More to Lose vs. Nothing to Lose

“You have a choice. Live or die. Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be.”

Chuck Palahniuk

The thing about accumulating nice things and expensive tastes is that we have more to lose.

One bad house fire and everything we own turns into firewood. One unfortunately accurate tornado will take everything you own with it. A downturn of the market, or a new technology could make our jobs disappear. Of course, we shouldn’t spend our days worrying about natural disasters and others things that aren’t in our control. The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca once taught, “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” Worry sucks the energy out of our ability to do anything about it. Disasters may come, and all we can do is prepare for risks, prepare for the worst and put the worry away so we can go on with our lives.

Our stuff is so much more than just things too. It’s our memories, our expectations and ideals. It’s our desire to change and be better. Which is fantastic and beautiful, but can also hold us back if we aren’t paying attention.

And that’s the hardest part about losing nice things, we aren’t prepared to let them go.

Not letting things go is another form of worry. It holds us back from doing what we really want to do in life.

I recently read a short Zen Buddhist story about a guy named Badhiya (no idea how to pronounce his name. Bad-hi-ya?). He was a governor of a province wealth beyond imagine — soldiers at his command, money and power —but his friend persuaded him to leave it all behind and was ordained as a monk, with nothing but a mat, one bowl and three robes to his name.

One night Badhiya was meditating at the foot of a tree. Suddenly he uttered, the words, “Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.” It happened that another monk was sitting nearby. The other monk thought that Badhiya regretted having abandoned his position as governor.” The monk reported this to Buddha, thinking Badhiya has a problem, so the Buddha sent his attendant to invite Badhiya to come by. In front of a group of monks Buddha said, “Badhiya, is it true that last night during sitting meditation you pronounced two time the sentence, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness’?” Badhiya said, “Yes, noble teacher, I did pronounce that sentence twice.”
“Could you explain to us why you have pronounced these three words during the night?” the Buddha asked. Badhiya said, “Dear teacher, when I was a governor my palace was guarded by hundreds of soldiers. But I was still very afraid. I was afraid robbers would come and kill me or at least take away all my valuables. So day and night I lived in fear. But last night I realized that now I have nothing to lose. I was sitting out in the forest at the foot of a tree, and never in my life have I felt so safe. Nobody wants to kill me anymore because I have no power, no wealth, and no jewels for anyone to take. I have nothing. Yet I finally have everything. I am touching such a great happiness and freedom. That is why I have pronounced the words, ‘Oh my happiness, oh my happiness.’ If I have disturbed someone, I am sorry.”

By having everything, he was afraid of losing it all. But by having nothing he was free.

Now, I’m not advocating for us to get rid of everything that we own and not enjoy the fruits of our luck and opportunity. I’m just suggesting that it’s unwise to be reliant and beholden to what we own and what tastes we build.

Here’s an example: Can you go even a day without coffee? I couldn’t. A few years ago, I even went on a trip to Thailand and brought mostly coffee supplies with me! I had the works: an electric kettle, a french press… you name it. I wasn’t always into coffee, but now all of a sudden I couldn’t live without it. Until last year. Last year I went off coffee for a full year.

I think it’s healthy to live without the unnecessary things we think we need to be normal and happy. What do you think you can’t live without? Nice clothes? Spotify and Netflix? Expensive wine or cocktails? None of these things are bad per se, but if they are controlling you, especially in negative ways, then they might be.

I still enjoy coffee and tea. I’m not going to forgo drinking it. I love the ritual of making it in the morning and sipping it slowly while reading. But I know now I can stop when I want to and I’ll keep testing what’s good and not good for me for the rest of my life. It reminds me of a quote from Fight Club: “The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

Action Step: What nice but unessential things can you practice living without?

The reason we might have more to lose is because we can end up letting our things own us.

Can we have nice underwear and a new iPhone while also having a ‘nothing to lose ‘ mindset?

Yes, but it requires thoughtful ongoing work. If we can take care of the abundance of things we have around us, while not being afraid to lose them, we can not let the unimportant things hold us back and keep us from living the life and impact we dream of achieving.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #722


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Mindspace

What do you give your mind to?

I’ve been feeling mentality drained recently. I’ve been falling into the trap of “everything all at once”.

There’s only so much mental capacity you can give at once. We tend to live as though our mind and body are separate entities, but as we’re going about our lives they are intrinsically linked. Our body affects our mind, and our mind affects our body. 

Watch anyone who is lost in suffering and you can see their pain with their expressions and the way they carry themselves. Their body slumps and bends towards the earth, submitting to the pain. Their eyes look hollow and lifeless — they’ve lost their willpower and spirit. I’ve been there when I️ injured my neck 4 years ago. The same is true for someone happy and confident. Their eyes are like electricity. Their body is upright and true. Their stride is strong.

The biblical idea of ‘Treat Your Body as a Temple’ rings true to me. A temple in those days was sacred and respected. Only certain people and things were chosen to be allowed in.

The thing about our modern age is we don’t know face-value what’s good for us, or what bad. What’s the right thing to eat? What’s the right amount of sleep? What’re the right things for me to do? 

There are no easy answers, and the choices won’t always be as simple as yes or no. The key is training your self-awareness and reducing your mind space to only what lightens your spirit up.

The more things you own and the more todos you have at once weakens your ability to give your complete focus on what’s in front of you. We spin our wheels trying to do everything and end up doing nothing.

Think of each item, todo, or person we surround ourselves with like a message in a bottle in the sea of our mental psyche.

A ‘thing’ isn’t just a thing — its also the hopes, emotions (positive or negative), and memories (past, future) bottled up into I­t­.

A todo is a task you feel as though you must do. I­t­ could be something small like clean your house. Our something life-changing like write a best seller. All todos are not created equal in terms of priority, but they all are equal in terms of the resources they require to complete: time, attention and energy.

A person can either negatively weigh you down or positively lift you up. Same goes for you. You can either be a force of positivity and change, or a force of negativity and complacency.

So ask yourself,

Who am I️ surrounding myself with?

Am I️ treating myself with respect? Do I️ give myself time to rest, recharge and refuel?

Am I️ living optimally?

Am I️ taking in positivity or negativity?

Am I️ getting in my own way?

What do I️ want to give me energy and focus on RIGHT NOW? What can I️ save for later?

Stay BOLD, Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

Related Wisdom:

“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” — Thomas Merton

The Hidden Costs of Things

“The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it, but in what one pays for it — what it costs us.” — Nietzsche

I am not a minimalist. 
I’ve got too many books to be considered minimally hip. (do people still say hip?) But I do follow some minimalist principles.

For example, over the past few years, I’ve adopted the principle of only buying things I love. (Socks. My sock game is strong.) If I don’t find an item useful, enjoyable, motivational, and relatable to who I am, what I’m learning and what goals are, then I’m going to get rid of it.

 

Hidden Costs

Everything we own has an undercurrent of powerful hidden strings attached. I call it the hidden costs of things. 

When you buy something — say for a hobby or skill you’re learning — you’re not buying the object — your buying the lifestyle. We don’t just buy a thing, we’re investing our time, attention, emotions, energy, money, opportunity, health and a host of other things as well. Even throwaway items have a hidden weight to them.

If I commit and invest myself into photography, I’m not just buying a camera. I’m buying the additional necessities. Lenses, straps, a bag, different kinds of cameras. (Gotta have me some sweet-sweet drone shots yo) Photography books, perhaps lessons. I’m investing in attention to the art of photography. I’m investing into the world of photography. And if I’m building a business around photography, I’m investing time in clients and relationships.

You are what you own.

Well, not really. ‘You are what you own’ is a good headline (or poster), I’m generalizing here. But you are influenced by what you own and how much you own. Not being aware of the hidden costs attached to your purchases can turn you into a slave of what you own. I’m not talking about bad purchasing impulses (although bad habits contribute to your amount of hidden costs). There is an emotional, physical, mental and spiritual weight to what you own and how much you have. The more you have, the more your attention is split. There’s only so much time and energy we have give to what we own. You’re time spent writing away on your computer is time you could be practicing piano or washing your car.

 

Space Costs

How much stuff do we own that we never use? Not only do thing take up physical space, they take up emotional and mental space as well. Are you holding onto something from your past? A photo of lost love, mementos you don’t love, but don’t want to get rid of. Go around your house and you will find closest and garages full of things you don’t need that are taking up mental space.

 

ToDo Costs

When you surround yourself with skills you want to learn, businesses you want to build, activities you want to pursue, you’re surrounding yourself with subconscious todo lists. Everything you own demands your attention. Some things weigh heavier than others, but everything has at least a piece of your attention. I don’t know about you, but when I have too many things demand my attention I feel completely overwhelmed and end up dropping everything.

One of the key benefits on minimalism is it keeps you focused on what matters to you. 

When you’re attention isn’t split between a thousand things you wish you would, could and might do someday (something I struggle with a lot), you give yourself space and clarity to be sharp and focused in on your most important things. Most of the time we’re not even aware of how much the weight our todos are barring down us and holding us back.

 

Lifestyle Costs

Unless you can afford it, buying into too many lifestyles at once is a great way of setting yourself up for not being able to give the time, money and energy each skill requires. It’s better to focus on one or a few pursuits at a time, that way you are able to give each the attention it requires to reach mastery.

I’m not wealthy (…yet). I don’t have multiple houses (h👹ll I don’t even have one house) but if I did, the weight of all of my stuff would pull me in a thousand different directions. I would worry about my stuff in my one house, forget my stuff in the other house and be everything but present in the moment.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to forgo all of your belongings and run naked in the streets. Instead, focus on what’s important to you. There’s nothing wrong with buying things you love. But Its good to pause and reflect on the hidden costs of what you have and are thinking about buying. By surrounding yourself with only the things you love and need, you will free your focus and energy to what truly matters to you.

Consider the hidden costs before buying. “Am I buying this because I want to, or because this is important to me?”

Touch and pick up things you own. “Do I love this?” “Do I find it useful or enjoyable?”

Keep Pursuing,

— Josh Waggoner

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