Why digital peasantry is the life for me

Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash

This concept has recently saved my life. Well, it’s at least saved my inner peace. Which is pretty much the same thing.

I heard about it a few weeks ago on one of my favorite podcasts, the Fizzle Show. Chase, the host, was interviewing a great man — excellent man, in fact — named Steve Maxwell. Steve is a DIY builder and homesteader (yes, a ‘homesteader’) and is the creator of the blog, Bailey Line Road.

Steve has been writing about his craft since the 80’s when he snail-mailed articles to various carpentry and homesteading magazines. Now, he has an incredible community where he offers ebooks, videos, and various content to people who like to build things and get as much off the grid as they can.

(I just want to say, I’m HORRIBLE at making things with my hands, but after listening to Steve’s interview and watching his videos on YouTube, I want to find myself a plot of land in the middle of nowheresville, Canada and just go to TOWN. Anyhow…)

Steve is a self-described ‘Digital Peasant’. Unabashedly so. And I love this.

Now, please know that he’s using the word ‘peasant’ in a tongue-in-cheek manner so as to, in a way, thumb his nose at the ‘internet millionaire lifestyle entrepreneur’ culture that has dominated this conversation since the beginning.

Steve isn’t poor. He does just fine. But he’s not interested in #crushing it. He could give a shit about ‘making 7-figures while he sleeps’. He’s not interested in being the next YouTube sensation (I don’t think his video on root cellars will go viral any day soon).

Steve has been living a creative life doing work that feeds his soul and that offers great value to people who are as weird as he is since the 80’s. And he’s been doing it digitally since the late 90's.

“My income, as a digital peasant, has supported our family exclusively since 1998.”
 — Steve Maxwell

He’s been able to work from home and watch his kids grow up. He’s been able to afford his wife leaving her job as a healthcare provider, which she couldn’t stand. He’s built a body of work that matters and a community who keeps him going. (And he’s built an incredible house… By hand.)

This is so inspiring to me. Hearing his story has allowed me to relax my death grip on this thing and realize… I, too… Am a digital peasant. And that’s absolutely amazing.

It helps me realize that, although I’m not making millions in passive income (or whatever other lifestyle the internet gurus are peddling)…

  • I get to work from wherever I want.
  • I get to enjoy my work.
  • I get to have a fair share of leisure time.
  • I get to email my readers things that I find interesting (and they sometimes even read them).
  • I get to exchange what I make for money and feel great about it.
  • I get to see my kid grow up and go on dates in the middle of the day with my wife (who works digitally as well).

Yes, it’s been a struggle. Yes, money has been tight at times. Yes, I’ve had my doubts. Still do. But if I’d have known about the digital peasantry sooner, I might have enjoyed this ride a bit more than I have.

I might have not stressed so much. 
I might have gotten more sleep. 
I might have felt less like a disappointment. 
I might have reached less and enjoyed more.

So…

If you’re shooting for ‘Internet Millionaire’, try shifting focus and shooting for the digital peasantry instead. It’s a lot better for your heart, both literally and figuratively.

When I see visions of becoming an ‘Internet Millionaire’, I overextend and feel like I’ll never reach that bar. This can make me do ridiculous things that compromise what I’m here to do.

But when I see myself as a Digital Peasant, I can relax. I can focus on small wins. I can make something from the heart for my audience that might not go gangbusters, but that will provide value while keeping me thriving. I can focus on the work, not the fame.

As a Digital Peasant, I can breathe. And if those internet millions come my way, well, it’ll be a nice surprise.


Jonas Ellison is a professional writer and interfaith minister-in-training who provides practical and spiritual support to his fellow creative craftspeople. You can find more of his work at Higher Thoughts, one of the most popular single-author publications on Medium. Subscribe to his daily missives and musings at JonasEllison.com