Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are minimalism's rock stars

·3-min read
Will embracing minimalism make you happy?

These two Americans had it all: success, money, perfect relationships...But was it really everything? Only in appearance. Because happiness, according to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, isn't found in "having it all" at all. And to prove their point, they got rid of everything except the essentials. After several bestsellers, they have a new book coming out this year.

Clad in black T-shirts or sometimes white shirts, smile on the lips -- on the outside nothing distinguishes Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from other men of their age. Perhaps their discreet simplicity. Yet, through their website, their conferences, their two Netflix documentaries and their podcast, these two men have inspired more than 20 million people around the world. In their book "Minimalism," the two Americans have condensed the essence of their minimalist approach into less than 200 pages. Media around the world have taken an interest in their unusual trajectory, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine. They have also given talks at Harvard, Apple, and Google.

Consume less to control more

Behind a six-figure salary and all the attributes of social success -- including material goods -- the story of these two Americans is astonishing, and far removed from the image of the American dream. In 2009, Joshua's mother died of cancer. A month later his wife left him. The shockwaves from these events would prompt the author to take a deep, questioning look at his life. During the same period, Ryan was also going through a difficult period of self-examination, feeling sad and eventually going into a full depression.

And the years that followed didn't seem to go much better. In 2011, Ryan, an executive in a telecommunications company for 7 years, got fired. Meanwhile Joshua, who worked in the same company, managing 150 stores, decided a few months later to resign to devote himself to writing and to advance in his quest for minimalism. The two, who first met in primary school, together made the decision to move away from the ultra-consumerist society and take back control of their lives.

Minimalism, the tour

In 2014, their tour got underway, with lectures given in 100 cities in 8 countries. Their philosophy of life stems from the idea that to be content, it's not enough to simply throw away all their stuff, but to choose to keep the essentials, what makes us happy, and to make room for more experiences, personal development and freedom. "I started to feel rich once I got everything out of the way and made room for everything that remains," Ryan Nicodemus has said. Their story convinces an increasing number of people and draws larger and larger crowds. The pair are followed by 500,000 fans on Facebook, 530,000 on Instagram and count a total of 20 million listeners, spectators and followers on the web.

In the first documentary on Netflix dedicated to them, "Minimalism," viewers discover their life path that led them to gradually divulge themselves of their goods, but also of the emotional weight of possessions, bad relationships, jobs or objects. The success has been such that a second documentary "Less is Now" has been available on the platform since January 1. It shows the "minimalists" at the heart of their international tour.

So what exactly is minimalism?

Accustomed to being prodded for a definition of minimalism, Joshua and Ryan emphasize that it's not about leaving everything behind. According to them, being minimalist is not the same as giving up everything. It's about being methodical and putting into perspective the importance of your career or your material goods. Proof that you can do better with less. Something to think about.

The two have a new book out in the next few months entitled "Love People, Use Things," which delves into how their philosophy relates to relationships.