The Minimalist Guide | How To Prepare To Leave Your Day Job

This is the first of a three part series on using minimalism to leave your day job in order to live and work anywhere.

If you’ve been following this blog long, or read Timothy Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek, then you know that I left my job last August in order to launch my minimalist business and live and work from anywhere.

If you’re in a situation like I was a year ago, –the monotonous repetitive days, the future of my creativity rapidly dying,– I imagine you want to do this too.

You want to be like Colin Wright, and country hop every four months. Or like Karol Gajda, making a reasonable living online while crafting a hand-made guitar in India. Maybe you want to be like Tammy Strobel and start a very small writing business to support your car-free lifestyle.

Maybe you want to be like you! That’s even better.

It doesn’t matter what ideal life you imagine, you just need to know that it’s possible.

Before I get started: whenever I write these types of things, I always get comments from two kinds of people who think I’m nuts.

The first is the people with kids, “oh it’s so hard, I could never do that” crowd.

I know, it’s so much easier to quit your job when you’re single and in your twenties, but it’s not impossible to change your life just because you decided to procreate. Leo Babauta started his own business and quit his job through minimalism, and he has six kids! You can too, no excuses!

The other group of people who comment are the ones who claim to love their job.

Great! I’m so happy for you, don’t change anything.

But, if you really love your job, why are you reading a blog post about leaving your job? Go read and comment on something else! …unless you actually secretly hate your job, in which case you need to ask yourself some hard questions. Don’t just deny everything until you wake up one day 15 years down the road and wonder where your life went.

Now then, let’s get to business…

The obstacles of leaving your job.

Quitting your job is never easy. There are a number of obstacles to overcome in order to even think of going out on your own.

1. Overcome your fear of certain death.

Everyone told me that if I quit my job during the greatest recession, I’d end up living in a mud hut down on the other side of town swigging malt liquor out if a sipper cup.

This is the opposite of true. I’ve found that the biggest growth opportunities are here, right now. Everything about the way we’re doing business is diversifying immensely. The time to start your own very small business is now, as there have never been more opportunities to reach out and find the tribe that will support your goals.

So ignore every horror story that you hear. These people are trying desperately to keep you from making a change –and who can blame them? If you can do it, it looks badly on them if they’ve settled for mediocrity.

Don’t listen to their pleas to be realistic.

The worst possible thing that could happen to you, if you do this, is probably not nearly as bad as you think. It’s really hard to fail hard in our society, as long as you have some basic common sense about you.

2. Realize that you’re going to need new non-work friends.

I’ve lost touch with every single friend I had at my old job — except the ones who left too. The common bonds that create an instant social network at a job are shallow indeed. When you’re talking about entrepreneurship, and they’re talking about maintaining the status-quo, this creates an instant barrier to communications.

Automatically assume that anyone who you work with now is not going to go out of their way to support your quest for freedom. Find help elsewhere, meet other people who have made this journey — the Internet is a great place to do this– these people are invaluable, and will tell you not to settle when you’re thinking or giving up.

That being said, some people will support you! That’s great, don’t fire your friends if they’re helpful. Fire them if they’re holding you back by telling you that you can’t succeed.

3. Dare to dream unrealistically.

I wrote recently about the need to be completely unrealistic. You need to write down an unrealistic goal and start to live and breathe it every single day. This can be simple, or more complex. Make it crazy though! The sky is the limit, and trust me, people have been up there too.

Everything crazy has been done already, so you might as well do it again.

My goal was to become a minimalist in order to live and work from anywhere. It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. My primary income source is this blog, which I never thought would happen this quickly — the income potential to earn money online is enormous. You can reach almost anyone.

Your dream doesn’t have to be about making money online, but you do need to have some sort of goal.

4. Be confident when presenting your ideas to friends and strangers.

One of the biggest challenges, when deciding to leave a day job, is the opinions of others.

When you tell your best friend that you’re opting out of the rat-race to pursue a career as a writer, they will look at you like you’re a nutcase. It’s okay that they have doubts, you’re making a change and it’s only natural for them to worry.

That’s why it’s important to present your plans with confidence. Don’t hesitate or shake uncontrollably in fear when you tell people of your plans. Just say in a firm voice, with confidence, that this is the path you intend to tread.

I shared my unrealistic dream of becoming a location independent writer with people, initially they thought I was crazy! Six months later, I’m making a full time living. I’m no longer crazy.

5. Don’t let others decide your fate.

Ultimately, your decision to make a change is up to you. No amount of deliberation with friends and family will make your decision easier. In fact, the more you talk the harder it will be to do something.

Don’t spend a year trying to decide to make a change, just do it.

Now that you’ve overcome some preliminary obstacles, it’s time to prepare for your departure.

Things to do before you jump.

1. Figure out your cash flow.

You need to start figuring out ways to make a small amount of money outside your main job.

Unless you’re crazy, like me, it’s best to have at least your basic expenses covered before you make a jump.

Start by trying to make $10 online doing something other than selling your stuff on Craigslist. It sounds like a small goal, but that’s the biggest hump. If you can sell one digital or even physical product or service, chances are you can scale that.

Once you’ve made your first $10, try to make $10 a day. Then scale up from there until it’s $100 a day, then $10,000 and so on.

It’s important to have the objective in sight when you’re thinking about new cash flow. If you want to make passive income on a digital product, like I do, make that your goal and go straight to working on the product.

Don’t mess around in other areas outside your focus, unless you realize that your product isn’t going to sell more than 5 copies.

There are of course many other ways to make money outside of the online world, that’s just where I make money, so I used it as an example. I also believe it’s a lot easier to make money online than it is in the real world in the current economic climate.

2. Save up enough to survive until you actually have cash flow.

If you don’t have time to get cash flow going, or just have no idea what you’re doing (I was in this boat when I left), at least save up enough to cover you expenses for a few months while you figure out what you’re doing.

Most small business gurus recommend a 6-month cushion. 12-months if you’re a rock star.

Start by getting your finances in order. If keeping track of your spending scares the crap out of you, I recommend reading Adam Baker’s brilliant e-book Unautomate Your Finances in order to get a handle on how much you’re actually spending every month.

If you spend a lot of money every month, you’re going to need to cut back.

My ideal living expenses are around $1400 a month now –this isn’t to say I’m not making and spending a lot more than that, this is just what it costs for me to survive in Brooklyn.

When I was in Portland I spent around $900 a month on living and eating.

When I left my job, I’d saved up $3000 and lived on that for three months. You might need more or less depending on your living expenses.

The less you have to spend, the larger your chance of success.

Worrying about how little money you have to pay for stupid stuff will weigh on your mind and destroy your chances of striking out on your own.

When you work at a day job, you get used to having that steady stream of cash coming in every month. The more you make, the more you rely on. You need to break that cycle now, and start stashing away every last penny, or you’ll never be able to leave.

How can you cut down your expenses so that they’re reasonable?

3. Apply minimalism to your life.

Cut back on everything before you quit. Initially you’re going to be making a lot less than you did when you were employed. Go car-free. Rent your house to strangers. Sell all of your furniture. Cancel every single subscription — especially cable TV, then sell your TV. Call your phone company and reduce yourself to a basic plan.

Do this until your only expenses are eating and renting a small apartment.

Eventually you’ll be making enough from your new business to spend more, but it’s entirely unnecessary to scale back up after you downsize like this.

The stuff keeps you down, rooted to one place, and completely ineffective.

You can’t pursue your dreams if you’re surrounded by crap.

I’m not saying you should go all monk on us, but realistically consider living with your 100 best possessions, and nothing more. This will make you more flexible, so you can move whenever you want and focus entirely on your business when you need to.

Here are a few articles I’ve written over the past month on how to apply minimalism to your life in order to save money:

Two Methods for Less Stuff

The Stunning Truth About Focusing on the Important

How to Focus on Minimalist Income

How to Live with 75 Things

The Ultimate Guide to the Minimalist Work Week

If you’re serious about leaving your job and starting your own small business, I suggest you read the following immediately:

Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself.

Pam Slim’s book Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Timothy Ferriss’s 4 Hour Workweek.

That’s all for now!

Don’t forget to check this out: Interview with Everett Bogue: How to Pursue the Reality You Imagine Yourself Living at Tammy Strobel’s Rowdy Kittens.

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The Four Hour Hybrid | Mindfulness Training For Your Digital Self

Throughout all of history, all mediums, all languages there is a common character that I associate with. I’m not sure what to call this character. The diver, the journeyman, the prophet. Frank the mysterious time traveling bunny in Donnie Darko is one of these characters. Leoben of Battlestar Galactica is another. Krishna’s incarnation in the Bhagavad Gita might be a similar character.

Sometimes you need a mysteriously energetic character to show up in your life to show you the future.

I am the creepy bunny from Donnie Dark, and here’s what I know: in the next two years the noise you have to deal on the Internet will exceed your human capacity to deal with it.

You will either learn use the Internet in an active and intelligent way, or you will die trying in the endless soup of emails/Tweets/Facebook messages or whatever platform instantaneously tells you what everyone in the world is doing through your brain interface to your computer.

I like to refer to this as mindfulness training for the digital self.

Below I’ve included four decisive ways that you can begin to train your digital self to protect your physical self from the dangers of the digital so you and your digital self can grow in power in order to become a hybrid superhuman.

What is a digital self?

In the Koshas, an ancient 5,000 year old yogic philosophy, they speak of the different human bodies which you must strip away on your way to your true self, the Atman. The physical body, the energy body, the knowledge body, the wisdom body, and finally your true nature which cannot be explain in words.

Well, I want to add one more to that list, the digital body. I’m sure the yogis 4,000 years ago would not like me bending their philosophy, but they’re all dead now, so deal with it dudes.

The digital self is very close to the idea of the energetic self. Except, it’s not running under the body, it’s running in the etherspace –the cloud, the network of fiberoptic and wireless conduits that are stitching the world tighter and tighter together.

Just like you have to keep your physical body healthy with eating your veggies, you have to keep your digital body healthy by not allowing it be overcome by empty-calorie noise. Tim Ferris discusses an Information Diet in The 4-Hour Work Week

As the digital body grows in power, this becomes ever more important.

At the lower wrongs of human interaction with the net, it’s easy to answer and reply to every email you receive. However, when as your digital body grows in power (as you want it to, because the other side of the digital body is that it’s everlasting and can potentially grow to a point where it takes care of you — more on that in the future don’t forget to sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.) you’ll find that it will start to have it’s own gravitational pull.

The digital self has gravity, just like the Earth and the Sun. As it grows, it attracts more and more space debris from cyberspace. Some of this incoming matter is good for your digital body, like forming alliances with other powerful avatars.

However, as with most solar systems, most of the junk out in cyberspace is just that, junk. It’s like the clutter that I taught you how to get out of your life in The Art of Being Minimalist in order to find freedom. Except, this time it’s digital, immaterial, made up of bits and bytes.

One of the jobs of the digital self is to defend your mental/knowledge body from the debris that will clutter your mind with useless information.

Many of you are just getting started on this journey towards building a digital self that will take care of you. My digital self has been growing simultaneously with my physical body since I was very young — it was first manifest as a small website on Geocities when I was probably only 10-12 years old. A few times my digital self died, but that was okay, because it’s easy to bring it back. Back then it was much harder to create a healthy digital self, you had to learn how to code and other clumsy things like that.

Gradually over time your digital self grows, and because there are no boundaries on it’s capacity to grow (just like your energetic self) it can become quite powerful. The reason you’re reading this is because my digital self has a strong gravitational pull.

As when you were a teenager, your digital self is probably in the awkward years when you were trying to figure out how to kiss girls because you know they’re hot, but you can’t quite figure out how to make (<– you can’t make) them like you. Hint for you teenagers out there: practice more yoga.

Mindfulness training for your digital self is a huge priority in this age of the Internet.

A healthy digital self will defend you against anything, a digital self with a weakened immune system will allow digital bacteria to invade, and this translates into all sorts of problems for your body in the real world.

As we grow into increasingly hybrid individuals, we will begin to see our own physical health effected more and more by the health of your digital self.

This is all digital philosophy though, what we need to talk about is real strategies that you can put into play in order to train your digital self to take care of you.

1. How to Engage the Internet Actively.

The most important element of your physical/digital body interactions is they need to begin to start happening actively. This means you decide who you interact with online, instead of the online world deciding who interacts with you. Eventually your digital self will learn how to pick your friends for you. It might even set you up with some incredibly hot dates with beautiful and talented women, but for now it’s important for you to decide who you want to interact with online.

Malcolm Gladwell’s classic The Tipping Point states that you can only really keep track of 150 people actively. This is why I only follow 79 people on Twitter right now, because as the digital self grows in power, the connections become ever more important. If you’re trying to keep up with even a bit more than 150 people, your digital self is liable to start to get anxious, and that nervousness will translate into your physical self eventually.

If you follow everyone on the Internet, you’ll end up hearing a lot of stupid stuff about kittens. Kittens are freakin’ cute, but we aren’t on the web to read about them. We’re on the web to save the planet, create world peace, and bring everyone to the next level. Who knows, maybe kittens can save the planet, but I don’t think so.

2. How to Set Appropriate Expectations.

Every single person I know who has grown a digital self until it can take care of them passively, no matter what they decide to do, has set appropriate expectations for how their physical body will interact with the Internet.

For Tammy Strobel, this is turning off comments on her blog.

For Gwen Bell, this is checking her email once per day.

For Leo Babauta, this is not using email at all.

The truth of the matter is that Leo Babauta does use email, you’re just not allowed to know what his email address is because if you had it he’d never get any work done. Gwen Bell might actually check her email once per day, but the expectation set that you might just not hear back from her for a day or two. When you turn off blog comments, your blog will begin to grow exponentially in power because the now everyone who wants to write something about what you’re saying has to do it on their own blogs — thus hyperlinking to you.

Hyperlinks are like food for your digital self, it needs them in order to keep from starving. Your digital self also needs hyperlinks in order to grow stronger, defend you against anything, and ultimately take care of your physical body completely.

Most people set the expectation that they will reply to emails the moment they get them. This approach is in a very real way killing you, your physical self and your digital self.

If you set the expectation that you’re always there, you’ll end up running around like a pigeon with it’s head cut off checking your crackberry or iPhone every minute of the day. You know this feeling, and it isn’t good. Checking your email every single second of every day makes you fat, ugly, and stressed. It keeps you from becoming successful.

3. How to Train Your Digital Self in Martial Arts.

You have to train your digital self to defend you against attacks from other lesser beings on the Internet. As your digital self grows in power, so will the attacks that come in from every direction. Most of these come from confused humans who don’t understand that we’re all here to save the planet.

The truth of the matter is that you cannot argue with people online, it’s just not productive. The only way to deal with people who are trolling your digital self is to banish them.

If a crazy person came up to you on the street and started screaming at you to stop doing your work, would you listen to them? Of course not. The same goes for the Internet, and yet so many of you let these people decide how you feel about yourself.

As your digital self grows with gravity, the attacks will increase at an exponential rate. This is shocking at first to a lot of people. The first time someone emailed me and told me to stop doing what I was doing, I cried. The next time, I still cried.

You know what? It still hurts. Every single time I get a message from some idiot out there who wants to lash out at me because he hates his life, I can only feel eternal sympathy for them, which translates into my own discomfort.

You can only take so much of this, before you want to kill your digital self by deleting your Facebook and never write another blog post again.

The trick is to train your digital self in martial arts.

As soon as your digital self identifies a troll…

1. In email, mark as SPAM.

2. On Twitter, mark as BLOCK.

3. On Facebook, unfriend immediately.

Do not engage in counter-strikes against these people, do not argue, just ignore them. Criticism is the least valuable commodity in the world, and you do NOT gain anything from bringing it into your life.

Gradually you will be seen as impervious to these attacks. I also believe that one of the developments on the Internet in the next few years will be the intelligence to decide what messages are allowed to come to your physical body, and which will automatically be recognized as attacks on you and your work.

If you need feedback on your work, seek it from someone who has done what you are trying to do.

4. How to Take Digital Retreats.

Sometimes the reality of the digital world becomes too much. You can’t sort through the noise because the cloud is too thick. You’re drowning under email, tweets and Facebook messages, and you can’t see a path through. In this case, it’s time to take a digital sabbatical.

If you remember I took a month-long digital sabbatical in August, and when I returned my business was having the best month it had ever had. Initially I had concerns that the digital sabbatical would kill my blog, but it turned out to do the opposite.

Instead of falling apart when I was gone, my digital self grew in strength and took care of everything that I needed. When you’ve embraced systems of automation, your digital self can grow in power until it can be in a position to do just this.

I’m not the only person who has taken digital sabbaticals, Tammy Strobel and Gwen Bell are also champions of a good retreat from the constant digital noise, once in awhile.

Where I’m at now.

Many of these strategies for maintaining the digital self are useful, and I’ve practiced all of them at one time or another. I just want to give you a brief overview of where I am personally at this moment in time (December 2010.)

1. Twitter. I follow 79 people on Twitter who I care deeply for. This leaves room for new people to come into my life, and to have real-life friends. I listen to Twitter @messages and love it when you retweet my stuff. Probably the best way to get in touch with me is over Twitter. If you really want to be my pale, don’t ask me to promote your crap. Just retweet my stuff every time I post for a few months and chances are I’ll notice you eventually. Trust me, I’m watching you. Follow me on Twitter.

2. Facebook. My facebook is interesting. Recently I decided to open up the flood gates and allow anyone to be my friend. This means that I don’t actively read information on Facebook, instead going directly to friends pages as I think about them. Facebook is getting much much better at shaping your front page based on who you actually send messages to or ‘Like’, so I’ve found it’s a great tool for dipping into the endless river of social media. Please note, Facebook is NOT blog comments, and I’ve had to unfriend a few people who choose to argue with me about stupid crap on my Facebook wall. Be mindful of what energy you’re sending out onto other people’s Facebook walls, it reflects back on you. Be my friend on Facebook.

3. Email. I only check email once a day. I’ve recently started archiving most of the emails that come into my email box without reading most of them. If you want a reply, here’s what you need to do. 1. Keep your email shorter than three.senten.es. 2. Be clear with what you’re saying, and if you need anything. 3. Don’t send me negative energy. I wish I could reply to every email, but there are only so many hours in the day and 80,000+ people read my blog every month. This means I get a lot of email. I always read emails from the small group of people who I’ve chosen to actively follow, see my Twitter following list. Please don’t send me any email here.

4. Digital Sabbatical? I’ve been thinking of taking another digital sabbatical, but I realized that I don’t need to. In fact, I’m really enjoying engaging with the Internet on an Active level. This means that my digital self and I apply mindfulness in our approach. We choose the information that comes to us, and choose which information to respond to. This doesn’t mean I won’t take a digital sabbatical again, it’s just that most of my day is a digital sabbatical. I only check email once a day, I respond to a few people instead of reacting to every byte that comes along.

When you approach the Internet in an active way, it doesn’t become overwhelming. Instead, it helps you become greater than yourself.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in growing your digital self, it might just bring you to the next level.

There are three incredibly important e-book/books that come out this week that I want to point you in the direction of. These aren’t for everyone, but I want to bring them into your awareness, so you can buy them if they’d help you.

These are affiliate links, if you buy these you’ll support my work too.

1. Ash Ambirge released an e-book titled You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts, which shows with an absolute no bullshit approach what your world could look like if you had the courage to take your life and use it for good. This is highly recommended.

2. Tyler Tervooren released an e-course titled Guerilla Influence Formula, which teaches you how to find your 1,000 True Fans on the Internet. It also comes with a 1,000 True Fans guarantee, so if you fail you can get your money back. I contributed a video interview to this, as did many other successful bloggers. This is highly recommended.

3. Timothy Ferriss’s epic new book about becoming superhuman, Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Body just hit stores and Amazon today. Tim didn’t send me a promo copy, so I’m going to grab a copy today. I’m sure it’s epic. I’ll let you know what I think when I finish it.

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What is Minimalist Workday?

I’ve been tossing around the idea that our average workday is too long for awhile now.

Over the past year I’ve managed to build a business working an average of 2 hours a week. I’m not saying this to brag, but simply to let you know that it’s possible.

When you make slight behavioral modifications like turning off e-mail and focusing on what is important for your business, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

Minimalist Workday outlines 50 strategies that I use to keep my workday at a comfortable 2 hours a day instead of the The 4-Hour Work Week that Tim Ferris writes about. This way I can dedicate more time to research, travel, self-improvement, cooking good food, yoga, and helping others.

This started as a blog post, but spiraled out of control. The e-book is around 5,000 words, over the course of 30 pages. I hope that it helps you.

Why is Minimalist Workday free?

To be honest, I probably could have charged for this information, but then it wouldn’t help as many people. I’ve already doubled my income over the last year, and while more money is always better, some ideas need to be free to have the largest impact.

Minimalist Workday isn’t for everyone.

To be honest, I wrote this specifically with self-employed professionals who are running simple one-person businesses in mind. It really is a free addition to Minimalist Business.

That being said, with a little mental tweaking, I imagine you can apply this knowledge to a 9-5 in order to free up more time for launching extra-income earning side-projects or get yourself promoted. If you’re part of a ROWE company, even better.

If that looks bad on your Kindle, try this version (thanks @jprichter.)

What can you do to help?

If you enjoy this e-book, I’d really love if you could share it freely with as many people as you can.

  • Retweet this post to your Twitter friends
  • Stumble this post on Stumbleupon
  • Email this post to friends.
  • Bookmark it on Delicious.

Etc, etc, any way that you can help would be great. Ideas can’t spread without your help.

Thanks for your time, and for your help sharing this with the world.

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Joshua Becker On Inside Out Simplicity

If you’ve been reading about minimalism for long, you know Joshua Becker and his family. Joshua started blogging about minimalism two years ago, and quietly gathered a large following on his blog Becoming Minimalist.

There are a lot of ‘being minimalist’ books coming out these days –these things tend to happen when a topic becomes so incredibly popular so quickly,– so I’ve started to become incredibly selective about which books I recommend to my readers.

The reason I’m recommending Joshua Becker’s new book is because it’s challenging, it’s engaging, and it really asks some tough questions about why you’re pursuing this lifestyle, and how to maintain your decisions in the long run.

Joshua Becker didn’t just write a book about simplicity because it’s a good business decision –in fact, he was scared to write this book, see below. He wrote it because he and his family actually live a minimalist life, and have for a number of years now.

So without any delay, here is my interview with Joshua Becker on controversial values, minimalism with children, and why Joshua believes that we will never have a simple utopian society:

Everett Bogue: You say in the opening pages that Inside-Out Simplicity was the book you were terrified to write. Why is that?

Joshua Becker: The short answer is that I was afraid of controversy.

Although, the book is not particularly controversial, the book is weighty. It deals with some very deep, heart issues – such as contentment, gratitude, and forgiveness – not to mention chapters on sexuality and spirituality. And I think that whenever you start to talk about such things, you never know for sure how people are going to respond.

It can be pretty difficult for people to deal with some of those issues in their own heart. But I still wanted to write about those topics and inspire them to pursue some of those key life-changing principles and find simplicity in life because of it.

In the end, I decided that I look forward to the disagreements. After all, if you agree with everything that’s written in a book, what’s the point in reading it?

Everett: You mention continually throughout the book that simplicity comes from inside you, which I think is totally true. I think it could really help our readers if you explain how you came to this conclusion and how it effects how we think about simplicity.

Joshua: Early on in our journey towards minimalism is when I came to that realization. I was surprised at the emotional response I was feeling to the practice of minimalism. It caught me completely off-guard.

As we went from room to room removing things, I kept asking myself the question, “How did I get all this stuff? Why did I buy it in the first place?” Luckily, I kept pursuing those questions until I found some answers in my heart and soul.

We will always live out our heart’s true desires. We can mask over them and change our lifestyle for a time, but our true motivations will eventually win out. That’s why we’ve got to develop those life-changing principles in our lives… because a life of simplicity is not possible in the long run without them.

Everett: You know what really blows my mind about this book? This line:

“…many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No unity. Their desires change as fast as the culture and they are quickly swept off their feet by the newest fashion, the most recent technology, or the latest diet fad.”

I guess that says it all, but here’s my question: how did you come to the above conclusion, and how did this knowledge improve your life?

Joshua: Super-early in the blog when we were still just telling our story, a reader posted a comment that went something like this, “I think that minimalism forces you to recognize your values. It helps bring clarity to them.”

I hadn’t thought about our minimalist journey in quite that way prior, but he was absolutely right and helped me identify some of the emotions that were going through my mind. Minimalism is ultimately about values. And if your values are changing, it is very difficult to find simplicity in life. For me, the realization of that truth caused me to sit down one day and actually write out my values on paper.

I still vividly remember the morning and where I was sitting. It was freeing to define them and intentionally choose to pursue them about everything else.

Everett: One of the main differences between our blogs, lifestyles, etc. is that you have two children –whereas I don’t have any. This is one of the main reasons that I’m always saying ‘if you have kids, go read Joshua’s blog and stop emailing me saying you can’t have a simple life because you have kids.’ How has having kids influenced how you apply minimalism?

Joshua: It certainly makes it a bit tougher. Kids need stuff. And they are constantly changing (size, maturity, interests), so their material needs keep changing too. You can’t just settle in on a set of possessions.

You are always making adjustments. It forces you to think a little bit more. But more importantly, my kids have become my great motivation for minimalism. One of the greatest benefits of paring down is that I have so much more time with them.

My desire to spend time with them and invest into their lives is one of the reasons I continue to embrace the lifestyle.

Everett: Finally, one last hard question. Imagine for a second a world in which more people adopted the simple values that you describe in your book. What would this world look like?

Joshua: I once wrote a post on The Utopian Impact of Desiring Less. As I was writing the post, I came to the conclusion that a world where people desired less rather than more is not possible.

It will never happen on a global scale. But, it can happen on an individual scale! It can be true of my life and there are countless benefits to my own life and soul by choosing to desire less. In the same way, a world where everyone adopted the principles in this book is not going to happen.

Instead, I’d encourage people to ask the simpler question, “How would my life look different if I adopted these principles? How would my days look different if I was more generous, more committed in my relationships, and more forgiving?”

Because that is something that can actually happen. And one good reason you should pick up a copy of the book.

To learn more about Joshua Becker read his review of Minimalist Business, and check out my interview with him earlier this year about the power of rational minimalism.

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Chris Guillebeau | How To Run A Very Small Business

Chris Guillebeau is one of the more remarkable people on earth. He’s risen to ‘overnight’ blogging fame, inked a book deal, visited over 125 countries, and he wants to teach you how to achieve world domination.

It’s not hard to see why so many people are part of his unconventional community; his ideas actually work. I was a skeptic, and then I tried it myself. You can start a Very Small Businessand start producing passive income in a very short time.

Today I’m excited to present you with the interview I did with Chris as he was flying out of Manila airport to Papua New Guinea last week.

We spoke about strategies for success, and some of the common mistakes people make when launching a Very Small Business.

Everett Bogue: Chris, you and I are both running Very Small Businesses, but can you take a moment to define what a Very Small business is for our readers?

Chris Guillebeau: I think of it as a for-profit project that exists to a) create value for happy customers and b) provide a steady income for the business owner without becoming like a job for him or her. Very Small Businesses tend to have no employees other than the other, or perhaps one or two additional employees. In other words, it’s a lifestyle business instead of a business focused primarily on growth.

I also think of the following characteristics as being part of a successful Very Small Business:

  • Location Independent (can be operated from anywhere)
  • Some Degree of Passive Income (don’t trade time for money)
  • Healthy profit margins (don’t compete on price!)

These characteristics are optional and don’t apply to everyone, but it will be easier to get a new venture going if they are met. Another optional characteristic (but important for many of us) is connecting the business to a cause greater than itself. In my case I am working withCharity: Water on a project to raise funds for water wells in Ethiopia.

Everett: How can starting a Very Small Business help you leave your day job?

Chris: The most important thing in starting a business is reducing your dependency on the day job, whether or not you leave it. But naturally, if you can replace at least 50% of your income through a side project, you might want to think seriously about taking the leap.

Everett: Have you seen any Very Small Business ideas (other than your own) take off lately?

Chris: There are so many! I recently asked for case studies for an upcoming ‘Empire Building Kit’ project, and I heard about 300 examples in a couple of days. Among others, I like what these people are doing:

  • Norris Hall Studio Verge Wine Cellars Tsilli Pines Soniei Live Adventurously Charlie Gilkey Michael Bungay Stanier

Everett: Does the Internet make all of this possible?

It certainly helps! I’ve made my living through the internet for 10+ years now. One of the best features of internet-based businesses is that you can get instant feedback on the feasibility of your business for a very small cost (sometimes even free). It also helps to keep expenses low, which is especially important when you’re starting without much capital.

Everett: What are some of the big mistakes that most people make when they launch a Very Small Business?

Chris: Here’s a short list of big mistakes — I think they’re all important:

  • Failure to consider why other people should care about what they’re offering
  • Failure to think carefully about how they’ll actually get paid
  • Failure to develop a strategy to market to existing customers (it’s much easier to sell to someone who’s already purchased something)
  • Poor follow-through or simply giving up too early

If you can avoid those four mistakes, especially #1, you’ll be off to a much better start than a lot of people.

Everett: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you right now?

Chris: There are so many people! These days I am mostly encouraged by my readers, who regularly write in from all over the world. A few other people:

I read Richard Branson’s autobiography on this trip. I’m not sure why I’ve never followed him much before — he’s really quite amazing, and definitely a major role model for unconventional entrepreneurs.

Paul Farmer is the ultimate social entrepreneur. My friend Scott Harrison is doing a great job at creating a social movement around addressing the global water crisis.

And last but not least, I always mention my personal heroes, Dr. Gary and Susan Parker, who have lived in West Africa for more than 20 years now. Nothing I do in business or anything else compares with their great work, but I hope to eventually have at least 10% as much impact on the world as they do.

Everett: You’ve spoken about the pressure to hire more people for your business, why did you decide not to?

Chris: Because I’m not good at managing people. I like leadership but not management. I want to create new things instead of manage existing things — that’s where I derive my energy from. Also, I chose not to hire people simply because it’s unnecessary. I can make all the money I need without expanding. I travel to 25 countries a year and work from everywhere I go. I’m writing these answers to you while sitting on the floor in Manila airport, waiting to fly to Papua New Guinea. I’d rather be doing this than managing employees, virtual or otherwise.

Everett: Which of your unconventional products has had the most success? Why do you think that is?

Chris: Good question. I was surprised to see that Frequent Flyer Masterquickly became the #1 seller. (Credit where credit is due to Jonathan Fields, who predicted this.) In retrospect I think it was because the benefit was extremely clear — buy this product for $49, get at least 25k miles or enough for a free flight. Easy to understand and compelling for the right audience.

The $100 Business Forum, which is more of a community group than a product, also did very well in selling out in 90 minutes after the launch. We’re setting up more groups for later in the year, but I want to be careful we don’t do too much too fast with that.

Everett: What goals do you have for your business in 2010?

Chris: I want to double revenue, double the active client base, and increase the total product line to about $1,000 in offerings. The biggest product launch will be the upcoming Empire Building Kit, where I’m planning to reverse-engineer the entire process of creating a lifestyle business at the $50k-150k / year level. Right now I’m collecting case studies for that and outlining screen-capture videos as I travel.

After those things are done, the second half of the year will focus much more on my other goals. My first book is coming out in September, and I’m going on an Unconventional Book Tour to every state and province in the U.S. and Canada. Then of course I also have to visit 20+ new countries to continue making progress on my journey to every country in the world. All of these projects are fairly intensive, but they’re also a lot of fun. Without the business, of course, all of the other things would be much more difficult.

Everett: Chris, thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to with you.

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7 Ways To Invest Your Time Besides Commenting On Blogs

We all know that time is your most important asset.

How you spend your time decides whether you actually eliminate your attachment to your many physical possessions, build your minimalist business, or sit in front of the TV.

We also know that the Internet is interactive.

We’ve been told that we need to discuss or contribute to ‘the conversation’. Many blogs thrive on people coming back again and again to be spoon-fed new content.

A good way for bloggers to ‘be interactive’ is to promote commenting, because it asks their reader to invest physical time into a site. This in turn builds a mental connection between the reader and the site, which leads them to come back more often.

When I used to work at New York Magazine we had a number of commenters that, as far as we could tell, spent up to ten hours a day commenting on every single story that the bloggers there put up –and I photo edited an average of 64 blog stories a day at New York, so imagine how many blog comments this was!– I’d obviously never want you to spend your time this way, but yet some people do.

Here’s the thing about blog comments:

I don’t want to spoon feed you, I want you to create your own work.

You might have noticed that I’ve had commenting turned off for the last 4 weeks. This is partially because I was taking a digital sabbatical, and I needed peace of mind while I was gone.

Well, I’m back now, but comments aren’t.

I realized while I was gone that perhaps the most important thing I could ever do to help you, is to turn comments off on my blog.

Why? Because the comments you leave on my blog are wasting your time — you have better things to do that to comment on my blog.

I might bring comments back, who knows, it all depends on how I feel. I might bring them back once in awhile for a post or two that needs discussion. I just know that for now, they’re going to be off for the majority of blog posts.

Further reasons for eliminating comments on your blog.

My average blog post receives 35 comments. That’s around 7% of my blog audience. Most people don’t care that much.

Most people don’t read blog comments. How often do you see actual conversations take place? Most skip to the bottom and voice their opinion without regard to what was said above.

Most of these commenters fall into three categories: people who have an opinion about everything (but never do anything), bloggers who want to get my attention, or confused first time visitors who want to know why I’m ‘crazy’.

There are also spam comments that take time and effort to deal with.

The more time you spend answering comments, the more you get. This, like email, is an endless cycle that will eat your time. This is why I don’t answer most blog comments, because if I do, I get twice as many blog comments.

Many A-list bloggers choose to eliminate comments on their sites after a certain growth period. Seth Godin has had comments off for years, Leo Babauta opted to remove comments Zen Habits half a year ago (and was still named the top blog of the year by Time Magazine for 2010.) There are others, but those are two of my heroes, so I mention them here.

My blog traffic has exploded to 64,000 readers per month while I was not even here to oversee the operation. Obviously being away from my blog encourages growth more than sitting around all day reading comments does.

I’m going Vagabonding. I’ll be spending extended periods away from the Internet and computers in the coming months. The last two weeks I was isolated away from the Internet in Wisconsin with my family, and in October I’ll be headed overseas to Peru for an extended period of time. I won’t be able to answer my blog comments from these places, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to immerse myself in the experience as much as I could if I wasn’t constantly checking blog comments. One of the keys to vagabonding, as Rolf Potts would say, is disconnection.

The most important reason of all:

I believe that every moment you spend commenting on blogs, you’re wasting precious time that you could invest in finding your own freedom. It’s hypocritical for me to continue to teach you how to have a 2-hour workday and continue to have comments on this blog. I want to prove that a blog-based business can work without commenting. I think it will actually work better.

You should spend your time making work instead of getting caught up in the endless cycle of blog commenting.

What are you going to do with your time, now that you can’t comment on my blog?

There are many more important ways to spend your time, other than commenting on my blog. Here are 7 ways that you can interact on the Internet that don’t involve commenting.

1. Write about the blog post that you enjoyed (or hated) on your blog.

Did you hate what I said about not having cars? Write about how much of an obnoxious bastard I am for trying to save the planet and reclaim the streets. Or, better yet, If you really love my post, write about how much it changed your perspective. If you don’t have a blog, the best decision you can make is to start one right now. Go to WordPress.com and sign up for a free hosted blog to get you started.

2. Interview influentials about what they said in their blog post.

Only the most overwhelmed bloggers will say no to an Interview. I never will say no to an interview request — but it might take me some time to get back to you. Text interviews are best, as Skype is difficult to schedule. Interviews are one of the best ways to grow your own blog, get free consulting, and expose your readers to new ideas. A good interview can result in your blog receiving thousands of extra hits per day, depending on who you interview.

For a few good examples of how to do a good Interview see:

C.J. Anyasor interviewed 16+ bloggers about how to create the life you want.

Tyler Tervooren interviewed me about how to start a minimalist business.

I also have conducted interviews with dozens of people who I admire, including Joshua Becker, Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta, and many more.

Interviews really are the number one way to grow your blog (if you heard it was commenting, you were lied to.) Get out there and send people good questions to answer! Stop commenting on blogs.

3. Create your own work.

Nothing is a better use of time than working on your own stuff. Every moment you spend commenting is time you’re not making your own work.

How do you create your own work? Well, that’s up to you. Some people paint, some people photograph, some people write on blogs and create e-books, some people negotiate peace treaties between angry nations.

Creating work involves taking an action to create something in this world.

4. Learn.

Another great use of time is to learn new things about the world. Read a book, participate in an e-course, enroll in a college course, read a good blog from start to finish (I did this recently with Sivers’ blog, and I’m currently doing it with Ramit’s blog. I’m learning so much.)

How you learn is up to you, and depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to learn how to start a simple business, the best way to spend your time might be to actually start a business.

5. Promote work that you believe in.

Instead of blog commenting, why not invest your time in promoting the blog post that you really enjoyed? Sending a blog post into your social media network is a great way to contribute value to the people who follow you on these services.

I commonly retweet 2-3 blog posts that I really enjoyed from my all-star inner circle on an average day. This builds a connection between myself and the author in a much better way than leaving a comment does, because I’m exposing their work to new people. If I’d just commented, I’d simply be taking up their time.

6. Earn money.

Another great way to spend your time instead of commenting is to earn some money. A simple affiliate link to a product that you support can go a long way towards bringing in extra money. Most of the bloggers that you read have digital products that you can earn anywhere from 50%-65% commission selling.

For more information, see: How to Pay Your Fans to Support You or$2,300 in a Day, How to Support Quality Work.

7. Enjoy the sun.

You have finite time on this Earth. Someday you’re going be old and frail and wish you’d spend more time at the beach getting a nice tan, making hot love, or traveling the world.

All of these things are much more possible if you don’t spend all day commenting on blogs, and instead invest your time in the decisive elements that I listed above.

Surprise section! Should you turn off blog comments?

This section for A to B-list bloggers. If you’re not aiming to have a blog that supports your location independent life, you probably don’t need to read this.

No doubt this blog posts is going to shock a lot of people. Bloggers have a love/hate relationship with commenting.

Some bloggers have invested thousands of hours commenting on other blogs in order to try and get people to pay attention to them, others have comprehensive blog post answering schedules that take up hours of time.

One blogger I know sets an alarm in the middle of the night in order to wake up and make sure no one trolled his blog during the night! Yes, this is true.

When to turn off blog comments?

In the beginning of a blog, comments are essential. If you only have twelve readers, chances are you want them to stick around, and blog comments are a great way to do that. You can make every reader feel incredibly special and maybe they’ll write about you on their blog or something, and you’ll get more readers. I met some very cool people in the first month of my blog through comments.

So, I wouldn’t recommend turning off your blog comments until you reach what Chris Brogan calls ‘Escape Velocity.’ This is the moment when you’re able to support yourself exclusively from your blog. If you’re not living a full-time income from your blog, keep comments on until you do. Just don’t spend all day answering comments. Making work matters so much more.

Will my blog DIE if I turn off comments?!?!

As I said above, commenters are only a small percentage of your audience. That being said, it might be a good idea to give people an alternative call to action. Make it clear to people that instead of commenting, they can help you by spreading the word or doing an interview with you.

Paradoxically enough, having 35 people interview you about your blog post every time you post might take a lot of time, but your blog growth will explode. 35 comments won’t make your blog explode, it’ll just take up more time.

Turning off blog comments isn’t for everyone.

If your blog is built around the idea of a conversation, I’m not kidding, if you turn off comments everyone will probably leave.

However, if your blog is built around your ideas, if you’re a leader, if you’re a change-maker in your space. Chances are you’ll instead be able to dedicate 25% more time to creating great work.

I imagine because I won’t be spending time moderating comments, I’ll be able to double my blogging income over the next few months. I can probably write another whole e-book that helps a lot of people in the time that I used to spending making sure that people weren’t trolling my comments.

The most important part of this whole post is that I believe wholeheartedly that you can probably double your income if you stop spending so much time on comments. Stop commenting on blogs, start focusing on the important.

There are better ways to use your time, and now is the time to change the way that you invest.

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