How to Become a Minimalist Business Ninja (and do work that matters): Interview with Everett Bogue

Written by Scott February 21, 2011

“Start by changing yourself, then inspire other people to change. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll manage to change the world in the process.”

~Everett Bogue

If you want to do the impossible, then surround yourselves with others who consistently do it.

For this reason I’m constantly meeting entrepreneurs and folks living life on their terms. It’s the best way to keep me true to my own faith, and to the extent that I can get some of the inspiration to rub off on you guys, all the better.

I had a beer (actually a few) with Everett Bogue a few weeks ago. He’s a pretty crazy dude…to say the least. And I love it. For starters, the guy lives on less than 50 things. I think I have 50 things in my desk drawer…

He is a minimalist in every sense of the word. And he’s built a fantastically successful business from it in under a year. He now spends time between…well, wherever he wants.

I’ve learned a lot from Everett in the past months. Don’t get me wrong, I am no minimalist. And I don’t intend to be – at least by his definition. But I do believe it’s a worthy direction to head.

In the past two years he’s come out with three rockstar guides – Minimalist Business, The Art of Being Minimalist (no longer being sold) and Augmented Humanity. These are a few of the very few products I wholly endorse on this site.  They’ve dramatically changed the way I run my business.

Enter Everett…

1. What’s your story? What put you here?

A year ago I lived very differently than I do today. I sat at a desk, I did what I was told, I had very little energy and I wasn’t exactly sure why I was living at all. Then everything changed.

For the last few years I’d been hearing a whisper on the fringes of society, some big change that was about to happen, but I wasn’t sure what it was. Slowly, one by one I started to notice as friends dropped off the radar. These were people who’d been pursuing the traditional idea of life — the 9-5, the house, the cars, the trips to the mall. Then they just stopped, and vanished from the life I’d been living. I tracked down a few of these people, and found out they were vagabonding around the world.

I wanted to do this too, but I didn’t know how. I wanted to live on my own terms, working and living from anywhere, I wanted to be free. So, I got rid of all of my stuff, quit my job, and I’ve been wandering around ever since. At the moment I’m in San Francisco, but where will I go next? No one knows, not even me.

2. Congrats on the transition. It seems like more and more people are getting into these types of adventures these days. Why should anyone care about what you’re doing compared to the millions of other blogs out there?

Who cares about me, what you should be caring about is you. Why are you sitting at a desk all day? Why are you here? What is your purpose in life? If it’s possible to live and work from anywhere, why aren’t you working towards that happening? I’m not unique, and neither are you. If you want to achieve something, chances are someone else did it before you. Ask them how they did it.

3. I couldn’t agree more with the idea of modeling what’s been done. So, what gave you the courage to strike out on your own? What was the tipping point?

I thought for a long time that I needed courage to do this, but the more research I do on location independence, the more I see it as an inevitable change in the way our culture works. The production of information in our culture is accelerating rapidly, and the actual physical goods we consume and produce is dropping at an incredible rate.

What society needs now is idea makers, and idea traffickers.

The natural exotropic progression of the evolution is towards an information society, and computers grabbed us by our fingers and are dragging us there. We just need to embrace it really — but sometimes it takes courage to hug someone.

4. So how do you turn this into a business – what’s your model?

I live the change I want to see in the world, that’s my business model. It worked pretty well for Gandhi, and it’s working pretty well for me. I just asked: how do I want to live? And the reality of it was pretty extreme. I saw a guy with a t-shirt on yesterday that said “there’s nothing normal about normality.” This is so true. Stop trying to be normal, start trying to be awesome. Teach people how to be awesome like you. This is my business model.

5. What about success –  how do you define it?

Success is a mindset. You have control over your mindset. If you have control over your mindset, you have control over your success.

6. What is your 80/20 – the most high value/high leverage work that you do?

We get really confused about what work actually is. I spent a lot of time studying what actual work is, and what we think it is. People tend to think of work as a reaction, like someone sends them an email so they respond to it and then they’re done working. In reality, answering emails is simply responding, it’s not working.

Working is creating information which helps people, at least to me.

It might be making a bench for you. Who knows? The point is that reacting isn’t working, it’s reacting. The most important work I can do is to give people permission to be awesome, so I do that every day. This is creating work that matters.

7. Well it’s clearly been working. You grew your following from 0 to over 8,000 in about a year. How’d you make this happen? What was your strategy?

You can’t create a following with strategies and tasks, it just doesn’t work. No amount of gaming the system will work. What matters is creating work that actually matters to people. That’s how you create a following. What do you want to change in the world?

I can see a lot things we can change. We can stop people from driving cars so much. We can inspire people to eat better food. We can teach people how to harness the energy that is all around them to make the world a better place, and make them more successful in the process.

If it isn’t already obvious though, the best ways to communicate with people are Twitter and blogging. Don’t do anything else except those two things.

8. Well put – I wish I knew that a year ago before I dumped countless hours on ‘strategies’. On that note, what has been the biggest waste of your time?

Every day that I sat at that desk in New York longer than I had to. You should never work on a project that you’re not passionate about just because you don’t know what else to do with your life. Change is the only way to grow.

9. There is nothing I believe more strongly Everett. Right on. Getting back to how you grew so fast, did you have anything lucky or crazy happen that added to it? Maybe getting on the front page of Digg or something.

This is going to blow your mind, and everyone else’s, but there was no magic bullet moment when success suddenly dropped out of the sky. The reality is that a successful business like mine grows one day at a time. It’s a collection of 25 people telling 50 people about my blog, and 50 people telling 100. This adds up over time, and creates the moment for success. Once in awhile I’ll get Stumbled or linked to by a big blog. Those are just blips of momentary high traffic — none of those readers stick around.

If you do work that matters, you don’t need magic bullet moments. And reality is that magic bullet moments don’t matter anyway, so stop searching for them and start changing the world for real.

10. What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up, look out the window and smile. I throw my laptop and my yoga clothes in my bag. I go out into the world. I buy an orange and a banana at the fruit stand and eat them as I walk. I get a coffee at a coffee shop and write a little bit. I grab some lunch. I meet up with remarkable people (tomorrow I’m hanging out with Maren Kate). I go practice yoga for 2-3 hours. I go to sleep. No one decides my schedule but me, so maybe I’ll not do any of those things. Maybe I’ll do everything.

11. Not a bad schedule. So what advice do you have for those looking to live life on their terms?

Start to really take a look at the world we live in and notice how much needs to change. We’re destroying the planet, bit by bit, day after day. We sit on the couch and watch TV all day. We drink milkshakes on our way to work. This isn’t silly, these things do need to change if we’re going to make any progress. And you know what? people want these things to change. I know it seems odd, but they do.

Start by changing yourself, then inspire other people to change. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll manage to change the world in the process.

**********

Now that is music to my ears. Thanks Everett! Do things that matter to you and the world will notice. It will also be a better place as a result. That’s no joke. Everett is a living example of this and I feel fortunate to consider him a friend and inspiration. His ‘work’ will blow your mind. I hope you’ll spend at least a few minutes with it.

If you are at all serious about making a dent in the online world, Minimalist Business is worth a look. If you just want to stop consuming a bunch of useless crap and get rid of some stress, then perhaps check out The Art of Being Minimalist. If it’s not available anymore then Leo’s book is awesome as well – The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.

Most importantly, start doing things you care about. Nothing else really matters. The rest is easy…

Do you have questions for Everett and how to get out and do meaningful work? Please leave them in the comments below.

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