The Minimalists, (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus) on A Rich Life With Less Stuff at TEDxWhitefish – Transcript
Ryan Nicodemus: My name is Ryan Nicodemus and this is Joshua Fields Millburn, and the two of us run a website called The Minimalists.com and today we want to talk to you about what it means to be part of a community. But first, I want to share a story with you about how I became rich.
Imagine your life a year from now. Two years from now. Five years from now. What’s it going to look like? Imagine a life with less. Less stuff, less clutter. Less stress and debt and discontent. A life with fewer distractions.
You’re joking right now, right? Dude we’re trying to give a talk. Sorry about that.
Now imagine a life with more. More time, more meaningful relationships. More growth and contribution. A life of passion unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you.
Well, what you’re imagining is an intentional life. It’s not a perfect life, it’s not even an easy life, but a simple one. What you’re imagining is a rich life. The kind of rich that has nothing to do with wealth. You know, I used to think rich was earning $50,000 a year. Then when I started climbing the corporate ladder in my 20’s I quickly began earning $50,000, but I didn’t feel rich. So I tried to adjust for inflation. Maybe $70,000 a year was rich. Maybe $90,000, maybe six figures or maybe owning a bunch of stuff. Maybe that was rich.
Well, whatever rich was, I knew that once I got there, I would finally be happy. So as I made more money I spent more money all in the pursuit of the American Dream. All in the pursuit of happiness. But the closer I got, the farther away happiness was.
Five years ago, my entire life was different from what it is today. Radically different. I had everything I ever wanted. I had everything I was supposed to have. I had an impressive job title with a respectable corporation, a successful career managing hundreds of employees. I earned a six figure income. I bought a fancy new car every couple of years. I owned a huge three bedroom condo, it even had two living rooms. I have no idea why a single guy needs two living rooms. I was living the American Dream.
Everyone around me said I was successful, but I was only ostensibly successful. You see I also had a bunch of things that were hard to see from the outside. Even though I earned a lot of money, I had heaps of debt. But chasing the American Dream, it cost me a lot more than money. My life was filled with stress, anxiety, and discontent. I was miserable. I may have looked successful, but I certainly didn’t feel successful.
And I got to a point in my life where I didn’t know what was important anymore, but one thing was clear, there was this gaping void in my life. So I tried to fill that void the same way many people do, with stuff, lots of stuff. I was filling the void with consumer purchases, I bought new cars and electronics and closets full of expensive clothes. I bought furniture and expensive home decorations and I always made sure to have all the latest gadgets.
Oh, and when I didn’t have enough cash in the bank I paid for expensive meals, rounds of drinks, and frivolous vacations with credit cards. I was spending money faster than I earned it, attempting to buy my way to happiness and I thought I’d get there one day, eventually. I mean, happiness had to be somewhere just around the corner right? But the stuff didn’t fill the void, it widened it. And because I didn’t know what was important, I continued to fill the void with stuff. Going further into debt, working hard to buy things that weren’t making me happy.
This went on for years, a terrible cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat. By my late 20’s my life on the outside looked great, but on the inside I was a wreck. I was several years divorced, I was unhealthy. I was stuck. I drank, a lot. I did drugs a lot. I used as many pacifiers as I could. And I continued to work 60, 70, sometimes 80 hours a week and I forsook some of the most important aspects of my life.
I barely ever thought about my health, my relationships, my passions, and worst of all I felt stagnant. I certainly wasn’t contributing to others and I wasn’t growing. My life lacked meaning, purpose, passion. If you would have asked me what I was passionate about I would have looked at you like a deer in headlights. “What am I passionate about?” I had no idea. I was living paycheck to paycheck. Living for a paycheck. Living for stuff. Living for a career that I didn’t love, but I wasn’t really living at all.
I was depressed. Then, as I was approaching my 30’s I noticed something different about my best friend of 20 something years. Josh seemed happy for the first time in a really long time, like truly happy, ecstatic, but I didn’t understand why. We worked side by side at the same corporation throughout our 20’s, both climbing the ranks, and he had been just as miserable as me.