That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
It was 8:10 am on a Friday morning. I was already late to my first appointment. The sun was shining through broken clouds on what was, I think, a beautiful spring day. I hadn’t really noticed.
I’d made four phone calls and scheduled two appointments in Outlook since getting into the car. Driving with my knee and glancing at the laptop screen I took another big swig of coffee.
Not just coffee, it was a triple shot mocha latte, the elixir that fueled my multitasking, hammer down “what have you done for me lately” existence. If I’d had any hair left it would have been on fire.
In the midst of it all my cell phone rang. I put my coffee down and activated the blue tooth device that seemed permanently stuck in my ear. As I did so I wondered briefly if 12 step programs existed for espresso drinkers.
It was my sales manager.
“What’s up, Ted?” I yelled cheerfully into the phone.
(In my line of work you yelled “what’s up” cheerfully into the phone even if you’d just been to the doctor and found out you had a terminal Melanoma.)
Ted was terse and to the point. “Hey! I need to talk to you about a couple things. Meet me at the Starbucks on 1st street at 1:00 o’clock, okay?”
“You got it,” I said. It was only after I’d hung up that an uneasy feeling began to creep into my gut.
It was not unusual for Ted and me to meet for a few minutes at a coffee shop to discuss sales strategies
This seemed different. There was something about the tone of his voice that made me uneasy.
At 12:45, as I sat in the Starbucks in front of my open laptop and yet again began to feed the monkey on my back named caffeine, I suddenly noticed that I was unable to log onto the company website.
Thinking nothing of it I made a note to call the tech geeks as soon as I was done with the meeting.
Ted walked in and hurried to my table. He had a weird look on his face. My stomach did a flip flop.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“They’re letting you go,” he said flatly.
I had suspected something was up but I didn’t expect this.
“Yep,” he said. “You, Mike and Randy and I think I’m next. The only one they’re keeping is Scott because he has that huge account up north nailed down.”
“Why?” I asked incredulously. “My numbers aren’t the best in the company but they’re not bad either. I mean, just like that, they fire me?”
“It’s got nothing to do with personal production,” Ted said, shaking his head. “It’s a corporate thing. It’s all about spreadsheets and profit projections. The company as a whole is losing money. They’ve decided, in their infinite wisdom, that the best thing to do to balance the books is cut payroll. You and I are expendable, buddy!”
Ted got up briskly, shook my hand, gave me a wink and said, “I’ll be in touch.”
He turned on his heel and suddenly was gone.
I sat there for a long time in the hustle and bustle of the busy coffee shop trying to processes what had just taken place. I felt like a prom date that had just been stood up. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
I didn’t fully realize it then, but that morning was a major crossroads in my life. Since then it’s been an unbelievable journey of introspection, self-discovery and healing.
That “Corporate Downsizing” incident was the impetus that forced me to re-examine what I was doing with my life. In my busy, “get it done now” existence I’d been ignoring and/or putting off many of the things that were ultimately the most important to me.
I realized that for a long time I’d had a queasy “back of my mind” feeling that I was in the wrong place.
Although I was pretty good at the corporate sales game when I focused on it, I wasn’t enjoying it and honestly had never truly owned it. In fact, if truth be told, it was beginning to suck my will to live.
Then again, the paychecks had come in pretty handy.
At first I was devastated. Applying for unemployment and having to sit down with my wife and decide what we could still afford and what had to go was a humiliating, soul killing experience.
Then slowly over a period of time I began to notice that I had a certain feeling of freedom. The simplicity with which we began to live brought a clarity and calmness that felt wonderful. I could breathe again.
I began to devour books and information about designing the life I really wanted. People like Tim Ferriss and his seminal work The 4-Hour Workweek. Leo Babauta and his awesome blog “Zen Habits,” David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and others like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Esther and Jerry Hicks to name just a few.
It began to dawn on me that getting “downsized” was the best thing that had ever happened to me!
Now, every day I wake up energized and excited to see what else life has in store for me. My wife Jeannie and I are on an ever evolving path to creating the life that fulfills us and contributes to our enjoyment and serenity. No more blindly rushing off every morning to a job that gives us nothing but a paycheck at the end of the month.
Part of that life includes contributing to others, imparting whatever wisdom, knowledge and experience I’ve been able to accumulate while on this journey.
Much of the enjoyment and abundance we’ve been able to discover has been due to our focus and attention on simplifying and de-cluttering our lives. This book is an examination of that process.
I balk a little at the word minimalism. Being called a minimalist makes it sound like we live in a tee pee in a commune on some out of the way island or something. That is not the case at all.
I am not espousing any movement or doctrine here. I’m simply letting you know what we have found on our journey and what has worked for us. I believe everyone will have their own version of simplification. One man’s simple life may be another’s nightmare of complexity and stress. It’s your life and you must decide for yourself.
All I can say is that this information has been of great personal benefit to me and my family and it is my heartfelt wish that it will be so for you and yours.
In peace, harmony and simplicity,
Cary David Richards
We admire the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty…
Fear of the unknown and anxiety about change can stop us in our tracks. Creating a simpler, more purposeful life, free of clutter and stress really just comes down to a couple of main concepts.
One is taking action.
To institute a new paradigm in your life, like simplifying and de-cluttering your environment, means creating new habits. The only way to create new habits is to take consistent and focused action.
The second concept is to remain firmly in the present. The past is gone all we can do is learn from it and move on. The future is only a dream. All we have is the present. Everything in your life will work better (not just your simplification journey), if you can make a concerted effort to remain in the moment at all times.
The good news is that developing a clutter free, simpler more purpose driven life is something you can’t really screw up. This is because the only one who is judging the success or effectiveness of your new lifestyle is you.
The only way I would consider your journey a failure is if you absorbed all of the information in this book and others like it, decided that you’d really like to make some changes in your life and then hauled off and did exactly nothing with it.
Taking action is simple, but sometimes it’s hard to take that first step.
Be gentle with yourself while at the same time having the courage and fortitude to jump off the edge of the pool into what you are pretty sure is very cold water. Taking action in the face of adversity is sometimes very hard to do. But you’ll usually find that the benefits of such action far outweigh the negatives.
Just take that first step. You don’t have to have the entire journey laid out in front of you. Just take the first step and see what happens.
It doesn’t have to be a big step either. You might just pick one item a week to remove from your living space. You know, that old lamp that you hate anyway, the dusty old piece of electronic equipment that doesn’t work anymore. Just pick something and remove it and see how it feels.
Making a life change such as embarking on a de-cluttering project takes motivation and focus. (We’ll delve further into how to access these things in a moment.) But if your purpose is big enough and fits with your simplification journey, then finding the motivation will be easy.
Beginning a journey like the one we’re discussing isn’t going to just happen. You have to identify the exact changes you want to make. Map out a strategy and then schedule a time to start. Understand that fear, anxiety, uncertainty and procrastination will rear their ugly heads. Be ready for them and do not let them knock you off your path.
Being present and remaining in the moment is also a simple concept but many of us fail to consistently focus on it. If you remain focused and in the moment, you’ll be amazed at how your simplification journey will unfold naturally and gain momentum, revealing itself to you as you go.
Our busy lives seem to require so much of our attention that it’s hard to consistently remember to just take a deep breath, let the stress and anxiety melt away and just be in the moment.
The habit of letting go and being in the moment is somewhat paradoxical. It feels like if we let go and stop worrying about tomorrow or agonizing over the past, that everything will just come to a grinding halt.
In reality it’s exactly the opposite. When we are truly in the moment and focusing fully on just one thing at a time, releasing our anxiety about tomorrow and forgetting about the pain and injustices of the past, new pathways are opened to us. Possibilities that we never knew existed present themselves.
You can, of course, remove a bunch of things from your home and throw away those boxes of old broken “stuff” in the garage without thinking too deeply about it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I encourage you to make this journey more than just a Saturday of deep cleaning and de-cluttering. Make it dovetail with what you value the most. Make it part of a life changing new paradigm that creates abundance and fulfillment, not just clean countertops and less furniture.
Take that first step, but also realize it’s a lifelong pathway not a quarter mile drag race. You will not be able to see the finish line when you start. In fact, I maintain there is no finish line until that final finish line that we all are going to cross at some point. (It’s best of course, to not see that one coming too far in the future either.)
Your journey to a simple less cluttered life will unfold as you take each step along your path. Enjoy each moment as it comes. Revel in the stillness of less. Let the universe speak to you in the quiet moments.
One of the best things about living simply for me is the ability to be more connected and present with the source of all things. That source reveals itself when we have less distractions and more ability to focus on what’s truly important.
Remember to laugh often, make all decisions from a foundation of love and enjoy every moment.
- Get into and stay in consistent focused action
- Remember to stay in the moment. Focus on what is important right now, forget about past failures and stop worrying about the future
- Have fun with your clutter project.
- Remember to laugh often make decisions from a foundation of love