What is Minimalism?
Minimalism at its core is stripping away everything unnecessary until only the bare-essentials remain. This way, we only focus on what is important and provides value, and ignore everything else that is waste.
Some would say this is undermining the value of the product because more is always better. That, as we will find out in this blog, is a faulty assumption. This is because most times in life it is not what we have to do more of, but instead what we have to do less of.
“Less is More”― Mies van der Rohe
Minimalism in art
In the post-world war, 2 era artists, as well as designers, created works that were only addressing the essence or identity of the concept by eliminating everything else that wasn’t necessary.
Some of these were in the paintings from New York by Al Held or Frank Stella in the 1960s that focussed on specifically geometric abstraction and others that were in sculpture works such as Donald Judd or Tony Smith.
This minimalism in arts is placed in high regard even today and the most luxurious homes are designed with large open spaces and light and bright simplistic paints on the walls.
Minimalism in music
In music, however, minimalism gained its meaning in repetition. Just as classical music kept repeating its tone and theme with a gradual variation.
That became the fundamental core of even modern trance and progressive music.
Minimalism in the things we own
This, however, is the most popular meaning of minimalism in the modern world. Explained beautifully by Joshua and Ryan in their ted talk.
This sort of minimalism took the world by storm and showed us how by starting to focus on the things that we really need and rejecting everything else that we rarely use, we will have a much richer life.
Instead of constantly staying distracted by a plethora of things that we own and the continuous desire to own more and more stuff, we simply get rid of everything that we rarely use and only keep the things we really cherish close to us.
This brings front and center an Intentionality to life where we focus on the things that make our life truly valuable.
“The things you own end up owning you.”― Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists
Misconceptions on minimalism
Modern Minimalism has now become a trend or a style statement and the true intended message is lost.
Now, what most minimalists are chasing is one expensive product that replaces the other three standard products in their life.
One can clearly see how minimalist paintings or house interiors have become a status symbol in large mansions of wealthy owners.
Instead of having a few suits this form of consumerism prioritizes one really expensive suit of a few 1000$.
Consumerism in this way is a representation of class privilege. This is far from the true values of minimalism that focuses on the things that one really needs.
This form of minimalism shows the ability to choose less.
Planet of the humans
I recently saw the controversial film by, Michael Moore that put a lot of things in perspective.
The concluding message the film gave was that the desire for infinite growth on a finite planet is suicide.
The film showed how the capitalistic system has created a culture of consumerism where people keep buying more and more things most of which they don’t even need.
That consumerism day by day is making the planet more and more inhabitable.
Not just for the future generations but even for our generation it is thus imperative that we become more conscious and mindful of the things we use and the way we live.
If as a society we start valuing minimalism, that can become a way where we can coexist without destroying the only home our species has ever known, The Pale Blue Dot.
Minimalism in skill
Following is a clip from one of my favorite childhood show called Samurai Jack. The entire 2 minutes at the beginning of the video are just dedicated to explaining to the viewer by visual storytelling and audio cues as to what the protagonist is focussing on.
By doing that the show grabs your attention on everything that is important and essential.
The show isn’t the most graphically pleasing and yet the painting like art-style and the intentionality behind every scene becomes widely apparent as Jack fights the three blind archers.
As the archers shoot their arrows, we are shown Jack’s ear with the sound of an arrow flying.
This form of storytelling completely immerses you in a way not much else can.
This is the testament to the art of minimalism. In the modern world, we are all obsessed with more and more.
We want the maximum fidelity, refresh rate, high-quality graphics, and incredible fights, and yet none of that might be able to compete for the brilliance of what these 5 minutes of animation were able to achieve.
There is a game called Rondo. In it, a small number of players stay in the middle while a larger number of players are on the outside in a selected area.
The players outside have to keep passing the ball without it being caught by someone in the middle with limited touches on the ball.
This game of rondo places all the focus on just 2 principles.
- 1) Creating space
- 2) Maintaining possession
By directing all their focus on just these 2 principles, Barcelona created the most dominant force the world had ever seen in football.
They played a style of TIKI-TAKA football developed by constant practice of the game of Rondo with the same players every single day.
This is obvious by the intentionality in every single pass in a Barcelona game. That makes the game look incredibly simple.
How can we apply the concepts of minimalism in our life?
Things we own
The first thing we can do is to declutter our life. Ask yourself, from all the things that you own and that surround you, what are the things that you really need.
It is very easy to fall in the sentimental trap where we get attached to things that we might never use again.
By focusing on minimalism we turn our attention to the functionality.
Ask yourself if
- a particular thing is useful.
- it brings joy in your life
- you have just one of those.
If it is one of those 3 you can keep it.
I am sure you might have heard of the 80/20 rule before. 20% of our actions lead to 80% of the results and 80% of our actions lead to 20% off the results. This is Pareto’s principle.
Now the challenge to us is to isolate the 20% of the activities that lead to the maximum results. How can we minimize things that aren’t essential and maximize the ones that lead to the most productive outcomes?
In our blog on Wu Wei, we talk about shifting our focus from a result-oriented approach to a process-oriented approach. When we do that, we begin to improve the process every time we practice.
By improving on the process we eventually begin to use only the required amount of effort at the right time. This is what athletes call peak performance state or the zone.
Knowing our purpose
In our blog on Ikigai, we discussed 4 questions to know our purpose in life. It mentions the importance of a life driven by purpose.
When we live a life lacking purpose, we mistakenly believe that the things we buy or the experiences that we have, lead to happiness.
And they might, but only for a limited time. Eventually, that feeling fades away and we are left chasing more things and more experiences.
Thus it is important in life to know our passions. When we can understand that, all our actions become aligned with that.
We feel driven to take action and live our lives in the best way possible. We don’t waste our life away chasing distractions and there is always intentionality behind our actions which gives life meaning.
Minimalism isn’t just about thematic music or aesthetic art, it is a basic fundamental approach to any skill we can perform.
When we focus on the basics and essentials we improve the quality and value exponentially since we get rid of all the waste.
In the modern world, minimalism is not just a fancy way of life but instead an approach that we all should aspire to if we wish to create a sustainable society.
This week try to apply minimalism in your life, be it your work or your hobbies. We urge you to explore what your callings are. Do you possess the courage to chase them?
We provide a free ebook called The perfect beginning that might help you in finding those callings.
Well, that’s all for this post. Have a good day and a good life.