Ryan Nicodemus along with his life-long friend, Joshua Fields Millburn, is one-half of the simple-living duo, The Minimalists. They are American authors, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers, who promote a minimalist lifestyle. Together they helped over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and Netflix films.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up all over. I was born in Knoxville, TN. I lived in Upstate NY from ages 4-7. And spent the rest of my childhood in Cincinnati/Dayton OH area. I grew up in a poor household with some alcohol and drug abuse in the family. Even though my family has had their struggles (so have I) they were loving and did what they could with the resources they had. I grew up thinking money would buy happiness, but learned in my mid-20s that money just enables you to make more bad decisions.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

There’s no such thing as good debt.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Finding your passion is key to a happy life” is bad advice. It presupposes a person is born to do only one thing. The truth is we can cultivate passions about many things. Also, no matter what we do, once we master a certain passion we will want to master something else. No one is born to do only one thing they are passionate about.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I was pretty dependent on drugs and alcohol in my mid-20s. I hated my job. I hated the heaps debt. I was unhealthy. I forsook the most important things in life. Once I simplified my life I started to free myself of obligations and debt. Eventually I was able to reclaim my time. Simplifying my life led me down a path where I learned that in order to live a meaningful life my short-term actions must align with my values. Once I started living that way, and got professional help with my addictions, I no longer used substances to hide from life. I learned that when I don’t have anything to hide from I didn’t need substances in my life to alter my state.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Success is a misnomer. We must define what success means for each of us. If we rely on society to tell us what success is then often we just end up suc-stressful.

What is your morning routine?

I wake up around 7/8 AM. I make coffee and take time to get present by meditating for a few minutes. or going on a walk, or both.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Habits don’t change me. What changes me is a deep understanding of a problem I’m having. When I truly understand the pain a problem brings me then I can use that leverage to make lasting changes. For me it’s not the things I’ve started doing that has helped me the most, it’s the things I’ve stopped doing e.g., eating unhealthy foods, not exercising, using drugs to hide, etc.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” Henry David Thoreau

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It’s an amazing story and was a great lesson in seeing other peoples perspectives. I also appreciate how Steinbeck can write pages of scenery and make me feel like I am there in the story.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is an incredible book that helped me to appreciate the present and helps me appreciate who I am as an individual. I don’t agree with everything he says, but this book helped me dig deeper into who I am.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

Love people and use things because the opposite never works.