The first time you meet Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, they just might give you a hug. That was my experience, and the experience of many of the approximately 2,000 people they met on their 33-city tour to connect with followers of their blog — theminimalists.com — and the books that have grown out of their blog.
Wait … these guys are The Minimalists … and yet they have, in just the year-and-a-half since starting theminimalists.com in December 2010, developed an audience of 100,000 regular readers, published four books, visited 33 cities,and been featured on or in numerous media outlets, including NPR, The Wall Street Journal and CBC.
Yes, they have. Yes, that’s a lot of activity and growth in a short period of time. And yes, they get the irony that all this has happened because of their passion behind their message of being minimalists.
But passionate they are about the message of minimalism, a movement they became a part of after realizing that although they each had 6-figure incomes at telecommunications companies and all the material possessions that they thought they were supposed to want, they weren’t particularly happy.
Then Joshua encountered the concept of minimalism first through that most minimal of all communication tools, Twitter. “Someone re-tweeted a post from Colin Wright about the minimalist concept, which caught my interest,” Joshua says. Wright is a minimalist, world traveler and writer.
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Joshua started researching the minimalist lifestyle and having conversations about it with Ryan, his co-worker and good friend since they met in fifth grade in their hometown of Lebanon. Joshua now lives in Dayton, and Ryan in Piqua.
Just what is minimalism? On their website, Joshua and Ryan offer a one-sentence definition: “Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
As they approached turning 30, they each applied that tool by reassessing their 60-to-80 hour work weeks, and making changes bit by bit, not just de-cluttering their lives, but also re-evaluating their goals. Ultimately, they left their jobs to focus on their goals. Joshua has always wanted to write, and in addition to writing about the minimalist lifestyle, pens fiction. Ryan also enjoys writing, focusing so far on nonfiction; also realizing that he most liked the mentoring aspects of his corporate job, he also decided to become a mentor for others seeking to streamline their own lives. The two have also teamed with Colin Wright and another minimalist, Thom Chambers, to start a small publishing company, Asymmetrical Press (press.asymmetrical.co) And Joshua teaches writing classes to small groups.
“We never set out to turn the blog into our life’s work,” Josh says. “We just thought it would be fun to capture our own minimalist journey. But within nine months after we started posting our essays about minimalism, we realized we had quite a following.”
When that following reached 100,000 unique subscribers, the pair decided to write and publish their first book: “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.” In part, the book, which is available as both an e-book and in print, covers their own journeys and also gives pointers on how others can apply minimalist concepts to make positive changes to their lives.
“This can mean big change,” Joshua says, “or smaller changes. Minimalism is not about throwing out everything and living alone with nothing. It’s about living a more intentional life, focusing on what you really want and need.”
And, they say, it’s for anyone, at any stage in life. Although they are each divorced and don’t have children, they know minimalists who have six children and live in the suburbs… and, yes, still have a house and a car.
“What’s important is figuring out, whoever you are, how to pursue your own passions and balance your life so that you’re working for what you actually want, instead of for what you’ve been told you should want,” Ryan explains.