On Power

I’ve just finished reading The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. It’s an unapologetic volume on what power is, why those who have it do, and more importantly, why those who don’t have it don’t.

Some might think books like these are evil, but one could argue that they just describe real life. Maybe it’s a shame, but it’s the natural order of the universe—those who are the most powerless tend to be the most unhappy, and those who are bold are the most able to get their own way, whether that means hindering or helping others.

Power doesn’t necessarily mean domination. It doesn’t always mean getting your way at the expense of others. Just like money, the more of it you have, the more good, or evil, you can do in the world. It’s a tool, and it’s up to you how you use it.

Unlike money, most people don’t think about power much at all. We’re unaware of the role it plays in our lives. Starting with our parents and teachers, our beliefs, values, and mindsets we develop as children are dictated by people more powerful than us. These authority figures have the power to praise or to punish, so we follow their instructions and do what’s expected of us.

Eventually teachers are replaced by bosses, and parents are replaced by society’s expectations. Yet, as we become adults, even though the people who have power over us changes, the dynamics of power never do.

If we have little power, we allow other people to form our view of the world. We end up doing things we’re unhappy with, or not living to our potential because we don’t pause to question our assumptions that were forced upon us as children. Every move we make is influenced by what other people think or have told us.

But what if we took more control of our lives? What if we empowered ourselves with the ability to choose? What would we do if we weren’t afraid of what other people think? 

Choosing to have power over your own life isn’t as easy as letting other people tell you what to do. You have to make decisions and deal with the consequences for where those decisions lead, for better or for worse. As a great person once said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but a good life lead on your own terms makes it all worth it in the end.

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On Guidance

How do we guide people towards a life of minimalism?

As with most things in life, preaching about something only makes people more resistant to the idea.

Yet some people just can’t help themselves. They like to humblebrag about how well they’re doing, just to show off how much better their lives are than other people’s.

Unsurprisingly, this approach almost never works. If you genuinely care about improving other people’s lives, it’s much better to live a better life without bragging about it, and if you really are happier people will see it and want to emulate you themselves.

Minimalism is particularly difficult because people are very attached to their stuff, and simply telling people to get rid of their precious things, or criticising them for having too much is exactly the wrong way to go about it.

Instead, let minimalism improve your life, then go live it well. Have fun not working as many hours, not being in debt, and not being a slave to your stuff. When people see how much more time and energy you have, they’ll ask you what your secret is.

Then you can tell them, the answer is simple—it’s simplicity itself.

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On Tragedy

I was 300 metres away when it happened.

On 22nd May 2017, about 10:30pm as I was lying in bed, I heard a sudden, thunderous crashing sound.

For a moment, I thought it was actually thunder, but when I looked out of my window, it wasn’t raining.

I went out onto my balcony. Neighbours had come out too. “Did you hear that?” I shouted over, “Yeah, what was it?” they replied. “I don’t know” I said, as we all looked toward the train station at the end of our road.

We would soon find out. The station alarm came on. It told people to evacuate the area. Sirens started sounding in the distance. A stream of police and ambulances arrived. Thousands of people started filing out from the concert hall, Manchester Arena. Traffic was blocked up. Confused, curious, and concerned, my partner and I checked social media all night as details began to emerge.

At first we thought something might have collapsed, maybe a part of a building or a crane, it had happened before. But we couldn’t see any smoke. Maybe it was a train? We tried to stay rational, and not jump to any conclusions. But news started trickling through. Bad news. Something had happened at the Arena. A concert had just finished. Could it be something to do with a speaker, or some sort of stage effect? Looking back, it was way too loud to be something like that. We just didn’t want to think it was the one thing we were most afraid of…

A suicide bomber. A young male, who had lived and grown up in Manchester. It had happened, the terrible things you see on TV, it had happened to our home.

It was surreal. Unbelievable, except the blue lights kept flashing and sirens sounded all night. The police closed the roads and cordoned off the area. Injuries and fatalities were reported. Within a few days, all of the 22 people who had died had been named.

When it hit the news, it wouldn’t have been as real if we hadn’t heard the blast with our own ears, and saw the police and ambulances with our own eyes. They’re still there, right now, as I look out of my window. Police tape closes off the roads I have walked past a hundred times.

Now I have had nearly a week to reflect on it. I’m thankful that I’m fine, and so are my friends and loved ones, but that’s little consolation for the victims and families. The more I read about them (and I can’t help myself), the more sad I am for them. I feel a mixture of fear, guilt, and helplessness.

The tribute that was held for them was attended by thousands of people. Hundreds of flowers, cards, and candles have been laid out in the city centre. I went to pay my respects. It was good to see so many people there. Manchester has pulled together.

I love this city. It’s my home. I’m proud with how people have reacted, giving condolences, donating money, and helping where they can. I’ve noticed people being more kind to one another. Most people here aren’t ignorant enough to lay the blame on an entire religion. We’ve been saying, “We stand together”. That’s the kind of place this is.

Too often it takes a tragedy to remind us about what’s important in life. Those concert goers had no idea what was going to happen, but at least they were enjoying life to the full. We never know what life will bring, but the best we can do is to be thankful for each day and make the most of it.

Stay safe, and stay strong.

On Quality

When people talk about minimalism, much of the focus is on quantity—how much you have, how much you don’t have, or how much other people have or don’t have…

Yes, the amount of stuff you own is part of it. But that’s not all minimalism is about.

The focus should be on quality—of your possessions, as well as your relationships, mental health, physical health, spirituality, finances, choices… basically all aspects of your life that could be improved.

It’s easy to only consider quantity because it’s readily measured. You can instantly see the results when you’ve finished decluttering a room or wardrobe. But to think that this is the goal of minimalism is misguided.

The point of minimalism is to lead a better and more meaningful life.  Minimalism then, is more accurately described as a study and practice of quality—quality in the sense of depth, longevity, meaningfulness, value, and how much something contributes to your lifelong comfort and happiness.

Does this person/object/thing mean a lot to me? Does it help me become a better person? Does it help me grow? Does it add to my well-being? Will it last a long time? Is it worth acquiring? Is it worth keeping? Do I really want it, or do I want it because everyone else has it, or has told me I should have it? Does it make me happy?

These things are harder to measure, but are more important than owning an arbitrary amount of 100 things or less. You can own 1,000 or 10,000 things, so long as everything contributes to your life in a meaningful way. Minimalism is saying yes to quality over quantity.

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On Kindness

Most people think it’s difficult to make changes in the world.

But every big change starts small. The smallest, easiest thing we can do to make a difference is showing a little kindness.

Imagine if every person you met left your company in a better condition than before. You would be well liked, have good relationships, and genuine friends.

You will lead a happier life. People will remember you as the worthy person you are, and would be much more likely to listen to what you have to say. It’s easier to get people on board if they think you are a good person.

When you show people kindness, you’ll learn lessons about yourself that can only be learned when you see yourself through other people’s eyes.

Let your kindness brighten up someone’s day, and they will pass it on to a stranger, who will pass it onto a colleague, who will pass it onto a loved one… one small act can snowball into affecting a dozen or even a hundred people. That’s how you make a difference.

The best thing is that kindness is free. A smile, a compliment, a thank you note—these are things that don’t cost much. It’s a minimalist gift that keeps on giving.

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Welcome

Welcome to Minimalist Meditations.

You may be a reader from my 7 year old blog, Minimal Student, or perhaps you are a brand new reader who happened to stumble upon here. Either way, I’m glad you’ve found this corner of the Internet.

Minimalist Meditations is a project that I have been incubating for a long time. I loved writing for my original blog, Minimal Student, which I started at the beginning of my minimalist journey when I was actually a student. Over the past few years, it has built a strong community of readers, and I’m pleased to announce the next stage of the journeythis new site, Minimalist Meditations.

I have changed a lot over the years, and so have the topics I like to write about. You can find out more on my About page. The short version is that I’m no longer a student, and I wanted to grow the blog to include readers who aren’t necessarily students either.

Over the next few months, I will be rebranding the original blog and social media to redirect here, where I will be writing more often. I intend to cover a variety of topics that have become more and more relevant to me since I was a student, such as work, money, time, relationships and more—all with a minimalist perspective of course.

I will publish some of the original Meditations from Minimal Student, along with new posts in the next few weeks, which I hope will give you food for thought. You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email.

If you have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below, or get in touch with me via Twitter or Facebook.

Here’s to many more happy years of minimalism.

All the best,

J