Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Johnathan Schultz. Along with his wife Dana, he blogs at Minimalist Baker.
Have you ever heard of Butterfly Effect theory? The general idea is that one small change in the present state can result in a massive difference in a later state – that the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil could set off a tornado in Texas. Or that for me, choosing minimalism would eventually lead to starting my own business.
For most of my life, I have hated the idea of having too much stuff. I don’t like clutter and I find something perpetually appetizing about simplicity. Yet, that never seemed to stop me from spending many seasons of life acquiring too much. Inevitably, I would end up purging the majority of it months later.
It was like I was fighting a current but I did not even know how I fell in the river. Slowly, I began to realize I needed to start making some intentional changes in my life to avoid the misery of existing in a path I had unintentionally chosen.
So, I began purposefully removing possessions from my life. I started with items such as clothing, “junk drawer” items, and books. Eventually, I sold or gave away even my most sentimental possessions.
Similar to the idea behind the Butterfly Effect, the fog started to clear. I found the vigor to start swinging again. My purpose continued to refine itself. And I started to realize that providing for myself was much more possible if I didn’t have to worry about all the unnecessary junk in my life.
Slowly, I started to pursue other endeavors, one being Minimalist Baker with my wife, Dana. She creates amazing food photography, and I just kind of help. However, it is a business we started together and it is becoming something great.
The Butterfly Effect
Looking back, I can see how minimalism served as an unparalleled springboard for starting a business. Through my journey into minimalism, I have grasped onto six key principles that have empowered me to start a business.
1. Contentedness. Once I was OK with just being who I am and not being defined by material possessions, I found incredible security and boldness in moving forward. It seems counter-intuitive, but just working hard would have probably led to a different and personally unsatisfying definition of “success.” I realized that my most basic existence is really comprised of 2 things: food and shelter. If I start a business, I really only need to make enough for those two things. I will admit, however, that I certainly have more luxuries than I deserve. But I know I don’t need a lot. Rather, my goal in being content is to just be thankful for my daily bread.
2. Clarity. As I started to remove the material possessions from my life and cut back on outside commitments, everything else became incrementally clearer. Sometimes this meant I would recognize clutter I hadn’t seen before. Other times this meant it was a bit easier to see what the heck it was I wanted to do with my life. Once I decide to do more of what is meaningful to me, I stop wasting time on things that are unimportant. This vision intensifies and grows as my willingness to chase it increases.
3. Risk. Risk is embedded in starting a business. Minimalism has made me more confident in myself and willing to see risk as a natural part of life. When starting a business, you have to be willing to put yourself out there, be told you are ridiculous, and keep pushing forward. The boldness found in contentedness and clarity make risk much more manageable.
4. Time. Minimalism gave me the freedom to start hustling for what matters. Hustle, as Jon Acuff describes in his book Quitter, is doing “more of the things you love and less of the things you like.” I still hang out with friends and want to invest in my community, but I don’t do things that don’t add value to my life or to others.
5. Money. While I could talk about this all day, I’ll instead list four ways minimalism gave me more money to pursue what I am doing. 1) I sold unnecessary possessions to invest in my business. 2) I spend less money maintaining possessions. 3) I live on very little and ease the burden off our business to provide an income. 4) I have more freedom to take risk and fail at a project.
6. Creativity. I think a combination of all the prior points resulted in a new ambition to explore. Something special happens when I don’t have distractions, somewhere to be, or any set schedule. It is the blank canvas of life. Once I had the clarity and freedom to dream, I started to do just that.
Starting a Business
Most recently, my wife and I designed a food photography e-course. I’m certain the idea for such a project wouldn’t have even been contemplated had we not been so intentional about pursuing our dreams or if we had to worry about getting another job just to make ends meet. Continually finding ways to invest in our business instead of unnecessary possessions led to a new opportunity and a dream realized.
The simple act of actively purging my life of the unnecessary led to the next step in my path. As I cleaned out my closet, I would find I had a bit more time in the morning because I wasn’t wasting time deciding what to wear. After selling some unnecessary furniture, I realized I could set up a little home photography area for my wife. The lessened social commitments led to more walks with my wife where we developed the idea for an e-course. One step at a time, thanks to an intentional decision to get rid of things that didn’t matter, my decisions led to an incredible business investment.
I will not suggest that this is the best route for every entrepreneur, but it has been an incredibly powerful one for me. I have also witnessed similar successes of other online entrepreneurs after they downsized and focused on starting something incredible. (See Joshua Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, Leo Babauta, Tammy Strobel, Colin Wright, and Tyler Tervooren). Slowly, I am adding myself to the list and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Jonathan Schultz blogs at Minimalist Baker. They have recently released a new Food Photography E-course. If you are interested in food and/or photography, you’ll enjoy checking it out. You can also follow him on Twitter.