For 25 years, I worked hard to build businesses and create value for stakeholders. As you would already know, entrepreneurship is no easy task. Most of the time, entrepreneurs pursue futuristic goals, and that takes a lot of effort. Like other entrepreneurs, I have been busy building teams, creating products, and running from one task to another chasing the next goal.
The lockdown changed all that. Suddenly, work reduced to a trickle and I had a lot of time at hand. I used it to catch up with my family and other loved ones and to reflect on my life so far. The lockdown gave me a lot of time to think.
The biggest thing I realized was the importance of doubling down on the most important goal of my life – financial freedom. I want to have the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and at the same time give my family the comfort they deserve. And I started evaluating all my tasks seriously. I began questioning whether they were leading me towards my goals and doing more of the ones whose answer was yes and saying no to the rest.
An important contributor to financial freedom is the ability to live below one’s means and think higher, not just in material possessions but also in intangible aspects of life like decisions, choices, relationships, and more. Last month, I watched a Netflix documentary that reinforced this belief.
The documentary, ‘The Minimalists: Less is Now,’ was not just inspiring. It also offered deep insights into the choices we make and how they affect how our lives turn out, and how the adage “less is more” is one of the most powerful truths of life. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you watch the hour-long documentary. It will change the way you look at life.
This post is not a review of The Minimalists, but a narration of the profound impact it left on me. Here are the four biggest takeaways from the documentary that I want to apply in my life.
1. The importance of reducing our spending.
“We love stuff,” author Dave Ramsey says in the documentary. With those three words, he summed up the way we live our lives.
We always want new clothes, gadgets, and accessories. We want to watch movies in theaters and enjoy expensive dinners at the drop of a hat. And there’s no limit to this consumerism; the more we have, the more we want. As a result, things begin to own us instead of vice versa.
When we reduce our possessions, we have more space and bandwidth to enjoy them. Also, we don’t waste time and money chasing other possessions, and that ushers inner peace in us.
This is why I’ve resolved to not buy anything I don’t need in 2021. No window shopping, no buying things because they are on sale, and no trying to inflate my possessions.
In fact, I am experimenting with living like a monk. This means I’m examining my existing possessions and donating what I don’t use to someone who needs them. And, I’m filling those empty spaces with natural beings like plants, whose freshness and greenery improve the mental and emotional health of the people around them as research has proved.
2. Giving more than getting.
I’ve embarked on an exciting project recently. It’s not a business deal or trying to get a company listed on the Stock Exchange. It’s building a library in my building.
I’m encouraging residents to donate their personal books to the library. Hopefully, this collection of books will benefit not just children, but every person who’s keen on constant learning.
You can already tell that I hit upon the inspiring idea after watching the documentary, which emphasizes producing more than consuming and giving more than taking. That’s such an inspirational thought!
Taking and consuming is all about ourselves. To an extent, they’re selfish thoughts. But when we ask ourselves how we can contribute to making the world a better place, we automatically switch our perspectives from taking to giving and consuming to producing.
Each day, I ask myself, “What more can I give to the world?” The library is just one step in that direction. I’m also planning a plantation drive in June month. My continuous writing also falls in this category of sharing knowledge and wisdom with people.
3. Prioritize experiences over possessions.
Now that I’m reducing my possessions, a void will get created, one that I want to fill with experiences. Like spending time with my family, going on treks, teaching and uplifting others, writing, adding value to ideas, people and places, and more.
When we buy things, they make us happy only for so long before we begin to long for other things, even if we don’t need them. But when we invest in experiences, we grow as individuals.
Life is the sum of our experiences, not our possessions. Each place we visit, person we meet, and idea we germinate, is an experience that teaches us something. And it doesn’t just become a part of us but also shapes who we become in the future.
Cornell professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich said,
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
Reflecting on our experiences creates opportunities to improve ourselves and to pursue real freedom.
4. The flexibility to work from anywhere.
As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of my time pre-lockdown at work. I would conduct meetings, travel to interact with clients, and take care of our physical infrastructure – office space, computers, furniture, and so on.
But during the lockdown, I realized like a lot of other people that the world has changed. It’s not just possible but also normal to work out of anywhere because the world has condensed into two devices – a laptop and a smartphone.
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – the two people who created the documentary – are a great example of this. For a couple of weeks, they research different places and plan an itinerary for a few months to follow. Then they spend months away from home, visiting new place, soaking them in, and even working from there. Thus, they don’t need to be tied down to a specific place to work.
I’m trying something similar. I’m working to build systems and processes that enable the business to function without my physical presence all the time. Meanwhile, I can travel to new places without neglecting my work. I can work out of anywhere.
I’m excited to see how that works out.
Minimalism is all about freedom, to live anywhere, to do what appeals to us, and to have the space for higher thinking. The philosophy can make us evolve from the current “simply living hardly thinking” lifestyle to “simple living and high thinking.” That, in turn, will exponentially improve the quality of our lives.
So if you want to embrace the minimalist lifestyle, just try the following:
- Reduce how much you spend on possessions. Buy only what you need and eliminate everything else. The less you have, the freer your mind is to enjoy them and do what’s important.
- Give more than you take. Embracing the giving mindset will bring about a marked shift in your perspective. You’ll begin thinking about how you can add value to the world. And that action will make your own life better.
- Invest in experiences rather than spending on possessions. Your possessions are fleeting; your experiences remain with you forever. Invest in the latter and learn from them instead of depriving yourself of them by pursuing materialistic gains.
- Build the flexibility to work from anywhere. In the passion-to-profession economy, you don’t need to be tied to a specific place or a customer base. You can work from anywhere and offer your expertise to the world.
Which lesson did you relate to the most? Do leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.