An Interview with Leo Babauta on Simplicity, Clarity, Happiness and Success
He is an inspiration to all of us who are trying to take baby steps towards the greatness that he has achieved with simple habits and minimalism.
I requested him for an interview to transpire a message to those who think it is hard or impossible to quit smoking or other habits and to live clutter free life of simplicity and clarity.
I’m humbled that he took time to share his thoughts on life and pursuit of happiness despite his hectic schedule.
Question # 1 :
I have read a great deal about how you used simplicity to transform your life to get rid of the debt, to quit smoking, to become a vegetarian and to lose weight. What is the single most important advice for my readers to use simplicity for their personal development?
Leo: Simplicity is, at its core, just choosing the essential over the non-essential. It’s a way to make the most use of your time, to be more effective, and to do the things you love. Start by identifying 4-5 things you really love — those are the essentials in your life — then build your life around those things. Eliminate as much of the rest as possible. The same is true of work tasks and projects, of the things you spend on, on the clutter in your house — choose the essential and eliminate the rest.
Question # 2:
Why do you consider simplicity so important for a happy, fulfilling life?
Leo: When we don’t consciously strive for the essential, we end up filling our lives with so much stuff, so many tasks and goals and projects and clutter. In the end, we are no longer living the life we want to live, but living the life we’ve ended up with. We become overloaded and stressed out and unhappy, never doing the things we wish we could do. Well, stop living that way, and instead do the things you wish you could do. Live your dreams! Do the things that make you happy! Choose those things over the rest, and eliminate everything else to make room for them.
Question # 3:
You are a family focused man, but you are very talented and with that virtue, it is easier for you to balance work and life. What advice would you give to an average Joe trying to justify both sides of the coin?
Leo: It’s not about talent, it’s about priorities. How do you want to spend your time? If you really want to spend time with your family, you will have to make them your top priority, and make choices accordingly. That might mean working less, and either choosing jobs that pay more, or cutting back on expenses by simplifying your life. Is it more important to go out and drink, to buy expensive things, to have a big house and a fancy car … and to work long hours to pay for those things … or is it more important to spend your time with your family, and to work less and therefore buy less and go out less? For me, it’s not even a question — I choose my family, and that makes me tons happier than buying things or going out all the time. And I don’t miss any of that stuff, as I’ve learned to do all kinds of fun stuff with my family without spending much — playing board games, watching a video, playing sports, going hiking, reading with each other, watching a sunset, going to the park, having a picnic, and so on.
Question # 4:
What is the inspirational force in your life?
Leo: Oh, there have been so many! I get inspiration in books I read, in the people around me, in the readers of my blogs, in magazines and blogs… it would be hard to choose just one. But I would have to say my kids are my biggest inspiration — they never cease to amaze me, with their energy and enthusiasm for life, with their fresh outlook on everything, with their unlimited dreams and imagination, with their trust and love.
Question # 5:
What is your advice to an aspiring freelancer who wanted to be the next Leo?
Leo: Don’t try to be the next Leo! Be yourself, and follow your dreams. I would say that the biggest piece of advice I have is to overcome your fear. For many years I didn’t believe I could make it as a writer, beyond the limited scope of my hometown, but I’ve proven myself wrong. In the last year I’ve not only created a successful blog — one of the top 50 in the world — but have freelanced for big blogs and magazines around the world, and have gotten a book deal! I never believed any of that to be possible, but it turned out that it was. So forget your fears, and live your life as if your dreams are going to come true. That doesn’t mean they automatically will come true — you have to work for it. I’ve been writing, as a journalist and freelancer, for 18 years now, and I’ve practiced a lot. That’s the kind of practice you need to succeed in anything, but first you have to believe it can happen, then work to make it true.
Thank you, Leo. Your blog, Zen Habits, will always be the shiny beacon for all of us who are aspiring to share ideas on simplicity, productivity and minimalism.