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How Minimalism Taught Me to Stop Speaking

How Minimalism Taught Me to Stop Speaking

July 15, 2018

I first wrote What I Learned from a Minimalist Mindset five years ago (how was that five years ago?), and my relationship with minimalism has fluctuated through many extremes.

Minimalism is the idea that we only surround ourselves with things (and people) that only add value to our lives. It’s not about throwing everything out and wishing you could get it all back.

Simplicity and minimalism is NOT about:

inbox zero.
owning only 100 items.
living in an empty house devoid of any personality at all.
perfection.
having a complicated system in place to deal with your email.
buying a $1,000 “minimalist” watch when a $50 one will do fine.
riding a bicycle with no gears or no brakes.
claiming you are a minimalist who doesn’t even own a bed yet needing to crash at various friends’ houses every night.
sitting in the dark under your only light bulb.
bragging about how minimal your life is.

Minimalism is about eliminating the unnecessary from your life to reveal what’s important.

Minimalism is more internal work than an outside broadcast about how little you own. Minimalism goes deeper than possessions: It helps you to redefine what has meaning and it can help to eliminate destructive habits that no longer serve you.

Minimalism becomes a by-product of our mental state.

In the world of conspicuous consumption and endless advertising that tells us that we’re never good enough, my focus on minimalism improves my mental health. It’s my self-care.

But as much as I’ve let go of my former self over the years, I’ve paradoxically held on to parts of my identity that are “necessary.”

I started my business so I could make an impact in the world. I also wanted to spend more time doing what I absolutely love: being outdoors in nature, reading books, going to yoga, playing with my pup, and not feeding into the consumerism culture of “more.” But over time, I lost focus on what truly matters.

I got caught up in the hype.

In the process of writing my first book, my minimalist mindset got sacrificed. I got invited to speak at industry events around the country. I had a book signing and session at SXSW in Austin, a keynote in Vegas, and another speaking gig in Atlantic City.

Talk isn’t cheap (in the speaking world)

These were the leading industry events that I had watched from afar for years. Suddenly, I was getting invited to speak at these events. I had to look the part!

And guess what? I needed clothes to attend these events! (I did think about showing up in a bikini).

So what did I do?

I became a material girl (again).

I shopped and bought dresses and high heels. Makeup and accessories. I made sure I had an appointment at a Dry Bar in each city I visited to guarantee that my hair had the best blow out. Look here’s me at SXSW book signing (one of the highlights of my career)!

I went into debt to look like a “marketer”

As a writer, most days I’m hunkered over my MacBook with no makeup and comfortable yoga pants. My hair is in a messy bun and I just do not care about my physical looks because what’s happening inside my mind is most important.

This is what I look like most days:

Yet, as soon as I published my book I felt like I had to fit in — a part of me wanted to fit in.

Many industry speakers are men and I can now speculate why: It’s exhausting to “play your part” at these industry events as a woman.

The secret of the speaking industry is that most events are unpaid and uncompensated (Note: some of my speaking gigs did reimburse my flights, hotels, and meals). But I had to fund the cost of everything else. While these events do offer visibility, it’s more often a way to boost your ego (and not your bank account).

I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” to many of the initial invitations. I feel like I made it! I finally, finally made it! But then slowly, over time, my naivety around the speaking circuit turned to cynicism. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. But after returning home, exhausted from the anxiety of travel and speaking, I’d cry.

Later, I got invited to attend some of the biggest marketing events to speak, I started to say “No” with confidence (unless I’d get paid). This Bingo Card details a few of the (many) reasons why:

The speaking lifestyle necessitates paying to play — paying to be “seen” with the intention to impress people (and potential clients) you don’t even know. One of the more prominent marketing conferences offered me a slot to speak but declined to pay me:

“We have enough money to pay for Kevin Spacey but unfortunately not all of our speakers are paid. We are lucky to be a premier event in that most of the paid speakers waive their fee to come speak at xxx.”

 – industry leader will go unnamed

Thank you but no, really – thank you for humoring me.

In my book, Humanize Your Brand, I write about the importance of surfing, yoga, and writing to achieve a calm mental state. My work focuses on how we must create meaningful media that connects our universal human experiences and emotions — so that we don’t risk losing ourselves along the way. I felt like I knew myself — I really, really knew myself! Yet I began to feed into the echo-chamber of the speaking hype.

I lost myself along the way.

“Humor is everywhere in that there’s irony in just about anything a human does.” — Bill Nye

I’m grateful at the opportunities to travel and speak. I feel like I’m making a small yet meaningful impact on my industry. Yet now I know better. I refuse to get sucked into a lifestyle that isn’t aligned with who I am today: An author and speaker who deserves to get paid for her time and all associated costs.

Note: I am not against paying for value. I love being in community with others: I have mentors, colleagues, and online friends who support me and I'm so grateful. But I use my intuition when it comes to making my decisions, and from what I've found, the speaking circuit and marketing paradigm is completely broken. I have not found value in speaking and traveling to events where you became part of a vicious cycle of wanting to “be seen.”

After questioning one of the more popular international marketing speakers in the world, he revealed to me that this is the “dirty little secret.”

Breaking free from an outdated paradigm

As an entrepreneur, I found a way to break free from the 9–5. But with that came another prison of perfection (that I willingly put myself in).

When you don’t quite fit the mold of society, you’ll do just about anything to feel like you fit into the world of entrepreneurship. You’ll even sacrifice your sanity and savings.

Today I’m donating a bag of designer clothes from my previous life with the intention to put it all behind me. But can I ever honestly put it behind me? These experiences and things have shaped me: I’m now more resolute in who I am and what I will put up with.

After every attempt to disrupt the system, you enter a new level of control

Is there a way to extricate yourself from the marketing hype while still being seen as “successful”? Or do you have to hustle, show up on stage, and “market” yourself to the world?

If you extract yourself from one lifestyle but then you become part of another lifestyle, you’re still in the same vicious cycle — just seeing it through a new lens. I have many friends and colleagues who speak and have found a way to “make it” in a way that works for them. But for every success story, there are others who have sacrificed themselves to be “liked.”

Do I move to the Himalayan mountains and become a monk?

I love minimalism because I notice how my mindset shifts when I focus on what brings value to my life and the lives of others. My meditation practice centers my mind in the world of extremes — and in the world of irony:

“Today we ornament ourselves with goods and services more to make an impression on other people’s minds than to enjoy owning a chunk of matter — a fact that renders “materialism” a profoundly misleading term for much of consumption.” — Geoffrey Miller, author of Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior

I don’t necessarily know where I’ll be living but I do know what I’ll be doing:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin

Thank you, Benjamin (I’m all about the Benjamins).

Since writing my first book, I’ve done lots of things worth writing about. And I’m only just getting started: I’ve traveled, moved across the country with only two suitcases and my dog. Now I’m writing my second book that details a lot of my experiences.

The silence of the written word enriches my mind (not the loud lifestyle of the speaking world).

Writing allows me to lose myself along the way through my own words — and nothing is ever truly lost. My words come back around to fill the page with a purpose.

But the speaking world is filled with ego traps and a lavish lifestyle. When you lose yourself along the way through speaking, it’s hard to get yourself back.

Minimalism makes it ok

Minimalism tells me that it’s ok to have a loud mind that “speaks” in silence. And that I don’t need a calendar full of speaking gigs to prove my worth.

Marketing today is less pushing your message loudly and more pulling in an audience quietly.

Eliminating what’s not working is everything.

I refuse to scream above the noise or to “keep up” with the Gary V’s of the world. Minimalism can reveal a better way.

I'm co-creating the next paradigm and it's all about Embodied Marketing. Subscribe below to get updates or email hello@jessicaannmedia.com to learn more.

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