Minimalism will look different for everyone, and I’d like to share my version of what it looks like for Amy and me. For us, minimalism has been an essential part of doing more of what matters—in a way that works best for our lifestyle and goals.
This isn’t your white-walled, extreme minimalist home. Over the last few years, we’ve used minimalism to create a space that works really well for everything we need on a daily basis. Call it practical or rational minimalism, where you get to define what it looks like for you.
Amy and I are living in about 850 square feet, and this is how we have our lives set up. We also both work from home on Break the Twitch and client video projects, and while the space has worked for us so far, we’ll be doing a makeover of our back office room to better accommodate a new initiative we’ll be launching soon.
Some highlights on our minimalist house tour:
We prefer to have our commonly used items accessible.
Some people prefer to keep their items stashed away in the cupboards and closets; we prefer to keep commonly used items out so they are easier to use. This includes the guitar that my parents bought over 30 years ago, Amy’s KitchenAid stand mixer that she actually built herself, and some decorative items among other things. The items that are displayed bring us joy and represent something in our lives.
We love our books.
We’ve donated, sold and given away a ton of books bought before we even knew about minimalism. We still love books though and have kept the ones we reference from time to time. With all the books we own on our bookshelf, we don’t worry as much about how many books we have; it’s more about whether the book adds value to our lives.
We live and work from home.
With both of us working from home and with our video-centric business, we have more work space and equipment than the average person has at their home. Most people have work computers and spaces they commute to while ours are all-in-one. As mentioned, we’re in the process of transforming our back office into a space that better suits our vision and objectives going forward.
We are constantly changing up our space as our needs and lives change.
As our needs shift, we are continuing to minimize and change up our space. When we first moved into our house, our layout and number of items looked completely different. Since 2013, we’ve significantly minimized what we’ve had to a level where we are able to do what matters most to us. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing about minimalism—minimizing distractions that get in your way of doing what matters to you.
More exciting updates to come, but in the meantime, hope you enjoyed the tour!
Anthony’s Note: This is a guest post written by Marc Chernoff from Marc & Angel Hack Life, an inspirational personal development blog on how to think, feel and live better. Marc (and Angel) Chernoff are amazing people (who truly embody what they talk about), good friends, professional coaches and authors of the new book, Getting Back to Happy.
When you look back on the recent past, don’t think of the pain you felt. Think of the strength you gained, and appreciate how far you’ve come. You’ve been through a lot, but you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience, and then step forward again with grace.
The next best step forward?
Doing something uncomfortable that will move your life forward. Let me explain…
Almost two decades ago, when I told my grandmother I was worried about taking a chance and regretting my choice, she hugged me and said, “Trust me, kiddo, that’s not what you’re going to regret when you’re my age. If anything, you will likely kick yourself for not taking more chances on the very real and accessible opportunities you have today.” And the older I get, the more I realize how right she was. Life is about trusting yourself and taking chances, losing and finding happiness, learning from experience, appreciating the journey, and realizing that every step is worth it.
But (and this is a big “but”)… you have to be willing to take each step. You have to give yourself a fair chance. Because in the end, more than anything else, we regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too busy to nurture, and the decisions we waited too long to make.
Think about it…
The big opportunity you procrastinated on. That friend you never called. Those important words you left unspoken.
You know what I’m talking about.
Why do we do these things to ourselves?
Why do we make so many regretful decisions along the way?
In most cases the poor decisions we continuously make, and the ensuing regrets we face, are caused not by physical problems in our lives, but instead by common weaknesses of the inner mind—weaknesses that encourage us to avoid discomfort.
Discomfort is a form of pain, but it isn’t a deep pain—it’s a very shallow one. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone. The idea of exercising every morning, for example, brings discomfort—so we don’t do it. Eating green vegetables brings discomfort too. So does meditating, or focusing on a difficult task, or saying no to others. Of course, these are just examples, because all of us find discomfort in different things at different times, but you get the general idea.
The bottom line is most of us don’t want to be uncomfortable, so we subconsciously run from discomfort constantly.
The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are forced to participate in only the (easy) activities and (unexciting) opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relatively small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle that often leads to regret.
Are you tired of dealing with the same types of headaches and heartache over and over again?
Then it’s time to break the cycle, purge some bad habits, and embrace discomfort as you prepare for the year ahead. It’s time to learn from your mistakes rather than be conquered by them, and let your errors be of commission rather than omission.
Remember, you ultimately become what you repeatedly do. If your habits aren’t helping you, they’re hurting you. Which means it’s time for a change.
The best way to conquer discomfort is perhaps the single most uncomfortable thing you have to do for yourself in life: embrace it and engage it!
Lean into it. Show it your teeth.
Put yourself back in control!
Few things you do will matter as much in the long run.
Because here’s the reality: a tiny part of your life is decided by completely uncontrollable circumstances, while the vast majority of your life is decided by how you actively respond to them.
Whenever our students come to us feeling down about a life situation they can’t control, we typically start by reinforcing the hard truth: sometimes changing your situation isn’t possible—or simply not possible soon enough. But you CAN always choose a mindset that moves you forward. And doing so will help you change things from the inside out, and ultimately allow you to grow beyond the struggles you can’t control at any given moment. This is what it means to lean into it!
Here’s a powerful question that will support you with a mindset adjustment when you need it most:
Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you removed the thought that’s worrying you right now?
Roman Stoic Lucius Annaeus Seneca describes it perfectly:
“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.”
This isn’t to say what makes us uncomfortable shouldn’t make us uncomfortable, but we waste time and energy avoiding what’s uncomfortable. We whip ourselves into a frenzy over situations and interactions that, in reality, are less formidable than we imagine.
Facing discomfort with strength and courage is all about a change in mindset. Nobody wants to do uncomfortable things, but we choose to because they must be done.
And, the majority of the time, we end up saying to ourselves, “that wasn’t as bad as I thought…”
In our brand new book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs, Angel and I develop this kind of toughness with our readers as a key principle for growth. When we choose to embrace discomfort, we drain its power over us. It’s an active practice of taking life day by day and focusing on the little, uncomfortable things that make a lasting difference. This book represents the culmination of hundreds of hours of work with course students, and lots of one-on-one work with each other, too.
We’re sincerely excited to share Getting Back to Happy with you, so we’re also giving away over $50 in bonuses (including One Day at a Time — The 60-day workbook for implementing life-changing daily rituals) to Break the Twitch readers that order the book today. You can get details here.
About the author: Marc (and Angel) Chernoff are the creators of Marc & Angel Hack Life, which was recognized by Forbes as “one of the most popular personal development blogs” and the authors of the new book, Getting Back to Happy. Through their writing, coaching, course and annual live events (where Anthony Ongaro, founder of Break the Twitch, has spoken in the past), they’ve spent the past decade sharing proven strategies for getting unstuck in order to find lasting happiness and success.
It’s been an exciting and eventful year for us so far, full of many positive changes.
I’ve managed to lose about 25 pounds over the last several months, and am writing and creating YouTube videos more regularly than last year. While there have been some stressful aspects during this time, much of it has been mitigated by the habits Amy and I have implemented this year.
Overall, I’ve been feeling more productive, creative, and much healthier than I have in quite awhile.
I took some time to reflect on what the most impactful changes have been for us, and it really boiled down to five fundamental habits that I’ve started doing almost every day. While none of these are extraordinary on their own, they have added up to create quite a substantial impact.
Here are the 5 habits that changed my life in the last 120 days
This is something that I never would have even imagined six months ago—but a recent trip to Los Angeles sparked the change. After a workout at the Culver Steps, my friend Phil and I went to a restaurant in the area where we received what, at the time, seemed like a peculiar recommendation.
The server suggested we try the breakfast salad: mixed greens with over-easy eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and prosciutto on top. Being a breakfast traditionalist—enjoying the likes of waffles, pancakes, and cereal—this was not the most exciting idea to me. But, we decided to try it nevertheless.
The dish was absolutely amazing and when I brought the idea back to Amy, she loved it as well. Ever since, we’ve been making a big salad for breakfast with avocado, eggs, and tomatoes and we absolutely love it. A huge bowl of mixed greens is only 25-50 calories or so, and it really fills me up for the day. This has been an essential change that’s increased our veggie intake and helped us to feel less hungry throughout the day.
2 / Reduce Sugar Intake Substantially
This is a habit that I’ve done in the past with great success and have seen similar results this year. The biggest impact is when I reduce my sugar intake, I’m not hungry all the time, which makes it easier to avoid overeating in general. Every time I eliminate high sugar and high carb items from my diet I immediately lose weight, feel better, and sleep better.
The first week is absolutely the hardest, as my body always freaks out and wonders why it’s not getting its regular sugar-high. But after that, it feels completely natural and my energy evens out substantially throughout the day. I’ve yet to find a downside to doing this other than, well, not eating cookies and donuts as much as before.
It’s totally worth it though, and reducing sugar doesn’t mean that I don’t have the occasional treat from time to time.
3 / Drink Tons Of Water
Boring, I know, but so essential.
This one is in just about every health book, video or article, but after taking my water intake more seriously, I completely understand why. I have a big 32 ounce water bottle that I start off the day by filling up and drinking completely. After that, I make sure to drink at least one more full bottle at a minimum; sometimes I drink three or four of them totaling 128 oz per day.
Not only does it help me feel more satiated overall, but it also provides a relatively consistent reminder for me to get up from my computer during the day. Both to refill my water bottle and obviously, to go to the bathroom.
4 / Exercise 6x A Week
While this may seem pretty intense, my goal is to simply go to the gym six days a week.
Some days, I just walk on the treadmill. Other days, if I’m feeling pumped to exercise, I’ll lift and run for an hour or more. Just showing up at the gym six times a week is the key habit that’s helped accomplish great results. Amy and I go together, which makes it easier to keep up the habit as well.
Not only has this habit bettered my physical wellness, I’ve noticed substantial benefits when it comes to stress management and mental wellness, also. When I was going through a particularly stressful time, running on the treadmill was like therapy for me. Just like anything, running and going to the gym sucked at first but after a month or two it got easier and much more enjoyable.
Out of all the habits that changed my life this year, this one helped to integrate and enhance the others. Working out regularly encouraged me to eat better, drink more water and make healthier choices overall.
5 / Write Down And Catalogue Every Idea
This is what has enhanced my creativity and helped me stay on track with creating videos and new blog posts consistently. While an incredibly simple idea, it’s been very, very effective.
I carry my favorite notebook with me just about everywhere and jot down ideas as they come to me. I’ve forgotten enough “good” ideas at this point that I don’t want to lose anymore. The major benefit here is that once you start capturing your ideas, you can start comparing them, combining them, and sensing themes.
Instead of coming up with new ideas, it’s much easier to look though and expand on an existing idea. It’s a great resource to have so that when I sit down to come up with a blog post or video, I’m not starting from scratch.
While these habits are small changes on a day to day basis, the resulting impacts have added up substantially. My weight loss has been slow but steady. My productivity and output has slowly increased, and more systems are being built to help maintain and continually increase the momentum.
I’d encourage you to try one or two of these things and remember to start small. It’s really the repetition of these habits that changed my life, not how difficult or how many there were. While you don’t need to do everything at once, the important thing is to keep on going for as long as possible. It’s a journey, not a destination, as the old adage goes.
Despite the fact that minimalism has risen exponentially in popularity over the last several years, it’s still hard to avoid the overwhelming mainstream consumer culture. It seems like everywhere we go we’re bombarded by advertisements with images of perfect lives that we might be able to capture if we just had that one more thing.
And that’s right where they want to keep us—just one more thing away from having it all.
This pressure to consume can come from all directions, not just from companies wanting us to spend on the goods they have to offer. Sometimes other people in our lives can apply similar pressure, through certain expectations of what a successful life might look like to them.
Here are some thoughts to help reduce the pressure of consumer culture, so you can better live a life based on your own values and definition of success.
This is a big one, because there are so many different types of media. Amy and I don’t have cable TV and choose not to watch it even when it’s available. I’d highly recommend avoiding the 24-hour news networks on cable.
I had an oddly clarifying experience the other day that affirmed my decision not to watch it.
I was running on the treadmill at our gym, which has the typical setup of TVs in the front. There were two different news channels and they happened to be reporting the exact same news event. But both channels were reporting the story in completely different ways, with intentional spins on the news. Instead of presenting the information, both chose to provide an angle on the story that would best suit their intended audience.
This is the kind of media that is designed to get a rise out of you—either anger or fear—or to simply confirm deeply rooted beliefs that you already have. It is media that is simply designed to get you to keep watching as long as possible. If you can avoid it, it will remove a big source of insecurity and fear that often leads to consumption.
2 / Family and friends
What a successful life looks like can be quite the moving target—and most everyone that wants the best for you is going to apply their own vision of that to your life. While others can give well-intentioned advice, some of it might not apply to what you actually want—and that’s okay.
If your desired life differs greatly from what might be the mainstream version of “success,” the following might be helpful:
While it is tempting, it is not your responsibility to convince people that what you’re doing is the right way. There is also no need to convince people to change their own lifestyles—even if they’re trying to do the same to you.
The best evidence of success, is being living proof of what is possible.
Live in the way that best suits you, and let your life be an example of how others can live if they choose to. When you live in alignment with your values, the contentment and joy you exude will have people wondering what’s your secret.
Remember that this is a long game, not a short one. These are choices and actions that add up over the course of a lifetime. While the tough conversations with friends and family can be hard to have, the changes don’t need to happen overnight.
3 / Create the space you need
While I don’t think it’s necessary to “declutter” every aspect of your life, it’s beneficial to create space for yourself to flourish. Creating the space you need will enable you to better focus on what’s truly important. The space will provide intentional friction and pause—giving you more of a chance to break the twitch and resist the pressure from consumer culture.
Whether you need to take a break from social media, implement a shopping ban, or remove other distractions from your life—take the actions you need to make it happen.
Creating space until you balance the intentional habits and lifestyle will enable you to thrive over the long-term.
4 / Find community that shares your values
Having the support of a like-minded community can make all the difference when the going gets tough. Whether online or through local meetup groups, find people that can relate to your particular goals.
A like-minded community can support you when you’re feeling isolated, and provide advice and inspiration when you encounter challenges.
When you interact with others who are aligned with your values, it can be remarkably refreshing—especially when you’re surrounded by colleagues, family or friends who are living in the opposite way. Having that community makes it easier to learn and grow in your own pursuits.
Hopefully these thoughts will help you better navigate an alternative to the mainstream consumer culture pushed by many.
As you make more intentional choices on living your life, you’ll find that the results speak for themselves. As time goes on and you show up in the world as a happier, more fulfilled person, more people will start accepting your choices. And at some point, people will start asking you on what your secret is, and how they can do it too.
There’s much to be gleaned from entrepreneurship, even when it comes to something as everyday as how to build habits in your daily life.
The process behind entrepreneurship has always been a fascinating one to me: you see a need, create a solution, tell people about it, improve people’s lives and earn a living (or much more).
Especially very early on, there’s a scrappy element to doing whatever possible to bring an idea into reality. I really like the fact that while you can think about an idea all day, until you actually try to build it, nothing much will happen. The core of entrepreneurship requires very little in the way of traditional education or schooling.
If you can buy or create something, then sell it for more than you created it for, you’re an entrepreneur. It’s as simple as that.
How To Build Good Habits Like An Entrepreneur - YouTube
Over the last few years of exploring intentional living, I’ve found that there are many tie-ins from the world of entrepreneurship.
Such as the scrappiness that comes with taking an idea and putting it into action as quickly and efficiently as possible.As well as the trial and error mentality that so many businesses need to have in order to be successful over the long term. In particular, there’s a system called the Lean Startup Methodology that has principles that apply very well to building habits, and I’ve found to be particularly effective in my life.
The starting concept is something called building a Minimally Viable Product—an MVP.
Entrepreneurs and startups will use an MVP to test an idea they have and see if it functions well out in the world. It’s a somewhat-working, preliminary version that resembles the final product. With this beta version, they let people provide feedback on it so they can get the gears in motion as quickly as possible.
Once the feedback is received, it is implemented into the MVP to create a more advanced version with the updated features. This process continues until the final product is built and ready to ship.
This MVP process can be applied directly in how to build habits over the long term.
To illustrate, I’ll share two examples on how. Let’s say you want to start one of the following two habits: eating healthier or exercising consistently.
Minimally Viable Action
What I refer to as minimally viable action stems from MVP. In this case though, you’re going to take the end goal you want to achieve, and think of the most efficient and scrappiest way to take action towards it.
This is a very small, easily done action that reflects your ultimate goal—the minimally viable action.
Much like a minimally viable product, it might not work perfectly, it might be preliminary, but it’s a step forward that will lead to a greater result over time. For eating healthier, this would be the equivalent of eating a few bites of broccoli with your dinner. For exercising more consistently, it would be simply putting on your shoes and walking a bit outside.
What matters is doing what feels easy, simple, and repeatable in order to build habits.
The biggest mistake with this step is trying to go too big, too fast. The goal here isn’t to build the best habit you can in one day; it’s to do something that you will be able to repeat tomorrow, and the day after that.
Test, Improve, Repeat
Once you have your minimally viable action, the next step is to test it, improve it, and repeat it.
If you find that broccoli isn’t your thing, you can try carrots or kale. If despite walking faster (or longer and slower), you’re not seeing results, try biking or doing a few push-ups at home.
It’s all about taking your MVA and testing it out to see how it feels and how your body responds.
I’d recommend testing it out for a minimum of 21 days and a maximum of 90 days, similar to what I wrote about lifestyle experiments. You want the duration to be long enough to experience the longer-term results, but short enough so that it’s manageable.
Again, the goal is never to do as much as possible in a single day; it’s to do enough so that you can do it again the next day.
Finally, sometimes things simply don’t work or require a bit of adjustment.
In the case of an entrepreneur, the minimally viable product might not be something any customers want. It might not solve the problem as well as you thought it did, among many other issues. At that point, you can pivot. You can use your product to solve an entirely different problem. Or you can scrap your prototype and meet the market’s needs in a different way.
Similarly, if eating a little bit of broccoli daily isn’t generating healthier results, perhaps you can try a new strategy. You might try cooking larger amounts of healthy meals and then portioning them out for the week, or cutting out sugar from your diet.
Taking your minimally viable action and pivoting when it’s not working will lead you to what ends up working.
Sometimes things just don’t work or habits drop off—and that’s just how life shakes out. It’s really up to you to restart or figure out what will work better, even if it’s a trial at something else. Eventually, you’ll find something that works well for you and helps you accomplish the overall goal you had in mind.
Over the years, I’ve seen significant results from minimally viable actions—and from testing, improving, repeating and pivoting—on what matters to me. There may be failures and restarts along the way, but each little step adds up to something far greater over time.
Many entrepreneurs have built great companies this way. Most importantly, this is how you can build habits leading to the results you want in the upcoming months and years.
There is no shortage of articles or videos about minimalism out there, and some questions I’ve received recently inspired this perspective on why minimalism is essential for me.
I share quite a bit about our own minimalism journey here on Break the Twitch, and include it as one of the three core topics of minimalism, habits, and creativity. In my worldview, this is the framework for doing more of what matters—and here’s why it starts with minimalism.
When we started out years ago, the idea of owning less stuff seemed pretty straight forward.
The simple outcomes like having less to organize, spending less on new purchases, and a reduction of visual clutter made a lot of sense to both Amy and me.
Along the way, we absolutely realized those types of benefits along with many others. We found ourselves with more time to dedicate to side projects and creative work. We figured out how to travel much more than we ever did before. We’ve managed to substantially shift our diet to healthier choices, and exercise regularly each week. In one way or another, all of these things were made possible by our decision to embrace a minimalist mindset.
The truth is, we wanted to do those things—we always wanted to explore more, have more free time, flexibility, and less stress. But we had a lot of distractions taking our attention, time, and money away from those desires.
This is why minimalism is essential to doing more of what matters—it minimizes distractions.
The Minimalism Council of Authenticity
Here’s the thing about minimalism, there’s no one right way to do it and there’s no one that can tell you you’re doing it wrong—yes, even me. I say this because I recently received a comment from someone saying that he only had one glass and one mug and that having a set of 8(!) disqualified me from being a real minimalist.
In the end, I don’t feel the need to call myself a minimalist (or be recognized as one) because it doesn’t define me.
Minimalism is a tool that we get to use to remove distractions from our lives, if those distractions are getting in the way of doing more of what matters. If you have 24 glasses in your kitchen cabinets but they have no impact on your ability to lower stress levels, spend more time with family—or do anything else that matters to you—then so what?
Minimalism is simply a tool you can use to remove what’s getting in the way of doing more of what matters in your life.
I think the best analogy for minimalism is that it’s like a camera lens. By adjusting the lens, you pull into focus what you want while softly blurring out everything in front and behind. It helps you make decisions about what matters in your life and what doesn’t.
Minimalism Is Not A Catch-All Problem Solver
I’ve written before about how minimalism itself isn’t the final answer.
It’s how you use the space and time you create with minimalism that really changes your life for the better. There is joy to be found in donating good things, money to be made in selling what you can, and satisfaction in the clarity that comes with the process. But minimalism isn’t designed to be the thing that makes your life amazing; it’s just a catalyst to get there.
There will always be issues that come up, possible financial struggles, relationships to manage, and hard decisions to make. When done well, minimalism creates the space for you to handle these situations more effectively.
Through minimalism, if you have to change housing, you’ll be more ready to handle the move. If you lose your job, you’ll likely have lower expenses (than you would otherwise), possibly less debt (or none at all), and more flexibility in your search for a new job.
There are substantial advantages to owning and buying only what serves you and what allows you to serve others. Remember that having fun is a perfectly acceptable way to serve yourself and others. This isn’t about deprivation—it’s quite the opposite.
It Starts With Removing Distractions Then…
The framework I’ve created here to “Break the Twitch” and do more of what matters is pretty straight forward. It starts with removing distractions with minimalism to make space for more of what you want. Through building habits, you start doing the things each day that reflect the goals and activities that matter to you. Finally, creativity and flow build upon the foundation of habits—the ability to live more based on curiosity than fear. This could be starting a blog, playing music or finding yourself in a deep flow state while working on projects around the house.
Living creatively looks different for everyone, but minimalism and habits are how we all can get there.
Minimalism is an essential step on the path of breaking the twitch. Without the space that minimalism creates, there is nowhere to put the habits you need to build to show up in the world in the way you’d like. And without the foundation of habits, there is no platform for the creativity to come afterwards.
This is why minimalism comes first, and why minimalism is essential in the process.
The framework of minimalism, habits and creativity continues to work well for me as I build a sustainable business as a YouTuber, writer and filmmaker. My hope is that this framework helps you to do more of what matters—whatever it may look like for you.
The tiny house sauna wasn’t where we met. When I met John Pederson through a mutual friend, it happened entirely by accident.
I was at a coffee shop with my friend David, and John happened to pop in holding a tube of giant rolled-up papers. We invited him to join us, and he did, unraveling the papers to reveal blueprints for something I had never imagined existing—a fully mobile, wood-fired sauna built on a trailer.
The plans were based on what he had learned while building his first project, a tiny house with a full-sized, wood-fired sauna and bed loft. It was a project that took him—along with the help of Glenn Auerbach and many others—about a year and a half to complete.
The Tiny House Sauna That Started A Movement - YouTube
The next time I saw John, David and I were wearing bathing suits and I had a towel over my shoulder. John had fired up the sauna stove in preparation for our arrival. We were there to experience the tiny house sauna (the one highlighted in the above video) for ourselves.
The tiny house sauna experience was surreal.
We drank some tea, then sat down on the highest bench of the steamy, 195F-degree room. While I’ve been in saunas before (mostly at various gyms and health clubs I had been a member of in years past), this experience was different.
Perhaps part of it was sharing the experience with two people I knew, but this was also the first time I’d been in a sauna since starting Break the Twitch.
I noted that we were sitting in a dimly lit wooden box, in an intense yet oddly comforting heat, without any of our phones.
Even if we had been inclined to bring them into the actual sauna, the iPhone’s heat sensor would have automatically turned them off. I’m grateful that I didn’t think to test that function, though.
The entire experience felt incredibly… organic. The kind of beautiful, shared experience that isn’t as common as it perhaps once was. There we were, probably feeling the same rush of heat and steam each time the lelu poured more water onto the hot rocks. After a twenty-minute session, I stepped out of the sauna and I couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming sense of well-being I felt.
For the duration of the session, it felt like the whole world beyond those walls went away. The heat pulled me inwards, solidly into the present moment—not worrying about what I’d be having for dinner or what notifications I might have waiting for me on my phone.
We were all just, there, right then.
You can probably understand why I wanted to share this video with you, to highlight John’s perspective and the movement he helped foster with the creation of his tiny house sauna.
I marveled at the rarity of being totally disconnected—isolated from any consumption beyond the water bottle in our hands and the steam enriched air entering our lungs. While it was a unique isolation, I didn’t experience it as an “escape.” The whole world was still there, still spinning, but what mattered in that moment was just the small space we were in, the collective experience shared.
Meeting John and experiencing the tiny house sauna sparked a couple major takeaways about life and doing more of what matters.
1 / Although the path may not be clear, step forward
When John started building his tiny house sauna, he didn’t intend to start a movement throughout Minnesota. He started by purchasing an old tire hauling trailer and got to work while getting help from others. He wasn’t quite sure how that trailer was going to become a functional sauna, but he moved forward anyway.
Much of the time, I think we set our expectations for the path and the results far too high.
This expectation can become an immense pressure, which can turn into perfectionism, which often leads to a failure to start. When he starting inviting people over to sauna every night, he had no idea the tiny house sauna would eventually become the United State’s first community-owned and operated mobile sauna cooperative. He had no idea he would be starting a movement and rekindling a sauna tradition in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
2 / A little bit of discomfort is okay
For most of human history, we’ve mostly been in varying, and often un-ideal temperatures. Only with the advent of air conditioning and heating systems in residential houses starting in the 1950’s have we been able to capture ideal comfort levels on a fairly regular basis. Experiencing the immense heat is a reminder of just how resilient we are and what we’re capable of withstanding for periods of time.
It reminded me of the discomfort we feel when we work to break the “twitch” in our lives.
The discomfort we feel— that the twitch solves for us momentarily—is something we can likely handle. And just like the sauna heat, after a few minutes, there is a strange comfort—in breathing, being and relaxing in the discomfort instead of escaping it right away. Learning to embrace these types of discomfort in our lives is what allows us to make choices more intentionally. When we can find comfort in the uncomfortable, we really can choose better and make big changes over time.
I certainly didn’t expect a tiny house sauna to inspire such meaningful takeaways, but I’m not surprised. There’s a reason why sauna has been such a longstanding tradition and practice in Finland and many other cultures in the world. I share John’s sentiment in hoping that more of us create the time and space for these types of intentional practices in our daily lives.
Welcome to the start of a new monthly series, Behind The Scenes (unless someone suggests a better name for it). In this video, I cover what we’ve been up to for the last month or so, and what you can expect in the near future from the blog and YouTube channel (hint: a tiny house wood-fired sauna)! I also share some resources, links, and updates on the soon-to-be-released audiobook as well!
Behind The Scenes, April 2018 - YouTube
Mentioned In The Video
Joshua Becker’s Uncluttered Course (aff.) is currently open for registration until April 29th. It’s only open a few times per year, so check it out if you’re ready to get your spring decluttering done by this summer.
I got inspiration for this new monthly series from a fellow creator; if you have enjoyed my videos on YouTube, you’re likely to find value in muchelleb’s YouTube channel as well. She creates beautiful videos on intentional living, decluttering, and has a fantastic Australian accent to boot. We’ve collaborated in the past, and I always love her insights and creative visuals.
A few weeks ago I flew to Los Angeles to do an episode of the Ground Up Show Podcast w/ Matt D’Avella. Matt was the director behind the popular Netflix documentary, Minimalism. He’s an inspiring guy and makes absolutely beautiful visuals for his videos. The episode we shot together is about an hour and a half long, and makes for some great listening (and watching).
And lastly, the Break the Twitch audiobook is currently pending final review in the Audible system. Everything is complete, and should be available within the next week. Those of you that pre-ordered will be receiving an MP3 file (and code to access on Audible) shortly via email. If you’re more of a reader, you can buy the ebook through Amazon/Kindle right away.
To stay updated on the latest, subscribe on YouTube to see the new videos I’m putting out there every week (they’re not always posted on the blog).
There’s a major disconnect between what we say we want in our daily routine, and how we’re actually spending our time.
And for me, the origins of this daily routine disconnect started more than a decade ago.
In the spring of 2004, I was a second semester freshman at Eastern Michigan University living in the on-campus dorms. Perhaps my first brush with minimalist living, I shared a 160 square foot room with my friend (and roommate) Sean while sharing a bathroom with the suite next to ours. It wasn’t glamorous, but when we ran out of breakfast cereal, it certainly made it easy to see if the neighbors had any.
More importantly, a few months earlier a guy named Mark Zuckerberg launched this thing called The Facebook and people were pretty excited about it. When The Facebook launched, it wasn’t available to anyone and everyone; it started at Harvard University, then slowly expanded to the Ivy Leagues, then other prestigious schools. My girlfriend at the time attended a more prestigious school than I, about 20 minutes away. I remember receiving the text message saying she had signed up, and all her other friends were already on it as well.
I had to wait a few weeks before my university was available for registration. When it was finally available, I created my account on The Facebook in the spring of 2007. It was exhilarating; it felt like I had finally got into what, at the time, felt like an exclusive club for cool kids.
Exploring the network and connecting with people through the site became part of my daily routine.
The profiles that people filled out were largely creative, interesting, and allowed me to find folks that I eventually ended up hanging out with throughout college. For all intents and purposes, it was an amazing tool for connecting people in really compelling ways.
Here’s a fun montage of my profile pictures over the last decade; you can see me aging, perhaps mostly in the transition of hair away from my hairline and down to my beard.
Over the following eleven years, The Facebook dropped “The” and grew substantially. Everyone soon had access to the network—not just college students. My peers were particularly upset at that fact, but it was inevitable, of course.
Soon we had status updates and the witty, attention grabbing updates that were always fun and interesting to read. Then the newsfeed came along, which everyone hated at the time, and Facebook slowly became the behemoth we know it to be today.
All of this to say, I’ve been on Facebook and other social media sites for a very long time, nearly since the beginning of Facebook itself.
And I think it’s nearing time that I, at least personally, exit them.
Does Anyone Actually Want This In Their Daily Routine? - YouTube
Since starting Break the Twitch in 2014, I’ve been exploring what it means to live intentionally. After a few years, I’ve come up with the framework of minimizing distractions, building habits, and creating things we care about as the way to actually accomplish this (hence the Break the Twitch core principles of minimalism, habits and creativity).
Thinking about the role social media plays in my life and where in the framework it fits, I had difficulty not putting it in the “minimize distractions” category—as in, a distraction to be minimized.
Last year, I read a book called Hooked—about the different psychological triggers and habit-forming techniques app creators and entrepreneurs use to get consumers “hooked” on their products.
At the core of it, just about every aspect of the social media experience was designed from the ground up to “increase engagement” and incite addiction. This is part of what I went on to give my TEDx talk about.
I’ve written about doing social media and digital detoxes, and have done several myself throughout this time. A few for 30 days periods, two 60 day periods, and at least one 90 day experiment that involved removing all social media from my phone, deactivating accounts and blocking sites in my internet browser.
Every time I would complete one of these social media detoxes, my life would get objectively better.
The desire to Twitch and check random things on my phone subdued significantly, and then completely during these periods. After the first week or so I found myself participating actively in the idle moments of everyday life. I would text my friends and family more often, randomly think of people I hadn’t spoken to in quite a while, and reach out to them directly. This was a stark contrast to spending most idle moments filled with browsing, “engaging,” and trying to come up with interesting things to share that people might like.
Feeling more “social” wasn’t the only thing that happened during these breaks I took from social media.
Not only did my productivity (both in work AND rest) skyrocket, but I found that I would generally get less overwhelmed during the day, felt more confident about myself, and did more things that actually brought me longer-term contentment. Things like reading blog articles from fellow writers, reading books, walking outside, and other things that were far more meaningful than a bunch of Instagram likes.
So, does anyone actually want this?
Here’s the thing, Amy and I did some math to figure this out. If you are in your early 30’s, and you spend about two hours on social media every single day, then you will have spent six waking years of your life on social media. That’s generally more time than anyone spends eating, grooming, exercising or socializing on any given day.
I realize this is significantly complicated by the fact many people work on social media in various marketing roles all day long. But even when looking at time spent outside of those types of jobs, we do need to ask ourselves if we really want to spend, in total, years of our lives doing this.
Based on my own experience and the experiences other people share when I ask what an ideal day might look like, there’s been a consistent and interesting result. I almost never see anyone write “check social media” as a part of a day they could design completely to their liking. Instead, they detail things like spending time with friends, family, traveling, reading more, going on hikes, cooking, creating, or napping.
No one mentions social media as part of their ideal day
For me, this solidly falls into the category of my favorite Annie Dillard quote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Each of these moments combine over the years to effectively become what we spend our lives doing, which is made evident by how the two hours per day end up equaling six years in a lifetime.
Wait, Anthony, you’re a blogger and YouTuber—isn’t social media critical?
One of the first things that friends tend to ask me when I tell them that I’m very close to removing my personal profiles from social media completely is this: “But, doesn’t your livelihood depend on social media? You’re a blogger and a YouTuber.” It’s true, that for a long time I’ve felt that my work depended highly on an active presence on social media.
But from my experience of substantially increased productivity during the various social media detoxes I’ve done, my thinking has drastically shifted.
My definition of work has changed
After reading books like Deep Work, which makes a convincing argument that creators and knowledge workers shouldn’t be spending their time trying to figure out what to tweet, I can’t help but think that my job here isn’t to actively engage on social media.
My job here at Break the Twitch is to share the most helpful, impactful, and life-changing information possible.
In my opinion, that is the best way that I can help you minimize distractions in your own life and do more of what matters to you every single day. That means doing the deep work and diving into what it means to live intentionally, how we can Break the Twitch in different areas of our lives, and in the end, live better for ourselves and others.
I simply cannot do my best work (as I experienced while writing my book) when I myself am distracted—spending fractured time throughout the day trying to keep up with social media.
Even within the context of our production company clients, the same is true. My job is to make the most creative, effective, and interesting videos to solve the needs of organizations and entrepreneurs. My ability to do that at the peak of my abilities diminishes when I’m aimlessly browsing and keeping up with social media.
The further I dive into creative work, the more I think social media is a distractor—not only for me, but likely for most of us.
Given the above information, you’d think that I’d choose to not use social media anymore—to step away completely. It seems like it would be the right thing to do, right?
Instead, I’d tell myself I could integrate social media in a balanced way back in my life after each social media detox. Then over the following months, the habit slowly creeps back. Then the in-between moments of life start filling with picture posts, likes, and feed scrolling.
So why have I always kept coming back?
There’s probably some fear involved, that’s for sure.
I’ve been on Facebook since I was a freshman in college, and I’m now 32 years old. I’ve basically used it for all of my adult life. In addition to that, there’s a small part of me that wonders how it may affect my work here. After all, two of my biggest referrers of traffic to this site are Facebook and Pinterest.
A small part of me also fears not being “found” through my personal social media accounts.
As a recent example, I made an amazing connection through Instagram with my high school friend Mollie (who is doing some pretty incredible things right now) while I was in Anchorage, Alaska on a film shoot. She saw that I was in Alaska from an Instagram post and reached out. We met up for coffee during my 10-hour layover there, and it was great to catch up. I fear missing out on connections like this if I minimize my social media presence.
Social media is simply a tool, but is it doing the right job?
When I look at the different social media networks, I see them as tools. While designed to be addicting, social media is a tool we get to choose whether or not we want or need to use—just like a hammer. If you don’t have any nails to pound, perhaps the hammer stays away in its drawer.
I’m grateful for the connections that I’ve made through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other networks. I’ve never managed to get a job through LinkedIn, but I found my last full-time job on Twitter. Either way, I’m beginning to view active participation on social media networks as less of something to be managed, and more of something to be minimized or potentially removed. If it’s distracting you from doing more of what matters, how could we not?
Where do you stand on this?
Have you experienced this daily routine disconnect? I’m curious if this resonates with you, and if you’ve exited (or tried exiting) social media completely. If so, what were the results? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or over on YouTube where I’ll be responding to both.
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There’s more to success than what we would typically think. It’s not all about habits, consistency, and hard work—although those are all important parts of success.
I’ve recently had some experiences that made me realize there’s something that matters more than good habits.
Since early January, we’ve been down in Phoenix, Arizona house sitting for my in-laws while they are caring for Amy’s grandmother in Taiwan.
It’s for this reason that I’ve managed to escape a full midwest winter for the first time in my 32 years of life. During that time, I’ve been keeping busy with some film production projects: one involving a week of filming up in Homer, Alaska, and more recently, in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico doing some work for my friends at The Hope Effect.
We’ve had many visitors during this time as well, family and friends coming down to escape the midwest winter and soak up some sun. While our ability to schedule our time has been more flexible, the time has certainly been full. That, plus a few colds, and I haven’t been feeling very creative (or productive for that matter) when it came to writing and creating new articles and videos for Break the Twitch.
Things have settled down for the most part now, and I’m excited to get back to creating.
In a way, it feels like we’re restarting—but after years of doing this kind of work, I am realizing that is perfectly fine. I’ve restarted more than a few times over the years.
I recently listened to this podcast episode from a friend of mine and it really struck home. Starting up again is something I’ve always done, but never really had a good name for it—so in that way, the episode inspired the above video.
If you’ve made resolutions this year: to declutter your home, to move your body, to save more money—and it hasn’t gone according to plan, I’d love to invite you to restart, because what John says in the podcast really is true.
It’s easy to slip up, to get off track, but what matters is that you just restart, even if it’s been months or years.
Whatever progress you made is not lost, it’s just time to pick up and keep going from there.
What really matters more than good habits, for success over the long term—is that you get back to it.
Don’t beat yourself up. Even if you need to slow down, just keep on going.
I know it can be frustrating to think about where you might be had you kept it up, or how far “behind” you may be after taking a bit of a break. What I’ve found is that the more we make ourselves feel guilty, the harder it will be for us to get back to momentum, motivation and progress.
When faced with the surprises and challenges in life, restarting matters more than good habits and keeping a perfect track record. Because we can’t control everything in life; we can only do the best we can in the moment.
So what’s something you’d like to restart on? Whatever it may be, take the first step on restarting and getting on your way.