Let's talk simplicity. Now I'm a girl who likes her stuff, so this was a tough conversation for me. But the truth is that we really don't need much to be genuinely happy. Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, founders of The Minimalists (TM), live to teach others how to decompress and live a simple more value-based life.
LM: Tell our readers about life before The Minimalists.
TM: We've known each other for more than 25 years. We both thought that money would be the key to our success, so we spent our twenties climbing the corporate ladder. By age 29, we were "successful." Yes, we were living the American Dream, but it wasn't our dream. It took getting everything we thought we wanted to realize that "everything we wanted" wasn't actually what we wanted at all.
LM: How did you start your business and why was the digital landscape so important to your evolution?
TM: It didn't begin as a business. At first we simply wanted to share our story of suit-and-tie corporate guys becoming minimalists. So, seven years ago, we started a blog called TheMinimalists.com.
And then remarkable things started happening: 52 readers turned into 500. 500 became 5,000. And now we have the privilege of sharing our message with millions of people every year, via our blog, books, podcast, and documentary.
It turns out that when you add value to people's lives, they're eager to share the message with their friends and family--to add value to their lives. Adding value is a basic human instinct. We want to add value to people's lives by encouraging them to let go.
You see, we all have the same 24 hours in a day. And yet, often, we neglect other people's time. Our own time is precious to us, and yet we're constantly vying for other people's attention, acting as if their attention isn't just as precious as ours. That's why we adhere to three rules to posting on social media:
1. Be succinct. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit. Or, perhaps, brevity is wit. Thus, we needn't wedge in unnecessary information or details. It's possible to use minimalism to converse with others. Don't leave out important information--don't be vague--find a balance.
2. Have a point. Why do you want this person's attention? To entertain her? To inform her? To ask her a question? Be as specific as you can.
3. Add value. This is the most important part. If you are not adding value, then you're just taking someone's valuable time. Ask yourself: Does this add value?
LM: I'm sure we all wish more brands took this approach with all the social noise happening out there. Aside from millions of social followers, you also host a podcast that focuses on health and wellness, isn't that right?
TM: Yes, in January 2016, we launched The Minimalists Podcast, where we discuss living a meaningful life with less and answer questions from our listeners. We are so proud that we get 3-6 million downloads per month.
Our audience enjoys the call-in format of the show, and they really seem to like the fact that we don't advertise on it, because ads obviously don't align with our values.
LM: Again, a novel concept. The Minimalist Movement has grown exponentially in the last several years; can you even begin to dream about where it will be in 10 years?
TM: We prefer to take one year at a time--to glance at the horizon, but not try to predict what lies beyond it.
That said, we hope to keep growing the movement as long as people continue to find value in our message. We can all work toward an ideal for every area of our lives: an ideal body, an ideal diet, ideal relationships, an ideal work environment, etc. While doing this, we must realize that we'll never reach our ideal. Or if we do, it won't be our ideal situation for long, because human beings yearn to grow, and thus that which is ideal today likely won't be ideal tomorrow.
Hence, you can achieve and accomplish whatever you desire, but the key to lasting happiness is continued growth.
LM: I call it "moving the goal post" and I think it's the bain of most entrepreneurs existences, but also the thing that continues to push us. So without projecting too far into the future, what's next on the horizon?
TM: The Less Is Now Tour continues to grow and is in its eighth tour in seven years. At the tour we get to interact with our audience in person. At each event, we give an in-depth talk about minimalism, host a live version of our podcast, and dish out hundreds of free hugs. That's what's top of our list these days, continuing to grow the audience and giving back through great content.
LM: What is the biggest misconception about you guys, and how do you practice minimalism in your daily lives?
TM: As minimalists, we don't focus on having less, less, less; we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. Clearing the clutter from life's path helps us make that room.
By continually asking ourselves one question: What are you prepared to walk away from? Almost everything we bring into our lives--material possessions, ideas, habits--we must be able to walk away from at a moment's notice. We truly live by that and encourage our audience to as well.
LM: So it would seem less, can sometimes be more, but shining the light on why is what adds value to our daily lives. The lesson for me is the struggle many of us have in understanding the difference between being and having, and that one does not equal the other. In other words, spend less time wishing and wanting, and more time appreciating. Possessions, while sparkly in the moment, shouldn't be assigned too much meaning or attachment, and being unattached to "stuff" makes our lives tremendously flexible and filled with opportunity.