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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 3 million readers. As featured on: CBS, BBC, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 19: Mission

Dead End Job

Minimalist Work: Job vs. Career vs. Mission

Ryan

I’m not going to lie, I feel very uncomfortable when I think about quitting my job and turning my back on what I worked so hard for—my status in life, my title, my salary, and, to a large extent, my identity—but I know that that is what I need to do.

I know because I wrote down what I wanted to do in life, and my current situation didn’t match. And I’m lucky to be able to drop everything because I know there are people who wish they could just put the breaks on in life and make a turn in the direction of their choosing, but are unable to for whatever reason.

For example, my girlfriend just got laid off. As I was packing up all of my junk with Josh she called me to tell me that she had been laid off. She has a thirteen-year-old daughter to provide for. She’s going to be fine because she has friends that have already been telling her about open positions at their work, but other people aren’t that lucky. There are others that have children, husbands, parents, etc. to care for. They may not be able to quit their jobs, but no matter what, there is always something one can do to take the first steps to minimalism. The Packing Party is a good example of a first step anyone can do.

I am not quitting my job today though. Not right away, anyway. Rather, I am implementing a plan to work less this year (2011) and eventually live an independent life, one where I am responsible for my own income and where I don’t need to rely on a corporation to pay my bills.

If you are ready to quit your job today—and you have the means to do so—then you should do it (that is, if you are unhappy with your job). If you do something you love already, then keep at it, stay focused, and still consider the first following items in Josh’s list below.

Update from Ryan: Being Laid Off from My 6-Figure Job Is One of the Best Things that Ever Happened to Me

Joshua

To be clear, I would like to make a distinction regarding “what you do for a living.” There are essentially three ways that you might define what they do:

  1. You have a job
  2. You have a career
  3. You have a mission in life
All three are vastly different and they tend to tell you how happy you are about what you do. That is:
  1. If you call what you do a “job,” then you are probably unhappy with what you do. You go in for your required hours, collect your bi-weekly paycheck, and hope that things will get better one day.
  2. If you call what you do a “career,” then you probably just have a job in which you are a bit more happy (at least ostensibly). You probably make at least a decent salary, have decent benefits, and there’s probably some opportunity for advancement if you work really, really hard month after month after month. The sad truth here is that if you are this person, then you are the least likely to change, you are the least likely to find your mission, because you feel comfortable, you feel satisfied enough to keep on trucking, and maybe some day before you die you will be able to retire and live a more meaningful, enjoyable life. And it will be very difficult for you to turn what you do—your career, as it were—into your mission, because it will be a should for you and not a must.
  3. If you call what you do your “mission,” then good for you, it’s easy to see that you are happy with what you are pursuing, you have a sense of meaning in what you do, and you feel fulfilled and free because you are on a mission, you are doing what you were meant to do, and you enjoy it.

The truth is that if you have a job that you hate, it’s easy to change, you just need to get enough leverage. Usually the easiest way to find leverage is to discover your mission. Below we give you some basic steps to find your mission.

If you have a career, there is a good chance you hate it too, but probably on an even deeper level because you feel stuck, you feel trapped by the comforts that your career affords you. But deep down you know you’re not living up to your potential, you know you’re not living a meaningful life, one in which you contribute to others and enjoy the process.

If you’re already living your mission, then good for you, you are ahead of 95% of the population. You might want to take this time to rediscover and redefine your mission. It is important to always find ways to improve what you do.

Here are our next steps, we encourage you to do the same thing:

  1. Make a list of everything you want to do with your life (e.g., write a novel, learn a musical instrument, etc.). Joshua’s list contained 52 items; Ryan’s list had 82 items.
  2. Identify your top five items on that list.
  3. What are your top two items (three items if you must) of those five? Focus on those. This is your mission. Your life should revolve around those items.
  4. Eliminate 100% of our debt (i.e., sell Ryan’s condo, payoff student loans, credit cards, etc.). This makes it easier to focus on your mission.
  5. Save $X in a savings account (We’re not including a number here because it can be different for everyone). Consider this your emergency fund, which will give you a piece of mind while focusing on your mission.
  6. Only buy stuff you need. Wait 30 days to purchase anything other than consumables.

We have 12 months to complete these items, and then we are free, free to pursue our mission.

Update from Joshua: I Quit My Six-Figure Corporate Job To Pursue My Passions

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Go to the main page: Our Journey Into Minimalism: 21 Days That Changed Our Lives