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“The things you own end up owning you.”
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 Minimalists — a 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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Thanks to this week’s sponsors:
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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
- Connect With The Minimalists: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
- Connect With Josh: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
- Visit Bandit Coffe Co. in St. Petersburg, Florida
- Joshua & Ryan’s publishing imprint Asymmetrical Press
- TEDxWhitefish: A Rich Life With Less Stuff: Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields Milburn
- Leo Babauta: Description of Minimalism
- Joshua Becker: Benefits of Minimalism
- Colin Wright: Minimalism Explained
- Courtney Carver: 25 Reasons You Might Be A Minimalist
- Time: Minimalist Living: When a Lot Less Is More by Josh Sanburn
- The Minimalists: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden Is A Minimalist
- WashingtonPost: ‘Our memories aren’t in our things’: A movie explains why having less stuff makes you happier by Stephanie Merry
- HuffPost: Ryan Nicodemus, A Minimalist Along With Joshua Fields Millburn, Discusses His Simpler Life
- LAWeekly: How Two Guys Known as ‘The Minimalists’ Are Helping Us End Our Obsession With Stuff by Whitney Friedlander
- BostonGlobe: How minimalism teaches you to be happy with less by James Sullivan
- JamesAltucher: How Minimalism Brought Me Freedom and Joy
- YouTube: Quit social media (TedX with Dr. Cal Newport)
- NYTimes: Why Self-Help Guru James Altucher Only Owns 15 Things by Alex Williams
- NYTimes: The Class Politics of Decluttering by Stephanie Land
- NYTimes: When It’s Cool To Have Nothing by Anne North
- WSJ: Shop ‘Til You Stop: How To Treat Compulsive Spending by Melinda Beck
- WSJ: How To Navigate The Gift Season Minefield by Andrea Coombes
- The Atlantic: Frugality Isn’t What It Used To Be by Joe Pinsker
- The Atlantic: Living With Less by Rebecca Rosen
- Slate: A New Memoir About What Happens When You Get Rid of All Your Stuff by Ryan Nicodemus & Joshua Fields Milburn
Books & Films Discussed In Today’s Podcast
- Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things* by Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life* by Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
- Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists* by Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
- Essential: Essays by The Minimalists* by Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
- Falling While Sitting Down: Stories* by Joshua Fields Milburn
- As a Decade Fades* by Joshua Fields Milburn
- Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World* by Cal Newport
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love* by Cal Newport
- Infinite Jest* by David Foster Wallace
- The True Cost* a film by Andrew Morgan
- Heat* dir. Michael Mann with Al Pacino & Robert DeNiro
- Fight Club* by Chuck Palaniuk
- Fight Club* dir. David Fincher with Edward Norton & Brad Pitt
Notable People Discussed In Today’s Podcast
- Colin Wright: author, speaker, minimalist, and full-time traveler
- Leo Babauta: author of The Power of Less and creator of Zen Habits
- Sam Harris: American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist
- Joshua Becker: American author, blogger, speaker, and pastor
- Courtney Carver: American author, blogger, and speaker
- Tammy Strobel: American author, teacher, and photographer
- Bea Johnson: French author, speaker, and the creator and blogger at Zero Waste Home
- Matt D’Avella: American director and documentary filmmaker
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy
- RRP #179: From A Life of Matter to A Life That Matters: Jason Garner
- RRP #236: Andrew Morgan on the True Cost of Fast Fashion: The Ethical & Environmental Price of Clothing
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 Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
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