Posts Tagged ‘fight club’

the minimalists were here

Minimalist meetup in Cleveland

Josh and Ryan talking to 30 Clevelanders about minimalism – sorry about the glare!

Last night Cleveland was visited by two intriguing men. They spoke to a room of 30 open-minded people at Deagan’s in Lakewood, telling their stories and answering questions about how to live a minimalist lifestyle. They told us how they quit their six-figure jobs and got rid of all their stuff, effectively becoming the nationally renown minimalists they are today. Bear in mind the over-simplification for the sake of brevity.

But really, that’s not what they’re about. It’s not about living with less stuff. That’s the path. It’s about living a more fulfilling, meaningful life, about being happier and being able to assess the true value of things. It’s about sifting through all the shit to find the gold that lies beneath.

They call themselves The Minimalists, and they just might be onto something.

what is minimalism?

Minimalism does require some explaining for the uninitiated, considering the term has only been around for roughly 100 years. In the overall scheme of language, this is a very young word. The term has been used to describe a bevy of concepts, from art to design to architecture, and to (most recently) minimalist running. So what is it that The Minimalists do differently?

Simply: they’re redefining the word. If Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for their definition of minimalism yet, they will soon.

Minimalism, so much as Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, our Minimalists, define it, is living a more meaningful life with less stuff. It’s trimming the fat. It’s separating the wheat from the chaff. It’s learning to find the true value of things.

my dabble with minimalism

I like to think I have always been a minimalist at heart, so when I stumbled upon Josh and Ryan’s page via a Zen Habits guest blog post, I was hooked. Since I was 16 I pictured for myself a Bohemian lifestyle filled with one-room flats devoid of furniture, living on a beach in Southern California, and spurts of time where I lived out of my car. My life has included none of these things, but my journey is filled with its own shades of gray that, I think, still allow me to guiltlessly dub myself minimalist. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite my two initial sources of inspiration for this lifestyle: Buddhism and Tyler Durden.

My view on life has ever been shaped by eastern philosophy when I first discovered Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths. It was one of those things that as soon as you hear it, you simply know it’s right. The first two noble truths are: “Life means suffering; The origin of suffering is attachment.” Now the Buddhists mean more than just attachment to material possessions, but for me it was a start. It almost immediately instilled into me an abhorrence of too many physical possessions.

Fight Club bore similar themes to eastern philosophy with a distinct Western slant – that slant being a bunch of dudes beating the crap out of each other in a basement. What Jersey shore bodybuilder wouldn’t appreciate that? But everything that Fight Club is for me is epitomized by Tyler Durden’s one-liner.

what minimalism really does

Me and the Minimalists

left to right – me, Josh, Ryan

Meeting Josh and Ryan at the Cleveland meetup, it’s easy to see why they’ve been so successful. They’re genuine. And they’re just nice guys. This may sound like an understatement, but it’s one of the best compliments one can really receive.

Josh and Ryan have spent the past 16 months of their lives helping people. They don’t just endure the drudgery of work every day, concerned with making more money, getting that promotion or just getting the job done. Every post resonates with sincerity and strikes home to much of their 100,000 monthly viewership. I am incredibly grateful for getting the chance to listen to them talk and to have gotten some face time with each of them. They are on a 33 City Meetup Tour, so if you find yourself in one of the remaining cities they have left on their journey, go. Listen. Learn.

Minimalism isn’t the answer – it’s a solution. As Josh and Ryan continually say, it provides a means of achieving happiness and meaningful living, those two things of which so many of us find ourselves bereft.

If you haven’t heard of them or read any of their material, here are some articles that might help get you started:

On behalf of Cleveland, thank you Josh and Ryan for your knowledge and wisdom so generously bestowed.

so i thought about your funeral today


I said that to my friend the other night. Her face = priceless.

How often do you think of your friends and family dying? Dead. Kaput. Deceased. Pushing up daises. The people around you won’t be around you forever. They may not be around tomorrow. That trip to the grocery store your husband’s making tomorrow? …better tell him you love him, because he’s not gonna see that black SUV before it T-bones him in the intersection.

Uncomfortable yet? Good.

So anyways, I was thinking about my friend’s funeral, like I said, and I decided I was going to get up and give a speech at said funeral. In my speech I decided I was going to characterize her with some of my favorite quotes of hers, some of the things she says that I just find so “endearing.” I started laughing aloud when they came to mind. That, in and of itself, made me appreciate her so much more than I would have otherwise.

i walked into the church…

And I was alone.

I told my family I didn’t want to walk in with them. I wanted – needed – to be by myself. I see our friends out of my periphery but I do not acknowledge them. I can’t acknowledge them.

Not everybody’s seated yet. People are still trickling into the church, the older folks crossing themselves with holy water, but the casket’s up on the altar. I know that’s not normal for it to be up there yet, but for some reason the pallbearers are already seated. I had requested not to be a pallbearer.

As if in a dream I walk slowly up to the altar, seeing her smiling picture in a big frame resting upon a black tri-pod next to dozens upon dozens of flowers in every hue imaginable. I take the first step up the steps to the casket, my fingertips tingling. I take the second step up, breaking every imaginable funeral protocol. But nobody’s stopping me. In fact, all eyes are on me. The church has gone silent, although this is a peripheral thought.

I reach the coffin and put my hand out to feel the brown pine on my fingertips, no longer tingling, but experiencing the sensations the smooth wood is proffering. I slowly lower my palm to the wood and really feel the encasement in which my friend is interred. I drop my eyes and shake my head as a deep, throaty laugh begins to arise. “You bitch,” I say, and I laugh that much harder, trying to keep it relatively quiet for the sake of the congregation, but I know the front rows can hear me. I hear the recognizable laughter of a couple of our mutual friends, and I realize that I called her a bitch a little louder than I should have.

The tears that I didn’t realize were flowing have now started to drip off my chin and onto the maroon carpeting of the altar, but these tears are not comprised solely of sadness . . . as I know this woman was an amazing woman, making so many lives that much better for her existence. And I am happy.

my freedom

I will literally imagine things like this at times – granted, this example is a little extreme and I don’t think I’ve ever envisioned a funeral to quite a level of detail, but for some reason my mind took me there the other day. It helps me to realize how much I care for the people around me.

We as human beings take each other for granted way too often. We use and abuse and consider it refuse and move on – it’s part of our inherent selfishness. We may not realize we’re doing this, but we are – granted, not with everybody and not all the time, but with enough people to make that broad, overarching statement feasible.

In the movie Fight Club, Tyler Durden says you have to lose everything before you’re free to do anything.

Accepting my death and the inevitability of others’ is my freedom. What’s yours?

embrace the chaos


Life is suffering. Life is chaos.

If you don’t believe me, check the local headlines. Watch CNN. Drive through the bad part of town. Read a history book. Take a look at your 401k. You may currently be “happy” with your nuclear family, your pampered lifestyle or your 9-5 paycheck, but all it takes is one car accident, one phone call, one house fire or one person saying “I just want to be friends” to ruin all your best laid plans. And it all boils down to control.


Everybody wants to control their environments. We feel this burning need to have a direct impact on all of our immediate surroundings. We feel that control of our lives equals a measure of success, of esteem, of prestige. We get comfortable when we control things, when things work out as planned.

This is a flawed line of thinking.

Attempting to control our environment is the source of much of what is wrong with we humans as a species, with us as a civilization. We just can’t let go – and I mean really let go – of what we want to control, which is everything. We’re obsessed with status, with perception, with titles, with money, with politics, with the acquisition of knowledge, with Biggest Loser, with Ryan Seacrest, with our own selfish dreams. We’ve gravitated away from the natural order of things and created our own superficial reality that is anything but reality.

Why do you think we’ve had so many counter-cultural movements since the 50’s? A great starting point could be the Beat Generation, moving forward with the Hippies and now it’s moved onto us, the Gen X-ers and Y-ers. I often hear older folks saying “It’s a different generation” about us 20-somethings. (this quote normally takes place after commiserating over the supposed degradation of our morals and inhibitions in direct regard to sex, drugs and living with our parents long after our welcome has worn out). We don’t have any term or symbol to wholly personify our counter-culture and disillusion, except maybe Fight Club and a wide variety of contraceptives.

A big part of this disillusionment is education. As more and more people acquire a quality education from kindergarten through college, and as the world population continues to increase, AND as more conveniences and amenities arise to make our lives easier and us lazier, more people will begin to question the status quo. More people will realize that the way things are aren’t the way they should be.

As much as we may try, controlling our environments will never fully work, and people are slowly beginning to understand this. And so long as we try to wrestle control from unforeseen circumstances and various inevitabilities, we will never be truly happy. Control creates a false sense of security and blinds us to the world beyond that control. By letting go of what we expect to be there every day, we get a nice wide angle perspective on our surroundings. We’ll see things we’ve never seen. Experience things we’ve never experienced.

the first law of motion

The best martial artists will teach that you should never try to muscle your opponent, but rather use their movements against them. If they push, you pull, always using their own momentum against them. You never try to control your opponent, you let them defeat themselves by taking advantage of their inertia. Same goes for life. Don’t try to muscle it to your will. Roll with it 🙂

I feel as if Western civilization is rising toward a crescendo in its evolutionary process. We’ve become so materialistic, so disillusioned, so obsessed with the white-wedding concept of Western culture that we’ve lost our way, and we’re finally starting to realize it. A new counter-culture is starting to emerge, and I’m very excited to see what form it will take as it evolves and gains momentum.

So for now, live wild, live free, and stay imperfect.

And embrace the beautiful chaos that is life.

on extremism


Extremism is the most necessary socio-political stance throughout the history of the modern world. (How’s that for an opening argument, high school english teacher? Right to the point, ya know? No pussy-footin’ around on this blog! No sir-ee! OK, back to the post…)

At one point in time, Christianity was extreme.

At one point in time, American independence was extreme.

At one point in time, black equality was extreme.

We need people on street corners with signs that aren’t mainstream.

You need extreme examples to sway the masses. And we are the masses. No matter your political clout. No matter your relative level of intelligence. No matter how big your Twitter following is. We are the masses.

I work at an institution that recently tried to tell the global story of the world’s most precious resource – water. The message was spread too thin to incite any sort of life-altering action. It covered too much. There were a couple stats about bottled water and how wasteful we are as a society, but for the most part it was strictly educational. Not action-inciting. So I ask, “What’s the point?” Education, while necessary, only gets you so far. Action is the catalyst for any change.

scenario #1

I tell you to stop drinking bottled water in the USA and other developed countries because it’s bad for the environment. I give you statistics, show you pictures of dumps, of ruined ecosystems, of relatively uninhabited islands whose shores are devastated by plastic bottles – and you’ll still buy the 12-pack of Aquafina from Wal-Mart, albeit maybe a little more reluctantly than before. But you still buy it, even with what you know.

scenario #2

But then I threaten the life of you and yours. I tell you I’m going to burn your house down unless you stop buying bottled water. I tell you I’m going to rape your wife and shoot your children in front of you unless you stop…I guarantee that you won’t come within five feet of a bottle of water again. (If that example was too extreme for you, I won’t apologize – look at the title of this post)

the middle children of history

We need people like Chuck Palahniuk’s Tyler Durden. We need people to blow up banks and credit unions. We need people to start fight clubs. Shake ourselves out of the norm, out of the ordinary, out of the realm where everything’s comfortable.

Look at the hippies as another example. God bless them, I say. They might have flown a little too high, might have gotten a little too wild at times, but that’s what allowed them to have the impact they did.

We need the extremists who go against the mainstream. That’s the only way to advance as a society. That’s the only way to advance as a human being.

So be extreme. Be humble. Be powerful. You are a force to be reckoned with, and damn the man that says otherwise.

Illegitimi non carborundum.

the culling


Culling has a pretty negative connotation in the English language. We tend to think of animals or people being weeded out of existence in order to foster desirable traits…well, I do anyway. I want you to think of culling in terms of your personal “stuff.”

American society and TV shows like Cribs teach us that in order to be successful we should have lots of stuff. We should own a house. We should drive a car or two. We should have an infinity pool with a built-in deck. We should have the latest mobile app. We should have an iPad. More money = bigger and better things = a larger sense of accomplishment. And everybody wants that, right?

I know most of you are probably reading this and consciously thinking, “No, that’s not what’s important.” But in our subconscious, most of us do feel like that – even if we don’t “believe” it. So don’t post something akin to that in the comments if you’re thinking of doing that! It’s a very difficult mindset to tear yourself away from. I still haven’t quite yet. Hell, I just bought a PS3 a month ago that I didn’t and don’t need.

Materialism = trying to fill the void that is life with a bunch of shit we don’t need.

“The things you own end up owning you”

simplify yourself

We need to simplify ourselves, and a good way to do that is to begin with our materialistic “stuff.”

That’s easy enough to say and to believe in, but how exactly do we do this? What’s that first step?

Hence, we have the culling. Personally, I like to go room by room (I do this once a year). Clean out a closet. Check underneath your bed. Head up into your attic. Open the garage. Think of it in terms of reorganizing. For example, with the coming of the nice weather to Cleveland, I was pretty pumped to turn my attic (a second floor, really) into my office – minus the cubicle, phone and work e-mail. So the other day I spent a couple hours reorganizing my attic, making it more into an office/library. As I was reorganizing, I came across so much crap that I nearly filled up a garbage bag with what wasn’t recyclable. It was a fantastic feeling to get rid of things I don’t and will never use. Plus, if/when it ever comes time to move, you don’t have to worry about packing it up and moving it! Or if I get hit by a train or eaten by a black bear anytime soon, it’s less crap my family has to sift through.

One less thing, right?

So try culling your belongings. Become a little more minimalist. You may be surprised with your results.

Get your mind right.