I broke up with my things because they spent more time in a cardboard box than out on a shelf soaking in rays of glorious sunshine.

We broke up because I didn’t even know who they were anymore. The great times we had were distant memories but it’s not a sad story. We are okay being “just friends”. Things were once a big part of my life. They are responsible for the reason I have moved on.

The reason I know that I deserve better now.

How did I start the process of minimizing?

By taking inventory.

Minimizing first includes understanding what you have. It started on a spreadsheet where all of my possessions lived in my space and on the page.

I listed:

  • What it cost me to purchase the item.
  • Why I owned everything.
  • How much equity I had in each.

The shocking discoveries:

  1. Duplicates: There were repeats of my things that I’d accumulated “just in case”… bye!
  2. Debt: Things depreciate quickly. If I’m not using items and they’re not worth selling to anyone else, why are they here?
  3. Used: When I bought preowned there was greater preserved value. Retail is the premium paid for being attached to breaking up with things not meant to be.

Sorting my inventory reset the troubled past of my current belongings then shaped the future for new things to enter my life. It is mandatory for me to purchase used and avoid duplicates to stay out of being debted emotionally and financially to my things.

This accelerated my minimalist journey to warp speed.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

It’s become nothing out of the ordinary for me to move every year. Sometimes to find a more economical living situation or simply out of boredom. There was a moment while I packed up my belongings to move this week when realized I don’t even know what things I own anymore.

Many of the things I do own are reminders of experiences had. Gifts from friends, a photo album from college, an $8 bull horn from Amazon that has brought endless aggravation to neighbors and countless laughter for friends. I’ve watched roommates move in and out of my place and am always surprised by the amount of things they would cart in and out. Moving trucks the size of semis will soon be the norm for our consumer driven society.

When are we taught that the way to experience life is to purchase things?

I realized how little is necessary as I packed everything I needed in the trunk of a Hyundai Accent for a 30 day cross country trip. Living as a minimalist in material possessions allows me to live life as a maximalist because I have the ability to fund experiences. Ones that give me stories to share with you here.

After moving from place to place it caused me to rid myself of things that weren’t useful. It fueled further travel where weekend trips turned to week long trips and from weeks to months. The things I had a long distance relationship with back at home were lonely and we didn’t talk much anymore.

I’m single from things now with my arms wide open to experiences, and I’m never turning back.

Natural light floods even the back corners of Cuvee while mindless citizens are absorbed in their cell phones. There is a quiet buzz about the place. Or are those my own thoughts consuming my mind? There isn’t room for the mind-numbing norm and my creative sparks. Both simply can’t exist together, and I can sense the battle; it’s going to be an all-out duel. The feeling that’s running through my body is familiar. It means I’m about to create magic. As I sip on the first nitro coffee I’ve ever tasted, it hits me. I’m spitting out ideas as my girlfriend bounces back. We’re playing a metaphorical game of tennis.

Idea. Additional idea. Suggestion to make a good idea great. Another idea.

What’s just taken place is a regular occurrence for me. Creating new ideas takes as little as seeing a flyer on the streets of Austin or hearing about a news story through Facebook. It’s happened while walking through the mall, and I’ve experienced it during late-night drives across the state. Care to know my secret?

I’m not stuck in the Matrix.

It’s easy to be fooled by what’s in front of us. Despite the ridiculous news stories we see daily, society is really quite intelligent. We’re trained to go to college, get a decent paying job, settle down with a spouse, invest in a house in the suburbs, and travel once we retire and the kids have moved out. How often have any of us questioned this norm? Let’s take a moment to realize that our lives are planned out for us from the beginning.

I hope you’re angry reading this. Nothing would be better than you feeling ready to flip your computer or tablet. Wait just a moment, though. There’s a solution. Now that you know we’re all bred into this Matrix, it’s time to escape it.

Imagine living a life plump with experiences like I described at the beginning of the post. All you have to do is break down your self-limiting beliefs. What’s the real reason you can’t travel in your twenties and thirties? With crowd-sourced travel, Go Fund Me campaigns, cheap hostels, and the beauty of the Internet, I don’t see one. Throw your fear out the window.

Explain why you’re taking an entry-level job you hate. Aren’t you creative enough to concoct a new, better way for your industry to function? Of course you are, so let’s ditch the low self-esteem.

You’re starting to get the idea. Each of us can live outside of the Matrix. The only thing stopping us is… us. I’ll be honest- stepping outside of the Matrix is scary. It takes a great deal of faith in yourself, a determination to succeed, and just a little bit of crazy. I’ve pulled up the curtain and exposed the puppet masters. When you’re ready to write your own script, step outside the Matrix and join me.

It’s no secret that the photos I take and post to social media seem to get a lot of attention from friends. Photographic journalism is a unique way for me to capture my life in more than just words. When I look back on a photo I took of somewhere in the world, local or foreign, I’m reminded of the entire context of the visit. Sounds, smells, sights and sensations are all bundled into that memory. Periodically looking back at my archive makes me appreciate the people and places I’ve been fortunate to see.

A nifty little post on the 50 states gives a short explanation as to some of the drive behind my madness to do so much travel but a main part of this is to simply record experiences.

A cool opportunity I see with my photos is to positively influence others to do something different outside of their daily routine. That’s how the #PlacesIveBeen campaign came to fruition. Simply a way to share a location that you’ve been which inspired you or is core to you in some regard.

If the “places you’ve been” are only local dives, cups of coffee at Starbucks or somehow commonplace in your mind, share it anyway. Your city doesn’t suck as much as you may think it does and it makes me sad to hear folks from most places bash their hometowns. Trust me that someone is paying to travel to where you are as we speak. Make an impact on the world and give others the opportunity to be a part of it.

No matter how small or big your place is I encourage you to post a photo in reply to this post and proudly tag it #PlacesIveBeen.

The world is waiting to hear from you.

A few months ago I passed an RV on the highway and a decal on the side of it caught my eye. There was a magnet that had all 50 states outlined. Bright states that the rig had been to were scattered about, but many were missing. I peered into the window and looking down at me was a man in his 60s. At that moment I decided I would focus all my drive and determination toward seeing the world with all my health, youth and vitality. My idea of retirement is not watching life through a pane of glass.

One of the biggest regrets I read about in a recent article of the dying was that they never utilized the time they had while they had health. Something we all take for granted. Without sounding negative, it always boggled my mind reading and hearing about the passion that the 20-something generation has for travel. Travel has become a buzz word to say at local bars or post on dating websites when describing ones desires in life.

It interests me greatly to travel the world around me and discover others while learning more about myself. An article I stumbled across explained an alternative to traditional college education by completing a series of tasks. Culture and maturity, they say, are the things we truly continue our schooling past high school for. Memorize the names of every country, buy a round the world plane ticket, read classic texts, acquire a variety of interesting skills and write.Many of my travels are embarked upon alone and have brought me a great level of joy and happiness in doing so. It’s not as lonely as one may think it is out there. I’ve found much solitude and oneness with others, nature and art during adventures. Somehow colleagues find it odd or crazy that I experience the world in this way so I learned to embrace the uniqueness of my technique and use it as a platform to share.The average outcome of your life is based off of small decisions you make every day. Today I decide to follow my dream instead of letting dogma follow me.

“I launched a Go Fund Me campaign, and I set a date for the first event.”

“After realizing I’ve taken on so much work, I raised my prices last week. People are still buying.”

“I took the first step towards becoming my manager self by hiring some people to do work for me.”

These statements are just a glimpse into what you might hear if you listened in on my weekly Mastermind phone call. Together, our group shares wins and challenges in both our personal and professional lives. We work through the struggles and triumphs together. We create business ideas together. We challenge each other to reach new heights.

I got the idea for this Mastermind group a few months ago. I was planning a weekend trip to the mountains. My friend, Jonathan, sent me a web, which mapped how the ten of us going on the trip were connected. That particular web stemmed from Jonathan; he had connected most of us together through dinner parties, weekend adventures, whatever.

It took me staring at the web for some time to realize that I have a network of my own. I initiated the Mastermind phone call to share that network with others and help connect people who can problem-solve, support, and challenge one another. This group of people has a burning desire to continually advance themselves. Each member knows that life is about people, and progress doesn’t happen solo.

Fast-forward a few months.

The calls have gained a reputation of their own. People are begging to be on the phone calls because they’ve heard about our high-engagement conversations. The business ideas created on these calls are now in the public eye. Never did I think when I started these calls at the beginning of 2015 that I would be getting paid to host them. Who would have imagined that people would be paying me to train them to form their own Mastermind groups?

My passion to develop leaders wouldn’t be very useful without a network of people to develop. Where have you set your sights? Chances are, your next goal can’t be reached without connecting with others. It’s time to break out that old, black phonebook- or your iPhone6- and reach out to the people in your life. You’ll be surprised at what comes next.

When I think about role models, I usually think about someone like Steve Jobs. He was a brilliant contributor to technology and focused on personal growth along the way. Abraham Lincoln also comes to mind. He was a self-made man who taught himself everything he needed to know, and he did great things for America. I can think of plenty of people I’d like to shadow, but today, I want to be more like a baby.

Once you stick a baby in his playroom, it’s destroyed in a matter of minutes. There is no way the baby will simply play with the blocks you put out in front of him. After two minutes of blocks, he will be tearing books off the playroom bookshelf. Then, he’ll find his way to the nicely organized toy cars and start ramming them into the wall. Before five minutes are up, he will have also thrown his stuffed animals all over the room.

Babies are into everything they can get their hands on because they don’t yet know what makes them happy. Elementary aged kids don’t have it figured out either. If you ask a 3rd grader once a week what she wants to be for 10 consecutive weeks, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Once we become adults, we are expected to instantly have it all figured out. By freshman year of high school, we should know what colleges we’re applying to. By senior year of high school, our major better be selected. Once we’re seniors in college, we are doomed for failure if we don’t have our first “real job” lined up.

What happens to those of us who don’t have it all blueprinted by the time the clock strikes midnight on our 18th birthday? We should aim to be like babies. Everything we can possibly get ourselves into, we should. If you aren’t happy in your career but don’t know what you want to do, join a Mastermind call or a professional networking group. For those who aren’t sure what to pursue an education in, take a semester off and travel abroad. Why continue living somewhere you aren’t happy? Live for a few months in a number of different cities.

As we get older, it becomes less socially acceptable to act like a baby. But when was the last time you saw a baby cry out of genuine unhappiness? They don’t. The only time babies make a fuss is when they’re hungry, tired, or need their diaper changed. Babies spend the rest of their time doing whatever they want to find happiness. They don’t care if their mom has to clean up the playroom; they’re exploring all their options, and no one is going to hold a baby back.

A few years ago while traveling in a hostel in Toronto, an Australian that I made friends with noticed I was fumbling through pockets for my passport.

“Do you mind if I take a look at that?” he asked.

After handing it over I watched him simply stare at the cover before looking through a few pages. Little did I know that the United States passport holds some of the greatest power for travelers in the world. He almost tugged a little on it when I reached back over the table for it because of the value it has for those bitten by wanderlust.

A recent news article published by CNN talked about the top ranking passports and how that small little book affords me access to 147 countries. It piqued my attention to search for this post from Traveller:

USA and UK passports are the most powerful, each possessing a total of 147 countries its citizens can visit without needing a visa.   Some of the least desirable passports are from Bhutan (40), Myanmar (28), Nepal (38), Afghanistan (38), Iraq (38) and North Korea (44). These countries can be notoriously difficult to get a visa for.

The weight of it hit me after reading about the different passports of the world. Especially those listed as “least desirable”. It means those who were simply born in a country have less ability to travel and see other parts of the world. Wow, that’s powerful.

I told myself, “There are 195 countries in the world, and I’ve only seen one.”

Sadness and excitement swept over me at once. It’s time to get busy.

What if it all collapsed? The entire financial system destroyed. Some prepare for this event their entire life, create sovereign identities separate from the “United States of America, Inc.”, stockpile beans, shotguns, HAM radios, whatever.

What’s left after the dust settles?

All of the work done to create business, commerce, buy time, stack resources, whatever it is we think to do with money is now eliminated.

Most of us don’t touch money anymore. It sits on an Excel spreadsheet at our bank as we debit/credit transactions through electronic handshakes.

It’s meaning less and less to us what the value of the money is we work so hard for.

Is it important to our survival? Most certainly it is. As culture evolves and our life is distilled down to the most essential form of “Who Am I” the value of the products we work so hard to create for consumption are now scrap metal.

I don’t blame you if you think my stand is to leave the system all together. Set fire to all the education and skill that made me the man I am today.

That’s not true at all. It gives me more motivation rather than less, to make a difference in the world. It puts a solid underline over the following mantra that I created and keep coming back to:

Money isn’t real. Time and people are.

Exhausted from the aftermath of a decade long analysis session of what things there are to do and what things there are not to do, I realized in lieu of the fact that I don’t have as much time as I think.

Every moment is a magic moment. It’s time to press forward with leading in every aspect of life. Forget obsessing over whether or not my ideas are viable for revenue. Or how to market it. Or how to whatever.

All the money I look to collect during my venture means nothing when the time spent collecting it is lost forever. What a disgusting exchange of pleasantries.

Money isn’t real.

Time and people are.

Real issues facing the world today are the realities that we are no longer in a position to hunt and gather our own food. All of our physiological needs are outsourced to other people who build our houses, design our cars, manufacture our food and create community infrastructure.

As we move away from utilizing our bodies as they were intended, ie: functioning physically to meet these needs, we are finding ourselves sitting around and just thinking.

Thinking a lot. Who am I? What is my purpose? What is his or her purpose? What feels good? What feels bad?

These thoughts race through our heads the more we lose the distractions of having to care for ourselves. This presents a very real issue in society.

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs is a great psychological model that describes the importance of certain mind functions we commit to during our lives.

Abraham Maslow (1954) presents a hierarchy of needs model which can be divided into basic (or deficiency) needs (e.g. physiological, safety, love, and esteem) and growth needs (cognitive, aesthetics and self-actualization). One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization. Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences including divorce and loss of job may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of he hierarchy. Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. Excerpt from SimplyPsychology.org

When self actualization becomes more dominant in our daily routines, it abstracts what we feel are the most relevant topics to consider. The lesson here is we must be patient with others in understanding the existential issues that arise from having a more actualization culture are natural.

We are commonly seeking answers to our deep philosophical questions in ways we don’t recognize. While many of us are not as deep as others, there are many cases where misinterpretation is likely.

Since this article only lightly brushes on the topic of self actualization, we will discuss in depth in the future about how this affects society specifically. It is important for us to practice mindfulness daily. Recently a quote has stuck with me in particular, “He who lives in the past is depressed. He who lives in the future is anxious. He who lives in the moment is at peace.”

Life is a constant state of transition. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we are growing and transitioning towards something new, something better. My core philosophy centers on constant growth and development. I think of transition like chronic pain. Those who experience chronic pain often don’t realize they are experiencing pain until they take a pill that alleviates pain. When the pain starts again, they then recognize it. So, too, is the experience with transitions. We don’t recognize change until a change takes place. One day, we look back and think to ourselves, “How did I end up here?” These changes are often small and take place over extended periods of time.

The large changes, however, are easier to pinpoint. I happen to be going through a big transition at this point in my life. Regardless of the magnitude of the change, one thing remains the same during transitions for all of us: we can’t do it alone. Just today I sent a text to someone in my network to show her my gratitude for helping a total stranger during a life transition. It amazes me that someone is selfless enough to spend time helping someone they don’t even know. There is a power in knowing people in my life care about me and will always be there to support me through changes. There is a power in being that source of support for those around me. There is a power in interdependency.

I wrote a blog post a while back about a seemingly small interaction I had with a valet. People like valets don’t often receive the thanks they are due. I didn’t have cash on me at the time, but I told the guy I would get back to him because I was grateful for his service. A few months later, I was back in the area for a conference and hunted this guy down. When I approached him with the money and reminded him of our agreement, his whole demeanor changed. His face softened as he looked me in the eye and explained that no one ever took the time to do that. That exchange taught me that there are many people who don’t receive recognition for what they do.

So how does that valet relate to those helping me through transitions now? What does it all mean for society? How can we, as a society, have more meaningful exchanges with others and learn to be interdependent?

The answer is simple. Our task as human beings is to thrive with others. The truths of life are basic knowledge. Cliché statements are nothing new or original; that’s exactly what makes them clichés. What’s remarkable, though, is what we begin to learn when we live by them. How different would our world look if we really did treat others the way we wanted to be treated? What could you accomplish today if you honestly lived life to the fullest? Who could possibly stop you if you and those around you weaved a web of positivity and support for one another?

By carrying out these simple ideas, we are creating a remarkable situation for ourselves, but more importantly, for others. I challenge you to take the opportunity to genuinely thank someone in your life for something they’ve done. You are guaranteed to make an impression on that person. Watch what happens when you begin to build those around you up. By investing in others, you are investing in yourself. If we aren’t living life with one another, we are wasting time. Strength does not come from solitude and independence. True strength comes from the ability to rely on others and offer the same unconditionally.