Stop Living the Lie; Start Living the Life

This essay is a guest post by Joshua Millburn of The Minimalists. Follow him on Twitter or else.

You thought I was crazy

Admit it, you thought I was crazy, didn’t you?

I heard what you said about me when I quit my six-figure job to pursue my passions.

You thought I was crazy when I said I was going to be a full-time fiction writer. He’ll never make it, and He’ll be back in a few months, and God is he is stupid! That’s what you said, isn’t it?

You thought I was crazy when I got rid of all my junk and became a minimalist.

What the hell is a minimalist? Why would anyone want to get rid of all that stuff? Who the hell doesn’t he own a TV? and I think he’s going through some sort of quarter-life crisis.

You thought I was crazy when I started a website with my best friend to help other people live a life of freedom. You said, It sounds like a gimmick, and They sure do look gay in those pictures together, don’t they?

You thought I was crazy when I completely changed my diet and started exercising like it was a religion.

You thought I was crazy when I started an experiment and refused to buy any physical items for an entire year.

You even thought I was crazy when I started donating a lot more of my time to charities like soup kitchens and building homes for the poor. You couldn’t understand why this would be important to me.

But wait. What if there’s something wrong with you?

Perhaps I am crazy

Fine, call me crazy. If living a more meaningful life– one that is filled with happiness and passion and freedom– is crazy, then I am utterly insane.

But let’s be honest for a moment– you wish you could do it too. You said so. Even if you didn’t say it to me directly, your body language said it for you. I can see it in you– in your eyes and the expression on your face. Other people can see it in you too. They can see through you.

You wish that you could quit your soul crushing job. You wish that you could pursue your passions. You wish that you could get rid of the stress in your life. You wish that you didn’t give so much meaning to your possessions. You wish that you could reclaim your time and live a life of conscious freedom.

The truth is that you could do any of those things, and you know that you could, but you won’t. At least not until you stop acting like a fucking pussy.

You want it to be one way, but it’s the other way

Here’s a great scene from the acclaimed HBO TV series The Wire. Marlo Stanfield is a drug dealer, and a disgusting, reprehensible human being. But he has one incredibly powerful virtue. He knows exactly what he wants in life, and he is willing to walk the walk to get it.

The rent-a-cop confronts Marlo outside the store, and after a moment of tension, Marlo calmly reminds him that “you want it to be one way, but it’s the other way.”

You want to be the one with the power. But you’re not.

You want it be one way– you want to be happy, free, and have the right to pursue your passions and live a more meaningful life– but it’s the other way. You choose to live the life that you’re living, and don’t change even though you think you want to.

So you hate what you do– you hate your job or your physical health or your debt or your depression or your life in general– and I’m crazy?

You can’t be serious.

I’m living a more meaningful life now. I’m pursuing my passions (writing both fiction and non-fiction). I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m more free than you. I’m more passionate than you. I’m growing as an individual. And I’m contributing to other people in a more meaningful way.

And you’re doing what? You’re just talking.

Make change a must

It’s not too late to stop talking and get up off your ass.

Do something.

Take action.

Turn off the TV.

Shutdown your computer.

Get out there and act.

Or you could just sit back and do nothing. You can just keep being you, content in the vast pool of mediocrity.

And you can continue down your current path if you’d like, and if you work really, really hard you can end up theresix figure job, all the stuff you can imagine– which on the surface didn’t look too bad. Hell, I looked really successful too.

But displaying status symbols is simple. They’re easy trophies– but I wasn’t actually successful at all. I had luxury cars and a house with more bedrooms than inhabitants, a bunch of gadgets I hardly used, clothes I didn’t wear, and all the trappings that our heavily mediated culture tells us that we should have (and a nice size debt to accompany those “accomplishments”). But I wasn’t happy at all, which is perhaps the true measure of success.

The people who envied my life didn’t see the other side, they didn’t see the life behind the curtain. I did a good job of masking my fear, my debt, my anxiety, my stress, my loneliness, my guilt, my depression. I displayed a impressive facade, revealing only what I thought the world wanted me to reveal.

Worst of all, my life was void of any real meaning, and it felt as if I was flying in ever-diminishing circles.

Not too long ago, I was you. I was that guy: Joshua Fields Millburn, the unhappy young executive. But then I did three things to change my life:

  1. I made the decision to change my life.
  2. I made that change a must instead of a should.
  3. I took action.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, and sometimes you’ll be terrified by the changes you’re making, but it’s so much better than the alternative. It’s so much better than walking with the living dead.

It’s not too late for you. Make the decision to change, make it a must, and take action. You deserve to be happy. You deserve a better life.

But if you refuse to change, then perhaps you deserve the life that you already have.


Joshua Millburn writes essays about minimalism with Ryan Nicodemus at The Minimalists. He also writes fiction and his first novel, AS A DECADE FADES, will be published soon.





36 responses to “Stop Living the Lie; Start Living the Life”

  1. CJ Avatar

    I applaud your courage but how does this make you different from any entrepreneur? You quit your job to start a lean start-up/lifestyle business with you as both the product and the owner. That’s awesome but it’s done by a ton of people all the time. What am I missing?

    1. Mai Anh Nguyen Avatar

      I think he made his point already? He said he wanna be happier, leads a passionate life and has control over his life. He didn’t say anything about differences from other people who do the same/ start a lean start-up/business.

  2. TrafficColeman Avatar

    Take control of your life before it too late and you wondering what if..all your life..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  3. Ryan Critchett Avatar

    Hey man, nice to meet you Joshua.

    I’m aligned with what you’re saying for sure. Security has no real value without happiness.. the part where you take that from knowing it intellectually, do actually fucking negotiating reality to make it real, that’s where people get petrified and hung up.

    We have similar messages. Great post, the world needs more of this. I think that there are some underlying fundamental shifts taking place in people’s minds, particularly in the area of freedom, getting out of the status quo bullshit conditioning and actually pursuing cool shit instead of having a sinking feeling that you’re just some result of the formulation of events.

    Totally with it bro,


  4. Misplaced Coupon Avatar

    I agree with post #1. How exactly are you any different than Steve Pavlina et al. Yes, you have any angle of quitting a well-paying job; but you’re simply trying to be one of the “winners” in a “winner takes all” game. One of the only people I’ve read online with a real viable solution for other people is Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme. I mean, I like to write on my blog too, but I’m not giving the illusion that the world can just exist of people writing on the internet.

    1. AElinor Avatar

      That’s not his point. His point is that he’s living with passion and purpose and doing what makes him happy rather than getting paid good money to stay unhappy and live a life without meaning.

      1. Spencer Avatar

        He is not sharing with u a solution. Nobody can seriously provide you with any solution in attaining your own happiness. You got to firstly want to fight for it and take actions. Lots of people wants to do stop doing what they are doing right but are constantly waiting for others to provide them with the solution not realising that they are the ones to seek out the solution for themselves.

  5. David William Avatar

    i love this! this is exactly what we need more of. people with guts. people with courage. people that take a stand.

    im doing it. i need to be a changer too.

  6. Andrea Avatar

    Very thought provoking. I like your challenge to us readers. If I apply just a portion of it, I bet I’ll see change. Thanks.

  7. Adam Avatar

    Browsed through the post… nothing new for me at least.

    Great job dude, people like us are those who make the world a better place…

    May Zen be with you. Adam.

  8. John Avatar

    Amen, Joshua! I quit, err, resigned from my well-paying position to spend a year traveling and figure out what I want in this life. Your post resonates with my thought process at the time. We only live once and there’s no point in doing something you don’t enjoy, even if what you *do* enjoy doesn’t pay diddly. Winning.

  9. RC Avatar

    Congratulations that you have found your way to happiness! Its a great post and I must say very courageous of you to follow your dream.

    But is happiness really measured by what you have or don’t or by what you do? I thought it was from within. One can be happy having a six figure job or without, one can be happy having a luxury car or without. The true test of happiness is probably when you stop measuring it with outside things and spend some time peeking inside your heart.

  10. Am Avatar

    Hey, I had mouths to feed when I was stuck in my 6 figure soul crushing job; it was a golden handcuffs situation. Luckily the recession took care of my indecision and I was laid off. Luckily I had started my business first and had something to walk into to.

    But the 2 years of terror from debt I would not wish on anyone. We made it through, but it was scary. Guy Kawasaki says that Fearless leaders are always terrified; I believe him.

    Some ‘things’ are not to be mocked. I could care less about the tv, fancy cars etc., but my family home has been IN my family for 6 generations. I didn’t want to be the one to lose it.

    So, I appreciate the inspiration and I get it… but it’s a lot easier to do when you’re 25 and have no dependents…. Some of us have to straddle the line for a wire. And Marlo was a drug dealer.

  11. John McLachlan Avatar

    Joshua, I get the “fire in your belly” “get up and do it” attitude of this post and I appreciate that.

    I can see that by being very forceful, it can help motivate, but when you say “Or you could just sit back and do nothing. You can just keep being you, content in the vast pool of mediocrity” I really think you’re cheapening the message and you’re sneering at people.

    I’m with you on changing lives for the better, but the arrogance of the message taints the cause and purpose. I hope you truly are happy because your tone of disdain would not suggest it.

    1. Rob Hidalgo Avatar
      Rob Hidalgo

      I think the intent of such forceful statements is to provoke the reader to get up off his or her ass and stop feeling sorry for themselves. That’s how it resonates with me, anyway.

      The fear of failing has got to be one of the biggest things that prevents people from pursuing their desired lifestyle. Change, as I’m now realizing, can only happen when that fear is surpassed by the fear or remaining the same

  12. Sabina Avatar

    I doubt there is such a thing as crazy. A paradigm shift, even as strong as the one described above is saner than living in denial. And just like any paradigm shift, people will not understand it until they reach that point in their mind where “the other side” is a lot clearer.

    A ship in the fog doesn’t know it has to stir to avoid the lighthouse, and if you only tell it it’s imperative to do so, the captain will question that advice – but once the lighthouse becomes clear, the paradigm shift occurs.

  13. Corey Koehler Avatar

    DOES THIS MAKE ME A FUCKING PUSSY? Read on and then be honest!

    As much as I love these types of posts, the logic behind them AND feeling I get from daydreaming about it (endlessly) the reality for me is, the “high” is gone the moment I fill my wife in on my desires to quit the job and make music fulltime (Three kids and a large mortage tend to complicate things a a bit). After that a feeling of depression – ala a rat in a cage – slaps me in the face.

    Am i using her as an excuse? perhaps. Hell, I know I could do it if it was just me. I could live in the back of a pick-up truck eating Friskies out of a can if I had to (and almost have in th past), but I can’t put my wife and kids through that without them raising their hands willingly.

    Bottom line, without her supporting my pursuit of a career in music then the point is mute. Oh and my music is pretty damn good btw and could be even better with undevided attention (listen if you do not believe me).

    SO AM I A PUSSY? Looking for the brutal truth. 🙂

    1. RD Avatar

      Problem is you should have pursued your dream of music before having kids and getting married on top of getting a large mortgage. I dont understand why people get married and settle down, when they know they are not happy with their career path.

      1. PeeVee Avatar

        Live life with zero regrets. If you feels resentful about it you will definitely regret not trying. If the people in your life can’t support who you are as a person then perhaps they shouldn’t be part of your life. Kids will always love and support their parents. Going after your dreams would still mean providing the basics and whatever else you wish to for them. You don’t have to give it all up. It’s about planning your way to your dream and truly doing what you love. The rest will follow. Having a family is not an excuse unless we make it one.

  14. TuneSmith Avatar


    You are not a pussy. Once you have a family, you are obligated to provide support. Educating children about forging a path they love, before starting a family, is crucial. Otherwise, people become “stuck”.

    I listened to your music. It is above “average”, but you have to listen with honest ears if you would ever consider supporting a family from it. Don’t quit your day job, yet. Your voice has potential, but your songwriting, instrumental arrangements, vocal tone, and breath support leave much to be desired when compared to musicians making 6 figure incomes. These are all things that CAN be achieved with the appropriate amount of honest self-examination about your current talent level and a realistic plan about how to go about improving. Begin devouring the biographies of your favorite artists, and you will see there is a common denominator of about 10 years of relentless improvement before one “breaks out”.
    Best of luck to you, bro. The potential is there, but there is still a large gap between 6 figure artists and yourself. You did ask for the “brutal truth,” which is a sign of willingness to accept your current place so that you can move forward informed and empowered. That is something many many people cannot do.


  15. Tim Avatar

    Nice article, how do you feel about burning bridges/ship?

  16. Darby Avatar

    Hey Josh!
    Congratulations on turning the page into a new chapter! Thanks for the ass kickage. That is all.

  17. Corey Koehler Avatar

    Thanks J (TuneSmith)! That was brutal alright…lol…I appreciate it though.

  18. Erin Avatar

    Like the article. I hope to find a job I love as soon as my consumer debt is gone (hopefully end of this year). Not confident enough to do it now.

    But quick question… did anyone else catch this “a impressive facade”? For someone who quit a job to become a professional writer I would think this would have been caught in proofreading the article before it was sent out.

  19. Joshua | The Minimalists Avatar

    All — thanks for the responses so far. Also, big thanks to Julien for asking me to write here (I’m very grateful). I wanted to watch the conversation here before I weighed in. I’ll do my best to answer your comments and questions below (in some sort of chronological order). I tend to interact on Twitter. Join me there — @joshuamillburn — if you haven’t already. Or you can email me: jm at if I can help you in any way.

    CJ — I didn’t say it made me different than any entrepreneur, just different from the vast majority who don’t make the change that they know they can make.

    TrafficColeman — that’s exactly what it’s all about: assuming control of our own lives, which isn’t easy given the distractions of the culture that we’ve built.

    Ryan Critchett — thanks, man. Amen. The status quo is a powerful thing, one that we often don’t realize in our day to day lives.

    Misplaced Coupon — I never claimed that “the world con just exist of people writing on the internet.” But that doesn’t mean that more people can’t pursue their passions. Not everyone will, but more people can.

    David William — thanks. Good luck.

    Andrea — thanks.

    Adam — I love it: “may Zen be with you.” Thanks, I appreciate it. You too.

    John — congrats, you are certainly #winning.

    RC — I agree, happiness is a personal internal measurement. Sometimes getting rid of the external excess can help focus on that though. Although I completely acknowledge that you don’t have to be a minimalist or live a simple lifestyle to be happy. It can help though.

    Am — I agree that it’s easier to do at my age (I’m 30 actually). I like the Guy K. quote too, as it resonates with me. Yes, Marlo was a drug dealer. I also noted that he was a “disgusting, reprehensible human being (with one good virtue). That said, there are countless stories of people at any age in essentially any circumstance who pursue their passions. Family/debt/house/car/pets are all excuses (some of which are relatively valid), but it can be done. I am certain of that.

    John McLachlan — Thanks for getting the “fire in the belly” aspect of this essay. I was more or less talking about myself—reflecting, as it were—when I talked about being “content in the vast pool of mediocrity.” I recently wrote an essay about quitting my job that explained it this way: “my ‘screw you’ is not to my former job at all. Instead, my ‘screw you’ is to my old lifestyle, to my old life, to a life without meaning. I’m not quitting a job—the job is not the point here—I’m quitting the life that I lived, and I’m committed to living a meaningful life, one in which I do what I love, one in which I’m happy and passionate and free.”

    Sabina — your comment is my favorite response to this essay. I will save it. I appreciate it.

    Corey — I just listened to a couple of your songs, and I think you’re talented enough to do music full-time (contrary to what TuneSmith said). Love this line: “I’m going to save me tears for the happy days.” Amen! Are you a pussy? That’s not for me to answer, but if you have to ask that question, then perhaps you know the answer already (only you know for sure). Quitting isn’t easy, especially when you have a family. But haven’t you heard about thousands of people who were in dire straights who have made it, who have overcome the obstacles in their way? What about Sly Stallone? Look up his story about writing Rocky and trying to sell it. Go for it man. It’s not easy, but I’m certain you can do it. Are you on iTunes? I’ll download your album if you are.

    Tim — I am a big fan of “burning the boat.” I have an essay coming soon on Jonathan Meads site ( where I talk about burning the boat. I’m glad you enjoyed this essay. Thanks.

    Darby — you’re welcome for the ass kickage. Thank you for reading.

    Erin — good luck on paying down that debt. It is possible: I had a lot of it at one point in time too. Good catch on the indefinite article (a vs. an) grammatical slip-up. Some of the best novels ever writing (e.g., Infinite Jest, Great Gatsby, etc.) had typos well into their second and third printings, that’s after a team of editors line edited them too. So, while it was a good catch, my not overly concerned by the minor slip-up.

    Take care,

    Joshua Millburn

  20. Corey Koehler Avatar

    Josh – thanks for the reply, the compliment, your upcoming purchase 🙂 AND the encouraging words. Continued reading of material like your and Julien’s will no doubt push me in the right direction and I’ll figure this stuff out one way or the other. And, yes, I am on iTunes –

    Thanks again!

  21. Matt Avatar

    This is Day 2 of reading Joshua Millburn. I went home inspired to write, inspired to read, inspired to listen, and inspired to dream and live life differently yesterday. What did I do? I did the normal boring routine. I cooked dinner, did some homework, then sat on the couch and watched tv. Inspiring!

    “Make change a must

    It’s not too late to stop talking and get up off your ass.

    Do something.

    Take action.

    Turn off the TV.

    Shutdown your computer.

    Get out there and act.”

    Is what I needed to read last night. Thanks Josh for continuing to challenge and push people to become the people they were meant to be.

  22. Karen Avatar

    I applaud what you have done and your commitment to it. The judgement and the ‘look at me’ attachment less so. Live your life as an example and share your experience. We will learn and be inspired by that. Telling us we’re fools…hmmm

  23. MRW Avatar

    This is the most arrogant blog I think I’ve ever come across!

    “I’m more free than you. I’m more passionate than you. I’m growing as an individual. And I’m contributing to other people in a more meaningful way. And you’re doing what? You’re just talking.”

    How can you brazenly make the assumption that people in full time, well-paid jobs are not passionate or growing as an individual? How can you say that people only talk. I have a full-time, highly paid job but I also manage to fit in to my life time to exercise, time to volunteer, time to write, time to read, time to grow and time to listen. Just because people work long hours for large salaries does not mean they are devoid of soul or character or happiness. True happiness, true joy cannot be found in what you do or not do, it can only be found in peace. You’re railing against the world trying to justify your bold changes by making sure you take everyone with you!

    Shame on you for your arrogance and critical words of others – it otherwise would have been an interesting story. Instead it was an original rant trying to make yourself look good whilst assuming everyone else is worse off than you.

  24. Janine Avatar

    I want to start living, and stop living the lie!

  25. El Shuku Avatar
    El Shuku

    You’re right dude, the one’s who don’t follow their passion because ‘its crazy’, are always jealous of the ones who do follow their passion at whatever price !

  26. David dees Avatar
    David dees

    Selling it all and letting Good sort it out!

  27. HB Avatar

    Jonathan,thanks for your writings. I am in a very similar situation as you. I live and work in corporate America, am very successful, and yet at the same time very miserable. I want to break out of this, but not quite sure how and when. You stated it best when you referred to “the soul crushing job”. As stated, I have been very successful, am respected by my peers, and employees, and have been very well compensated. Yet, my career consumes most of my waking hours, stressed beyond stress, and again, just feel as though my soul is being crushed. I have focused so much on my job that I have lost my dreams and not sure what it is I would do, although, as you, I do love people and working with people. It’s good to know that I am not alone, but even then I feel so utterly alone in my endeavors. Any suggestions?

  28. HB Avatar

    Actually, that last comment was addressed to Joshua. Not sure why I put Johnathan as I have read this over and over again. Thanks for the great article. HB

  29. Fiona jamieson Avatar

    I LOVE this !!
    I’ve just quit my job to live my life
    Today is the first day of the rest of my life

  30. JayD Avatar

    I’ve been living the LIFE since I could live the life doing whatever I want, not wanting what my neigbourgh has or anyone has. I never wanted anything of the material world but it is really hard to live this way, because if you are living this way, it is because you found yourself and you are the happiest person in the world without nothing, people don’t understand how… I care for every living thing on this universe, and the people who loves me even more, but they don’t understand why I’m living this way, because they are still stuck in that lie. But I am tired of seeing them thinking about me and that is why I just want to make them happy for once even if I know the TRUE way of living I need to live the LIE because they will never understand the truth and I want them to be happy in their minds and just let me be one with the world

    Is it better to live the lie first ?… because knowing in the first place makes you someone who don’t care for everything that other people cherish so bad (Money) hard to live without it these days

    Txs just wanted to let you guys know Keep living the real life

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