Friday, April 26, 2013

Time: The Priceless Possession

I finished reading Timelock: How Life Got So Hectic and What You Can Do About It by Ralph Keyes and thought I’d share some of its insights here. As Keyes writes: “One of the most basic questions one can ask in getting out from under timelock is, ‘What would you be doing if you only had six months to live?’ Those who filled out questionnaires did so.

Their answers were revealing. With half a year remaining, the most common preference was to spend time with family, look up old friends, travel, read, and write.” That is exactly what my wife and I have been doing since selling our house and stuff a couple of years ago. Living by design with an eye on eternity means treating time as the priceless possession it is.

Here is a “butcher’s dozen” [one less than a dozen] tips from The Timelock Antidote Handbook chapter of Timelock:

Develop a new sense of time…realize it is a relative concept.
Plan life, not time…get a bigger picture perspective.
Manage time organically…remember the journey is the destination.
Decelerate…slow down the pace of your race to succeed.
Modulate…moderate your lifestyle with regular breaks from action.
Reduce awareness of time…quit clock watching in favor of living.
Seek sanctuary from time…celebrate sabbatical periods of inactivity.
Limit purchases…create stuff instead of consuming goods.
Pay attention to yourself and others…prioritize time with people.
Upgrade family time…go for quantity as well as quality.
Achieve more by doing less…accept that you cannot have it all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Journey of a Lifetime

Journeying may be the quintessential metaphor for life. None of us can call this world our ultimate home, particularly if we believe the Bible. From Abraham’s journey to the land of Ur and Moses’ trip toward the Promised Land in the Old Testament to Jesus’ walk across the Sea of Galilee and Paul’s travels to Mars Hill in the New Testament, it is common for saints to act on their faith by journeying somewhere.

Our patriarchs’ journeys are all the more impressive given the challenges of ancient travel. Suffice it to say that to “walk the walk” of faith in those days was no walk in the park. However, aiding them in their ventures was the practice of traveling lightly. To effectively move about it was customary to only pack what they could comfortably carry on their person or, at the most, their beast of burden.

While we have much more sophisticated means of travel at our disposal today we are nonetheless left with the continuing challenge of traveling lightly through life, both literally and figuratively. Sometimes our heaviest baggage is not the luggage we carry but the emotional burdens we bear. Yet armed with the type of faith our forebears used to blaze trails before us, we also can reach our own promised lands.

A friend recently shared with me that a famous Brazilian photographer, Sebastiao Solgado, spent time traveling with the nomadic Nenets who move their reindeer herds hundreds of miles each year to seasonal pastures. Solgado reported that “I learned from them the concept of the essential...if you give them something they can’t carry, they won’t accept it.” It would benefit us all to consider what “the concept of the essential” means to each of our journeys.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Keys to Simplicity

It is funny what inspires you sometimes. I was sitting here at my favorite cafĂ© minding my own business when a fellow with a giant ring of jangling keys walked by and inspiration hit me. When I heard all those keys I couldn’t help but think of my own keychain and how little noise it makes.

All my “keychain” consists of is a key fob to our push-button car and a single key to our apartment. That is it. Gone are the days when I carried multiple keys to the multiple doors of our house and the multiple vehicles we owned. One home, one vehicle and one key…I love it. And the truth is, we could probably leave our door unlocked but we don’t.

It got me thinking about how else my wife and I have streamlined our stuff. As minimalists we strive to pare our possessions down to what we consider for us at the time to be “an irreducible minimum.” That is often a moving target but it is a target nonetheless. And it has become a pastime for us to see how little we can live with.

While we presently live with a total of less than 500 things between us, there is no magic number to which we feel we must whittle our things down. It is more a matter of what fits our current situation. Since signing a one-year lease for our present place we’ve picked up a few extra things we left with our parents and that is okay.

But if the situation called for it, we’d simply shave stuff off our list by asking ourselves what we wouldn’t want to live without. There is nothing like the need to fit all your stuff in a mid-sized sedan on moving day to motivate you to live with less. Ultimately, the keys to simplicity come down to what fits your lifestyle and what you love to live with.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Changing Times

With the recent time change to daylight savings time and the changing of seasons to spring it has made me mindful of changing times and seasons in my life. As my wife and I went through our closets the other day for a regular pruning [as minimalists “spring cleaning” is year round for us] I tried on my last suit and while it was still in fine shape it didn’t come close to fitting mine so I donated it to our church’s benevolence ministry.

To appreciate what this means, I need to share a little backstory. I hadn’t worn a suit in several years and I gave away the last of my ties to a friend more than a year ago [don’t ask me why I had a suit and no ties]. But once upon a time, I owned half a dozen wool suits and a dozen silk ties, including a bowtie and pocket squares for special occasions. I even had my dress shirts dry-cleaned and pressed, a fact that seems comical to me now.

Even before leaving the corporate world a dozen years ago to start my own communications business, dress down days were morphing into dressy casual wardrobes, so suits and ties were on their way out. However, before that I was an ordained minister who actually enjoyed dressing up [unlike most guys I know]. All of which is to say that times change and we need to change with them. And so I am making another change.

I have been very selective about joining online social networks over the years, limiting myself to Shelfari, which I quit after a couple of years, and LinkedIn, but a couple of days ago I finally joined Twitter. My epiphany came upon reading leadership guru Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, in which he attributed the building of his personal brand largely to Twitter.

In sync with this blog, I tweet about my musings on the art of life and other cool stuff @SeanFowlds, so be sure to visit me there also to get more timely, nugget-sized notes and quotes about lifestyle design issues like simplicity and minimalism. And consider joining me on Twitter if you are not a member yet. You can follow me and others whether or not you post tweets yourself.