TEDxAsheville - Adam Baker - Sell your crap. Pay your debt. Do what you love.

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Translator: Marta Palacio Reviewer: Denise RQ Hello. Hi. Today I want to challenge you. I want to challenge you to answer a question. The good news for you is that this question is actually simple. The words in the question are actually simple. The bad news is for thousands of years, people have been trying to answer this very same question for themselves. People have dedicated their lives to this question, they fought for this question, and sometimes, they had given their lives in defense of this question. And the question is this: what does freedom mean to you? I'm not talking about like a dictionary definition of freedom. I'm not talking about an academic or even an intellectual discussion about what freedom is. I'm talking about what does it mean to you? What does it mean in your own life? I know first hand that this very question has the potential to change your life because it's the exact question that my wife Courtney and I asked ourselves three years ago. It was a little of an awkward timing for us to be talking about freedom. It was the night we brought my daughter Milligan home from the hospital. As new parents, we struggled for 30,40 minutes, whatever it was, to try to get her to go to sleep in her new crib. After that, we wandered like zombies out to the kitchen table. As we sat down, I turned to her and said, "You know, honey, I need to talk to you about something." (Laughter) Which I've learned, after five years of marriage, is that's the most terrible way you can possibly start a conversation. (Laughter) And I said, "I want to talk to you about freedom." You can imagine what her expression was, and what her response was. I can't repeat some of it here today. But after we started talking more about it, we realized that the timing of the situation was actually in our favor. Because if there was one thing we were lacking at that point in our life, it was clarity. It was the ability to step back and analyze how we were living our life and whether that was congruent with what we really wanted. It started for us in our financial life. Our financial life had degraded, I guess you could say, into a simple question. And that's, "What item in our apartment do we want to upgrade next?" Have you ever had this discussion? "Do we need to upgrade the couch, or maybe we should save up and get a new kitchen table?" "Should we switch location and just get a better apartment, or maybe let's just get a flatter TV and call it a day?" This was our financial life at that time. And then, it should be no surprise on what our debt looked like. We were in our young 20s and not even counting the tremendous amount of student loans we carried; we're 18,000 dollars in consumer debt to start off our new marriage and as new parents. We had four credit cards, we had store cards, we had two automobile loans. We had a loan for the jewelry I bought to get married. We had a loan from family. I used to joke we were collecting loans, and that we had one for everything except for our mortgage. And guess what? We were house-shopping. It was the most hectic time of our lives. I'd just started in a new business, I was working 80 hours a week. Courtney had just graduated from college, she was starting a classroom as a new teacher; there couldn't have been a more hectic time in our life. And we were shopping for a mortgage? This didn't make sense. As I stepped back, and I was given that clarity that night from bringing Milligan home - I saw it was because that was the next item on the script that we were living our life by. It wasn't a script that we chose. It was a script that chose us. It chose us because we were unwilling to answer this question for ourselves. If you're not willing to answer this question in your life, there's somebody, a company, a person, a government, an entity that will be more than happy to answer this question for you. You'll wake up one day and realize that you're living life just based on a script. It goes a little something like this, and see if you guys can relate. In elementary and middle school, we are taught how to be taught. We learn how to learn better. But we go on, we go to high-school, where grades start to matter, and if you get good grades through high-school, you get to have the privilege of getting tens of thousands of dollars in debt to go to college. In college, you do a lot of stuff, and at the end of college, hopefully, you get this degree, this piece of paper, and with that comes the promise of job security of a steady, decent-paying job. After that, with that job, you can get an apartment and fill it with stuff. If you weren't able to attract a mate in college, you surely can now, with your apartment full of stuff. Two to three years later, you may have some kids, you may get a promotion, upgrade to a house. You continue this cycle for the next 30 or 40 years of your life, until you reach the promised land, retirement, when all your hard work pays off. There's nothing inherently wrong with this script unless you don't want it. We recognized at that kitchen table that we were living life based on this default script, and we did not want it. So we said, "What do we want?" That took some time to explore, but we figured out that we wanted a clean slate. We wanted to wipe away all the crap that was in our life, that was in our apartment. All of this acquisition of the next thing, the next new version. We wanted to just wipe it all away, so we were going to sell all our stuff down to two backpacks, what we could carry with us. We were going to pay off the 18,000 dollars in consumer debt that represented our most irresponsible spending, and we were going to spend the year backpacking Australia as a young family. That was our passionate goal that we set. One year later, my wife Courtney took this picture. This is me and my daughter Milligan. She's three and a half now, she's one in this picture. We're sitting on a plane, in the runway in Indianapolis, Indiana. The year between the kitchen table and this picture was a tough one. We had to analyze a lot of things and look inside at a picture of ourselves that wasn't the one we wanted people to see, it wasn't the one that we projected. We had to change a lot of habits, a lot of beliefs in order to get there, but we were able to do it. When we boarded this plane, we had two backpacks and full of possessions to our name, and none of the 18,000 dollars that we started with. And we were on our way to Australia. From Indianapolis, we head to Chicago, from Chicago to L.A.; lay over in LA, we head to Sydney. From Sydney, we went up to Cairns, Australia, which is a city that is just off the coast of the Great Barrier Reef - Twenty-eight consecutive hours of flying with a one-year-old. (Laughter) I'd show you some pictures of what we looked like when we landed, but we made a marital pact that no living human would ever see those pictures. (Laughter) But I will show you one more picture from our travels. I'd like to just sit up here and show you a slide-show, but I'm just going to show you one more, and it's this one. Again, taken by my wife who, you can see, is a great photographer. This was off the coast of Townsville, three to four weeks into our trip. It's a little island called Magnetic Island. On Magnetic Island, we were staying at a little B&B after taking a ferry to get out there. We went on an about 30-minute hike, and through the hike, we saw wallabies running across the path, a koala, a mum and a baby koala in a tree. It was like we were in a movie almost. When we got to the top of the hike, we looked out over this isolated beach that was private, and it just really hit me. It's a feeling I hadn't felt before, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that we were living our dream. Don't get me wrong, there was a long list of things where we had no idea what we were doing, even at this point, while traveling, especially with a kid. We were still learning and exploring. But for better or worse, for the ups and downs, we were the ones writing the script; we were the ones who were finally in control of our life. I realize not everyone in this crowd wants to sell their stuff and backpack in Australia. That was our definition of freedom three years ago. It's even changed now. But what I do know is that you need to define what freedom looks like in your life, and you need to take steps starting today to realize that. Where does it start for most people? It starts right here, with your crap. Look at the crap, it's almost overflowing! It's almost overflowing into the cars that are in the driveway. Right now, it maybe seems like an extreme example, but the more I think about it... How many of you have friends that have garages, or spare bedrooms, or junk drawers, or closets that look not too far away from this? It's really not even that extreme. It's almost more of the norm. But I have a question for you: what happens when this person loses their job? What happens when they're offered a better job in a different city? What happens when they need to adapt either physically, emotionally, financially, to any situation that comes up in life? The answer is at best they're restricted. They're held back, they're clogged, they're congested from adapting to any sort of change because of the amount of crap they've brought into their life. But we do have an out; we have a little, neat trick that we do if we have to make a transition with all this crap: we put it here. (Laughter) Do you realize we've been creating an entire multi billion dollar industry around storing our old crap so we can make a transition and buy new crap? (Laughter) Think about it. Right now, there's 2.2 billion square feet of storage space in the United States alone. This is mind-blowing. Every man, woman, and child could stand shoulder-to-shoulder just like this, under covered storage space if we had to, in the United States. So, what's the deal? Why are we so obsessed with buying new stuff yet so reluctant to hold on to our old stuff? How have we bought in to this addiction? I think it's because we've been sold a myth. The myth is that acquiring things in our life, in the pursuit of a living environment filled with things is going to grant us security. Most of us take it so far even to say it's going to grant us happiness. And in the pursuit of these things, we start to identify with our things. You can tell who's successful, and who's not. You can tell who's hip and who's not. You can tell whose garages look like the picture we had before, and whose don't. So we start to really identify ourselves with our physical things. But the truth that we realized, and that most people end up waking up and realize at one point in their life is that more stuff, and certainly, more crap in your life, isn't going to grant you security, and it's certainly not going to grant you happiness. In fact, we found the exact opposite to be true. As Courtney and I went to sell layers and layers of our stuff, as we were planning to go on this trip, I'm often asked a common question, and that question is, "Did you guys sell anything that you regret?", "Did you ever sell anything that you had to buy back?", or, "Did you ever sell anything you were just disappointed, and you had to get back?" And every time I'm asked this question when I get to share my story, I try to genuinely think about it. I'm even thinking about it right now. And the answer is always the same, "No." Not a single item. Not a single time that I sold something, and I'd be like, "Man, I regret that decision." Not a single time that I sold an item, I'd go, "I feel so insecure right now." (Laughter) It was the opposite. As we sold layers of our crap, we realized, and we felt the weight being lifted off of us. We felt more flexible, more agile, easier to bounce back from anything negative that was going to come into our life. We were more free to capitalize on opportunity. We weren't held back by our physical possessions any longer. Not only that but we started to look at other people and realized that these people's identity is not based on their stuff. Their identity should be based on their experiences. It's not about collecting expensive stuff or nice stuff, it should be about collecting rich experiences. We should identify with people and identify with ourselves based on a series of experiences in our life, not what we own. But I want to talk to you a little more about the American dream as well. We're all familiar with the American dream, and it's not even that American anymore, it's all over the world. There's this idea that if you work really hard, you're able to buy into this fantastic lifestyle. That much is still true. As much as I've outlined and suggested that consumerism is a problem for most of us, and it is, if the equation stayed this linear, stayed this simple, it would be easy to deal with. You want more money, what do you do? You buy less. You want to switch jobs or work less? You buy less. Sounds simple, almost too simple. And it really is. But over the last 20 or 30 years, we've played a little trick on ourselves. We've added in a piece to this puzzle that makes it much more vicious. We've found a way, that we no longer have to work hard before we buy, we no longer have to work for that lifestyle; we can just tap right into it. And of course, you know what I'm talking about - it's debt. So we buy; in order to buy that fabulous lifestyle without working for it, we all go into debt. We do this at a young age, we do this at an old age - it's the norm. Debt has been around for thousands of years in some form or another. But we've perfected it in the last 20 or 30 years. We've perfected the daily use of it. We've perfected it for everyday activities. What that does is we're out to buying that lifestyle and our justification for this - and we're good at justifying it - is we're going to be going to work so we'll just buy into this lifestyle now, and then we'll pay off our debt, as we work. So it keeps us going back to work. That would be great if we liked our jobs. Most of us don't like our jobs. In fact, most of us strongly dislike our jobs. We don't have the flexibility to switch because we got into debt. Not only we have to pay the bills now, we have to pay our debt. So we go back working longer and harder hours at jobs we already hate. Is there a better equation for stress on the planet than spending the majority of your waking hours working a job you hate to pay debt from a buying decision you made years ago? It's no wonder we're stressed out. It's no wonder we're overworked. How do we deal with that stress? There's two ways most of us deal with that stress: we eat, and we buy. We escape the daily grind by buying. We deserve it, we work hard. That's how we justify it. Some of us buy clothes, some of us buy gadgets, most of us buy vacations to warm places just to escape our jobs. But we didn't have money in the first place. That's why we're in debt. So how do we pay for this escape? With more debt. And you can see that this is a snowball, it's a cycle that has millions of you trapped, millions of us trapped all over the world. My message for you today is that your life is too important to stay trapped in this cycle. Nigel Marsh had a TED talk in Sydney, and he summed this up much better than I can. He said, "There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation working long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to buy stuff they don't need to impress people they don't like." (Laughter) When I first heard him say this in his own TED talk, it almost knocked the wind out of me. It actually almost hurts to repeat this because it's so true. But I want you to imagine. Imagine what your life would be like, how much more fulfilling your life would be if starting today, you made a commitment to start collecting experiences and not things. I want you to imagine how much more opportunity and flexibility would be in your life if you removed the stress and the weight of your debt. I want us all to sit here and imagine how much more an impactful world we would live in if each and every one of us got to wake up in the morning not because our alarm clock went off but because we were excited about dedicating ourselves to work we loved, to a job we actually enjoyed, to a business that was based on our passions. The problem is complex, but the solution is very simple. Remove the excess that is holding you back. Remove the crap from you life. Remove the daily reliance on debt from your life, and you'll be more free to start doing work that you actually care about. That's the path to security. That's the path to happiness. One more observation that I have for you: do you realize that we're the freest people in the history of mankind? Do you realize that you walk amongst the freest human beings to ever walk the Earth? What are you doing with that freedom? How are you utilizing this amazing gift that you've been given? It starts by answering one question: what does freedom look like to you? It's the answer to this question, your own unique answer to this question that has the power to change your life. It's your own unique answer to this very question that has the potential to change the world if you'll step up and let it. So my challenge for you today is to go out and find your answer to this question and when you do, that will be an idea worth sharing. Thank you. (Applause)
Channel: TEDx Talks
Views: 2,262,017
Rating: 4.8837132 out of 5
Keywords: ted, Baker, Freedom, debt, tedx, ted talk, ted x, USA, culture, Debt, Education, tedx talk, English, ted talks, tedx talks, Mman, Lifestyle, Adam, Business, TEDxAsheville, vs., Social Change
Id: 9XRPbFIN4lk
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 19min 19sec (1159 seconds)
Published: Fri Dec 16 2011
Reddit Comments

I did this, and this is a good a place to write about it as any.

In 2008, my wife and I were coming back to America after having lived and worked in England. I was particularly burned out having worked 12, 13, sometimes 14 or even 15 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week. What I really wanted to do was get rid of everything we owned and buy a motorhome to travel the country.

We'd put a lot of our crap in storage while we were gone, for what we thought was a good deal of $120/mo for a 10'x10' unit which we'd filled to the brim with stuff. Furniture, clothes, random stuff collected over the last 20some-odd years. We temporarily moved in with her parents and had a name-your-own-price garage sale and what we couldn't get rid of that way, we donated. Any higher-priced items were listed separately on craigslist. In the end, we were left with some clothes, a laptop, a camera, and our hiking gear. We took our life savings and bought a used motorhome and fixed it up and took off. We went hiking nearly every day, from Utah to Montana and Canada, visiting nearly every major national park between California and South Dakota. Unfortunately, gas cost $5/gallon that summer and we eventually found work in Northern California. We sold the motorhome, but moved into a smaller place, with less junk, and have maintained an anticonsumerist lifestyle ever since. We've had to move for work, but can fit all of our belongings in a U-haul. We have no credit card debt, no loans of any kind, and are saving up for the next adventure. The problem is that we're still debating what to do next. Backpack through Europe? Food tour through Japan? Road trip through France to Italy? We've realized that instead of becoming addicted to buying stuff, we're addicted to saving money. We're too afraid to quit our jobs as they pay well enough to allow us to save, even in expensive Los Angeles.

This video was certainly inspiring, but ultimately it just leads to you taking 6months to a year off, depending on how much savings you have, or how much credit card debt you're willing to rack up before starting work again and letting the cycle continue.

The message here is "Sell your crap, buy experiences instead of goods." But you still have to work.

👍︎︎ 30 👤︎︎ u/behemuthm 📅︎︎ Mar 04 2013 🗫︎ replies

Great! But one question remains: What, if you don't have any crap to sell to pay your debt?

But seriously, he's on the right track.

👍︎︎ 21 👤︎︎ u/malanalars 📅︎︎ Mar 03 2013 🗫︎ replies

I guess I never fell for it in the first place. I'm in my 30s and I don't own shit.

👍︎︎ 5 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Mar 04 2013 🗫︎ replies

Great video, very inspiring. Deserves way more upvotes!

👍︎︎ 2 👤︎︎ u/mercy____ 📅︎︎ Mar 03 2013 🗫︎ replies

I have this problem where my business is selling my crap! I have acquired a fair bit of spare crap, and partially broken but repairable crap that takes a lot of work to sell. If I went for broke and did sell all the crap, I wouldn't be able to cover all the debt I rung up establishing this business.

It would be harder to screw over the people I've borrowed from than it would be to walk away from the "job" I have.

👍︎︎ 1 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Mar 04 2013 🗫︎ replies
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