by Bobby Casey, Managing Director
In September of 1996, I started my first “real” business. I was 22 years old with no experience, no money (negative money actually), a beat-up 2wd Chevy work truck with no carpet and almost 200K miles, no knowledge, a new wife and a new baby. I was on top of the world.
Within a few short years that business became very successful. So much so it afforded me the ability to diversify and invest in several pieces of real estate and even a couple of other businesses.
It also provided the “American Dream” – nice house in the suburbs, nice cars, motorcycles, vacations to cool places and a very comfortable living.
It also fed my hoarding affliction. Houses, cars, motorcycles (at one point I counted 27 in my garage), motor-home, businesses, investments, and more “stuff” that any one person should have in a lifetime.
So while I thought this stuff was grand, a transformation was in progress. Initially, I owned my stuff. Eventually, my stuff owned me.
The stuff became an uncontrollable monster. It was a massive time suck. This stuff needed more attention that I was willing to give. Broken window at a commercial property, broken toilet at a house, out of date registration for a motorcycle, winterizing the RV, mending a fence at home, oil changes (can you imagine trying to maintain 27 motorcycles?), and the list goes on and on.
Around the age of 30, I also became burned out running my company. I grew to hate my clients, hate traveling to boring locations for stupid meetings, hate spending 30+% of my time dealing with compliance issues instead of providing value to my clients, and truthfully, began to hate my employees.
I don’t mean I hated them on a personal level, but hated the constant issues that come with dealing with employees. Mostly, the entitlement mentality that seems to prevail in America today just drained me.
I cannot put a date or time on it, but the closest thing to a catalyst came on 2006 when I was in a very serious motorcycle crash. Yes, I’m one of those adrenaline junkies. I’ve raced motorcycles, gone skydiving, been deep country snowmobiling, big game hunting in Siberia, rock climbing, flew small airplanes, downhill mountain biking, and more.
My 2006 motorcycle crash was a wake up call. I’ve had many motorcycle crashes, but this one was different. It was a near death experience. It left me in the hospital with neurosurgeons on standby ready to operate at a moment’s notice (luckily my cerebral cortex was left intact).
It reminded me that life is short, that life is valuable, and that life was meant to be enjoyed.
Minimalism can be emotional as well as physical.
Each year around the first of January, I take a trip alone for reflection and goal-setting. For me, I need to get away from the day-to-day life and immerse myself in another location free from those concerns. Usually the trip is quite short – only 3-4 days. Sometimes they are combined with other business trips where I just tack on a couple of days to take the necessary time to think.
During this time, I reflect on the previous year’s accomplishments and failures. I determine if those failures were really failures or just my subconscious mind choosing not to pursue those goals because they weren’t actually in line with my lifestyle. I analyze the accomplishments to determine if my goals were really big enough or if I was just being lazy and setting the bar too low.
A few months after my motorcycle crash of ’06, I took my annual retreat in January of 2007. Call it a mid-life crisis (my wife thinks I have one monthly), an awakening, or just a realization of what had been building for years. But at that retreat in January, I made several major life-changing decisions.
For the sake of space and my desire to not completely bore you to tears, I will stick with one major life change that was so extreme, nearly everyone I knew thought I had gone mad.
I decided to embark upon my own personal minimalist journey.
That very year my company went up for sale and the transaction was finalized in 2008. Between 2007-2008 I sold every piece of real estate owned except for one house. It was all sold – cars, RV, motorcycles (admittedly, I still have a couple of them in storage – give me a break, there were 27), raw land, office buildings, warehouses, houses, furniture, everything.
It was liberating. The feeling was amazing.
The ridicule from friends and family was downright humorous. After all, according to them we were living the American Dream. We owned the business, the houses, the cars, the toys, we had it all. But in reality, it owned us.
Then we took the step none of my family or friends could comprehend – We left America! *GASP*
Not only did we sell, give away, or throw away the American Dream, we left America itself!
We chose a life of adventure, freedom, and financial independence. We left a life of mediocrity, police-state rule, and economic slavery.
Should you adopt minimalism into your lifestyle?
The idea was to eliminate all the distractions in life that were not in sync with the real meaning of life – happiness. We only get one chance to ride this roller coaster of life, so why waste too much time with the distractions that go against your purpose?
Certainly we all have responsibilities we cannot shirk just because they don’t make us happy. The purpose was to eliminate as many of those distractions as possible.
For me that meant a life of experiences, not one of collecting stuff. It meant spending time with friends and family who are positive and uplifting, not the perpetual drain of negativity. It meant traveling the world, living in different locales, experiencing different cultures, and expanding the mind, not traveling the same rut in life day after day.
Clearly my idea of happiness may be different from yours. But one thing is certain, you have things in your life that distract you from your purpose.
Are you a slave to your possessions? Do you own your company, but in reality it owns you? Have you accumulated a lifetime of stuff that takes time away from what you truly enjoy? Do you have family or friends who are a constant source of negativity and a drain on you mentally and emotionally?
How much longer do you want to live like this? It’s not like you get a second chance.
Until next time, live well.