The first time I met Jonathan Mead, he asked me if he should call me Joshua or Josh. My answer was simple (although it’s answer that usually frustrates people): “call me whichever name you prefer, whichever name makes you feel the most comfortable.” Jonathan found my answer interesting because it drives him crazy when people call him Jon.
People are often troubled by such answers and I understand why: we want to be told what to do, we want do to the right thing. But there isn’t always a right thing in every situation; sometimes there are several correct answers, sometimes there are no correct answers.
And this bothers us.
We are conditioned with the desire to be correct, the desire to be congruent, the desire to win. And to win we must not only be correct, but we must be the most correct. And herein lies the problem.
Sure, Joshua and Josh are both correct, but which name is the most correct? Well, neither is the most correct. Both names are completely correct and accurate and fine with me. I just want you to feel comfortable, so call me either. My mother use to call me both names. I use both names (in writing and in person). Most of my high school friends used to call me Millburn or Millie (some still do). And you can call me what you want (just don’t call me collect).
The truth is that many things in our lives have dozens of correct answers. And we can pick the correct answer that suits us best. Sometimes we don’t know if our choice is the right choice until after we make it—and sometimes we never know. Often, the most important part is that we make a choice and stick to it.
Once we choose, then we live with our decision. If it was the right choice, then we learn a lesson. And if it was a wrong choice, then we learn a lesson. Either way we grow, and life goes on.
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We all get jealous, don’t we? Actually, no, not everyone experiences jealousy as an emotion.
I don’t get jealous. That’s a weird thing to read, isn’t? Well, it’s a weird thing to say, too. But it’s true. I don’t experience jealously as an emotion. I experience sadness, happiness, anger, euphoria, and a plethora of other emotions, but not jealousy.
Why? Because, unlike many emotions, I can choose to not experience jealousy.
After years of observing people getting jealous in myriad ways, I understand that our culture is riddled with jealousy and envy and greed, all of which are by-products of our competitive, consumer driven culture.
What’s worse is that it’s far more pernicious than we think. Competition breeds jealousy, though we often give to prettier labels like “competitive spirit” or “stick-to-itiveness” or “ambition.”
But the truth is that jealousy leads to certain cultural imperatives—e.g., keeping up with the Joneses, as it were. Thus, we envy Mr. and Mrs. Jones for their money and their large house and their luxury cars and their big boat and their weekend retreat and their fancy vacations and all of their stuff—all of the trappings of our heavily-mediated society.
But we don’t get jealous solely over material possessions. We also get jealous over our relationships. We think our friends don’t spend enough time with us, our lovers don’t care about us as much as they should, our customers aren’t loyal enough. It all revolves around us. He doesn’t spend enough time with me. She doesn’t care enough about me. We think this way because it’s hard to back away from ourselves, it’s hard to realize I am not the center of the universe.
There is good news though. Like our televisions, we can chose to turn it off. We can choose to remove jealousy from our emotional arsenal. And like TV, it’s not always easy to turn off (it sure seems interesting sometimes, doesn’t it?) But turning off jealousy can significantly improve one’s emotional health. Because, at the end of the day, jealousy is never useful. Many negative emotions can be useful—pain tells us something is wrong, fear tells us to look before we leap, etc.—but jealousy, no matter how jealous we get, will never help.
The easiest way to turn jealousy off is to stop questioning other people’s intentions. We often get jealous because we think a person meant one thing by their actions, when they meant something totally different. And the truth is that you’ll never know someone’s real intent, so it’s a waste of time to question it.
If you’re struggling with questioning someone’s intent, you can do one of two things:
Ask them what they meant by their actions/words.
Accept that you will never know their true intent, no matter how much you question it.
The bottom line with jealousy: You can turn it off. You can stop questioning other people’s intent. A better life is waiting on the other side of jealousy.
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The other day I received a call from one of our clients in Bellbrook, Ohio with a somewhat unusual question. He said his son was out riding his bicycle near their home and the boy ran into a neighbor’s parked car. Fortunately, his son was not hurt, but the neighbor’s car was damaged. Would this be covered under his insurance policy?
At first, it sounded like it might be an auto insurance claim. After all, it was an automobile that was damaged. Would this be covered under my client’s auto policy – or under the neighbor’s auto policy?
Actually, we discovered that the answer was “neither”. Even though it was an automobile that was damaged, this was not eligible for a claim under my client’s auto policy since his car was not involved in the “accident”. (It’s possible that the neighbor could have filed a claim under his auto policy but my client wanted to take responsibility since it was his son who caused the damage.)
This incident ended up being covered under my client’s Farmers Homeowner’s Policy. You see, his home policy provided coverage for damage to the property of others – even away from the premises where he lives. Since his son was responsible for the damage to the neighbor’s car, we paid for the cost to repair it under our client’s Homeowner’s Policy.
Did my client have to pay a deductible for this? No – because it was considered a liability claim and there is no deductible for this type of claim.
So…the next time your child runs into someone or something on their bicycle, you may have more insurance protection than you realized!
Our daily lives are filled with noise. Every day it’s getting harder to turn down the volume.
Even the places in which we used to find brief stints of solitude have been enveloped by our heavily mediated culture: airport waiting-rooms pipe “info-tainment” into our heads via overhead HD monitors, grocery-store check-out-lines drip soul-crushing Muzak into our ears, and even bookstores (what’s left of them) bombard us with ambient advertisements and visual clutter at every turn.
And don’t even get me started on the things within our control, things like the TVs in our homes, our internet connections, our smartphones, our iPads, and our infinite technical ”advances,” most of which cocoon our attention spans every waking moment of every day.
Often, the noise feels inescapable, un-turn-down-able, utterly overwhelming. The only way to avoid it seems to be while we’re sleeping. Or does it invade our dreams too?
But there’s good news: we can turn down the noise. It’s not always easy, and it takes a certain kind of awareness, but we can turn it down. It is our choice.
Five Ways to Create Solitude in Chaotic Times
1. Wake early. These days I wake without an alarm clock, whenever my body tells me to wake. Some days I’m up as early as 3am (yes, really). I recommend waking early, before the chaos brought forth by the sunrise, even if you have to set an alarm. Wake slowly. Take your time. Think. I write in the mornings in a quiet room with no distractions—no TV, no radio, no clocks, no noise: just me and my thoughts and the words on the page.
2. Schedule time to read. I love reading, especially literary fiction (e.g., David Foster Wallace, Don DeLillo, Denis Johnson, Jonathan Franzen, et al.). I don’t have a routine, and I read whenever I feel like it, but I used to schedule time to read (when I had a busy corporate schedule). It was a way for me to force myself into solitude: just me and my thoughts and the characters on the page.
3. Go for a walk. I walk all the time (even though Dayton, Ohio, isn’t the most walkable city on earth). Walking gives me uninterrupted time to think, time for myself, time inside my head to marshal my thoughts and emotions. Even if it’s a fifteen minute walk, it’s worth my time: just me and my thoughts and the city lights under lavender skies.
4. Exercise. I exercise every day. I do so mainly because my health is the most important thing in my life—without it nothing else matters. Sometimes I go to the gym. Sometimes I do push-ups, squats, and pull-ups under a sun-kissed sky in the park. Whatever I do, I have the opportunity to do it by myself in solitude: just me and my thoughts and my body in motion.
5. Get rid of distractions. This sounds like common sense, but we’re so distracted by the noise that common sense doesn’t seem all that common these days. But you can try to turn off your cellphone for a while; jettison your television; kill the Internet for a month; get rid of a few clocks; check email and social networks only once a day; and find ways to remove subtle distractions from your life. That’s what I’ve done and it’s great: just me and my thoughts and a more meaningful life.
I’d love to see you enjoy some time in solitude, even if it’s just a few minutes a day. What can you do to remove a few distractions from your life, to create a little solitude in a chaotic world?
Please share this essay with others via the buttons below. But do so quietly, some of us are enjoying some much needed quiet time. And please subscribe to our site via RSS or email as long as it doesn’t add to the noise in your life.
In this edition of the DaytonPulse.com podcast, our guest is Michael Ehrler of The Growth Coach. You will be inspired and motivated by all of the insights that he has to offer. Michael can be reached at
The most blatantly wrong misconception we encounter about minimalism has to do with the act of counting your possessions.
“I could never be a minimalist, because I don’t want to live with less than 100 things.” We hear that a lot. Hell, even well-regarded Internet-stars inadvertently promulgate this misconception, saying odd things like, “I’m not a minimalist…I have no desire to move to a 300 square foot apartment and religiously track the number of socks I own.”
Yeah, neither do we.
Seeing people propagate such misconceptions, even as parodic exaggerations, is unfortunate because it gives an important movement a black eye, it scares people away from something greater. Often, the people promoting such ideas do so without malice, but they do so because they are afraid of labels. But, as we’ve stated, labels are necessary.
Minimalism is a tool that can help you focus on living a meaningful life. It does so by eliminating the superfluous items in our lives in favor of what’s necessary, in favor of what’s beautiful, in favor of what’s meaningful. Minimalism has allowed the two of us to focus on what’s important, to focus on strengthening relationships, growing as individuals, and contributing to other people.
And minimalism has helped thousands of people discover meaning in their lives. It has never been about counting stuff. Even our friend Dave Bruno, the author of the 100 Thing Challenge, would be the first person to attest to this. Dave lived for a long time with only 100 things (as a personal challenge), but the reason he did so was to prove our constant consumption is void of meaning, but the number of possessions is arbitrary.
Similarly, as a parodic take on why counting isn’t necessary, Joshua counted his stuff last year. Ironically, that essay, Everything I Own: My 288 Things, is the most popular essay on this site (it still receives thousands of visits). But the point of that essay was simple: the ostensible subject (i.e., counting your possessions) was not the true subject, it was not the point. The point was that taking a physical inventory of your life is eye opening, and it helps you get rid of unnecessary items so you can appreciate what you do have.
More importantly, the point was that you don’t have to count your stuff, though you can if you want to. Either way, minimalism can help you live a meaningful life, it can help you live more and need less, irrespective of how many pairs of socks you own.
This is a guest essay by Chase Night. Follow him on Twitter. And read the afterward for commentary from Joshua Millburn.
Let me tell you about the monster who rides on my shoulders.
When Josh asked me to write a guest essay for The Minimalists, I was honored, but my mind totally blanked on ideas. So I decided there was only one thing to do: I would have to tell you about the monster who rides on my shoulders.
I can’t see him, but I know he is there. I sense that he is covered in mauve shag-carpet, has overly goggly eyes, and a gaping black maw with a felt tongue inside. I also sense that his name is Howard, but I could be wrong.
Howard is always on my back wherever I go, helpfully pointing out reasons I have to be unhappy and offering advice on things or experiences I could buy to make me happy again. I used to listen to Howard like a student at the feet of a trusted guru.
Back in 2008 before I moved to Austin, Texas, I took out a small loan to consolidate all of my credit card debt into one payment with the intention of immediately chopping up all my credit cards and never buying anything on credit again.
Once I was in Austin though I started to feel sad and lonely. Howard told me I would feel happy again if I spent $1,500 on a Panasonic mini DV camera, a 3 point light kit, and a boom mic. On credit, of course.
I made a short film, and it wasn’t very good. I was sad again. Howard told me what I really needed was an Appaloosa. So I pawned the brand new camera and bought a surly spotted horse who wasn’t even broke to ride.
I can’t lie. Captain did bring me happiness for a while. He did stave off the loneliness. But…a hamster probably would have sufficed. Do you know how much it costs to feed a horse? By April 2010, I had to sell Captain just to pay the rent for one month. As I watched Captain’s new family drive off into the sunset with him, I started to wonder if Howard had ever really had my best interests at heart.
I became more consciously aware of the things Howard was whispering in my ear. I started to think that maybe Howard was just making stuff up. Making up stuff for me to be unhappy about, and making up ludicrous, unrelated solutions for these perceived woes.
Does any of this sound familiar? If you’re a human being, then I’m guessing it does. Howard is a member of a prolific, parasitic species which infects most of the Western World. The common name for this monstrous species is Discontentment.
These monsters attach themselves to us very early in our lives. Even before we can speak, they’ve begun spinning their lies in our ears. You don’t have enough. You are not enough. You need to own more. Do more. Be more. Let’s go shopping. Let’s get wasted. Let’s get laid. You’ll be happy in the morning. I promise.
Yet the promises never materialize. Whatever warm, fuzzy feelings you gain from the acquired object or experience fizzle out once the monster gets bored. The whispers start anew. Try something else.I bet a 62 inch TV would make you happy.
But enough about how lousy Howard and his family make us feel. Let’s talk about how to shut them up and shove them off our shoulders.
It’s easier than it feels. Here’s why:
Monsters don’t exist.
We can’t be controlled by something that isn’t even real. That’s just silly!
We’ve been conditioned to believe that Discontent is a natural human state, or even a necessary factor in human progress. This, I believe, is a manufactured lie to keep us in need of things we never actually needed.
In our lives, we will experience discomfort. We will experience disasters. These are real and unavoidable parts of our existence. They teach us lessons and help us evolve, even when they hurt.
Discontent is a different beast. It offers us nothing we can truly use. It is a false promise of fulfillment around the next corner. Then the next and the next and the next until we find ourselves standing on a ledge with no more corners to turn.
The concept of enough is built into the earth. She provides everything we need. You don’t see discontent in the animal kingdom. Wild animals never take more than they need to survive. A healthy wolf that has just eaten will not kill again just because he can, just to prove how powerful or sexy or cool he is. If we would only follow in their footsteps, embrace the enough given to us by the earth, and accept that this is all we truly need—food, water, freedom, companionship—then we have a standard against which to measure the lies of Discontentment being whispered in our ears, and we gain the sanity to recognize them for what they are.
Then we can look Howard in the eye and say, “I can’t listen to you because you don’t exist.”
We usually have to repeat this a few times in a few different situations before Howard gets the point. Sometimes the nonsense they tell us will just be too appealing to resist. We might experience a lapse. Don’t be discouraged; this happens to all of us. We’re fighting hundreds of years of conditioning to be unhappy with our lot in life. But we can overcome it.
With enough time and practice, we can wake up one day with a lightness on our shoulders we didn’t know could exist. Howard has left the building. We can roll our shoulders, let out a big sigh of relief, look around at our lives and say, “Enough.”
Afterward by Joshua Millburn
I first met Chase Night (yes, that is his real name) in Austin, Texas, when I drove to the SXSW conference in March 2011. He was kind enough to be my tour guide around his beautiful city. While in Austin, we ate plenty of fish tacos and talked about our fiction writing and what it means to live a more meaningful life. I encourage you to check out his website, Unbridled Existence, and follow him on Twitter. He is a gifted storyteller and one of the most talented writers on the internet.
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Carlos Scarpero AKA "Mr. Leads" is an internet marketing consultant. who provides internet marketing, SEO, LinkedIn training and much more to business owners throughout the Dayton metro region. He can be reached at www.Mr-Leads.com.
Mr. Leads LinkedIn Bootcamp is your step by step guide to everything you ever wanted to know about LinkedIn. Over 4 hours of video based training.