Things Every Man Should Own by Leo Babauta


Many sites have created lists of things “every man should own”, coincidentally around the holiday shopping season.

A reader suggested I create a Zen Habits version of this list.

This list is definitive.

  1. Pen and notebook. For jotting down life lessons, and starting a novel.
  2. A library card. To read the Tao Te Ching, Anna Karenina, and Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind.
  3. A phone for calling friends, so you can spend time together. Email works too, and this can be done for free via the library internet computer.
  4. A set of clothes, plus another set to change into. Second set is optional.
  5. A tea cup. You can use any cup. Goodwill has some if you don’t own a cup.
  6. Soap. Hygiene is important.
  7. A gym membership, so you can have the satisfaction of canceling it when you decide to work out outside, doing bodyweight exercises, and going for hikes and runs with the abovementioned friends. Actually, the gym membership is optional.

As an aside, I think every woman should own these too.

Free Things Every Man Should Do

In addition, I have recommendations for things you should do without needing to own something:

  1. Meditate. You don’t need to own a cushion to do this. You can use a chair or couch, or do it outside for free.
  2. Learn self sufficiency. Stand on your own two feet, be content with yourself, know yourself. This will help when you get involved in a relationship with someone.
  3. Exercise or do something active outside.
  4. Practice compassion.
  5. Learn to cook simple, whole vegan food.
  6. Read often.
  7. Create every day.
  8. Learn something new. Practice often.
  9. Practice letting go of the ego.

– by Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits


New Year, New Beginnings (blah, blah, blah)

Image courtesy of Meghan Brown

Image courtesy of Meghan Brown

A new year means new beginnings.

Don’t we all have this goal set in mind at the beginning of every year? Every year we want to do this, this, this, and that better than we did last year. Question is: why didn’t we do all those things in 2013?

Because that’s all we did, we simply had these ambitions and goals “in mind”. We made a choice, but a choice needs to imply a decision and a decision needs to be solidified by a commitment. This is a commitment that makes it impossible for you to ever falter because you will not let it happen.

It’s at the moment when you find yourself in that common crossroad between your old habits and your aspirations. The decision you make at that moment is what will lead to your dreams being realized. That decision will be the differential factor between the past years and 2014.

Decide to be great.
Shy away from habits.
Become great.

Five Steps Toward a More Meaningful Holiday Season


The room is full, a bit cramped, the crowd filling their seats. It’s snowing lightly through the half-windows behind the stage, just a few flurries coating the sidewalks above this basement. It’s December 2012. The windows weep from the indoor heat. I turn on the microphone and look over the crowd, avoiding eye contact, which’d just make me more nervous than I already am.

I begin my speech by telling a story about a child on Christmas morning: “Fast forward a few weeks from now, Christmas Day, as little Andrew unwraps Optimus Prime and a grin breaks across his features when the large toy lights up and nearly comes to life, flashing and beeping and driving Andy’s parents crazy.

“But in a few moments, Andy discards the toy and begins unwrapping the rest of his presents, extracting each box from under the tree, one by one—some long, some tall, some heavy, some light. Each box reveals a new toy. Each shred of green-and-red wrapping paper a flash of happiness.

“An hour later, though, little Andy is crying hysterically. Based on his fits, this has undoubtedly been the worst Christmas ever. Sure, Andrew received many of the things on his list, but he’s far more concerned with what he didn’t receive. That Power Ranger he wanted, that video game system he was secretly hoping for, that new computer that all his friends are getting. The toys in front of him simply remind him of what he doesn’t have.

“This sounds childish, I know, but don’t we do the same thing? Don’t we often look at the things around us and wish we had more? Don’t we covet that new car, those new clothes, that new iPhone?”

Several people in the crowd are nodding with identification.

“What if Andy was happy with the toys in front of him? And what if we were too?” I ask rhetorically.

After a brief pause, Ryan jumps in: “We are clearly in the throes of the holiday shopping season,” he says, speaking through his handheld microphone.

“Take a look around. Malls are packed with herds of consumers. Storefronts are decorated in green and red. The jingly commercials are running nonstop. The holiday season has officially peeked its gigantic, mass-mediated noggin around the corner. It’s here, and if we rely solely on billboards and store signage, then we might believe we have to participate.

“Retailers prepare months in advance for this—preparation that’s meant to stimulate your insatiable desire to consume: Doorbuster sales. New products. Gigantic two-page ads. TV, radio, print, billboards. Sale, sale, sale! Early bird specials. One day only! Get the best deal. Act now! While supplies last.

“Joshua and I would, however, like to shed some light on this shopping—ahem, holiday—season. Each year around this time, we all feel that warm-’n’-fuzzy Christmastime nostalgia associated with the onset of winter. We break out the scarves and the gloves and the winter coats. We go ice-skating and sledding and eat hearty meals with our extended families. We take days off from work and spend time with our loved ones and give thanks for the gift of life.

“The problem is that we’ve been conditioned to associate this joyous time of year—the mittens and decorations and the family activities—with purchasing material items. We’ve trained ourselves to believe that buying stuff is an inextricable part of Christmas. We all know, however, that the holidays needn’t require gifts to be meaningful. Rather, this time of year is meaningful because of its true meaning—not the wrapped boxes we place under the tree. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong or bad about gift-giving during this time of year. However, when purchasing gifts becomes the focal point of the season, we lose focus on what’s truly important.

“Instead of concentrating on holiday shopping,” Ryan continues, “I’d like to encourage you to take five steps toward a more meaningful Christmas together:

“Step one. Avoid holiday doorbuster sales. Whether it’s Black Friday or any of the subsequent big shopping weekends, it’s best to stay inside. It’s important to understand that consumption is an unquenchable thirst.Retailers and advertisers and manufacturers know this too well, and these sales are designed to take advantage of our insatiable desire to consume. Instead, support your local businesses; support the people in your community who are making a difference.

“Step two. Gift your time. If you could receive only one Christmas present this year, what would it be? The answer for me is simple: time. The best present is presence…. [Read more at The Minimalists]

“Five Steps Toward a More Meaningful Holiday Season” is an excerpt from Everything That Remains, a memoir that will be published in January.

Costs and Benefits of Awareness



I’m standing half-nude in front of a full-length mirror pinching and poking at my midsection.

Throughout the past two weeks I’ve been on a dietary cleanse—mostly raw foods, no alcohol, no caffeine, no processed foods, no animal products. Plus I’ve been hitting the gym with Shawn each morning for a rigorous workout. Two fine improvements to my daily routine. Without a doubt I’m healthier now than I was a month ago. Less body fat. More muscle. Better sleep. And, most important, I feel great (after all, how we feel is the best barometer of health).

So why am I more frustrated with the image staring back at me in the mirror?

Whenever we make radical changes—diet, exercise, career, etc.—we shine a spotlight on our flaws. Our blemishes shimmer in the light. This is the cost of awareness.

Our standards change whenever we are infected with a new awareness. We scrutinize ourselves more. The more we scrutinize, the more the spotlight brightens, and the more our imperfections stand out.

Awareness isn’t always pleasant. But becoming aware is important and necessary, because the benefits, especially the long-term benefits, can be experienced only once we’ve seen our flaws for what they are: past weaknesses. Only then can we work toward strengthening ourselves. Only then can we move toward the best version of ourselves.

True awareness allows us to improve, to grow. To become better, but not perfect. Our lives will never be perfect. We’ve all been cut deeply. But that’s okay. Awareness helps us heal, and our scars make up the best parts of us.

[Read more articles from The Minimalists like this one: How to Write Better]

Follow them on Twitter @TheMinimalists

My 183,960th hour of living


Image Courtesy of Infinit3 Sway

Image Courtesy of Infinit3 Sway

As the oceans are abundant with water, so too is my mind abundant with thoughts.

As I steadily approached my 21st year of life, I began to start juggling a myriad of questions. Trying, very hard, to validate and quantify my life thus far. Sure, I’m still young but that’s quite possibly the scariest thing! Will there be a difference in ten years time? Or will I remain stagnant?

The pursuit of our dreams is a journey of… Living. A journey where every “failure” is a lesson in living. And the only thing that will get you back up again is your spirit/belief/trust/faith/insanity. It’s that voice within you that just seems to believe that somehow- you weren’t designed for failure.

You have to stand for something. You just have to. “If you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for everything”.

That’s the epiphany I received on my 183,960th hour of living. You need to believe in something. And most importantly, you need to Be Living what you believe in. That means living in truth, or at least what is true to you.

I live my life simply. I don’t need much else than that that I already possess. I know of the abundance that the universe has in store for me and it is that knowledge that led me to believing that I can literally have everything I want- because I have everything I need.

I want an idea? Well, I have a brain. I want to build that great idea? Well, fortunately I still have hands.  I want funding? Fortunately, I have a bunch of people around me who can offer me a few pennies which they can further procure from their own “bunch of people”.

See, the world is there… waiting for you to become its ruler.

Finally approaching that 21st year was a sort of initiation for me. In a sense that:  I had to reaffirm all my beliefs to keep them in tune with my being. I had to press the reset button and restore my Self to my (ever developing) default settings.

Default settings set by the administrator of the world


This coming of age was less of a realization of time than an eye-opener, for me. And when my eyes began to open, my journey began to unravel…

Follow #ProjectZooloo on Twitter

Fool Price



I had to purchase a new pair of bluejeans recently. They are the only jeans I own. My previous pair, tattered after two years of literal wear and tear, were beyond repair. Soon, the boots I’ve been wearing since age 29 (the above photo is from 2011, a year into their tenure), now sole-less and scuffed from 12 seasons of use, will need to be replaced. I plan on ordering a new pair this week.

The bluejeans were $100, the boots $300. Full Price, both of them.

You see, I avoid Sale Price whenever I can, opting instead to pay Full Price. Plus, even though I don’t earn a lot of money, I tend to purchase higher quality items, not for their brand names (I don’t wear clothes with logos), but because I’m willing to pay more for things that look good, work well, and last longer.

Because I’m responsible with money, the higher priced, higher quality items actually cost less in the long run—I use them till they’re finished. (I wore my jeans roughly 700 times, my boots 1,000; ergo, I paid only 14¢ every time I pulled on my pants, 30¢ each time I stepped into my shoes.)

The reason I avoid Sale Price, though, has less to do with quality or money and more to do with my own impulses. I prefer to pay Full Price because it makes me question the purchase a great deal. When I discover something I want to buy, I must think it over and spend time budgeting for it, all the while questioning whether the new possession will add real value to my life.

Conversely, Sale Price is the compulsory price, a fool’s price. Not long ago, I played the fool. Repeatedly. I fell for all the tropes of Sale Price: Act now! Limited time only! While supplies Last! But much like Pavlov’s bell, these clever stratagems incite a false sense of scarcity that clouds our perception of reality, prodding us to act on impulse. Sure, you might save 70% off that clearance-rack dress you sort of like, but you’ll save 100% if you just leave the store without it.

When I pay…. [Read the rest of the post on The Minimalists]

I Don’t Love You Anymore



There weren’t any tears during my most recent breakup. No possessions strewn across the lawn. No passive aggression. No yelling or fighting or angry text messages. Rather, there was a twinge of relief—an unexpected pang of freedom.

The moment it all ended, I just stood there, an awkward silence between us. When I finally handed her the bag of clothes, I knew there was no turning back. But her features held no sign of sadness—more like a look of gratitude. As I drove away, I didn’t once look in the rearview.

Thankfully, this estrangement wasn’t with a person, but with a large chunk of my wardrobe. If I would’ve anthropomorphize that bag of clothes before I handed it to the pretty girl at Goodwill, I would’ve told it, “It’s not you—hell, it’s not even me—its us. We’re no longer right for each other. I just don’t love you anymore.”

I realized it was time for us to part ways just last week, after I pulled on a teeshirt and immediately wanted to wear something else. Truth be told, it was a decent shirt, one I got a lot of use out of, but I didn’t love wearing it anymore, and I hadn’t loved wearing it in a while.

So I decided to go through my already minimal closet and jettison every item I didn’t love. I’d rather own just a few outfits—outfits I enjoy wearing, clothes I feel confident in, a wardrobe that brings me joy—than a mediocre collection of once-loved threads.

Sometimes love sunders, and we have to move on. The things we once loved, we may not love forever.

Read more insightful entries from The Minimalists here.

P.S. Today (Oct 23) is Ryan’s birthday. Wish him a happy 32nd on Twitter.