In Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of the popular website and #1 podcast series The Minimalists, introduce you to the joys of living with less.
Feeling trapped in successful but unfulfilling corporate careers, Joshua and Ryan worked long hours, wasted money, stayed in bad relationships and spiralled into depression. The everyday grind pushed them further into debt and discontent. After each undergoing a life-changing event, Joshua and Ryan walked away from their six-figure careers and discovered minimalism. Jettisoning most of their material possessions taught them that physical things can get in the way of the most important ‘things’ in life: their health, passions, growth, relationships and their contributions to the world around them.
The Minimalists website, podcast, documentary and sellout tours have helped over 20 million people declutter and find meaning. Minimalism is your chance to see how your life can be better with less. Joshua and Ryan now answer the Ten Terrifying Questions.
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Two decades before we started TheMinimalists.com, we first met as fat little fifth graders. We both grew up in Dayton, Ohio, USA, a blue-collar rust-belt city in the Midwest. Raised on food stamps and government assistance, we lived in dysfunctional households – surrounded by drugs, alcohol, and poverty – before the term “dysfunctional” was en vogue.
And we thought we were unhappy because we didn’t have any money. So when we turned 18 we got corporate jobs and spent the next decade climbing the corporate ladder. By age 28 we had achieved everything we’d ever wanted.
The six-figure salary. The luxury cars. The closets full of designer clothes. The suburban house with more toilets than people. We had all the stuff to fill every corner of our consumer-driven lives. We were living the American Dream.
But then, in 2009, Joshua’s mother died and his marriage ended – both in the same month. These two events forced both of us to look around and question what had become our life’s focus. We soon realized that we had been focused on the wrong things: on so-called success and achievement and especially on the accumulation of stuff.
We might have been living the American Dream, but it wasn’t our dream. And it took getting everything we thought we wanted to realize that everything we ever wanted wasn’t actually what we wanted at all.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
We both wanted to earn enough money to be happy – not realizing that money doesn’t buy happiness. Don’t get us wrong, poverty doesn’t buy happiness either, so we’re not allergic to money, but happiness is a byproduct of living a meaningful life, not the wealth accumulated in one’s bank account.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
That it’s possible to “get there” – wherever “there” might be: happiness, contentment, success. But the truth is that, much like a horizon, you never get there, because once you make it to the horizon, there’s always another horizon. The key, then, is to head in the right direction, knowing that life will improve, but we’ll never reach the horizon.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
We all have inciting incidents that change our lives – like Joshua’s mother’s death, or both of our marriages ending in our twenties – but the important part is what we do after the crash. Sometimes it’s easy to give up, but the most important thing we can do is learn from the crash and correct our course for the future.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book?
We started TheMinimalists.com in 2010, and during that first year we saw our audience grow from 52 readers the first month to hundreds of thousands of readers. And now more than 20 million people a year find value in our message. With our growing audience, we’re constantly looking for the best vehicle to communicate our simple-living message – sometimes that’s our blog or social media; other times it’s our documentary or podcast. But if you want to dive deep on a topic, a book is the best medium. That’s why we wrote Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
It’s our aim to show people that minimalism isn’t a radical lifestyle – minimalism is a practical lifestyle. Minimalism starts with the stuff, but then it goes way beyond that. Ultimately, minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s most important things. We discuss those important “things” in this book.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
If we could write one message on a billboard in the middle of every major city in the world, it would say, “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
We’re both 35 years old, and we both aspire to be our 40-year-old selves. To do so, we must align our short-term actions with our long-term values.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
People have all sorts of clever words to describe what they want to do: Objective. Target. Plan. Endgame. Outcome. Goal.
We were both the “Goal Guys” when we were in the corporate world. We had financial goals, health goals, sales goals, vacation goals, even consumer-purchase goals (no joke). We had spreadsheets of goals, precisely tracking and measuring and re-adjusting our plans accordingly.
These days, life is different, and we no longer have goals. Instead of an arbitrary target, we prefer to have a direction in which we travel. If you’re searching for a sunrise, it’s important to be headed east; for a sunset, west.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Stop aspiring – start writing.
Live a Meaningful Life
In Minimalism, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, authors of the popular website and #1 podcast series The Minimalists, introduce you to the joys of living with less.
Feeling trapped in successful but unfulfilling corporate careers, Joshua and Ryan worked long hours, wasted money, stayed in bad relationships and spiralled into depression. The everyday grind pushed them further into debt and discontent...
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.