Posts Tagged ‘minimalism’

motivational mondays – running barefoot


When was the last time you felt free? I mean really free. Also known as:

  • Unshackled
  • Careless
  • Unlimited
  • Unrestrained
  • Full of love
  • Happy
  • Ain’t nobody gonna get you down

The more people I meet, I discover that most have a difficult time truly feeling freedom. Whether it’s financial, mental, spiritual or geographical. We struggle with this concept because it feels like there is always something to attend to. Always something that needs our eyes, our words or our hands.

So how can we feel free when our realistic mind tells us we are anything but?

While I could quote The Eagles and their wonderful analogy of chains and keys, I prefer to give a more actionable agenda for starters. So if it’s been a while since you felt that invigorating pseudo-emotion I’ve dubbed freedom, try my Miracle Formula: Run Barefoot.

run barefootrunning barefoot, forefoot strike, running technique, barefoot

Yes, I said it: Run. Barefoot.

Not sure how? Fear not!

Here’s my patented Step-by-Step Guide to Awesomeness™ to walk you through it:

Step 1: Find the nearest open field, free of prickers, devoid of goose poop and chock-full of judgment.*

Step 2: Kick off those Nike Frees, those Saucony Kinvaras or those Converse (for you garage band heroes and hipsters).

Step 3:  Run as fast as you fucking can!

*Step 4 (recommended): Ignore judgment.

Sound crazy? It’s not. I promise you, you’ll feel like a kid again, wild and free.

That feeling may last only a while, but that’s OK. It’s not a form of escapism, as its effects are prolonged in ways you may  not even realize. I guarantee that so long as you don’t step on any fecal matter or prickly weeds, you will feel more free. And if you do step on either of those things, or something else even more ghastly, I think you’ll find a way to laugh it off (but bring a towel, cell phone and first aid kit just in case).

top 10 benefits of running barefoot

Here’s a list for you lazy headline scanners.

The Top 10 Benefits of Running Barefoot:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved happiness
  • Better proprioception
  • Increased kinesthetic intellegence
  • Tougher feet
  • A well-turned calf, as they say
  • Decreased asshole-ness
  • Increased open-mindedness
  • Clearer thinking via that translucent cloud of endorphins
  • Less care about judgment, for you’ve just done something totally ridiculous and awesome

But lo, beware! Those nearest to you may be in danger! For when you finish your barefoot run, you may feel an unrestrainable urge to do any one of the following:

  • Pat the nearest dog on the head
  • Bear-hug the nearest stranger
  • Give a cash amount to the nearest homeless person
  • Punch the nearest KKK member in the face
  • Start doing work you love, for you will now realize you can

I’ve now been actively running barefoot for the past two years. Thus, I understand that eventually you’ll find that that open field just isn’t enough. You’ll want a larger challenge, a wider landscape. You’ll start hitting the pavement barefoot, you’ll realize what it is to fly, and then you’ll want more. I remember one of the first times I went on a barefoot run – about a half-mile in I just started laughing, so full of joy was I.

warnings for new barefoot runners

If you do decide to initiate yourself into the world of barefoot running, especially on pavement, I highly recommend not heel-striking. Information is abound on the interwebz on how to properly run barefoot, but here are a few key pointers for those too lazy or too time-constrained to look it up:

  • Land with your midfoot or forefoot, NOT your heel!
  • Shorten your stride – do not overextend (this is good advice to the shod runner as well – your knees will thank me when you’re 70)
  • Keep your arms at 90° angles, pumping forward and back, not twisting around your torso
  • Relax and enjoy the ride

I don’t want to discuss the mechanics of “minimalist” running too much. That will be saved for another blog post.

Do you have any experience running barefoot? Please share in the comments section!


the luckiest cowboy


“I’m the luckiest cowboy ever.” Truer words are rarely spoken.funny cowboy

Not a cowboy? Not a problem. Insert [woman] or [man] or [girl] or [boy] in its place and you’d still be spot on.

We get so caught up in the melodrama of daily life, in all the petty ups and downs, it’s like riding an emotional roller coaster.

And we never look out to see the view.

the lessons of skidboot

The whole world can learn powerful lessons from said cowboy, David Hartwig, and his dog Skidboot.

If you’re too lazy to watch the video (your loss), the one-liner that inspired this blog post was when David said, “Life is too precious to be upset.”

how to appreciate life

Think about it this way: in all the history of the world, in all the people that have ever breathed a breath on this earth, those of us alive right now make up the most minute percentage. Sounds obvious, but that’s the point. It’s so obvious how appreciative we should be for the simple fact that we’re breathing breath, and that’s likely why we miss it. The things that are right in front of us are sometimes the hardest to see.

For all those that came before, here are some things they can no longer do (that you can do):

  • Laugh at a joke
  • Smell a rose
  • See mountains
  • Build a snowman
  • Watch a solar eclipse
  • Feel the rain on their skin
  • Smell the rain
  • Dream
  • Listen to music
  • Orgasm

The simple pleasures in life are too often overlooked, even by those hypocrites who host blogs telling you to notice them.

And the simple pleasures are not the nice things you buy at IKEA or Amazon or the car dealership. David appears to be a minimalist at heart, when he says, “He’s brought more joy into my life and lots of people’s lives, than all kinds of TV and fine cars and motor boats.”

Less stuff = more clarity about what matters = living a more meaningful life.

But the cowboy knows he hasn’t figured it all out. However, he’s content with that because he found love. Even if it was for a soulless canine 🙂

And David leaves us with his final words of wisdom: “The theme is the question, not the answer.”

Think about it.

Then punch yourself in the face.

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.

motivational mondays – the amish project


A friend recently posted a link on my Facebook wall – I’m assuming it was in response to my post from a couple weeks ago: the importance of disconnecting, but I could be wrong :). The link took me to a story about a 24-year-old college student named Jake Reilly who embraced a technology-free lifestyle for 90 days, eliminating his cell phone, social media accounts and email. He dubbed these 90 days “The Amish Project,” and found his way to a more fulfilling lifestyle than he had ever known:

  • He forged a deeper relationship with his closest friends
  • He realized some of his closest friends weren’t so close after all
  • He revived a dying romance
  • Experienced higher levels of productivity
  • Got better grades
  • Got creative with ways he had fun – and had more of it
  • Started meditating

Think of how much time we waste mindlessly combing through online platforms, reading articles, watching YouTube videos and cyber-stalking. Most times when we engage in activities like that, we enter what my mentor calls “robot mode.” No thought required. Just mindless online navigation, reading or watching what other people wrote or made.

Maybe it’s time to wake up.
Maybe it’s time to come back to reality.
Maybe it’s time to experience real life once again.

If you’re looking for ways to change your life for the better, form good habits and eliminate bad ones, or just simply be happier, a trial run akin to Reilly’s Amish Project is a great way to start.

when beauty fades


Dying flowerWhen beauty has faded,

where will you turn?

When beauty has faded,

what fire will burn?

When beauty has faded,

will you remember its core?

When beauty has faded,

will you dig deeper for more?

We put trust in appearance,

in nice shiny things.

We adore accumulation,

and the wealth that it brings.

But is it wealth that it brings,

or misery instead?

For what wealth can be had,

when we all end up dead?

Will that Coach purse come with you,

to the grave six feet under?

Or that beautiful woman,

who tears your heart asunder?

How bout the diamond ring

and the veneer of beauty it brings?

Or that sofa and loveseat,

where you kick up your feet?

Nay, none of it will join you

as you lie ‘neath your engraving.

So what’s the purpose, what’s the point,

of all of these foolish cravings?

We want and we want,

so we can take it for granted.

Because after some time,

we’re no longer enchanted.

For the beauty it fades,

like night into day,

like a harsh stab of pain,

like a cold spring rain.

Nothing will last,

even earth will feed the flames.

So for all this, what can we do,

when we meet with no acclaim?

Well I’ll tell you one thing,

that I know for sure.

When I learn of the answer,

I’ll give you all the grand tour.

underscheduling my life


If you’re a regular reader and wonder why I haven’t posted for a few weeks, it was purposeful. And if you weren’t wondering…well poop.

I needed to detach myself from certain aspects of my normative behavior, take a wide-angle view on things by underscheduling my life. I had felt paralyzed for a little while, like I wasn’t making progress with regard to my passions. So, I put a hold on my martial arts pursuits, I stopped fretting over my lack of progress on the guitar, I took a break from running and I stopped worrying about what my next blog post was going to be. I put a lot of thought into creating good content on this blog and I felt myself repeatedly coming up empty. I had 35 drafts of posts with nothing flushed out. When I tried to come back to something and expound upon it, the original intent of the post eluded me. I knew I needed a break.

An influence on this “hold” I placed on things was a slight running injury – I had symptoms of plantar fasciitis, so I web-MD’d myself and laid off for a while. This frustrated me immensely, because when I finally feel a flare of passion for running I come up with a running injury instead of a barefoot half-marathon. Instead of beating myself up over it I made my decision to step back from the world for a bit.

So, instead of producing anything worthy of praise (learning new songs, logging more miles, writing semi-decent blog posts), I played videogames, read a couple books, took more naps and hung out with a new group of friends probably too often – in other words, I became really good at doing nothing. I let simplicity take hold and ran with it, and I’m already feeling the emotional and psychological kickbacks a mere three weeks later. I feel refreshed.

If you’re feeling like I was a few weeks ago, give this theory of underscheduling a shot. Even if you have kids or other responsibilities that take up a vast amount of your time, find a little time in your day to just do nothing. The rewards are subtle but immense.

a different kind of free – running barefoot


Never before in my life have I been excited to run. It was always a necessary evil to stay healthy and in shape and occasionally relieve some stress. Plus, during high school track season it made my ass look great! But lately I’ve been seeing it differently, as I’ve been taking a different approach. And that approach is to hit the pavement barefoot.

It’s a different kind of free. This type of running allows you to experience something you can’t enjoy whilst huffing and puffing along heel-to-toe with typical running shoes, and for the first time in my life I have looked forward to running. I honestly can’t explain WHY I feel this way about barefoot running. I’ve always preferred the hobbit-like lifestyle, but never has it given me this much enjoyment. It’s just…fun.

“it’s science”

But aside from the aesthetics, there’s also a science to it. A running shoe is essentially a cast. The most expensive running shoes that have the most padding and “support” inhibit the natural pronating movement of the foot. For years doctors have said that pronation is a bad thing, that it leads to injuries such as shin splints, plantar fascitis and various knee problems. But a host of recent studies have shown that the running shoe, in fact, could be the true cause of all of our running problems.

Padded, arched running shoes have only been around since Nike’s experiments with a waffle iron and rubber in the 70’s. And since the 70’s, running injuries have increased at an exponential rate. Nowadays, eight out of 10 regular runners get injured every year. As Nike has evolved and come to realize this…well, check out one of their most recent commercials:

born to run

I recently finished the book Born to Run. It’s about an adventuring journalist’s voyage to simply discover why his foot hurt when he ran. Throughout the novel, you follow his journey to discover a hidden tribe of superathletes in Mexico, meet and befriend a host of eccentric ultrarunners, and learn from some of the world’s best scientists, anthropologists and evolutionary biologists. His ultimate conclusion is that homo sapiens were literally born to run.

We evolved that way for a reason – by shodding our feet in padded running shoes, we’ve taken a step back in the evolutionary process. One of the best lines in the book refers to the fact that supporting your arch is inherently wrong – why would you put a support under an arch? It only weakens the structure. If you let the arch stand alone with no support, it is more architecturally sound.

Now it definitely takes some getting used to, that’s for sure. For the past few days my foot has been wrapped to pad the blisters that have begun to populate the soles of my feet…but they’re getting tougher. More calluses are already forming and my calves are consistently sore as my muscles grow.

Bottom line: Barefoot running is an exhilarating experience and one that will hopefully last 26.2 miles this fall for me and my brother.

Here’s a nice wrap-up video about barefoot running (and I strongly recommend you purchase Born to Run – it’s one of them life-changing books folks keep talking about):

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.