The Stunning Truth About Focusing on the Important

February 28th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

9 Ways to Focus on your Priorities

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was doing the laundry (slowly, without rush, because I didn’t have to be anywhere), why minimalism is becoming so popular:

Minimalism is the ultimate lifehack.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term: lifehackers find little ways to make their lives more productive. The idea of lifehacking has spawned thousands of blogs, sites, books. Lifehacker is one of the most popular lifehacking blogs. Getting Things Done is one of the more famous lifehacking books.

Being minimalist trumps all of the little stuff. Minimalists don’t have to figure out how to do more stuff quickly, because they have no interest in doing more stuff.

The average person has lots of things to do every day. This leads to stress, pain, anger, and frustration, because they can possibly get it all done. Then they go shopping to make themselves feel better.

Being minimalist is about focusing on the important.

A minimalist says: I’m going to do three (or even one) things today. I’m going to focus on them completely, and I’m going to do them well.

You don’t need a personal organizer, personal assistant, super-productivity system or whatever to do three things well in a day.

The magical thing that happens, when you concentrate on very few projects per day: you start to make great work.

Once you get to that point, you can unsubscribe to all those little lifehacking sites, with their little tips. You can throw out your personal planner. These things just aren’t necessary anymore.

You can stop spending hours looking for ways to be more productive, because you’re simply not interested in “being productive” anymore.

When minimalism is applied correctly, you actually have all of this leftover time. For instance, all of my work is done fairly early most days, so I spend the rest of the day reading books. I have so much time to read books, that I’m finishing way more than my original goal to read one book a week.

All of the books lead to big new ideas, which positively effects my writing. I can contribute more value to you, the reader, which in turn makes more people interested in reading me.

Here are 9 ways you can focus on the important

1, Identify the four areas of your life that are most important to you.

Simply write them down. It can be powerful to know what is most important to you, because then you can begin to focus on only the essential.

My four priories are: Writing, Yoga, Cooking, and Reading.

I find it helpful to only do one of these things professionally at one time: right now I’m only a professional writer, and nothing else. You might notice that photography is no longer on my list of important things. It’s been replaced by cooking, which dominates my thoughts whenever I’m not writing. What does that mean? I’m not sure yet, but it might mean I’m not interested so much in doing photography anymore. What do you do that doesn’t interest you anymore, but you keep doing because you thought it was your identity?

2, Learn to say no to requests.

Once you’ve identified the essential, you have to start saying no to things that come your way which don’t coincide with your interests. It can be easy to say yes to a lot of projects that are all over the place. We all want to be helpful to as many people as we can, but inevitably we get involved in projects that we aren’t any good at. This just frustrates people, and wastes a lot of time.

3, Start to eliminate things you don’t care about.

Stop doing things you’re doing just out of obligation. Abandon the busy work. Stop going to that book club that you dread going to. There are a million obligations that we get ourselves into over the years. These obligations keep piling on top of one an other, until you have no time for yourself anymore. Gradually stop working on projects you don’t care about. Tell people you quit the book club. Eventually you will have time for yourself again.

4, Give yourself huge blocks of time to work on one project.

Give yourself five hours to work on one project, and do nothing else. Spend all of your time concentrating on the work involved in this project. Make mistakes, and then make breakthroughs. Most of all, make progress. When you feel your attention wandering, slow down, and continuing working on what is important to you, until it’s done.

5, Turn off distractions.

Nothing is worse than trying to get work done with the TV on in the background. You might think that it’s helping you work: it’s not helping you. Seriously, these distractions sabotage everything that you’re trying to accomplish. Turn off your phone, power down Twitter, destroy your TV, and eat your lunch before you sit down to focus on the important.

6, Don’t comment on things that you don’t want to be involved in.

We all have opinions, but we need to consider whether we’re most useful to people if that’s all we’re giving. It’s so easy to offer an unsolicited critical opinion on the work of someone else, especially in this age of Internet anonymity. What you’re saying might hurt people, and it might not have any grounding in reality anyway. When you’re a critic your own work can also suffer from your own negativity. So, next time you’re tempted to tell someone that what they’re doing is wrong, maybe consider first: are you willing to help them do it right?

7, Make time for important things.

Many people spend less than 2 hours a week on their important work, and the rest of the time they’re distracted or at a job they don’t enjoy working at. You have to make time to work on what you’ve determined is important to you. If you want to be a writer, you have to write every single day for at least a few hours (if not more.) If you want to be a photographer, you have to shoot every single day for at least a few hours (if not more.) You can’t expect to get good at anything if you’re a weekend warrior.

8, Tell people about your priorities.

Make it clear what your priorities are to everyone you know. Tell your best friends, your significant other, your kids. Start a blog and write every single day about how your priorities are being accomplished. By telling people, you can hold yourself responsible. You can also compare notes, if your girlfriend thinks your priorities are beer, xbox, belching and sleeping, and you think your priorities are painting, productivity, cleaning, and thinking… well, you might be doing something wrong. Live and breathe your priorities, and they will become what you are.

9, Learn as much as you can.

You have to study your priorities in regularly. If you’re a creator, read as much as you can about creativity. If you’re a cook, read as much as you can about cooking. Subscribe to blogs that share common interests with you. Read real books! Books are amazing creatures full of ideas; they will cause you to grow. Investigate whether there are classes you can take in your area, or online, which will help you learn more about what is important to you. You will never stop learning, so keep consuming information that will help you. I promise you, it is the most important element.


How do you focus on your priorities?

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Joshua Becker on the Power of Rational Minimalism

February 26th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Simplify makes it clear that that minimalism isn’t just for the crazies.

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

One of the most common comments I receive on my work is very simple:

“I wish I could be a minimalist, but I have kids and I don’t live in a city.”

Until Monday of this week, I didn’t have a good answer to that question. My idea of minimalism is extremely specific: I don’t want a house, a car, or things. My idea of being minimalist is having the freedom to get on a plane and go anywhere. But the reality is, not everyone has the same goals as me.

To be honest, sometimes I wonder if I will have the same goals as me. When I get older do I want to keep living out of a bag? Probably not!

Then, along came Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist with his brilliant book, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life. My mind was promptly blown. I didn’t realize that there were so many different ways to approach being minimalist. It’s true though, minimalism is for everyone.

Joshua and I might be on other side of the minimalist spectrum from me, but our ideas could not be more similar. His e-book makes it extremely clear that anyone can pursue a minimalist life.

How to make minimalism fit your ideal world: Joshua Becker on the power of rational minimalism.

Everett Bogue: Joshua, you’re a huge advocate of ‘rational minimalism’. This is awesome, because I’m definitely the opposite of rational (throwing away all of my stuff, jumping on planes). Can you take a moment and explain to our readers what the difference is between a rational minimalist, and someone like me?

Joshua Becker: Since deciding to become minimalist two years ago, I have talked to a lot of people. During these conversations, I began to see a trend: many people were sure they would never become a “minimalist,” yet they loved the simplistic principles of minimalism. This intrigued me.

So I began to further probe their objections to “minimalism.” As I did, I found that they had a very bleak view of minimalism. They pictured rooms with little furniture or closets with only 7 shirts. They found the principles attractive, but not the practice. They quickly concluded that minimalism (as they defined it in their minds) was not consistent with their lifestyle or values. Ironically, I agreed… I didn’t want their description of minimalism either.

I began to address their concerns in my conversations and on my blog contending that minimalism does not have to look the way that they described. Instead, minimalism needs to fit your values, I would tell them. I began to define minimalism as “the intentional promotion of the things you most value and the removal of anything that distracts you from it.” It became less about removing possessions just to remove possessions… and became more about finding a lifestyle of simplicity that works for you and your family. People began to rally around that definition.

One day, a website linked to my blog with his phrase, “I like this guy’s idea of minimalism. It seems so rational.” And the name stuck: rational minimalism.

Everett, to be honest, I’m not all that sure “rational minimalism” is all that different from what you practice. To me, the term “rational” gives freedom to individuals “to use reason” in determining what possessions they keep and what they remove. You value the mobility and freedom that comes from fitting everything into one backpack… and have found a practice of minimalism that is rational for your lifestyle. It fits you perfectly. For me, I needed to find a practice of minimalism that valued my family, my faith, and my relationships… and it was always going to look different than yours. That doesn’t make one rational and one irrational – it makes both of them rational, even though they look very different.

Everett: So, wait a minute. There are minimalists out there who don’t want to throw out all of their stuff, hop on a plane and live and work from anywhere?!

Joshua: I guess that’s a good way to put it. Everybody has different personalities and different lifestyle preferences. That’s no surprise. Some love nature, others love the city. Some like to travel, others like to stay home. Some like digital photography, others like scrapbooking. Some enjoy the mobility of having no family, others want the stability of a large family.

Because there are so many different personalities and value structures, there is no one-size-fits-all description of minimalism. The actual practice of minimalism will always change from one individual to another based on their values. But the principles will always remain the same: remove the nonessential material clutter from your life so that the things that are most important to you can truly shine!

Everett: What is one way that rational minimalists are using minimalism?

Joshua: It seems the easiest place for people to start is in the removal of unnecessary physical belongings from the home and/or office. Starting with the physical, visible clutter is always the easiest step for people to see. Many of the stories that are shared on our blog begin with the realization that the “stuff” in their life is crowding out the important things in their life. Therefore, most people begin there.

However, what they don’t realize is that the process of beginning minimalist forces you to identify your values. You can’t remove the nonessentials until you begin to identify the essentials. Naturally, this process of identifying what is most important to you starts to spill over into other areas of your life. For example, it starts to change the way you spend your time, set your priorities, and how you spend your money.

Everett: How can our readers put that technique into play?

Joshua: In my e-book, I present 7 guiding principles to help anyone take this step of simplifying their life and experiencing the freedom that comes with it. Each of these principles is a direct result of specific lessons that we have learned. Those 7 principles will more adequately answer your question in detail.

But in the meantime, I would challenge anybody to begin this process by further pursuing the benefits of minimalism. Read what others have written about their experiences with minimalism and see if the results ring true in your own heart. As they discuss the freedom in life that they now enjoy… does that sound consistent? As they share about newfound freedom from stress… does that sound attractive? There are a number of blogs that represent the experiences of people who have chosen a minimalist lifestyle. And in a matter of minutes, you could begin reading them. See if your heart starts to warm to the idea.

Everett: What’s the biggest challenge that you faced on your journey towards being minimalist, how did you overcome it?

Joshua: The biggest challenge in our journey came immediately following the Christmas holiday six months after starting our adventure. We had just finished systematically minimalizing each room in our house and our home was finally clear of clutter… just in time for the Christmas presents to start arriving. It began with our gifts to each other. But then came more gifts from parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Our house became a cluttered mess, almost overnight. I was absolutely ready to throw in the towel saying, “What’s the use? We can’t win. This lifestyle is too difficult – especially with small children.”

Actually, if you were to read through our blog, you’ll notice almost two months of absence following December, 2008. Then in early March, I received a surprise comment via the blog from a reader that simply said, “Come back, Josh.” It turned out to be all the encouragement that I needed. With those three simple words, I was reminded why I chose the lifestyle, why I began blogging in the first place, and why it was not just possible, it was essential.

Let’s face it. Small children produce a lot of “stuff.” They outgrow their toys and their clothes. They color pages that they want to display on the refrigerator. They bring home artwork from school and homework that says “Excellent!” They receive gifts from friends and relatives on almost every holiday. It is truly a never-ending challenge… but the rewards of sticking to a simple, minimalist lifestyle are so worth it… for them and us.

Everett: What do you hope your e-book will help people accomplish?

Joshua: My hope for this e-book is that it will help make the principles of simplicity and minimalism attractive to the masses. I hope that the principles in the book will give people a freedom to find a “rational minimalism” that fits their unique lifestyle. And that it will give them the practical tips that they need to get started.

After reading the e-book, one woman put it this way, “I suppose I thought differently about minimalism in the past. I thought it was something that was unattainable for me as a mom of 3. After all a family of 5 generates a lot of stuff! But the more I thought about it, Minimalist really does describe the lifestyle I am after.”

That is my hope for this e-book – that people and families would begin to embrace a simple, rational, minimalist lifestyle and experience the freedom that comes with it. We have never regretted our decision and have desired to present this lifestyle as attractive to others.

Everett: Thanks so much for this opportunity Joshua, it was great speaking with you!


You can visit Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist.

You can preview the first chapter of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life here.

Take a moment to share this post, if you enjoyed it. Thank you for your help

The Dreams of a Minimalist Army

February 24th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why Minimalism is About Your Journey.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

The last few weeks have been quite a whirlwind of activity. I’ve released an e-book, I’ve had the honor of being featured on a number of amazing blogs, such as my article on creative flow at Zen Habits recently.

I love reading the links that people send to me offering their opinions on what I’ve created.

The experience has been amazing. I’ve received many emails asking me how I did it. I’m not entirely sure, but I’d love to try and figure it out.

I like to think that it’s just writing quality work every single day. Creating value, in order to help you, is all that I think about.

I started out with a small idea: what if I quit my job, gave up everything but the essential, got on an airplane, and went for a trip. I came back with an inspiration that’s sweeping the imagination of an amazing group of people.

It’s becoming so abundantly clear that this isn’t about me at all, it’s all about you.

The dreams of a minimalist army.

The truth is that I’m just one of the many amazing people who are leading this revolution — for more of the talented folks who are blogging about being minimalist, see my blogroll.

I’ve also compiled a list of some of the newer bloggers below. Check them out! If I missed you, leave a comment and I’ll add you to the list.

Do you want to join the minimalist army?

It’s not easy to succeed on the Internet (or in anything) alone. I need your help to spread the idea of being minimalist to as many people as possible.

The easiest way is to sign up to receive free updates via Email or RSS.

If you want to get in touch, drop me an email or follow me on Twitter.

You can start your own minimalist blog, like the list of people below.

You can help support my writing, and also earn some money yourself by signing up for the Art of Being Minimalist affiliate program.


You are the inspiration for the freedom of the life I’m living. You are the reason that I keep pushing for this change.

I can see this in every thank you letter I receive. I can see this in every helpful comment, and every amazing retweet of a post. We all wanted this change. We all needed to know that it was possible.

It is possible.

A list of new minimalist bloggers.

I want to give a brief shout out to some new minimalist bloggers. If I forgot you, I’m so sorry (there are so many faces to keep track of.) Please add your name in the comments and I’ll be sure to put you on the list.

This may seem like a lot of people, but remember: we’re in this together. Every person who takes the time to share their opinions, their dreams, their goals, their knowledge, is incredibly valuable.

Sam is blogging over at The Simpler Life.

Chris is blogging at Tiny Simplicity.

Someone without a name is blogging at The Modern Minimalist.

Someone without a name is blogging at Minimalist Thought.

Pawel is blogging at Minimalist Business.

Jonathan is blogging at We Live Simply.

Jesse is blogging at A Life Reinvented.

Vehmas is blogging at Vehmasassembly in Finnish.

Tonia is blogging at Itty Bitty Impact.

Luke is blogging at

Josie is blogging at Pure Minimalist.

Jesse is blogging at Minimalistme.

Tyler is blogging at Simple Minimalism.

Karo is blogging at Aspirant Sutra.

Stormbringer keeps a list of minimalist links.

Blog on minimalist fitness + food here.

Url is blogging at Mnmal.

Naomi is blogging at The Minimalist List.

Meghan is blogging at Sanity in Simplicity.

Del is blogging at The Minimalist Oxymoron.

Greg is blogging at Prosta Droga in Polish.


New e-books on being minimalist.

A number of fellow bloggers have published, or will publish, e-books recently.

It’s not easy to take the time to write and publish an e-book. I hope you’ll consider supporting these people.

David Damron of The Minimalist Path recently released his second e-book, Project M-31: Simplify Your Life in 31 Days.

Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist recently released his first e-book, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Their Life.

Adam Mayfield released a free 11-page e-book on minimalism yesterday.

Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens is releasing her first e-book, Simply Car-free: How to Pedel Towards Financial Freedom & a Healthier Life on March 1st — I’ve already read it, it’s an amazing resource for anyone who is thinking about making the transition to a car-free life.

On Monday I have an interview with Tammy about her car-free experience. Don’t miss it! Sign up for free updates via RSS or EMAIL.

Chris Guillebeau: How to Run A Very Small Business

February 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Location independence, passive income, healthy profit margins. Chris Guillebeau can teach you how to succeed in a very small way.

Interview by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Chris Guillebeau is one of the more remarkable people on earth. He’s risen to ‘overnight’ blogging fame, inked a book deal, visited over 125 countries, and he wants to teach you how to achieve world domination.

It’s not hard to see why so many people are part of his unconventional community; his ideas actually work. I was a skeptic, and then I tried it myself. You can start a Very Small Business and start producing passive income in a very short time.

Today I’m excited to present you with the interview I did with Chris as he was flying out of Manila airport to Papua New Guinea last week.

We spoke about strategies for success, and some of the common mistakes people make when launching a Very Small Business.


Everett Bogue: Chris, you and I are both running Very Small Businesses, but can you take a moment to define what a Very Small business is for our readers?

Chris Guillebeau: I think of it as a for-profit project that exists to a) create value for happy customers and b) provide a steady income for the business owner without becoming like a job for him or her. Very Small Businesses tend to have no employees other than the other, or perhaps one or two additional employees. In other words, it’s a lifestyle business instead of a business focused primarily on growth.

I also think of the following characteristics as being part of a successful Very Small Business:

  • Location Independent (can be operated from anywhere)
  • Some Degree of Passive Income (don’t trade time for money)
  • Healthy profit margins (don’t compete on price!)

These characteristics are optional and don’t apply to everyone, but it will be easier to get a new venture going if they are met. Another optional characteristic (but important for many of us) is connecting the business to a cause greater than itself. In my case I am working with Charity: Water on a project to raise funds for water wells in Ethiopia.

Everett: How can starting a Very Small Business help you leave your day job?

Chris: The most important thing in starting a business is reducing your dependency on the day job, whether or not you leave it. But naturally, if you can replace at least 50% of your income through a side project, you might want to think seriously about taking the leap.

Have you seen any Very Small Business ideas (other than your own) take off lately?

Chris: There are so many! I recently asked for case studies for an upcoming ‘Empire Building Kit’ project, and I heard about 300 examples in a couple of days.  Among others, I like what these people are doing:

Everett: Does the Internet make all of this possible?

It certainly helps! I’ve made my living through the internet for 10+ years now. One of the best features of internet-based businesses is that you can get instant feedback on the feasibility of your business for a very small cost (sometimes even free). It also helps to keep expenses low, which is especially important when you’re starting without much capital.

Everett: What are some of the big mistakes that most people make when they launch a Very Small Business?

Chris: Here’s a short list of big mistakes — I think they’re all important:

  1. Failure to consider why other people should care about what they’re offering
  2. Failure to think carefully about how they’ll actually get paid
  3. Failure to develop a strategy to market to existing customers (it’s much easier to sell to someone who’s already purchased something)
  4. Poor follow-through or simply giving up too early

If you can avoid those four mistakes, especially #1, you’ll be off to a much better start than a lot of people.

Everett: Is there anyone in particular who inspires you right now?

Chris: There are so many people! These days I am mostly encouraged by my readers, who regularly write in from all over the world. A few other people:

I read Richard Branson’s autobiography on this trip. I’m not sure why I’ve never followed him much before — he’s really quite amazing, and definitely a major role model for unconventional entrepreneurs.

Paul Farmer is the ultimate social entrepreneur. My friend Scott Harrison is doing a great job at creating a social movement around addressing the global water crisis.

And last but not least, I always mention my personal heroes, Dr. Gary and Susan Parker, who have lived in West Africa for more than 20 years now. Nothing I do in business or anything else compares with their great work, but I hope to eventually have at least 10% as much impact on the world as they do.

You’ve spoken about the pressure to hire more people for your business, why did you decide not to?

Chris: Because I’m not good at managing people. I like leadership but not management. I want to create new things instead of manage existing things — that’s where I derive my energy from. Also, I chose not to hire people simply because it’s unnecessary. I can make all the money I need without expanding. I travel to 25 countries a year and work from everywhere I go. I’m writing these answers to you while sitting on the floor in Manila airport, waiting to fly to Papua New Guinea. I’d rather be doing this than managing employees, virtual or otherwise.

Everett: Which of your unconventional products has had the most success? Why do you think that is?

Chris: Good question. I was surprised to see that Frequent Flyer Master quickly became the #1 seller. (Credit where credit is due to Jonathan Fields, who predicted this.) In retrospect I think it was because the benefit was extremely clear — buy this product for $49, get at least 25k miles or enough for a free flight. Easy to understand and compelling for the right audience.

The $100 Business Forum, which is more of a community group than a product, also did very well in selling out in 90 minutes after the launch. We’re setting up more groups for later in the year, but I want to be careful we don’t do too much too fast with that.

Everett: What goals do you have for your business in 2010?

Chris: I want to double revenue, double the active client base, and increase the total product line to about $1,000 in offerings. The biggest product launch will be the upcoming Empire Building Kit, where I’m planning to reverse-engineer the entire process of creating a lifestyle business at the $50k-150k / year level. Right now I’m collecting case studies for that and outlining screen-capture videos as I travel.

After those things are done, the second half of the year will focus much more on my other goals. My first book is coming out in September, and I’m going on an Unconventional Book Tour to every state and province in the U.S. and Canada. Then of course I also have to visit 20+ new countries to continue making progress on my journey to every country in the world. All of these projects are fairly intensive, but they’re also a lot of fun. Without the business, of course, all of the other things would be much more difficult.

Everett: Chris, thanks so much for the opportunity to speak to with you.


Working for Yourself Guide

If you’re interested in starting your own very small business, I highly suggest Chris’s excellent Unconventional Guide to Working For Yourself.

You can visit Chris Guillebeau at his blog The Art of Non-Conformity, and also follow him on Twitter.

Help spread the word about this post, give it a retweet before you go!

Minimalist Business: 9 Ways to Simplify Your Start-up

February 20th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Why your start-up doesn’t need a million dollars of venture funding to succeed

This is the last post in a series on starting minimalist businesses. Previously I wrote about the art of high-impact income and the power of passive income. But it’s not over yet! Tomorrow I have an interview with The Art of Non-Conformity’s brilliant Chris Guillebeau. Don’t miss it! Sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

A number of people have come to me recently to evaluate their business plans for their online start-ups. I’m not usually a business consultant, but I decided to offer my services for free to these people, because they asked for input.

While I don’t pretend to be an expert at these things, (I was a part of’s blog launch and had my own start-up launch,) so one common element stood out to me in all of these cases:

All of these people thought they had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to start their business, when in reality their business could get off the ground for under $15.

That’s right, you can launch your start-up for fifteen dollars.

When you launch a start-up, everyone assumes that it’s going to be very hard. They’re going to need an investors. They’re going to need a cutting-edge team of marketing experts. They’re going to need to work 16 hours a day for the next 3 years in order to make their business succeed.

That’s all great, if you actually have a business model that is incredibly groundbreaking. But, most business plans aren’t. They’re simply offering a service and making money.

Why over-complicate things?

Make your start-up as simple as possible, and you’re way more likely to succeed.

Here are 9 ways to simplify your start-up launch for success.

1, Don’t invent your own infrastructure.

If the wheel already exists, you don’t need to reinvent it.

Your business plan has a problem if it assumes that the Internet hasn’t already been invented and companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google haven’t been innovating on it for a long time on it before you came along.

Infrastructure on the internet is serves the same purpose as it does in the real world. You wouldn’t build your own roads next to the ones that the city government already built for you, right? A lot of start-ups do this though, they build their own roads instead of using existing ones.

There are thousands of useful tools available on the Internet that you can build your business on top of, you don’t have to start from scratch.

In fact, if you do start from scratch you’re much less likely to succeed because you’ll spend a lot more money, your infrastructure will suck compared to the one that already exists, and you’ll waste a lot of time.

I know this might seem obvious, but it isn’t to a lot of start-ups.

Facebook already exists, you don’t need your own social networking platform to run under your service. The solution here is to integrate with existing social networks, because honestly, no one will join yours (Facebook already takes up enough of their time.)

Video blogging software already exists, you don’t have to code your own before you launch a video blog. Just install WordPress and upload your videos to Vimeo or Youtube. Simple, easy, you’re up and running in less than an hour in both of these cases.

2, Use the existing infrastructure.

If the infrastructure exists, by all means use it! Start-ups that ignore the existing infrastructure are going to exist in isolation. This goes for bloggers too. You are 500 times more likely to have more than 1 reader/customer if you find ways to integrate with existing infrastructure. Simply offer social media buttons for people to share your content with, and you’re way more likely to succeed.

Ignoring existing communication infrastructure is to exist in a vacuum. You’ll have to rely on word of mouth to get out the word about your start-up. That’s the equivalent of hiring a guy to pass out fliers on the street. Yes, you might get a few customers by taking that approach. But do you want 5 customers who stumbled across your site because your mom told them or 5000 because you were willing to install a Retweet button?

Five ways off the top of my head that you can use existing infrastructure for your business plan right now:

  • Start a blog and publish daily.
  • Use a Twitter account and help people with it.
  • Use Facebook to interact with customers.
  • Use Aweber for your communications with clients.
  • Use e-Junkie for your checkout and affiliate marketing.

This might seem obvious, but I’ve observed people coding newsletter systems from scratch and closing transactions via emails. It’s not 1982 anymore folks, these services exist to automate and simplify those areas of your business.

3, Reduce business to the most basic element.

Figure out what your business is about before you launch it. A mission statement like “We’re going to revolutionize the way that people think about publishing.” is not a business idea, it’s an abstract idea.

Business ideas need to be simple, they need to focus on what the business actually does to help people. Simplify, simplify, simplify until a real actionable idea is present.

4, Launch immediately.

If you don’t make the mistake of building your own infrastructure, you can start working immediately.

Register the domain, install a blog, and start talking about the services you’re offering. I don’t care of the service isn’t ready yet, talk about it, gather interest. A lot of start-ups exist in lock-down mode until their product is perfect, but this is the opposite of what you should do.

Make every action you take public, and judge the reaction that people have to it. If you create a product in a vacuum, you’ll launch in a vacuum.

This means that three people will know about you when you launch, and you’ll have to spend another twelve months on marketing before anyone buys it.

5, Focus on a niche.

Many start-ups suffer from trying to tackle too much at one time. Instead of launching one product, they launch five. Instead of focusing on one area of interest, they aim for the center and end up interesting no one.

Pick one incredibly slim market to focus on.

One of the biggest offenders in this area is photography businesses –yes, photography is a business. Many photographers launch as generically as possible. “Hi, I’m jack, I’m a photographer.” The problem with this is, no one knows what you do. You use a camera, but so do the other million people with Digital Rebels and iPhones. You have to focus on a niche, or no one will seek you out.

Writers suffer from this too. I’ve been to endless blogs by people who are ‘writers’. That’s great, but what do you write about? You and every other person on this earth has the ability to write. You have to pick a niche to succeed at in any business.

6, Don’t hire people until you need to.

Most start-ups can be launched with one man and a laptop. But many start-ups insist on hiring five designers, three managers, and a secretary before they’ve even decide on what they’re selling.

No amount of new hires will make your product succeed if it sucks. Launch the product first, hire people when it becomes clear that you need them. Adding additional people to a staff just over-complicates things, making it harder to get things done.

7, Don’t rent an office.

Most people hate going to offices and chances are your business doesn’t need one at this phase. Can you do your work from a coffee shop? Can you do your work from your home? That saves you a hunk of money you didn’t need to spend if you just choose to use email and video chats to communicate with people, instead of renting.

Another bonus of not having an office is you can work with talented people who might not be in your area.

8, Offer a free component.

Freemium works for a reason. For instance, this blog provides free information constantly, and yet I’m able to pay myself a nearly livable wage. Your business has to do the same to compete. As Chris Anderson covers extensively in Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

We’re rapidly heading to a point where everything has to offer a free component.

If you don’t offer a free services, you’re missing out on a way that you can help 80% of your audience and retain potential customers for the future.

Maybe this is a version of your product that offers limited features. Maybe you just offer everything free and accept donations. It depends a lot on what you’re offering, but chances are there is a way to give away something to people.

9, Focus on your product’s value.

No amount of anything will help you succeed if your start-up doesn’t make something that people want to buy. And yet so many start-ups launch without thinking about the simple fact that they need to contribute value. Instead they spend $100,000 reinventing existing infrastructure, or hire five people to yell at each other over a table.

Before you launch, think about how your product helps people and contributes value to their lives. That is the most important element of any start-up.


If you found this helpful, please help me spread the word by sharing this article via Twitter, Facebook, or any other way you prefer. Thank you.

Don’t forget about the interview with Chris Guillebeau tomorrow. I’m really excited about its potential, and I hope you are too. Sign up for free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

The Freedom of Living with 75 Things

February 19th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I used to have 97 things, now I have 75. Here’s why.

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

It’s been awhile since I counted how many objects I own, so I was surprised when I got everything out today.

I only have 75 things.

This is excellent, I was pretty sure Christmas had run me over 100, but apparently I’ve cultivated a natural habit of reduction. For every object I acquire, I lose two.

If you think 75 things seems like not a lot of stuff to have, Leo Babauta is now living with 50 things. I’m envious.

Where my stuff went.

I probably got rid of 15 things when I left Portland for Chicago. I gave away some stuff in Chicago to my siblings. When I moved out of my old apartment in Brooklyn to the one I’m staying in now, I also gave away a bunch of stuff that I realized I didn’t need.

Giving away my stuff is very liberating.

The reason I gave everything a count today was because I’m guest starring on my friend Rachel Solomon’s personal finance show on Plentii, Always: Money (first stop Plentii, next stop …Oprah?) They asked me to bring all of my stuff into Rachel’s home studio today at 1:30 (which, granted is only 10 blocks away, or I wouldn’t have agreed to haul my stuff.) I’ll be sure to let you know when the segment goes live. I’m really honored to have the opportunity to do this video, as I’ll be able to share with more people how to live with less.

When you have 75 things, you can move your home in fifteen minutes. Isn’t that cool?

The shape of things to come.

This is also good to know, because I’m moving again soon. My girlfriend and I are taking off to San Francisco Bay on May 15th, where we’ll probably get an apartment in Oakland or Berkeley (leaning towards Oakland.) The original plan was to move to Seattle, but after a lot of thought and discussion, we decided that SF was more our style right now. Of course, if we end up not liking it, we’ll just move somewhere else!

Because California is warmer, I anticipate being about to get rid of many of these winter-specific items in my wardrobe. I can’t wait to say goodbye to winter.

I should be able to cut down my possessions to less than 50 things before we relocate to San Francisco in May.

My 75 things.

Please note, I do not count books. As you may already know, I read a book a week. I have around 15 books at the moment, which I try to get rid of as soon as I read them.

I’m also not counting shared items such as cooking stuff, furniture, etc. We don’t really have much shared stuff, and we’re going to sell most of it before the move.

I also don’t count electrical cords and USB cables as things. I kind of wish technology would power itself and connect wirelessly actually, because cords are annoying.

I also still have my old Macbook that died two weeks ago (I had to buy a new one.) I’m going to try and sell it for spare parts next week, or recycle it.

Here is my list of 75 things:

  1. Frye Boots
  2. Dr. Martin Boots
  3. Winter coat
  4. Jeans
  5. Tweed jacket
  6. Army jacket
  7. Black jacket
  8. Leather jacket
  9. Jean jacket
  10. Grey hoodie
  11. Pink hoodie
  12. Grey sweatpants
  13. Brown sweatpants
  14. Hiking socks
  15. Hiking socks
  16. Hiking socks
  17. Hiking socks
  18. Hiking socks
  19. Ski socks
  20. Wool Socks
  21. Socks
  22. Socks
  23. Grey underwear
  24. Grey underwear
  25. Grey underwear
  26. Grey underwear
  27. Grey underwear
  28. Red underwear
  29. Red underwear
  30. Blue underwear
  31. Black underwear
  32. Brown T-shirt
  33. Blue V-Neck
  34. Grey V-Neck
  35. Grey V-Neck
  36. Grey T-Shirt
  37. Black V-Neck
  38. Green Longsleeve
  39. Grey Longsleeve
  40. Grey Longsleeve
  41. Purple Longsleeve
  42. Soft grey shirt
  43. Long underwear
  44. Long underwear
  45. Scarf
  46. Gloves
  47. Everest Hat
  48. Green tank
  49. Purple tank
  50. Black tank
  51. Grey tank
  52. Grey tank
  53. Swimming Trunks
  54. Tent
  55. Sleeping bag (In Chicago)
  56. Travel Towel
  57. Yoga Mat
  58. 1 TB Harddrive
  59. 500 GB Harddrive
  60. Macbook Pro 13inch
  61. Canon Digital Rebel XTI
  62. 16-35mm 2.8L Lens
  63. 50mm Lens
  64. Off-camera Flash
  65. Headphones
  66. iPhone
  67. Moleskin
  68. Small Sewing kit
  69. Flashlight
  70. Business cards
  71. Silver pen
  72. Camera bag
  73. Laptop bag
  74. Backpackers pack
  75. Bike lock

How did I start living with 75 things?

I get a lot of emails from people saying ‘wow, how did you start living with so little?’ The answer is simple: I wanted freedom. I want to be able to move whenever I feel the need. I wanted to quit my day job and work for myself. I did this in August of last year, when I jumped on a plane to Portland. I discuss a lot of the details earlier in this blog’s history, and also in The Art of Being Minimalist.

There are so many advantages of restricting yourself to less than 100 things.

  • Freedom to move whenever you want.
  • You can opt out of the endless cycle of consumerism.
  • People give you wine as gifts, instead of stupid plastic thingies.
  • You have less impact on the planet.
  • You can focus on the important, instead of doing housework.

There are obviously many more reasons why it’s a great idea to live with less. Can you think of any good reasons? Leave them in the comments!


I have an interview coming up on Monday with Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity. We talked about strategies for running a Very Small Business. I’m really excited about this interview, Chris is a brilliant writer and businessman. Don’t miss it! Sign up to receive free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

How to Achieve a State of Flow

February 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

I have a guest post up at Leo Babauta’s brilliant blog Zen Habits.

It’s a work that I’m very proud of, based off Daniel H. Pink’s excellent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us that came out earlier this year, and the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I’d be honored if you’d visit Zen Habits and give it a read.

The Hidden Art of Achieving Flow at Zen Habits.

Thank you Leo for this opportunity.


If you’re reading this, and you just came from Zen Habits, I am really honored that you’ve come to visit Far Beyond The Stars.

You can learn more about me, Everett Bogue, and the blog here.

If you enjoyed the post over at Zen Habits, and you like what you’re reading here, I’d love if you’d sign up to receive free updates via EMAIL or RSS.

I’m also quite fond of Twitter. I’d love to connect with you there.

For first time readers of Far Beyond The Stars, here are some of my favorite articles:

I’ve also recently published an e-book about my experiences living a minimalist life with less than 100 things, quitting my job, and traveling the country. It’s called the Art of Being Minimalist. You can preview the first 30 pages here.


Thank you so much for visiting. It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Feel free to leave any comments on the Zen Habits post in the comments, or feel free to email me.

The Secret to Focusing Your Digital Attention

February 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

The internet is becoming infinitely denser, it’s your job to filter it

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

Every day more people decide to start publishing. More voices enter the web, all frantically crying out for attention.

In the early days of the web, it was a simple matter to keep track of all of the information yourself. Only a few sources of information existed.

It was a simpler time.

But most of the information was boring, so it was destined to change.

Now there is infinite remarkable material, contrasted with infinite trash.

The biggest problem is finding the good stuff. This is where we all enter the equation.

Everyone adds their bit to the web, and the result is a great equalizer. The power is no longer in the hands of the media, it is no longer in the hands of the governments, it is no longer in the hands of the corporations.

The power is in your hands now.

You are the filter of your digital reality.

You decide what to consume every day. You decide what you pass on to the people who you lead every day.

The thing is, you have the choose. Every one of us is a filter of our digital reality.

Each of us makes major decisions every day, such as:

  • Where do I focus my attention?
  • What do I share with the people who focus on me?
  • What do I publish?

I talk to many people who are seeking popularity on the web. They want to know how to get a lot of followers, they want to know how they can be heard. There is no easy answer to these questions, but I can tell you where to start.

You need to cultivate an intelligent filter of digital reality.

If every single bit of information that flows through is valuable, people will come to you to listen to that value.

You are only as valuable as the information you choose to pass on to the people who follow you.

  • If you contribute nothing, your value online is zero.
  • If you contribute garbage, your value online is garbage.
  • If you contribute value, you will be valuable online.

Your growth online is in direct correlation with these metrics. This is why I tell everyone who starts a blog that they must think first about how they can help people, and then think about themselves.

This isn’t about you, it’s about everyone else.

  • If you contribute nothing, your growth will stagnate.
  • If you contribute garbage, you lose authority and followers.
  • If you contribute value, you will see measurable growth.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using Facebook, Twitter, or you’re a blogger. All of these rules apply.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a photographer, a scientist, a painter, or you roast coffee beans. All of these rules apply.

If you publish remarkable, intelligent, and useful information with every interaction with the web, you will grow on online and offline.

The secret to success online should be obvious, but it’s not.

You would think this would be obvious, but very few people understand the full potential of interacting this way. These people fling information into the ether with no regard to whether it’s useful or not, and they do it as much as they possibly can. These people believe they can maintain attention via the sheer volume of material that they send out, but it doesn’t work that way. Volume does not equal quality.

It’s your job to filter out these people. Don’t retweeet their stuff, don’t ‘Like’ their blog posts. Unsubscribe from these people. If you aren’t gaining value from something, don’t pass it on.

I follow less than 100 people on Twitter. I read less than 15 blogs on Google Reader. I’m only following 15 people on Google Buzz at this moment. My attention is finite, because if I spend all day reading nonsense, I get nothing done.

How finite is your attention?

Are you willing to bounce around all day reading stuff that doesn’t help you?

Are you spending all day reading and reacting?

Or are you creating and publishing value?

Or are you creating remarkable content that helps people?

This is the secret that every successful person online is trying to tell you. Just contribute value. That is all you need to do.

A remarkable idea naturally spreads across time and space.

14 Simple Ways to Stimulate Creativity

February 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

How to banish the resistance and harness creativity

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

One of the hardest battle any of us will fight is the battle for creativity. Countless books have no doubt been written about the war of making art, and many more will be written in the future.

It will never be easy to be a creator.

I’m noticing this, as my subscriber count has skyrocketed over the last few weeks. The Art of Being Minimalist just keeps selling a number of copies every day. But, with all of this attention comes an added pressure.

It will always be easier to write for your one adoring fan. It will always be harder to write for a larger audience. To stand on this Internet stage, my blog, and project new ideas into the ether day after day, is difficult.

The battle for creativity.

I have no doubt that you’ve fought this creative battle too. We all have. The bravest of us choose to fight what Seth Godin calls ‘The Resistance‘ every day.

This is a battle worth winning, and one that you should never give up fighting.

The world has a surplus of mediocre people who are unwilling to take on this challenge, and a great need for artists who will take up the call to create greatness.

But there will be times when you don’t feel like fighting anymore, when it’d just too challenging. During those times you must keep fighting. You must keep creating.

For what other good reason is there to live but to make greatness every day?

For this reason I’ve developed a series of strategies to stimulate my own creativity, I hope they can help you with your own creative battles.

14 ways to stimulate creativity and banish the resistance.

  1. Change your surroundings. Sometimes you can just get bored of working at your same desk every day. That’s okay! Go work somewhere new. Maybe this is the back porch, or perhaps it is the coffee shop. A change of location can do wonders for your creativity.
  2. Turn off all distractions. I speak or this often: work doesn’t happen on social networking or email. Turn these off. Hitting the refresh button on your email won’t stimulate ideas.
  3. Ignore the metrics. Sometimes we try to constantly evaluate our success. How good did I do today? Ignore your success, it will still be there when you find it, trust me. Don’t count your blog hits or how many people answer your emails. None of that is as important as creating good work.
  4. Give yourself no other choice. This won’t be a good idea for everyone, but sometimes my best creative moments come when I have no other choice. For instance, I jumped onto a plane to Portland with no job lined up and no expectation of success, I came back with an idea for an e-book.
  5. Go for a walking meditation. Leave your cell phone, leave your to do list, and just go for a walk. Walk slowly and with no destination. Be aware of the pace of your feet. Look at the trees. Watch the people. Smile. Breathe. This can be very relaxing, and is worth daily practice.
  6. Cancel all obligations. Stop being so busy, you’re distracting yourself from the real work. Take out your meeting planner, put it in a bucket, and burn it. Delete your Google Calendar. Good, now you have nowhere to be, perhaps now you can get some real work done.
  7. Ignore the critics. If you’re brave enough to make a powerful work, you will inevitably attract attention. With this attention comes the critics. You know them, these are the obsessively negative people who’s only mission in life is to tear you down. Ignore them, block them, do anything in your power to stop them from entering your consciousness.
  8. Get some exercise. Practice Yoga, go for a run, go to the gym. A lot of toxins build up in our system as we interact with the world, exercise is the single best way to cleanse your body, release stress, and center yourself.
  9. Drink a tea or coffee. Take 15 minutes to make a tea or coffee. Make every action you take have intention –a beginning, middle, and end. Be aware of every action you take. Breathe. Then sit and just drink your coffee or tea — no, don’t check your email — just drink until you are done. This is a very rewarding experience.
  10. Take an hour to cook a meal. I find cooking very relaxing, so when I’m having trouble stimulating my creativity, I’ll take an hour break to make a good meal. Don’t just microwave something, that won’t help. Prepare this meal with fresh ingredients from the market. It will taste good, and give you energy.
  11. Allow yourself to have bad ideas. It’s okay to pop out a junker once in awhile. There is always the idea that every idea must be better than the next, but that isn’t always true. Let go of your expectations and just make something. Who cares if it’s not the best thing you’ve ever made in your lifetime. It’s something, and that’s more than most people are making.
  12. Read a good book. Many books are filled with good ideas that will stimulate your own idea flow. Take some time and just read. If you’re interested, take a look at what books I’m reading now — I’m reading a book a week in 2010. Sit down, pick up a good book, and just read. Have no other expectations for yourself.
  13. Give yourself some time off. Maybe today you’re just not going to make anything. That’s okay, give yourself permission to take some time off. Go watch a movie, go walk in the park. We are so hard on ourselves all the time, I know I am. It’s okay to take a moment and just breathe in and out and exist without the pressure of making.
  14. Just start creating. Sometimes the act of creating can stimulate creativity. Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 books in his life, just by sitting his butt in a chair and starting to write – he did this every day. It doesn’t matter if what you’re creating is junk, the simple act of creating can start the creative juices flowing.


How do you get the creative juices flowing?

If you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you could retweet it, or share it in any way that you prefer. Thank you so much, your support is everything.

The Minimalist Manifesto: Freedom to Work From Anywhere

February 14th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

This is the first part in a series of articles focusing on the key elements of being minimalist. At the end of the series I’ll be packaging the whole deal and releasing it as a free e-book.

Don’t miss out on the next one, sign up for free updates via RSS or Email.

The world has changed, we no longer need most of our stuff anymore. In fact, those who forsake their stuff entirely open themselves up to a world or opportunity.

A minimalist realizes that stuff only holds you down. When you decide to give it all up, to free yourself from the endless cycle of meaningless consumerism, you can be free to make your dreams reality.

Technology is the enabler.

Technology has given us the power to take our businesses online. We can automate and facilitate transactions that revolve around ideas. A new generation of minimalist practitioners are applying this philosophy to free themselves from the constraints of the physical world. Their businesses are thriving online, while the brick and mortar world is constrained by permanent location.

Permanent location under florescent lights.

Instead of harnessing this dream, many of us are still spending so much money on stuff we don’t use. We spend so much time and effort maintaining stuff we haven’t looked at in years, and might use someday.

It’s all understandable though. The industrial age taught us with billions of advertising dollars that we need to buy buy buy, but another piece of plastic stacked in a corner never made anyone happier.

You’re forgiven.

Now we’ll show you how to change.

It’s time to give it all up. Minimalism can free you, if you let it.

Consumerists are dodging around the truth, and meanwhile you’re the one filling up someone else’s pockets with money they didn’t need to have.

By being minimalist:

  • You can quit your day job.
  • You can travel the world.
  • You can move anywhere you want.
  • You can work from anywhere.

There are many examples of people doing this, but Colin Wright is one of the best.

He decided to ditch all of his stuff and took his sustainable design studio online. Now he moves to a new continent every four months, and since leaving has visited Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, he stopped over in New York and LA, and now he’s headed to New Zealand via Melbourne, Australia. He lives with less than 70 things, and they all fit in a backpack. His business is thriving, and he’s even found the time to write two brilliant free e-books.

I bet you wish you could be like Colin, but any number of excuses are popping up in your head.

Here’s the thing: none of those excuses matter, the only difference between you and the life he leads is the decision to not be afraid.

You are the director of your own destiny.

So why are you filling your house with junk instead of living your life? Make the choice now to rent a dumpster and destroy your attachment to the piles of useless physical things forever.

We’re living in a post-geographical society, and this has changed everything.

You can attain freedom. You just have to make the decision to free yourself. It starts with the stuff, next comes your time, eventually you’ll find that you had the power all along to thrive with only the essentials.

We all have the ability to be free, to live anywhere and work from anywhere. Being minimalist is the key.

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