SLR 061: 6 Steps to a Simpler Life

Simple Life RebootMany of us come to a point in our lives when we sense that something is wrong.

We work harder and harder, and yet, never quite seem to achieve our desired lifestyle. Is the goalpost moving? Or, is some other dynamic at work?

For those of us seeking to edit the non-essentials from our lives so as to devote ourselves to the things that matter most, the journey to a simpler lifestyle can seem rather amorphous, if not foofoo, at times.  Such is tragic as there are few more worthy objectives in life.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

We often engage in activities without an end goal in mind. Such activities are fine and healthy, but will be, at best, recreational diversions or hobbies. In contrast, if we intend for our actions to facilitate lifestyle changes, we need intentionality.

The touchstone of intentionality is Stephen Covey’s principle, “begin with the end in mind“.  To employ this principle, we need to be able to describe the desired end state.

2. Carefully Define the Objective

The mistake most of us make is to launch into an endeavor without a clear picture of the goal. Such is much like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle with only some of the pieces and no box top to guide us.

If the objective is a simpler, priority-driven life, one must carefully and comprehensively develop a personal definition of what such lifestyle entails. For example, for Dave and me, such a lifestyle includes:

  • Balanced work and family time;
  • Financial and physical resources to care for others;
  • Creative space; and
  • Adventure!

3. Consider Creative or Unconventional Approaches

When the objective is clearly defined, moving towards it becomes much easier. However, creativity and flexibility are still required. Achieving a simpler life is not simple, easy or quick.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s latest book, Think Like a Freak, encourages the exploration of unconventional approaches to achieve the desired objective. “To think like a freak”, Dubner says, “is to observe, define, deconstruct and re-contextualize the elements of a problem.”

In the context of a simpler life, creative approaches come in all flavors and include tiny house living, minimalism and entrepreneurship.

4. Deconstruct the Elements Needed

The ancient Zen adage “When the student is ready, the teacher appears“, provides guidance on the next step. One can and should commit to a worthy goal even before knowing exactly how he or she will accomplish it.

Obstacles such as existing debt and the perceived need to project social status may seem like insurmountable barriers to a simpler lifestyle. However, if one is truly committed, one can find a way.

Necessary elements will likely include financial planning, redefining social status, and patience.  Seeking community with others simplifying their lives by connecting online and at meet-ups may be helpful. Reducing living space and number of possessions may also be of assistance.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

5. Reduce Distractions and Impediments

In order to achieve anything of significance, most of us will need to reduce distractions so as to focus on the essential.  Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans each day so that he did not spend time on clothing choice. Savvy dieters remove unhealthy food choices from their homes.  Authors write from a blank screen.

Be boring and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

Each person’s distractions are unique to the person.  However, in the simple living context, reduction of common distractions include  limiting digital use and new purchases, and creating a quiet space.  Elements that impede progress without providing a greater corresponding benefit also need to be examined and edited as appropriate.

6. Maintain Sense of Purpose

Perhaps the most important element of the process is to never lose sight of why we seek a simpler life.  Is it to be there for our loved ones?   Is it to develop and share our creative gifts?  Is it to live a healthier and more fulfilling life?

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

– Joshua Marine

Without meaning, the entire 6 step  framework for achieving the objective fails.  However, if we maintain our sense of purpose for seeking a simpler, priority-driven life, challenges can be overcome and lives can be changed.

Enjoy the journey!


Originally posted on

SLR 060: Thoughts On Being A Father

Simple Life Reboot Kids at ChristmasWe are blessed to have four wonderful children.  With Father’s Day just a few days gone, a lot has been on my mind regarding being a father.

When you become a father you surrender the right to be a selfish man.  At first it’s against your will, but as time goes on and you hold, feed, and nurture your child, it becomes a voluntary thing – giving up what you desire for what you desire for your child.

It’s an amazing phenomenon, fatherhood.  It is all about being in permanent love, and happens to result in the voluntary relinquishment of being selfish.  Oh, you still may commit selfish acts, but overall, it is a characteristic no longer within your capacity to sustain.  Think of it…most good fathers, if given the hard choice, would lay down their life to save their child’s life.  That kind of love is powerful stuff.

I was watching the t.v. program, “Meet the Press”, last Sunday, on Father’s Day.  At the end of the show the moderator interviewed Luke Russert, son of Tim Russert, the journalist who had moderated the program 17 years before his untimely death from a heart attack in 2008.  Tim had published a book before his death, entitled, “Big Russ and Me”, about his own father.  Now, Tim’s son, Luke, was on the show to reminisce about his dad and his book, in which Luke had written a new Forward.  Below is a quote from it that says a lot about what kind of father Tim was to Luke.

“It’s true;  the greatest gift my father ever gave me was his time.  Here was a man who worked seven days a week, rarely slept more than six hours a night, and yet I can never remember a time when he wasn’t there for me or didn’t make a Herculean effort to be present.

“…I understand that not all fathers can afford to do that.  Jobs, commitments, etc. don’t always lend themselves to kids being number one all the time.  However, I do know that if a father makes an effort to be there, a kid will always notice and always appreciate it because as a kid you feel loved, wanted, and cared about, and you can’t ask for more than that.”

No Luke, you can’t.  That’s what it’s all about.

Luke has continued in his father’s footsteps, becoming an excellent, fair-minded, hard-hitting journalist in his own right.  What a great testament to his father, and to his father’s father.  It passes down, this love and caring we have for each other.  Yes, being selfless is hard at first, early in fatherhood.  But as you love, the selfless part becomes what you never could have imagined it would become – effortless grace.

“Meet the Press” viewers worldwide loved Tim Russert because he cared.  In many ways it is the same reason our kids love us, simply because we care.

“A righteous father protects his children with his time and presence.”

Howard W. Hunter



Originally posted on


SLR 059: The Incredible Transformative Power of Becoming a Human Guinea Pig

Simple Life RebootWhat is the best way to tackle a daunting task or behavioral change?   Many authorities emphasize the traditional approach of goal, structure, and feedback.  While helpful,  such approach lacks  the transformational jet fuel of adventure and experimentation.

Rediscover Adventure

Ask a young person why she tried chocolate on her broccoli. She may well answer  “to see how it would taste”.   While the objective of improving the taste of broccoli may  be important to her,  discovering something new is what excites her.  For her, there is no “failure” if the chocolate on broccoli is not to her taste. She simply moves on to the next combination.  This is the mindset of our greatest explorers.

When discovery,  rather than modality, is our focus,  the entire process becomes an adventure. We not only have permission to “fail”,   we expect hits and misses along the way and look forward to the next challenge.

The Power of the Experiment

Ordinary folks accomplish extraordinary things when they  experiment.  Pat Flynn, the highly successful entrepreneur and founder of  Smart Passive Income describes himself as the “crash test dummy of online business”.  A. J. Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy, spent two years chronicling his efforts to become what he described as “the healthiest person in the world”.  Tim Ferriss started a movement with his Experiments in Lifestyle Design and his 4 Hour series.

Leaving our comfort zone for a predetermined period of time to test a method for solving a problem or accomplishing a goal can be a life changing experience.  If we are willing to make ourselves human guinea pigs, we will not only learn what works best for us,  but what makes us tick as well.

Opportunities to Experiment

Imagine what you could accomplish if you were willing to undertake a worthy experiment?  The opportunities are endless. Would your life be different if you did not complain for 30 days?   What would happen if you went on a digital fast for 14 days?   Would anything change if you gave away one item every day for 30 days?  How many precious people could you call in  7 hours to tell them that you love them?

Experiment and Share With Others

Paradoxically, many of us benefit more from a regular Joe sharing his struggles than we do from the world’s most accomplished individual addressing the same topic.  Joe gives us hope.   If Joe can do it, we can too.


We would love to hear about your personal experiments in the comments below.  Please share!


Originally posted on

The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

IMG00147-20140604-0920In modern American culture, being a big consumer has almost become a badge of honor.

We enjoy acquiring and displaying material wealth.  Our approach of spend now – pay later, is based on the faulty premise that happiness can be purchased with  the acquisition, collection and consumption of things.

Truly, to live is to consume. However, when we make consumption our primary objective,  rather than a limited necessity,  we abuse  the very framework that made the objects of our desire possible.

The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

How do we, as responsible consumers, know when we are making wise purchasing decisions and are avoiding the cultural trap of excess consumption?

Where can we find the ultimate buyer’s guide?

Three Questions

Before purchasing any item, ask yourself three questions:

1)  Do I need it NOW? (as opposed to want it)

2)  How often will I use it?

3)  Would it make more sense to rent or borrow it rather than buy it?

The ultimate buyer’s guide is you.  Only you can know what level of consumption is appropriate for you.

We need to recognize that our relationships, experiences together, the help we give, our love, and our encouragement to one another are the elements that result in happiness. They cannot be purchased.  They can be more fully realized, however, by purchasing less.  Knowing this may prove the ultimate guide – the ultimate living guide.

The Ultimate Living Guide

What are 4 ways we can experience deeper, more satisfying relationships, through intentionally limited consumption?

1)  More margin – more ability to be nimble as we have more resources, time and energy, at our disposal.

2)  The inclination to be more generous with resources – less focused on self

3)  Less manipulation by popular culture

4)  More awareness of things beyond our material desires

That Which Matters Most

Stepping off the treadmill of over-consumption forces us to look beyond the latest baubles and toys, and  toward the greater purpose for our lives.  If we slow down on consumption,  we will realize that we are “filled-up”  by relationships with people.

Buying less stuff allows us to focus on that which matters most – each other.


Originally posted on