Life Experiences of Simple Sages

“Part of my joy in learning is that it puts me in a position to teach. Nothing, however outstanding and however helpful, will ever give me any pleasure if the knowledge is to be for my benefit alone.” – Seneca


Quick! Think you can answer these two brief questions?

  1. Where do you turn when you need help simplifying, organizing, and being money wise?
  2. Who inspires you to achieve goals you thought were impossible?

I couldn't answer these questions for a long time. But I, along with some of the most amazing and successful people out there, would like to help you answer these questions now.

A Toolbox for Action

Value of Simple is devoted to creating resources to help people simplify, organize, and be money wise. Simplicity and organizing are tools themselves, but they need to be wielded properly for maximum impact.

There are many tool masters – I call them Simple Sages – and 27 have shared with me how they simplify and organize their awesome lives.

These are people who have written best-sellers, achieved location independence, launched transformative businesses, and have a burning need to help people in their unique way.

Without them, I'd still be stuck in my corporate cubicle. With them, I've achieved more in two years than I thought was possible in twenty years.

So I asked these Simple Sages to help unlock the mystery behind a life where liberating your time, money, and talent is normal… and expected.

Their responses totally blew me away and I believe they will do the same for you.

The question I asked was:

What are two core principles or life experiences that are crucial to your success in simplifying, organizing, or being money wise?

I framed it this way so each person could come at it from a different angle. Some people latched onto organizing principles. Other people honed in on simple life experiences or their relationship with money.

Whether is was a short blurb or a short essay, all of them came through with great wisdom and practical advice.

From their brains to yours, here come the Simple Sages.


Joshua BeckerJoshua Becker – Master of Becoming Minimalist and Top Amazon Author of “Simplify” and “Inside-Out Simplicity”

One guiding principle that is crucial to my simplifying success is the belief that there are more important things in this life than the material pursuits that surround us. I tend to be a relatively-spiritual person. So for me, this belief is founded in a recognition that we are not just body, but also heart, mind, and soul. While our bodies require material sustenance, our heart and soul longs for something greater. With that understanding, my motivation is able to shift away from material pursuits to more invisible, spiritual desires.

A second principle essential to success is the mindful realization that we live in a consumeristic society. We are bombarded every day by an estimated 5,000 advertisements. Our industries, governments, and society itself are based on the creation, pursuit, and consumption of material possessions. But consumption is not the greatest good or the greatest desire of our soul. At some point, we must intentionally recognize that we are being fed lies… or at least, half-truths. We are not required to take the bait. We can choose to live counter-culturally. But we must be mindful that culture is constantly molding us into the people they desire.

Chip ConleyChip Conley – Veteran CEO/Hotelier of Joie de Vivre Hospitality and Author of “Peak”

I've found that my greatest lessons have always come from the most challenging times. Going through two once-in-a-lifetime downturns in the same decade (dot-com bust and the Great Recession), I came to realize how profound and powerful psychology can be to understanding human motivation.

I've become an expert in reinterpreting the message of Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs and Viktor Frankl and his theory that meaning is the fuel of life such that these truths about the human spirit can be embedded in an organizational culture. If you understand people, you understand business. So, my core principle would be that great leaders visual the potential – in people and products – and actualize that into reality. Thus, business is the ultimate jungle gym for helping us understand our human potential.

Chris BroganChris Brogan – New York Times Bestselling Author of “Trust Agents” and Owner of Human Business Works

Be helpful, and extract value only after providing more value than you seek back.

Scott DinsmoreScott Dinsmore – Relationship Master and Creator of “Live Off Your Passion”

The most powerful practice I have for slowing down and simplifying is stepping away. Getting my head out of my laptop and back into the clouds for a bit. The best way I've found for this is serious travel. Ideally international and adventurous – the longer the better. Get out and explore as often as you can. That is when you can see the real perspective and how insignificant all the little things are. It's calming and inspiring all at the same time.

My other practice is surrounding myself with the right people. People whom I admire for their calm and simplicity. They are a constant reminder, an anchor of sorts, to get back to the basics. Just sitting down for a tea or lunch with them here and there is all I need. We all have those totally zenned out people in our lives. Spend a little more time around them. Let it rub off. Oh and nothing beats sitting for a little yoga or mediation in the morning. Even just five or 10 minutes.

Steve KambSteve Kamb – Lover of Nerds, Fitness, and Taking You On Epic Quests to Level Up Your Life

Of my two core principles to keeping things simple, the first is exercising! Doing simple workouts that give me quick and efficient workouts have my body and mind trained to look for the same paths in the rest of life: simple victories that results in the biggest and most efficient wins.

Secondly, is that I try to spend my money on experiences rather than material goods. I travel VERY light (just a backpack and a laptop), and I try not to buy anything else when setting up home bases in new locations…this results in an easier move, less clutter, and more opportunities to spend money on things that I'll never forget.

Emilie WapnickEmilie Wapnick – Leader of the Puttytribe and Renaissance Business Owner

Moving to Portland was a big one. I decided to fly out here simply because it felt right. It just seemed like a great place to live, and the name kept popping up everywhere, which I took as the universe approving. The only issue was that since I was flying, not driving, I had to fit my whole life into a suitcase. This meant that I had to be extremely selective with the items I would bring. And ever since moving out here, I've maintained that same principle of selectivity. I'm not necessarily a minimalist, but I do believe in consciously selecting the items (and people) I wish to have in my life.

Another principle that has helped me simplify my life is the idea of multipotentiality. How could a concept that is about “doing it all” be about simplification? Well, if you give yourself the freedom to drop your passions once you've grown tired of them, that frees your mind and allows you to be anything. You get to stop worrying about finding some mythical “true calling” and just move freely between your interests.

Jacob GubeJacob Gube – Presenter of Exceptional, Noteworthy Resources for Designers and Developers

The first core principle I follow to simplifying life is focusing on the outcome I want to achieve. When I frame things this way, I'm able to evaluate if what I'm doing right now — and the things I plan to do in the near future — will move me forward with what I want to achieve. Every task I engage in has to be aligned with my desired outcomes. This principle works in all aspects of life, whether it's my desire to improve business process management or make better personal finance decisions.

It's crazy how you can make life simpler with one easy question: “What do I really need to achieve here?” Once you've clearly defined your answer, you'll often see that some things you want to do aren't really going to help, or aren't really that important, towards moving you closer to your desired outcome.

The second core principle I follow is the need to always be action-oriented. I want to define and disambiguate my objectives and then immediately associate them with actions and tasks I can perform right now. For example, if my objective is to improve personal finances, first I'll want to know the desired outcome (i.e. ” What do I really need to achieve here?”) and then determine the actions needed to reach it. It simplifies your life when you know exactly how you'll get to the finish line, just as importantly as knowing where the finish line is.

Finally, I'd like to recommend Getting Things Done by David Allen to those who want to simplify work and life. This book heavily influences my two core principles.

Mike StelznerMike Stelzner – Expert Examiner of Social Media and Popular Author/Summit Leader

Be a servant leader. When I decided to heavily invest in the success of others, our business went to unimaginable places.

Tyler TervoorenTyler Tervooren – Advanced Riskologist and Founder of The Bootstrapper Guid

I've had a lot of very subtle but important realizations that have drastically simplified my life. These are very small things that, by themselves, do little. But, when you add them together, they've totally changed my life and how I look at myself, my relationship to money, the people around me, so on and so forth. The two that come to mind the most, though, are these:

1. As long as you're not hurting anyone, very few people care what you do with your life. This was huge for me. For a long time, I was afraid to try new things or crazy ideas because I thought other people would think less of me. But the truth is, regardless of what you do, most people just don't care! If you want to try something new, go for it. Make yourself happy. That's what people notice in the long run.

2. Don't wait to make a change in your life. If something is making you unhappy, change it right away. Don't wait for something else to happen first. Don't “wait it out.” And definitely don't wait for something you have no control over to change things for you. Life is very, very short and no one cares about your happiness as much as you do. Change early, and change often.

Courtney CarverCourtney Carver – A Mini-Mission Maestro and Helping People Do Business on Purpose

I got serious about simplifying my life when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Stress has such a negative impact on our bodies and brains that I knew to live well with MS, things had to change. I had to change everything from the food that I ate to the clothes in my closet along with, people I spent time with and how I decided to spend my time. So much of my life had been spent overextended, overworked and chronically busy.

Simplifying and slowing down gave my body a chance to heal and me a chance to decide what was most important in my life. My simple philosophy is this; if what I'm doing or thinking about doesn't support love and/or health, it's not for me and actually working against me. Love and Health are the first things I think about when making a decision.

J. StantonJ. Stanton – Author of “The Gnoll Credo” and Teaching People How to Eat Like a Predator

Lasting happiness comes from learning skills that you enjoy practicing, and using them to accomplish difficult tasks. You will only have the time and energy to develop, use, and maintain two or three such skills in your lifetime.

One of these skills should earn you a living, somehow. If you have children, raising them counts as another. Anything outside these two or three core skills you enjoy most, and are best at, should be demoted to the rank of “occasional entertaining diversion” (there's nothing wrong with that, but be honest about your level of commitment) or, even better, cleared out of your garage, closet, and life.

Mary JakschMary Jaksch – Authorized Zen Master, Psychotherapist, Author, and Influential Blogger

Like everyone, I've had my share of losses and disasters in life. A divorce (which resulted in the loss of the house my grandmother left me), the loss of my home country through emigration, and money lost to a fraudster have been taxing challenges. There are two principles that have helped me to overcome problems and challenges.

1. Let go of negative stories

When bad things happen, a natural tendency is to allow the mind to dwell on grief, shame, or guilt. Not only do we tend to dwell on the bad things that happened to us, we create stories around what happened. My Zen practice has taught me that we can choose to dwell on dark stories, or to  let them go. For example, after my divorce, I could have chosen a story of loss and resentment, like ‘how I lost the house I loved…”. Instead, I focused on building a good relationship with my ex-husband – and we are now the best of friends. Now and then, the road takes me past the beautiful house I once owned.

I resolutely turn my mind away from the stories of loss and resentment that threaten to return, and focus on gratitude for the life I live. With this attitude, I've found that every so-called ‘catastrophe' allowed my life to take a new and amazing direction.

2. Be kind to yourself and others

Kindness is a wonderful thing. It lights up the world and makes us smile. In order to be kind, we need to look deeply and see what others need. If we just live in the “ME- bubble” where everything revolves around ‘I', ‘me' and ‘mine', we miss the shared joy that comes from kindness.

Kindness also means being kind to ourselves. That means accepting who we are and being a true friend to oneself. Sometimes, kindness to ourselves can mean that we say ‘no' to what others want from us. That can be painful, but it is part of being true to ourselves, as best we can.

Tristan PollockTristan Pollock – Writer, Community Builder, Solution Journalist, and Co-Founder of

It's a constant fight to keep focused out there. My mind is my only defense against complicating things. My advice is to always be present in managing your organization or your life. Focus is born out of presence. “Being here now” leads to improved planning and memory.

Corbett BarrCorbett Barr – Creator of Think Traffic and Making Sure People Start a Blog That Matters

Simplification can be like losing weight. I heard a phrase about losing weight that went like this: “will eating this [whatever is tempting you] taste as good as being thin will feel?” Life gets complicated when we choose to take on new things mindlessly because we're afraid to say no or because we're chasing instant gratification. Instead, try asking yourself “is this new project more important to me than simplicity in my life/business?”

Thom ChambersThom Chambers – Micropublisher Galore and Providing Inspiration for Freedom Businesses

1. Be free

As a general rule, the more freedom you have, the happier you are. The freedom to choose how you spend your time, where and how you live, the projects on which you work – these are all good things. And yet we willingly sacrifice our freedom in so many ways. We burden ourselves with commitments and constraints that prevent us from being free – the apartment you rent (which stops you being free to travel) and have to pay for with a job (which stops you being able to do work that matters to you) and leaves you so hollow that you sign up to cable to distract yourself (and ties you to a contract). It's a vicious circle.

Valuing freedom simplifies life. Whenever there's a choice to be made, you can ask yourself whether it'll help or hinder your freedom. New phone contract? Restrictive, no thanks. New car? Ditto. When you start analysing things in terms of the freedom you'll sacrifice, it becomes a lot easier to make decisions.

2. Do one thing well

In the words of Julien Smith, “everything that isn't your main purpose should be either delegated or dropped”. Work out that one thing at which you want to be the best in the world, and focus on that as much as you possibly can. It's easy to be distracted. Remind yourself of your mission, your quest, your journey, and drop the superfluous stuff.

Neil RackhamNeil Rackham – Bestselling Author of SPIN Selling and the Professor of Professional Selling

Here's some insight for you. The first is about how we understand an ever-more complex world. The answer, of course, is that we use models and frameworks. But how do we judge whether a model or framework really helps us understand things better? Most people believe that the best model is the one closest to reality; the one that most accurately reflects real life. 

But that's not so. If real life was that great we wouldn't need models — we'd just use reality. The reason why we use models [such as the SPIN model that I developed for selling] is that reality is too complex and messy to understand without help. So a good model isn't reality: it's a deliberate simplification. The test of whether a model will be useful is a balance test. There are two issues. On the one hand, has the model simplified reality? On the other hand, is the model valid? As a model gets simpler, it loses validity. As it gets nearer to reality it becomes too complex to be useful. The best models, therefore, lie at the intersection of validity and simplicity.

Colin WrightColin Wright – Digital Nomad and the Brains Behind Asymmetrical Press

1. Always be moving closer to your ideal lifestyle. The size of your bank account or scale of your business means very little if you're not living a lifestyle you enjoy, or acting according to your personal morality. Figure out where you want to be, and how you want to be living, and according to what standards, and THEN figure out how to get there. Most people do the opposite — aiming for a type of success and then trying to steer that success toward their ideals — and find it's credibly difficult to achieve.

2. Always be improving yourself, and the world around you, in little ways. With everything you do, make sure you're getting something out of the experience (in terms of new knowledge, self-improvement, or whatever), and if you're not, either change the way you're approaching the situation, or the types of situations you're entering into. Do the same for your environment. With everything you do, aim to make your city, your country, your planet, or even just another person, a little bit better as a result. The more people do this, the better world we've got to live in and enjoy as a result.

Joshua Fields MillburnJoshua Fields Millburn – Writer of Four #1 Bestselling Books and Insightful Minimalist

Without a doubt, the key to my life has been: growth and contribution. That is, incremental changes each day and contributing beyond myself in a meaningful way. Staying focused on these two areas has led me to a happy, fulfilled life.

Danny InyDanny Iny – Prolific Blogger and Author of the Naked Marketing Manifesto

Simplifying my life and achieving my goals often comes down to just five words: pay attention and get moving. Observe yourself and your surroundings. Be present and don't let your life fly by in a blur.

Notice how something like seemingly unrelated blog posts relate to each other and show you common strategies for improvement. When you give yourself time to explore and analyze, you'll find the solutions to your own problems instead of needing someone else to provide them. And be careful about getting bogged down in productivity systems that just reorganize tasks without actually helping you complete them. You're on the right path once you can answer your own questions about what to do right now to move yourself toward a goal.

Sarah PeckSarah Peck – Weaver of Beautiful Stories, Writer, and Designer Behind “It Starts With”

First, prioritize action. “Do Something,” is something I always say. I think we learn a lot through experimentation and doing, and hold ourselves back far too much. We need to take a lot of little steps to figure things out, not figure things out and then take a lot of little steps.

Second, no one has it completely figured out. We're all human, and we all make mistakes. If someone looks shiny on the internet, remember–it's just the internet. I'm hesitant to say “here are two great tips!” because it's slightly different for each of us. I'm happy to offer my perspective and I hope that people can learn from it, but you, and only you, are the one who has to do something about your life.

The last thing is that we often think we have to change everything in order to make a difference. Instead of asking “how should I change?” I'd guide someone to ask, “what's not working about what you currently have?” Often little tweaks can make a world of difference — like going to sleep 45 minutes early on a regular basis, or doing 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning — and the rest of your day or structure is still very similar, but your attitude and happiness has changed tremendously.

Start small, tweak, prioritize action, and constantly learn from your actions.

David CsonkaDavid Csonka – Empowerer of Healthy Living and Author of Affordable Ancestral Eating

If I were to offer two principles that would greatly simplify life, it would be to employ satisficing whenever possible, and to strive to live a minimalist lifestyle, with regard to material possessions and consumption.

James ClearJames Clear – Entrepreneur, Writer, Travel Photographer, and Founder of Passive Panda

1. Know what isn't important.

I think knowing what isn't important (hint: most things) is actually more critical than knowing what is important. Obviously, the two are related, but it's often easy for us to get excited and list all the things that are important to us. It's more difficult to analyze our lives and admit to all the areas we are wasting time on things that aren't actually important to our success and progress.

Knowing what isn't important takes time and effort, which is why most people avoid it. It also takes courage and guts to admit when you're wrong. Of course, if you can muster up the strength and swallow your pride, then you'll have a much better idea of where to actually spend your time.

2. Incremental change.

Here's a fact about human behavior: when you try to change something big all at once, you will usually fail. Here's another fact: relying on motivation or on “getting inspired” is a really bad way to make improvements. Motivation is fickle and changes all the time.

A better strategy to become successful and improve (at any task) is to start small and remain consistent. That's called incremental change. It only works if you start with a manageable task. And it only continues to work if you stick with it. But if you do stick with it and continue to make small improvements, you'll end up crushing everyone else who gets excited for a “big change” tomorrow and burns out by next weekend.

Jeff GoinsJeff Goins – Writer (of Many Great Things)

1. Stop stalling. Most of what we do in life is really a sophisticate form of procrastination. I try to recognize my own stall tactics and cal my own bluff when I'm putting off doing the hard thing.

2. Just decide. Rarely do we have to decide between really good and really bad. Mostly, our decisions are a gradation of good and better and sometimes bad and worse. But the truth is there is rarely one bad decision we can make, and there are, in fact, many good ones. The wrong one to make is no decision at all.

Kristen CrossKristen Cross – A Frugal Girl Teaching Others How to Cheerfully Live on Less

A key to keeping me motivated to live a simple life is just reminding myself of what simplicity “buys” me. Simplicity means less stress, more time, and more money, and who wouldn't want all that?

In a similar vein, I stay financially motivated when I am mindful of what responsible financial management will do for me. Freedom from debt, a cushion in the bank, the ability to help other people financially, and a life not weighed down by too much “stuff” are all things I highly value, and reaching for those goals helps me to say no to frivolous, irresponsible spending.

Michelle NickolaisenMichelle Nickolaisen – Radiating with Organization and Project Management Guru

I can't think of two things of equal importance, but the number one thing that I'd recommend as far as organization is to not just focus on fixing your current problems – taking on too much work, being disorganized, getting overwhelmed, etc. – but figuring out why those problems happened in the first place and then deciding what you're going to do – right now – to keep it from happening again. If you tend to take on too much, how can you set up a way to accurately gauge your work load at any given moment? Too many people put all of their effort into fixing their current problems without asking themselves how they can make sure that the problem doesn't happen again.

Andrea DekkerAndrea Dekker – Founder of Simple Organized Living

1. Anytime I need to make a decision to bring something into my home (either something I'd like to buy or something I find for free) I always ask myself first if I have a space for it. If the answer is “no” then I don't bring the item into my home. If the answer is “yes”, then I still ask myself a few more questions – do I love it? Do I need it? Am I willing to get rid of something else to make room for it?

If I can answer “yes” to all those questions, then I will bring the item into my home. This really helps to keep the clutter out of my home and keep my impulse purchases down.

2. Whenever I'm trying to clear the clutter from my home and get rid of more “stuff” I always ask myself “how easily could this item be replaced?” If the answer is “very easily” then I purge it (example: black pants, picture frame, lunch box) If the answer is “very difficult” then I might hold onto it (example: special antique, wedding photos, handmade quilt).

Cliff RavenscraftCliff Ravenscraft – Champion Podcaster and a Man Who Genuinely Cares

1) Care about people!  One thing that has helped build my brand and helped me gain more exposure than I could have ever dreamed possible is the fact that when people interact with me, they know that I genuinely care about them. I'm at a place, today, where I have to practice the principle of “Do for some what you wish you could do for everyone.” However, every day, in every way, I attempt to let each person know that they matter and that I really do care about them.

2) Be Authentic! I have learned that people don't need untouchable heroes. They need to know that they can relate to people who have achieved greater success and are further down the path than they are right now. If we, who are further down the path, pretend to have our act together, that we don't experience fear, anxiety, make mistakes, or even FAIL, then we simply rob our community of the HOPE that if we can do it, so can they.


Thanks to the 27 Simple Sages for your time, insight, and practical advice!

It's your inspiration and action that helps us make big changes.

And now it's our turn to honor your work by making the world a more simple, organized, money wise, and enlightened place.

So what principles or life experiences are crucial to your success in simplifying, organizing, or being money wise?

Please share an answer to this question in the comments. Even if you're normally not the type to leave a comment, do it this time.

Post format and content inspired by Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend