A loyal reader named Austen recently sent us an email titled “They’re All Just a Bunch of Hippies!” The email portrayed a certain sentiment that is often expressed by people who hear about minimalism the first time. And it’s an odd sentiment—it’s as if they’re offended by our “radically different” lifestyle, as if they think we are questioning their lifestyle or looking down on them or telling them how to live. But we’re not.
We simply share what has worked for us—what has helped us live more meaningful lives—and we hope it works for you too. We are not, however, telling you how to live your life. Rather, we hope to give you our perspective and allow you to make your own decisions. We hope our perspective sheds some light on the subject—on some of the pernicious aspects of our heavily-mediated consumer culture—and that it helps you make the changes you want to make and live a more meaningful life. That’s our intent.
The following is an excerpt from Austen’s email (reprinted with permission):
While at work yesterday I mentioned how I was particularly moved by an article I re-read that morning and forwarded it to one of my co-workers. We are a small, tight-knit division within my company in which I see this particular co-worker striving to climb the corporate ladder. This associate and I tend to see things similarly when it comes to finding an amicable and best-suited solution. He has always been very open to criticism and suggestions and uses them to determine the best course of action. I have learned to be more open to others’ ideas from observing and interacting with him. He has told me he admires that I am so organized and keep lists (which as he says, “90% of the most successful people do”).
Anyway, I shared with him your essay Living with No Goals and Leo’s essay Achieving Without Goals because this concept had been on my mind. I expected a “Huh, that’s an interesting perception,” (I know, my first mistake was having an expectation), but instead he made some noise reminiscent of a dreaming dog and said, “I can’t read this! I just read the line Goals take credit for our accomplishments and it’s just crap! Sure, if you want to contribute nothing and just be merry living in San Francisco, with no health insurance, no safety…they’re all just a bunch of hippies!”
I was a bit astonished. I not seen him this riled up before, and I tried to explain to him that just because these people weren’t in a corporate structure didn’t mean they weren’t happy or contributing; it led to a discussion past working hours on definitions of success, organization, security, and civic/personal responsibility.
What would you guys have said? How do you respond to a presumed criticism that people living without goals are “hippies”? What about health insurance? I like feeling productive and as an added bonus it makes me great at my job, but I feel like I’ve heard you and Leo all suggest to do lists and ‘accomplishments’ should be redefined; what am I missing?
The following is a portion of Joshua’s email response:
I have a few issues with the statement “90% of successful people keep lists.” Not only is that incredibly hard to quantify, it’s also rather vague. I’d ask him, “How do you define successful people?” What does a successful person look like? What makes someone successful? Money? Physical possessions? Status? When I made over $100k a year and managed 100 people, I wasn’t truly successful. For me, success is a simple equation, and it has nothing to do with these things.
Regarding the “no health insurance” comment, I’m not sure why that assumption was made. I have health insurance. Health insurance doesn’t equal safety though, nor does working for a corporation.
Regarding being merry in San Francisco: what’s wrong with that? (Although I’m currently being merry in Dayton, Ohio.)
Regarding the “hippies” comment: Ha! I just laugh off comments like that. If you ever met Leo, Ryan, or myself, you’d think we were anything but hippies. The truth is that anyone who knows us—or any other well-know minimalists like Colin Wright or Courtney Carver or Joshua Becker—know we’re far from “hippies.” Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with being a hippie, but that label is incredibly inaccurate for us. We are simply a small group of people who were dissatisfied with the status quo and decided to reject that lifestyle in favor of more meaningful lives.
So, how would I have responded to your friend? I wouldn’t have. I don’t try to change peoples minds through just words, I do so through my actions (everything we write about on our site is about our actions). It’s amazing how many people who literally thought we were crazy, or that we were “joining a cult,” eventually came around and embraced certain aspects of minimalism. They saw the changes we made and the happiness we experienced and the results spoke for themselves. I always suggest you start with yourself, and, eventually, people will notice and want to make similar changes in their lives.
Find Out for Yourself
If you do want to meet us in person (and verify for yourself whether or not we are a couple of hippies), then you can stop by one of our 33 meetups on The Minimalists National Meetup Tour. Plus, you can check out this video interview we did with Corbett Barr of Think Traffic.