Archives for May 2018

May 30, 2018

The Case for Minimalism

My Journey as a Student from Researching Minimalism to Living with Purpose

Before we begin, I’d like to simply say this: I come before you today, presenting my minimalist journey as one who is still very new to the lifestyle, and decided to find a way to present minimalism to those who aren’t as persuaded by stories and philosophies as I am. This is the story of my study entitled Less: A Study on the Minimalist Lifestyle and Its Impact on Individual Happiness & Stress.

Last summer, I began a journey of self-discovery and stumbled upon minimalism. This revolutionary idea that less is more; life could be purposeful; life could be simple after all. Immediately I was intrigued, falling deeper in love with what minimalism had to offer.

My journey in minimalism began in August of 2017, when I committed to purging all my belongings to the bare minimum, resulting in more than three large moving boxes filled with items to be donated. From then on, I knew I had to share minimalism with the world. I needed encouragement to not buy so many items back, and I wanted to help other people see the way their lives, too, could be changed for the better.

The following month, an opportunity presented itself, and this was the perfect time to share my newfound love. I was taking a class known as AP Research, with a simple objective: fill the gap in research. I knew from my own personal research that there was very little scholarly evidence to the testimony that I had found countless times. So, I took this opportunity to combine the testimony of myself and The Minimalists with the newfound research of a self-conducted study on how minimalism impacted happiness and stress. In total, I spent seven months reading and researching minimalism in all its forms to create the case for minimalism.

From November to February, twelve weeks were spent journeying with eight people through minimalism, tracking their happiness and their life journey along with it. At the end, I found what I knew to be true: that minimalism made people happy. Really happy. Their stress went down as their possessions went down. I knew then that what I had found was going to be my leg to stand on when raving about this lifestyle.

Since I finished this study almost two months ago, I’ve had three of the eight people that I journeyed with continue being minimalist and inspired a newfound curiosity in three more. That may only be six people, but if they too come to love minimalism, that six will grow, and more people will learn for themselves that less is more. 

Minimalism will change people. Minimalism will change the world.

May 23, 2018

Applied Minimalism: What Athletes Know About Focus

To be great at sports we must focus on the essentials. But we must not miss the bigger picture.

Benson’s Law of Specificity is a classic lesson in minimalism. Benson understood that to achieve specific goals, we must practice the thing we want to improve in. To get better at sprinting; we must sprint. To deadlift more; we must deadlift more. A successful athlete must, therefore, say no to the 50,000 plausibly beneficial movements and focus on the truly essential few. Attention must be honed to a sharp edge and distractions filtered out. This requires discipline, order, and the mother of all progress—repetitions. Anything not directly helping to contribute to the overarching goal must be placed on hold. After all, saying no is the only way to fully say yes. 

Tunnel vision will take you places.

However, the athlete must eventually enter the off-season, either by conscious decision or from an inevitable injury or burnout. It’s now time to reject dogmas, reverse the rules and build a solid base, consisting of diverse activities (known as GPP or General Physical Preparedness). Learn how to hold a handstand, run a marathon, practice yoga, belly dance, skip—all perfectly valid options for growth. This is about widening the athlete’s perspective beyond the narrow window of their usual training conditions. It’s about leaving the tunnel. By becoming more of a generalist, the athlete can indulge in their ‘what if’s?’ 

What else can I do?
Is the grass really greener? 

However, with this approach, you cannot progress in anything to a high degree. You will be scattered, fragmented, and spread too thin. I mean, how many high performing sumo-gymnasts do you know?

Like in life, it’s a question of balance and compromise. Specialism comes with a price which must be paid. Choosing is always simultaneously an exercise in not choosing. But if you strike an intelligent balance, you can enjoy the harmony of being a well-developed athlete and human being.

May 16, 2018

Natural Disaster: Accidental Minimalist

A Minimalist’s journey amidst burnout and natural disaster.

Professionally smashed and suffering from burnout, in 2017, I resigned from a successful career in finance. I altered the trajectory of my entire life, moving to a remote Caribbean island in my mid-thirties.

My goal was to live a simple life; I needed to breathe.

Everyone (including myself) was blindsided by my seemingly sudden about-face. At 36 I was the first female and youngest executive at my firm. I had recently won a coveted international award in my field. From the outside looking in, albeit a few trials and tribulations over the years, I seemed to really have it all.

But something was missing. Maybe nothing was missing. Maybe there was too much.

In a slightly off base effort to simplify, I packed up my life into a 20ft container and shipped my belongings to the island of Anguilla. Note to self: 30 pairs of designer heels are not needed nor will ever be worn on a Caribbean island! My minimalist ideals were focused on my professional life and not my belongings, but that would change.

Out of Anyone’s Hands... A Natural Disaster

In 2017, the Caribbean suffered a historically devastating hurricane season which still affects Puerto Rico today. In the fateful early hours of September 6th, Anguilla was directly hit by Hurricane Irma—a category five storm with up to 208mph winds that we steadily endured for 12 hours. We lived directly on the coast, the roof was ripped from our home and our businesses sustained significant damage. An entire island was left to repair the emotional and physical damage that remained in the wake of Irma’s travels.

After a natural disaster, one must adapt to a simple existence, living with less than the basics. Without electricity until the day after Thanksgiving, with a generator providing six hours of power for every 24 hours, water being pulled from a cistern to bathe, limited food (beans are a main staple), and long gas lines—everyone is in survival mode. The entire island was living every aspect of life as a minimalist.

In the end, the island’s economy had suffered immensely, so after eight months post-Irma I returned to the United States feeling defeated. However, this time I packed two suitcases containing only the necessities and moved into a sparsely furnished flat—continuing my minimalist lifestyle, optimistic of my next adventure.

We as a society put so much meaning into “things.” As for my minimalist story, I survived a traumatic event with my life intact surrounded by those I love. One must realize things can be destroyed, but things are not alive. Things do not love nor feel pain.

Never put too much love into something that can’t love you back (including something that helps you carry buckets of water from the cisterns in order to bathe).

May 9, 2018

fourweeksgood: Antwerp

Four weeks of living and freelancing in one of the world’s most livable cities—Antwerp, BE.

After introducing you to the cities of Amsterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Auckland, Tokyo and Berlin, this month's 'fourweeksgood' feature capital is Antwerp. Known worldwide as the diamond city, Antwerp is not only an important business center in Europe, but also a great stop for travelers exploring Belgium, as it contains many attractions that will engage and inspire those who take the time to discover them. Our highlight goes on the outskirts of Antwerp, featuring Kanaal, a 180,500-square-foot enclave with three art galleries, an auditorium, an organic food market, and a French bakery on the banks of the Albert Canal, some 8 miles east of the historic heart of the city. Belgian tastemaker and art dealer Axel Vervoordt inaugurated the space in November 2017 together with a Gallery which currently hosts three exhibitions, including works by the Korean conceptualist Chung Chang-Sup (14.04.2018 - 02.06.2018). For those of you who are planning a trip Belgium, make sure not to miss a visit to this enchanted space a few steps away from Antwerp.

'fourweeksgood' is a series of travel videos created by freelance creative Seraina Silja and Experience Designer Simon Ammann.

May 1, 2018

Consumerism Is the Original Virtue Signaling

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things.

There’s a lot of talk about so-called “virtue signaling” these days. However, public expressions to demonstrate good character aren’t new: we’ve been virtue signaling with our sparkly new objects for decades.

Or perhaps value signaling is more accurate.

By showing off our fancy new toys, we think we’re communicating our values to the world, but we’re confusing our valuables with our values.

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things. And yet we continue to amass new bits and pieces, adorning an empty facade with regalia, hoping to impress anyone who sees it.

Emblem-laden handbags.
Nineteen-inch chrome rims.
Stainless-steel timepieces.

Consumerism encourages us to commodify our own identities. If we really want to dazzle others, though, we won’t do so via our possessions. Not in a meaningful way, at least.

So instead of trying to impress everyone with our valuables, let’s focus on impressing upon the world our values. And the best way to do that—make something meaningful.

Start a business.
Create a blog.
Write a book.
Record a song.
Build something tangible.

Creating is a better way to convey who we are. Flaunting our personal property signals that we care only about ourselves. But when our identities are shaped by creativity, our creations can be an honest way to signal to the world that we care about others, too.

“Here, I made this meal for you,” will always be more powerful than, “Watch me eat this in front of you.”