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How To Be A Minimalist: Joshua Fields Millburn On The Power Of Living Deliberately & Contributing Beyond Ourselves

By October 31, 2016January 26th, 2024No Comments

“The things you own end up owning you.”

Tyler Durden

I thought it would make me happy.

So, I studied hard. Nailed the grades & aced my college applications — 7 for 7. Even Harvard gave me the green light. I snagged a degree from Stanford, eked my way through Cornell Law School, bagged the fancy job, worked ridiculous hours in overpriced suits and rode the elevator all the way up the corporate ladder, hammering impressive paychecks along the way.

Prosperity? I guess. Security? Maybe. Personal satisfaction?

Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. The American Dream is a beautiful ideal. An egalitarian proposition I bought into wholesale, forging a life trajectory premised upon material well being. But the dream is not without it’s fissures. Nowhere does it promise personal well being. Nowhere does it promise meaning. Nowhere does it promise happiness.

But this is on me. Because at no point did I take action on anything of personal importance. What do I want? Who do I want to be? 

At 30, I lacked the maturity and self-awareness to honestly answer these questions. But let’s face it — I didn’t even ask.

At first, my dissatisfaction was barely noticeable. But as my disquieting malaise progressively escalated, I compensated with all manner of unhealthy habits. Blackout binges that landed me in jail. Horrendously noxious food that left me atrociously unhealthy. Spending sprees that escalated my debt to almost un-fixable levels.

Nothing worked. So I drank more, ate more, spent more, consumed more. Yet no matter how overindulgent my insalubrious habits, how desperate my accelerating efforts to medicate my discomforting dis-ease of self became, that hole in my spirit just grew. Deeper. Wider. Darker. Until it’s sheer vastness swallowed me whole, leaving me lost, despondent and utterly alone.

Hoping to die and unable to live, all that remained was the realm of the hungry ghost.

I honestly don’t know how or why I survived. But I do know my rebirth was not by my hand. My divine moment was just that – divine. A faint whisper from the dark recesses of my rootless, discomposed consciousness:

You don’t have to live this way anymore.

This week’s guest knows a thing or two about what I’m talking about. Because not that many years ago, Joshua Fields Milburn was blazing a similar trajectory. Mired in the corporate grind, he chased the American Dream banking six figures managing 150 telecom retail stores, expiating for the satisfaction his career failed to provide by doing what we do — accumulating. And when that didn’t work, he accumulated more.

In fact — much like me — the more Joshua measured self-worth via the barometer of externalities like job titles, condos, and big screen tv’s, the more his hole darkened, dilating in depth, width and scope.

Joshua’s divine moment was delivered in the sudden passing of his mother, followed quickly by the dissolution of his marriage. A devastating succession of events that forced him to take a long look in the mirror. Despondent with the guy being reflected back to him, a whisper began to echo:

You don’t have to live this way anymore.

Hence was born Joshua’s search for a more fulfilling and personally satisfying way of living and being. A search that ultimately illuminated a beacon in the darkest of nights.


It began with unshackling his relationship to material things. But it culminated in something far more profound: freedom.

In Joshua’s words, freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

Today, Joshua and his best friend Ryan Nicodemus are The Minimalistsa dynamic duo that write, speak, make films and generally espouse the virtues of focusing on life’s most important things—which actually aren’t things at all.

With a devoted readership in the millions, they’ve written several books, given TED Talks and spoken at places like SXSW and Harvard Business School. They’ve been featured on every major television network and profiled in major publications like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and TIME.

They created a publishing imprint, launched a podcast, opened a coffee house and even made a stupendously great documentary called, you guessed it, Minimalism: A Documentary.

Packed with teachable moments and brilliant takeaways, this is a phenomenal conversation about how to live more deliberately. It’s about creating more by consuming less. It’s about prioritizing experience over accumulation. It’s about reclaiming our precious time. It’s about discovering meaning. It’s about growth, contentment and love. And it’s about the deep personal satisfaction that comes with contributing beyond ourselves.

But most of all, this is a conversation about, to coin Joshua’s brilliant phrase, why we should love people and use things. Because the opposite never works.

Joshua and his message are a gift. My hope is that you receive it graciously, reflect upon it appreciatively, then put it to work.

Peace + Plants,


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Joshua & Ryan’s new documentary is a must see. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things* is now available on the following platforms: iTunes | Amazon* | Google Play | Vimeo

Background, Context & Reference

Books & Films Discussed In Today’s Podcast

Notable People Discussed In Today’s Podcast

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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