all possible. And freedom is what most of us crave through entrepreneurship and location independence.

But you need to ask yourself if location independence really solves the freedom problem.

Maybe you can live anywhere because your computer is your office, but if you’re working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, you’re pretty much bogged down wherever you are. You don’t even have a bloody chance at “freedom.”

You need to zoom out and play a bigger game – ask yourself why until it hurts. Why do I want freedom, what am I going to do with the freedom, and are there any other ways to enjoy the same freedom?

Freedom like anything else is just a tool — money buys freedom, but you only live a worthwhile existence by how you use that freedom and newfound time.

Work: Why working 4 hours a week really sucks

“A man without a job is a man without a purpose”

There’s only one problem with working 4 hours a week (assuming you took the title literally).

What the hell do you do with the rest of the time?

Work – whether you do it 4 hours a week or 40 hours a week – is rarely enjoyable unless the work is fulfilling and speaks to some core desire within you.

The emphasis should not be on your work, it’s quality or quantity, but should be on that one aspect I just mentioned: if it feels meaningful.

Does it feel like what you do 8 hours a day is freaking worth it?

If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how many hours you work, you’re just going to constantly ask yourself what the hell you are doing with your life.

The essence of this problem is that many of us have separated earning money from meaning. We’ve put them into two different categories.

Earn money.

Do what’s meaningful.

9-5 earn money.

5-9 do what’s meaningful.

9-5 slave

5-9 enjoy

What I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t focus on what you don’t want about work – the location, the amount of work, or the position you’re in.

Focus on what you do want:  work that feels like you fully utilize your skills, you’re constantly challenged, you have fun, and you think is worthwhile.

Michael Ellsberg talked a lot about the truth of passive income (especially the split between meaning & work) in a recent Forbes article:

Regarding people who make basic micro-businesses they don’t care about for passive income:

Yet none of these people I’ve talked to who have this temporarily successful lifestyle seem very happy. They actually seem kind of restless and lost. I’ve had conversations with several of them to help them determine “what the purpose of their life is” now that they have some amount of money coming in from some little passive venture they don’t even care about that much. It all feels empty to them.

This is the basic mistake they’ve made: they’ve fallen prey to the belief that money and meaning are two totally separate things. They’ve chosen to make their money from something that feels completely meaningless to them (some business they care so little about, they just can’t wait to get away from it and minimize their involvement as much as possible), which they hope will buy them the freedom to do something they actually care about.

From a Forbes article:  “The Top 4 Reasons Why Passive Income is a Dangerous Fantasy.”

Passive income or not.

4 hours or 40 a week.

Location independent or not.

Let *meaning* drive your work motivation.

Control/Excitement: So what do you actually want?

Young people hate the question: “What do you want to do with your life?” as much as Tim Ferriss hates the “So, what do you do for a living?” question.


I mean, obviously if we knew the answer we wouldn’t get pissed off at the question, right? And I think that perfectly sums out why we hate it so much: most of us have absolutely no idea what to do.

We’re are supposed to find a career, pursue our dreams, travel, go to grad school, fall in love, have our head straight, have a 10 year plan, and be leaders of our generation.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot to keep track of.

In other words, it’s easy to get sidetracked.

So what do young people actually want from life?

I think the reason why entrepreneurship has become so attractive to youth these days is that (aside from working jobs we hate) we really like the idea of the freedom and adventure associated with doing something on our own.

It’s pretty sweet in theory – start a business about anything, make all the shots, and potentially be much wealthier than working for someone else.

Our love of entrepreneurship also ironically comes down to one word: control.

Control (or rather, perceived control) is what gives life structure, predictability, safety, and comfort.

And of course it’s hard to feel in control if life is constantly giving you novel situations and things you potentially don’t want.

So what do we want?


What do 20 somethings want from work?

Statistics from Michigan State Research:

So we want interesting work. Not surprising. Seeing as most of us end up doing horrendously boring work that is about as useful as a poo-flavored lollipop.

What if we asked more generally: what is an ideal job for a 20 something, versus a job from hell.

Ideal job

  • Doing something that matters
  • Makes you feel good
  • Still leaves free time to do other things
  • Potentially involves traveling
  • Skills feel used, you feel is worthwhile
  • Pays well with potential for promotions, etc.
  • Freedom
Job From Hell
  • The same.. thing.. every.. goddamn.. day..
  • Requires no skill
  • Worthless, pointless, nothing to learn
  • Work you could care less about
  • Paying just enough money that you are too afraid to quit
  • Bitched at by other people / hovering she-bitch boss


Even just a google search of “What do young people want?” comes up with results as varied as the following:

  • Shortcuts to fame and money
  • Leisure
  • Popularity
  • Success with little or no work
  • An easy life
  • Newness, excitement
  • Differentiating oneself, finding a job, leaving home
  • Truth
  • A Career
  • New experiences
  • Change
  • Figuring out self-identity
  • Differentiation – to feel different and special
  • High achievement – elite athlete, a movie star, CEO

The problem is that once many of us hit the real world we become disillusioned.

Becoming disillusioned is what happens when you say to yourself: “This is not what I expected. Now what do I do?”

That’s what happens when you realize that being an elite athlete, a movie star, or CEO actually takes work. A lot of work. And the path isn’t even remotely straight.

That’s the point where we lose perceived control and think “Shit, what now?”


Well, what do we want?

Do we want fame?

Do we want money?

Do we want to work our 4 hour work weeks?

Do we want to be able to live and work anywhere?

Do we want excitement?

Do we want to experience the world?

Do we want to establish ourselves in a career?

Do we want to know the plan for the next 20 years of our life?

Leaving aside generic human wants for a moment, what is time-specific and unique about us?

Many of us young people don’t have families, so we have freedom to move and drop it all and go.

Many of us want to experiment and experience a lot before we are “stuck” into our career or raise a family.

And many of us just want straight-up adventure.

In a nutshell I propose we have 2 big desires: we want two things. Meaning and adventure. It’s like Viktor Frankl and Tim Ferriss had a love child. 

Whether that’s career options or travel options or adrenaline-rush options – we want variety – but we want it to feel worthwhile and exciting.

That’s why the “What’s your ten-year plan”  question mortifies us. Hell if I know! If I feel like it, I’ll quit my job and move to new zealand and go sky diving tomorrow.

I think meaning and adventure are pretty much the reasons why the #1 response I get when I ask people my age: “So if you could do anything and had millions in the bank, what would you do?” starts with “ummmm” and ends in “travel the world.”

Swear to god. Quote me on this: go into a bar full of corporate 20 somethings and ask them. “Travel” shows up in >90% of the responses.

But do young people actually want just travel? I mean, travel is great. But I think travel represents something else – it represents a period of time where life is fresh, an adventure, there are things to learn, challenges, dangers, variety, excitement.

I propose we – this new lost generation - want 3 main things from life, whether or not we know it, which are emotional experiences rather than situations or specific circumstances.

The 3 qualities of optimal circumstance

So next time you think “location independence” will make you feel free, ask yourself what you want the freedom for. Do you really need to be able to live anywhere to do those things?

You want freedom, not location independence.

Next time you think 4 hours of work a week will solve your work problem, ask yourself how bad your work sucks. Does it feel meaningful like what you’re doing is worthwhile? If not, how can you fix that? Does less really fix the problem or does it just make it less obvious?

You want meaningful work and feeling like your time has mattered, not a 4 hour work week.

Next time you think being your own boss working on the projects you choose will solve the other half of your “I-hate-my-work” work problem, ask yourself if that’s true.

You want control and a life / work situation full of adventure, not necessarily being the boss and running the show.

Choose your own adventure

Once upon a time I thought that sitting outside a nice cafe doing work in Barcelona one week, Paris another, and New York still another would solve some of my hatred for work and the jobs I’ve worked.

It’d be fun, adventurous, happy, conversation-worthy, epic, and overall the exact opposite of how work is for most of us. It’d be worthwhile.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it may not solve all of my problems, and the same may be true for you.

Just because you want freedom doesn’t mean you need to be location independent.

Just because you want less of work you hate doesn’t mean to need to work your 4 hour work week.

And just because you’re tired of slavin’ for the man and doing suck-ass work doesn’t mean you need to become the boss and do it all yourself.

You just need to sit down one day and instead of asking yourself “What does my ideal day go like?” ask yourself this:

What does my ideal day feel like?  

“Success is doing what you want to do, when you want, where you want, with whom you want, as much as you want.”

~ Tony Robbins

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