I know, it’s been forever. Hope you are doing awesome, I am.
Now that the niceties are out of the way, I wanted to share something with you.
Last week, a client of mine asked me to transcribe a documentary for him. The documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, is about two guys, known as The Minimalists, who are on a journey to raise awareness about the benefits of a minimalist life. The film also includes other speakers, from authors to neuroscientists, economists, a former Wall Street broker, and high profile news anchors.
The overwhelming conclusion from the documentary is that majority of us are addicted to consuming; not because we need it; but because we all have this empty void, and over time, our brains have been conditioned to believe that we can only fill this void with more and more stuff. We have been made to believe that we are not happy or content unless we have the latest gadgets, the latest fashion, the latest product in the market, essentially.
Advertisement and consumption go hand in hand, and this is why we are constantly being barraged with adverts, seemingly everywhere we look. And this is not only happening in Western nations. It’s happening right here in Kenya, and we have so many examples of how we are evolving into a people who over-consume.
If it’s not our love for stealing and consuming money that isn’t ours, it’s our love for over-consuming alcohol and drugs. Our greed is so evident in the things we do, and we are not ashamed of throwing vulnerable people under the bus just for a quick shilling. It’s our love for always looking fashionable and spending money we don’t have or didn’t earn.
More, more, more. Nothing is ever enough for the average Kenyan. Nothing!
The unfortunate thing is that now our kids are being sucked into this consumption cycle, which by the way, is highly unsustainable and is quickly leading to the degradation of our environment. Our kids are now the targets of these advertisements convincing them that they need to spend more on things they don’t need, and less on the things that they really need.
It’s a sad state of affairs that we are in.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite quotes from the documentary. I hope you find them as profound, as thought-provoking, and as behavior-altering as I did.
Dan Harris: Author, 10% Happier
So much our life is lived in a fog of automatic habitual behavior. We spend so much time on the hunt. But nothing ever quite does it for us and we get so wrapped up in the hunt that it kind of makes us miserable.
Ryan Nicodemus: The Minimalists
‘I had everything I ever wanted. I had everything I was supposed to have. Everyone around me said you’re successful. But, really I was miserable.
‘There was this gaping void in my life. So, I tried to fill that void the same way many people do. With stuff. Lots of stuff. I was filling the void with consumer purchases. I was spending money faster than I was earning it; attempting to buy my way to happiness. I thought I’ll get there one day.’
Eventually, I mean, happiness had to be somewhere just around the corner. I was living paycheck to paycheck. Living for a paycheck. Living for stuff. But, I wasn’t living at all.’
‘Imagine a life with less. Less stuff, less clutter, less stress, and debt, and discontent. A life with fewer distractions. Now imagine a life with more. More time. More meaningful relationships. More growth, and contribution and contentment.’
‘The people you bring into your life; you should always be hanging out with people who have the same values. And that’s really what minimalism is about; it’s about living deliberately. So every choice that I make every, every relationship, every item, every dollar that I spend; I’m not perfect, obviously, but I do consciously ask the question, “is this adding value, am I being deliberate with this decision?”’
‘The whole point of this message. The whole point of Sharing the story is to help people curb that appetite for more things because it’s such a destructive path to go down. I’ve literally have used people to sell cell phones. I’ve used people to get bigger and better clients, and what I love about my life now is that I can be genuine. That there is no manipulation.’
‘Imagine a life of less. A life of passion unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. Well, what you are imagining is an intentional life. It’s not a perfect life. And it’s not an easy life. But it’s a simple one.’
Jesse Jacobs: Entrepreneur
‘It’s why lottery winners are miserable. It’s why homeowners have three car garages. The first car creates an exponential awesome rush of happiness and joy and utility. The second car comes about because we tire of the first car, and as humans, we are wired to become dissatisfied. It’s an addiction really. And we are encouraged to maintain the addiction through technology and information.’
Juliet Schor: Ph.D. Economist and Sociologist
‘Advertising has polluted and infiltrated culture.’
‘We are too materialistic in the everyday sense of the word and not at all materialistic enough in the true sense of the word. We need to be true materialists like really care about the materiality of goods. Instead, we’re in a world in which material goods are so important for their symbolic meaning. What they do to position us in the status System based on what advertising and marketing say they are about.’
‘If you think about the concept of fashion, it embodies in it the idea that you can throw things away not when they are no longer usable but when they no longer have that social value or they are no longer fashionable.’
Historically companies which had products aimed at kids would go towards the mothers and get the mothers to wanna buy the stuff for the kids. What happens is, the companies decide to go around the mothers, and go directly to the kids.
‘There is a problem that both process and content. And the problem of content is huge. The products that are being advertised to kids are junk. It’s a junk culture. It’s food that’s bad for them. its crappy toys that are gendered and violent. I don’t see the argument for subjecting children to this like there is no positive social benefit from it. we just know there is a negative and it is just a political power of advertising and the companies that do the advertising that keeps us from doing something about it.’
If I had to revise the American dream, it will be more about coming together in community. It would be more about a society, which had much less inequality and more fairness in which everybody had a chance that is responsible towards the planet and our ecosystem. To me, that would be an American dream.
Patrick Rhône: Author of Enough
‘It’s been a slow revolution. This is not something that just happened yesterday. This is something that has been sold to us over say the past hundred years, slowly but surely by those that want to make a whole lot of money. They want to believe that you really need these things.’
‘Because you can do anything you want, you can potentially do everything you want. But to do everything you want you to have to sacrifice the things that really are important. When it comes to the overwhelm, the easiest way to solve all that is to turn it off. Really, just turn it off.’
‘We think we need those things because we have been told we need those things. We have been told we need those things by our society. It has been this kind of slow little thing that’s just kind of trickled in, and suddenly, it becomes the thing you do.’
‘It really does come down to a value-based ideal. You want to do the most amount of good and get the most amount of value with exactly what you need. Having too little is not going to give you that and having too much is not going to give you that, right? Having that balance, having enough, that’s what you are looking for.’
Joshua Fields Milburn: The Minimalists
‘All of these things that I brought into my life without questioning. But, when I started letting go, I started feeling freer and happier and lighter. And now, as a minimalist, every possession serves a purpose or brings me a joy brings me joy. ‘
‘Everything that I look around, I have to go and justify to myself, not to anyone else, justify to myself, does this add value to my life? And if not, I have to be willing to let go.’
‘We want to promote a message we really believe in: A simple living message of living more deliberately with less.’
‘There’s a template out there, you can call it the American dream or keeping up with the Joneses or whatever. That’s just a template; it’s not the template. And once we realize that we can create our own template that works just for us.’
‘There is this underlying discontent and I think that it starts to manifest in our stuff. and what I am finding as we go out on the road and we talk to so many people is everyone is looking for more meaning in our lives.’
‘Love people and use things. Because the opposite never works.’
‘I don’t think there’s anything wrong with consumption. The problem was compulsory consumption. buying stuff because that’s what you’re supposed to do. That is what advertising tells you to do. That’s what this magic template is for happiness and when you get it, you realize that it doesn’t make you as happy as you thought it would.’
‘I was living the American dream and I realized it wasn’t my dream. I looked around at all the stuff in my life, when my mother died and my marriage ended both in the same month and started questioning what was actually important. What things were actually adding value to my life and I realize that many of the things that I bought to make me happy they weren’t actually doing their job.’
‘Minimalism is not a radical lifestyle. Yeah, I absolutely believe in quality over quantity. ‘
David Friedlander: Communications Director LifeEdited:
‘So we have people living in these enormous homes and if you really look at it, people don’t use the space that they have. it creates this big vacuum that you have to fill so people are throwing all this crap into their homes that they don’t need.’
Frank Mascia: Architect
‘We are living our lives depending on the space we’ve got rather than creating our space to fit our lives. It’s so easy to go wrong. And you wind up with three dining tables in the same house. Nothing is more responsible than living in the smallest space you possibly can.’
Jay Austin: Tiny House Designer
‘I think there is this element of affordability, simplicity, and sustainability that just makes tiny houses seem like the perfect solution to a problem that we haven’t yet figured out. Which is how do we go from working all throughout a lifetime to enjoying a lifetime with a bit of work here and there.’
‘I think we’ve only begun to re-examine what it means to be successful in life. It’s no longer about white Picket fence; It’s no longer about the big mansion. I think people are beginning to recognize that maybe they have been tricked. And that maybe they have more agency over their options Than they once thought they did.’
‘We’re not going to ever be able to achieve the environmental gains that we are seeking whilst we are expecting our lives to be the same. We’re going to have to get up a lot. The secret is that a lot of that, we are not going to actually miss.’
‘It’s not so much about financial gain for me as financial freedom. which is the ability to wake up in the morning and spend one’s day as they see fit. A part of why we consume things is that we work for so long and a lot of people aren’t finding fulfillment in their jobs and they need some way to tell themselves that it’s all worth it. that it’s amounting to something more than just a few numbers in a bank account. That there is more; there’s more to life than bills and money and work.’
Graham Hill: Founder of LifeEdited:
‘Very quickly, I realized that small space made so much sense environmentally, but also made sense on many other levels.’
Sam Harris: Author and Neuroscientist
‘I think we’re confused about what is going to make us happy. Many people think that material possessions are really the center of the bull’s-eye, and expect that you gratifying each desire as it arises will somehow lead to a satisfying life.’
‘We have this capacity for focus. But we are living in a context where we are continually moving from one Stimulus to the next in search of the dopamine experience where we are rewarded by the next email or the next retweet or the next thing that comes into our phone, rather often. I think there is a price we pay for that.’
‘We are ruminating about past and future in a way that keeps us from really connecting with the present moment in a way that values it as good enough. Meditation is a technique of finding well-being in the present moment before anything happens. You can be happy and satisfied simply being aware of the sensation of breathing. Very rarely are we fully dedicated to one thing. We are interrupting ourselves and allowing ourselves to be interrupted by these streams of data and what would in any other context to be thought of as distractions, but now we think of them as being necessary parts of our bandwidth.’
Gail Steketee: PhD, compulsive hoarding expert
‘It is clear that, as human beings, we have a strong attachment initially in our lives to people who are caring for us. And sometimes it feels like those attachments spillover to objects. As if they were as important as people. I’m not so sure that we have such a great relationship with things.’
Shannon Whitehead: Sustainable-Apparel Consultant
‘Now we work in a cycle of 52 seasons per year. They want you to feel like you’re out of trend after one week So that you’ll buy something new the following week.
There have actually been accounts of big fashion retailers bailing all of the clothes from one week together slashing all the clothes from one week with scissors destroying them and leaving them on the side of the road so that nobody can resell them or even wear them. They want consumers to buy as much clothing as quickly as possible.’
Leo Babuta: Author, Zen habits
‘I think people buy because they are trying to fulfill this void inside of them. I know that because that was me. But no matter how much stuff we buy and how many different fads that we try we don’t become a more whole person. We keep looking. This hunger never gets fulfilled.’
Rick Hanson: PhD neuro psychologist
I think it goes to the bottom line fact that you can never get enough of what you don’t really want. In other words, deep down, we don’t really want more goodies, more toys, more cars; we want what they will bring us. we want to feel whole, we want to feel content.
This mindless consumption, this same thing that is not making us Happy is also causing the degradation of our habitat.
Colin Wright: Entrepreneur, Full-time Traveler
What did it at the end of the day, knowing this path had been well tread, the direction I was going and very successful men and women with all this money and all this prestige and all this professional background behind them -they weren’t happy. They’re very successful but in an absolute sense; they are dollars and cents successful. It seemed far more likely that I could find something; find a definition of success that will actually get me to a place where I was both successful, and just incredibly happy.
Famous quote by Jim Carrey- I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they could realize it’s not the answer.
In any disease or sickness, one of the biggest factors, one of the things that contribute to these things in the negative ways is the stress in your life. By getting rid of these things in our lives, these material items, and all of these excesses that we used to live in, good things happened.
Joshua Becker author clutter free with kids:
I wonder what the most common three words are in American homes. I don’t know if it’s I love you or if it’s I want that. 5000 advertisements we see every day from the moment we are born. And they all tell us, ‘hey, this is what your life should be about. it should be about accumulating more things or it should all be about focusing on you.
In 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to children. In 2006, companies spend 17 billion.
Former US President, Jimmy Carter:
Good evening. It is clear that the true problems of our nation are much deeper, deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages. Deeper even than inflation or recession. In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities; too many of us others now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we have discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We have learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives, which have no confidence. Or purpose. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance. But it is the truth. And it is a warning.’
‘When you recognize that, this life is yours and that it is the one and only and when that ceases to be the esoteric bullshit. When that’s not hippy poetry anymore. When the pragmatism of that statement sips directly into your bones, and you recognize that this is it. Everything changes.’