Simplicity in Action: Joel’s Story

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.

Joel

A lot of people thought I had it figured out. And heck, I thought I had it figured out too.

For a decade after graduating college, life was comfortable and stable, supported by a well-paying corporate gig. I had the trust and respect of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers…what could be better?

But then one day, my wife Melinda told me “I’m pregnant” and a personal renaissance was born. I was going to become a papa soon and the man I was then was not the man I wanted to be as a father. The accumulation of bad habits – like my video game addiction – and the pursuit of arbitrary goals left me confused about my legacy to this world.

So I started to explore how people were living life on purpose and breaking down their needs into simple components. Nothing previously hinted I’d shift to an intentional life, but almost everything since my personal renaissance has been the result of determining what I truly need to be happy (with the least amount possible).

I mean the least amount of money to support my family and community. The least amount of complexity in food I prepare and eat. The least amount of chaos in my relationships, regardless of their length. And the least amount of friction between what I do for work and the value that everyone gets from it. I even created my own Personal User Guide so I could define what made me tick, celebrate the things that were uniquely me, and determine what non-essential parts of my life were holding me back.

By embracing the voluntarily simplicity I saw others thriving with and promoting, I incorporated many aspects of the Stoic school of thought. I didn’t realize just how much until I read Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic. It was a transformational moment. One that solidified the purpose behind my intense urges to simplify, organize, and embody the money wise spirit being offered up to me from many places.

As a result of my personal renaissance, constant experimentation, and exposure to wonderful minimalist or simplifying influences, I’ve been able to:

  • Reevaluate my relationship with food. As a source of fuel now instead of a source of deliciousness, I spend more energy creating simple meals with better quality ingredients (while still being tasty).
  • Drop old relationships – without guilt or hard feelings – that weren’t benefiting anyone. But more importantly, absorbing simplicity allowed me to revive my passion for creating new relationships.
  • Quit my corporate job (because who needs all that money anyway) to build a legacy helping people the way I know best: simplifying, organizing, and rockin’ personal finance. Plus, I save time getting dressed and only shave once every few days now. That’s time I can use to slow the rest of my morning down and enjoy it more.
  • Embody personal traits that my son Grant can be proud of. My papa skills still have a long way to go, but simplifying has made this so much easier.

Sometimes I get concerned that I’ve outsourced the complexities of life to Melinda, other family members, or some friends. But their constant reassurance of the value added by my choice to simplify only reinforces my drive to continue this rewarding path.

I knew a simpler life was possible. I just didn’t have the methods or the reasons to pursue it until my personal renaissance.

Now, I keep experimenting with ways to grow my legacy without tons of resources and without self-imposed limitations. At this point, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Comments

  1. says

    I love reading the Simplicity in Action stories Courtney shares. I was reading along and thought it sounded a bit familiar. Lightning bolt, It’s Joel! I continue to be inspired by your story, Joel. I appreciate your bulleted list above and find it so interesting that by simplifying your relationships – by eliminating some – you have found a way to improve or add others. It is extremely difficult, or at least it has been for me, to simplify relationships but I think the quality of my existing relationships has dramatically increased. Before I questioned some of my relationships, I was caught up in “spreading myself too thin” – and now I am able to be present more often. I think that when we think of simplifying we think of ridding ourselves of our stuff, so I am very glad you mentioned relationships.

    • says

      Hi Tammy,

      I’m a big fan of the Simplicity in Action stories as well, so you can imagine I was thrilled to have Courtney ask me to write one!

      Simplifying relationships was one of the hardest things for me to start, but paradoxically, one of the easiest things for me to continue. At the beginning, I kept thinking about the people I was cutting loose, “These are humans with feelings and needs. I better be super careful about how I do this and how aggressively I move to remove them from my life.”

      But after the first couple of folks (and thankfully there weren’t a lot more), I realized that anyone who had a toxic influence on me or was holding me back in major ways should just be dropped cold turkey. It worked out amazingly and never caused any backlash or collateral damage. So if you struggle with it, just know that for most people, simplifying relationships is one of the hardest things to do. I still feel spread a little thin from time to time, but that’s because there are so many awesome folks in my life I want to interact with. It’s one of my favorite problems to have.

      Good luck on your journey to simply your relationships!

  2. says

    Great post.

    ‘Eliminating toxic influences’. Something I’ve struggled with & continue to.

    With at least one person in my life, it appears to be impossible for me to cut off from them, for any sustained length of time. So difficult. I’m glad to hear that it’s been a success for you, without any apparent drama.

  3. says

    Joel – Thank you for sharing your journey! I’m always in awe of those who can leave the ‘corporate gig’ behind. I’ve got too much fear to even think of that as an option, but reading stories like yours really helps me, so thanks and good luck to you!

    • says

      I’m glad you appreciate my journey Tracey. Just don’t be in awe of people like me who leave their steady job to pursue something else. :)

      It’s a pretty common phenomenon now and becoming increasingly common. When I read other people’s stories about doing something similar to what I did in March – for whatever reason(s) they happened to have – my heart warms a little bit more. So far it’s working out great for me and most of the other people I know who have walked a similar path.

  4. says

    I enjoyed Joel’s story. I am in the process of starting a business it certainly is a temptation to go off in lots of directions at once in an attempt to establish an income in the early stages.

  5. says

    Your story came at the right time for me, and I, too have been working on becoming more intentional with my time and simplifying relationships. A huge step for me was eliminating Facebook. It was such a negative energy drain, and took away from time I could spend developing actual friendships.

    • says

      Hi Bethany,

      I’m glad you’ve found a great way to simplify your relationships by removing a tool that just wasn’t working for you. People wield the same tools in very different ways, don’t they?

      For me, Facebook is a positive tool in both my personal and business life. But get me around a classic tool like a saw or hammer and it’s a source of frustration/negative energy. Having the self-awareness to identify the tools that should help us but don’t – and then removing them or staying away from them – is one of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves.

  6. says

    I feel blessed as well that I went through a similar transformation before my son was born. It is awesome that you decided simplicity was the way to happiness so early on.

    MarieG LifeSimplyBalanced.com

    • says

      Hi Mark,

      What are the major themes or traits of your personal renaissance and when did it start? I’m always excited to hear about the spark for other people’s big and long-lasting changes.

      • says

        Hello Joel

        My personal renaissance has been in regard to stuff, time, relationships and money. It has mainly been about my emotional connections with these elements.

        Many of these ideas have been kindling for a long time, but never really acted upon. It was when I met an amazing woman a little over a year ago that I really started taking action on becoming a new, improved version of myself. She inspires me every day.

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