Minimalism – Digging In

Not being ready to be done with a minimalist approach to life I decided to dig into a few of my favorite resources and wanted to share those here.

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta share’s his thoughts on living a simple life, quite a challenge given that he has six kids! I find the story of his transformation to a simpler, more frugal way of living began in 2005 to be truly inspirational. Check it out here.

Becoming Minimalist – Here Josh Becker shares the ups and downs of his family’s journey to ‘rational minimalism’. This link is a good place to begin finding out about Josh.

The Minimalists – I’m relatively new to The Minimalists and have been enjoying reading about their 21 day journey into minimalism. Check out their recent presentation at TEDx in Whitefish where they discuss community, consumerism, and living a rich life below. Some of the answers in the Q&A video, also below, definitely gave me hope that I’m on the right path.

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Living on Purpose

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked.
‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered.
‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

While making changes such as losing a substantial amount of weight, stopping smoking, or taking control of your life in someway can have a profound effect on your health and happiness this type of change is only a piece of a bigger pie.

The change can be achieved through a series of questions:

    • What do I want to do
    • When do I want to do it by
    • How will I measure success
    • What resources do I need
    • Who hold me accountable

If we are then to dig a little deeper we might ask:

    • Who will this impact and how will it impact them
    • How will things be different after I’ve made this change

finally:

    • Why do I want to make the change.

I have a number of these change activities underway now, some more advanced than others, and have a collection of ‘whys’ for each of them that I’ve been staring at for a couple of weeks in the hopes that they will integrate into a grand unified why, or a purpose, or at least a mission statement.

Important? I would argue that it is. If you aren’t living with intention then you’ll drift along being taken where ever the current leads and how can you live with intention if you don’t know what’s important to you. What you’re willing to dig in and take a stand for? What are the guiding principals that your actions align around? Perhaps you just intuitively know what’s the right thing to do? Why not write out the reasons for the choice that you made. Are they consistent with the next choice you made and the next? Or are you flip-flopping around more than a politician in election season?

Answering the ‘big why’ question and identifying a purpose that is bigger than you, one that puts you in the service of others, can be tough which is probably the reason that less than 5 % of people have a clear sense of purpose at this level. Fortunately there are lots of ways to get to an answer. Steve Pavlina recommends the following exercise:

1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.

from How to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes

As an alternate, an approach described in the book Business Model You for uncovering your purpose is to rewrite the following sentence:

“I would like to HELP PEOPLE through these ACTIVITIES.”

replacing HELP with a verb, (e.g. support, encourage, nurture…), PEOPLE with a noun, (e.g. artists, artisans, craftsmen…) and ACTIVITIES with a verb (e.g. photographing, listening, promoting..) then finally rewrite the sentence to have it be a compelling statement of intent.

As an example, the evolved and rewritten sentence could be:

‘I will develop devices that are energy efficient that are able to produce and purify water at large scale to serve the populations in areas where clean, sanitary water is scarce.’

or

‘I will support emerging artists by creating an co-op that provides access to the tools and resources necessary to get a foothold in the business of art’

The Business Model You book is a great career development resource and I’m on the acknowledgments page in my Red Sox hat. See if you can find me! Also check out the business model you website here.

As always comments and thoughts appreciated.

A Compelling Reason for Change: The Harujuku Moment

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While we often know that we should do something we often don’t because there’s not enough pain involved. There’s no compelling reason for change. Tim Ferris relates a story in the Four Hour Body about the moment Chad Fowler realized a need for and committed to his transformation. That it happened on the street in the Harjuku district of Tokyo gave rise to the name. Here’s how Tim Ferris describes it:

So the harajuku moment refers to very specifically a story by Chad Fowler or related to Chad Fowler. So here’s a case study in the book, kicks ass in every possible way. Professionally, he’s a computer programmer, runs a number of very famous conferences in the tech world and he was in Japan shopping for clothing with a number of friends and he was very overweight and he and one other person ended up sitting on the sidewalk and he said, “Yeah. It doesn’t matter what I buy anyway so I’m not going to look good at it”. And there’s this awkward mood of silence like, “Wow, I really just say that?” And he realized that that at point in time, how painful it was to be overweight. And that was his harajuku moment.

I had my own moment similar to that described above in December of last year. For the first time in a long time I saw the person that I had physically become rather than the mental image of who I was. That was enough to kick start the process of change for me.

What if you had an equally compelling reason that guided all of your actions, that pulled you through life? What we’re talking about here is knowing what your purpose is, what you stand for. Have you ever stopped to think about that? Or is it already clear for you?

As always thoughts and comments appreciated.

Transformations

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Forgive me if I’m in danger of beating this horse to death but my recent weight-loss success has made me wonder if the same approach that I used for weight loss could be used to affect transformation in other parts or my life – personal finance and creativity/photography being just two areas of interest.

In many ways losing weight was easy – Tim Ferris had done much of the heavy lifting for me already. Tim Ferris is the author of the ‘Four Hour’ Series of books – Four hour work week, four hour body, four hour chef. The titles are super cheesy and I must admit that I read the four hour work week with a high level of skepticism. Certainly for someone like me it’s hard to imagine how I could engineer to work remotely, managers after all serve the people that report into them and so to do that job effectively you need to be available to help with whatever’s going on. In any case, Ferris’s books are case studies in learning. How to subvert the established way of doing things and get maximal results for minimal amounts of effort.  Once you cut through to this central idea his books get much more interesting.

My weight loss started with the slow carb diet that Ferris describes in detail in his book Four Hour Body and which is described briefly here. I had to make some changes to make this work for me – breakfast for me has to be a quick and easy affair even the quick breakfast wasn’t fast enough and microwaved spinach made me gag. I ended up with convenience foods for breakfast (a protein shake from Biotrust) and lunch (Cliff Protein Builder Bars) and then real food for dinner. I then took the same basic diet and applied Barry Sears Zone Diet to it – 40% carbs, 30% Fats, 30% protein. This involved weighing and measuring everything that I ate to make sure I was ‘in the zone’. Finally I began a strength, metabolic conditioning and mobility program that has me moving 6 days a week.

So here’s what I did:

* Followed a template that had been previously shown to work
* Experimented with the template to find something that worked for me
* Made small changes to my behavior, worked with them for two weeks and then incorporated additional changes for the next two weeks
* Measured my progress in as many ways as I possibly could
* Engaged accountability partners that supported, cajoled and encouraged me

While there aren’t easy to follow templates for everything that I want to work on there is a remarkable amount of information available making it possible to build case studies in the way that Tim Ferris has done for whatever you’re interested in. As I continue to explore this I’ll be sure to post more here.

In the meantime – What are you working on? What transformation would you like to make but are stuck with? Have you made a successful transformation? Did you use the steps outlined above? Something different? Any key practices to share? I’d love to hear about it.