What it means to be a minimalist and how to apply it in business

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It’s pretty incredible how one simple post can change everything for you.

A couple of days into August I was perusing Instagram, probably trying to kill time while standing in line for groceries, when I discovered something called the #minsgame.

I knew a little bit about The Minimalists going into it; two friends who had built an entire industry around (as I saw it at the time) only wearing a couple of shirts and throwing out all of your cool stuff. Oh, and being happy.

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But my wife had been going through our house and getting rid of a lot of things that we didn’t need so I thought that this would be the logical next step. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Over the course of one month I discarded 485 items of clothing and collectibles including over 250 books I was never going to read and 50 DVDs I was never going to watch including MULTIPLE copies of MULTIPLE Austin Powers films.

I thought I was done, but nothing could have been further from the truth. To understand why and how, we need to dig a little bit into what it means.

What it means to be a minimalist

First off, it’s not about getting rid of your stuff. It’s about getting rid of the things that don’t bring you joy or give you purpose.

I had writing awards from elementary school, computer mice that didn’t work and weren’t very good even when they did, a New Jersey Devils jersey (which looking back I wish I still had as it’s the new home of local hockey hero, Nico Hischier) and an odd assortment of items that I would never ever use.

Minimalism is about looking at things from an emotional utilitarian view. It’s more than just “does this serve a purpose” because it allows for the idea that joy is an exceptional purpose.

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Second, there’s nothing wrong with having things, even collectibles within the Minimalist concept. For example, I collect 2nd edition (apparently the 1st editions contained some dubious and honestly racist investigative methods) Hardy Boys hardcover books.

But these things bring me joy. The Hooded Hawk Mystery was one of the first books I ever read, and collecting these books brings me joy and reestablishes my passion for reading.

But what does this have to do with entrepreneurship? With running a business? With networking and building relationships? What does throwing out your copy of the Best of Johnny Carson Volume 3 have to do with becoming a better person?

What I began to realize, as I worked my way through the process, is that it is more than just physical items that we hold on to despite them not bringing us joy. We hold onto ideas. We hold onto projects. We hold onto people. So I decided to use the minimalist approach to my entire life.

How to apply it to your life

Over the last several years I have begun a number of projects that I was never going to finish. Instead of bringing me joy, these projects were weighing heavy on me.

Every time I would see a document pertaining to them, or some creative assets, or a domain name I would once again say, “I should work on that,” even though I didn’t have the time or honestly the interest to do so.

They were not bringing me joy. So, in the month of September I went through all of the little projects that I had come up with and I held them up in front of me.

Not physically obviously, but when you’re deciding whether or not an item brings you joy, it’s a good idea to hold it and to look at it. And so that’s what I did with these ideas. I held them up and thought about whether or not they would, or could, bring me joy.

Some things withstood this test. These things actually revitalized me, refocusing my attention on them. The things that I let go lifted a weight off my chest.

No longer would I worry about them, or even consider them. Instead, I would focus my attention on the things that brought me joy.

When it comes to working with people and developing relationships, I realized that I had developed a series of casual, shallow relationships with a large number of people, and in doing so had diminished the deep relationships I had with the key people in my life. I decided to stop saying yes out of sheer habit.

We often agree to meetings, projects, or casual encounters because we’re used to saying yes to everything. We say yes before we’ve ever considered if we have the interest or capability in pursuing that interaction.

So what I would encourage, based on my own experience, is that you start saying yes to things that bring you joy rather than just follow some non-specific social conventions.

All this to say, stop.

Stop pursuing things you don’t want, conversation you don’t need, and passion projects where you don’t share the passion. Focus what you’re doing on what you want to be doing.

Sometimes that means saying yes to lucrative projects that you don’t want to do, and sometimes that means saying no to unpaid labour you just don’t have the time or energy for.

This process might cause you to make more money or it may cause you to make less money, but there’s no question that developing a Minimalist Mindset across multiple areas of your life will lead to more joy.

Pursue joy, passionately and purposefully.

What do you think about the minimalist mindset? Let me know in the comments.

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About Mike Tanner

Mike Tanner is a stay-at-home father of two, creative agency founder at OneRedCat, and coach & consultant with Really Little Wins. He’s a regular contributor to Hustle & Grind, Yummy Mummy Club and CBC, is a board game enthusiast, and his first non-fiction book, Really Little Wins, will be available soon.

Also, make sure to check out Mike’s weekly podcast, Riding In Cars with Cats, where he talks all things entrepreneurship.

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  1. Great post Mike… I’m on a minimalist path, never thought about it in a work context.

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