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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Getting Laid Off from My Six-Figure Job Was Exactly What I Needed

I sat down in the harshly lit conference room and slid his birthday present across the table. It was September 29, 2011—my boss’s birthday. And it was less than a month before my 30th birthday. It was also the day I lost my job.

My boss, his boss, and a kind woman from human resources were sitting on the other side of the large, meticulously-polished conference table. My boss shook his head and a frown materialized on his face. I knew it wasn’t good news, but my first thought was, “It really sucks for him that he has to fire me on his birthday.”

“We’ve eliminated your position with the latest round of cuts. This change is effective immediately,” my boss said. And that’s when everything changed.

Seven months after Joshua walked away from his job, I was laid off with no notice—blind-sided after working my ass off for that corporation. Seven years and seven promotions later, I was living the corporate dream—and then it was over in an instant.

“Do you have any additional questions before HR goes over the details with you?”

No, I didn’t have any additional questions. I just sat there and thought, “This is the best thing that could have happened to me.”

It was as if a gigantic weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I knew it was time for me to move on, and this was the nudge I needed to jump off Corporate America’s cliff … umm, I mean ladder.

It was the nudge I needed to focus my time on the important things in life—my health, my relationships, my growth as an individual, and contributing to other people in meaningful ways. Yes, this is the drastic change I needed—a change I hadn’t been willing to make on my own.

Thankfully, my gradual transition into minimalism these past two years has allowed me to buy less stuff, spend less money, cut most of my bills, payoff most of my debt, save a little cash, and live a more meaningful life with less stuff. Sure, with my job gone, I’ll still need to make other cutbacks—I contacted a new realtor to sell my condo, and I’m in the process of selling my car—but none of that matters, because I’m free!

Adding value to other people’s lives has been my passion for as long as I can remember. Adding value was the thing I enjoyed most about my corporate career—I led and managed a large team of people, and I enjoyed coaching and mentoring those people more than anything else at that job. Unfortunately, a lot of things occurred in the corporate world that prevented me from allocating most my time to adding value to those people.

Thanks to my minimalist lifestyle, I’ll be able to avoid finding another 70-hour-per-week corporate job, opting instead for a mission I enjoy. At this point, I only need to make enough money to pay for necessities—rent, food, utilities, insurance—which means I’ll work to earn a living, no longer living just to work.

Now I’ll have more time for the people I love, as well, which has been a huge struggle for me ever since I started my corporate climb. As I advanced my career and traversed the corporate ladder, I often worked the equivilant of two work weeks in a single week and lost track of family and close friends in the process because I started feeling like my job was more important than my relationships. Sadly, I thought they would understand why I wasn’t around as much; and some of them did understand, but it didn’t feel good—it just didn’t feel right. We can’t just brush off our friends and family. And I’m not going to anymore.

Moreover, living the corporate life was often a great excuse to let my diet go (I’ll just grab a quick snack before the meeting!). It was also a great excuse to skip daily exercise (I’m just too busy to exercise today!) Those bullshit excuses are gone now, and I’m committed to living a healthier life, one in which I’m accountable for and focused on my own diet and exercise.

I’m not going to lie, though: I still have that joyfear feeling. What if I fail? What if people don’t respect me as much? What if, what if, what if?

To my fears, I say: What if I never got the chance to live a meaningful life—stuck instead in the tedium of someone else’s template. That’s the scariest thought of all!

For me, getting laid off was the nudge I needed to get the balance back in my life.

For those of you who may be facing a similar situation, you might be looking for advice. Well, I don’t have all the answers. But what I do have is my commitment to add value whenever I can. So feel free to tweet me your comments, questions, or cynical remarks. I’ll answer to the best of my ability.

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