This is a guest post from my friend Ryland King. When I read it, I immediately wished we had actually been on this walk together. Read it slowly. Take in all the lessons in his prose. I’ve bolded a few of my favourites. <3
Could I invite you on a virtual walk with me, kind of like the one we took with Cait a few weeks back?
We’ll go through the forest where seedlings turn to trees, where each step is always forward, but never straight and where rustles in the brush scare at first, but are all just part of the beautiful journey.
And along the way I’ll share with you a story — my personal story of self-transformation from a spendy, unconscious consumer in college, to a stashing minimalist (saved $97,000 in just over three years) at my first job, to a timid blogger garnering the courage to share my story and help other’s shape theirs.
Hey, it actually seems like the trail begins right here. Cool.
If you’re up for the journey, come along! Strap on your pack. Let’s walk.
My journey began at the end of another.
You see, while in college I started a non-profit that grew quicker than I was ready for at the time. By my senior year of college, we had raised over $100,000 for the organization via grants and I had made $30,000 to pay for university via scholarships.
Though almost a college graduate, my mind was still at a second grade level for how to manage money and, more so, life. Though I didn’t spend arrogantly, I did spend. Boy, did I spend.
I bought my co-workers iPhones and new laptops to help the organization. I bought a gas-guzzling SUV because I thought it looked cool. And if we counted all the items existing in Cait’s fridge in July, I probably went out to eat that many times each month x two.
And near the end of it, I even bought myself a $1,300 suit.
Ahh! Is that a bear!? Oh, whew. It’s just a decaying stump off in the distance. Thank goodness.
Anyways, like I said, when one thing’s ready to end another is ready to begin…
A few weeks after I bought that suit, I found myself in my accountant’s white-walled office nervously shuffling my feet. He was figuring out my taxes. After clicking away on his keyboard, he looked across his desk and with the glare of the screen on his face said, “Ryland, It looks like you owe $6,752”.
I started to tear up.
I had spent everything. To be honest, I had spent more than everything, and I didn’t even know where it went.
I wasn’t raised like that. I was raised to live within my means and to appreciate the small things by two beautiful parents in a lower-middle class home.
But there I sat, clueless as to how I had spent all my money in just over three years and scared because I had nothing left to pay the debt.
I left the office that day in tears, but knowing I needed to make a change.
Ooo! Look here. The morning dew on this old brown leaf is rolling off into the soil, and right before it gets to the soil the sun catches it and it shimmers. It seems to happen every time. How neat.
My wonderful dad had always told me, “You never want to go into debt. Seriously, Ryland. If that ever happens, do whatever it takes.”
His voice was whispering over and over in my head as I left my accountant’s office. So, over the next few days, I sold my car; I sold my far too many surfboards; and I sold my beloved trumpet to pay off the taxes immediately and cover my next few months of rent.
I cleared my life of things, both the unnecessary and the beloved, and it forced me to slow down and reflect.
I began reading books — something I hadn’t done outside of school in years. I flipped through The Giver, The Way of The Peaceful Warrior and Siddartha, as my first three to many, many more.
I began buying only the healthy food I needed. Fish, nuts, eggs, fruits and veggies replaced the daily grub of pizza, bagels and mac and cheese.
And I began taking slow walks — a lot like this one — and asking myself questions that I regularly seemed to overlook in the quickness and clutter of my past. Questions like: What did I really want out of this life? What deep down brought me happiness? Was I heading in a direction authentic to my hopes and dreams?
After a month or two of this, I became clear on what I needed to do.
I decided I had too much responsibility than I was ready for, that I needed to spend more time present with my family and my friends and that I never, ever wanted my life to feel constricted by money or stuff again.
So, I ended up leaving the organization I had started, moving back home to be closer to my mom, dad and sister, and getting a job I was excited about in the city neighboring my hometown. Goodness, were those changes harder than those 36 words make it sound. But the future that grew from them and the newly adopted minimalist mindset that arose was amazing.
I sometimes think we all should rid of our belongings every few years. The act of accepting impermanence is kind of like watching an old growth forest burn to the ground. You may only see the flames, but hidden from sight are seeds releasing from their pods and ash falling to fertilize the soil.
Life re-began. On my way home from the accountant’s office that day, I realized I had three simple goals:
- Lower my stress levels at work.
- Connect with family and friends.
- Make money easy.
I moved my few belongings into my old room at my parents house, and began catching the bus to the train to work each morning starting at 5am. I used the hour commute to read, write in my journal, and continue reflecting on what I was doing and how I wanted to redesign my life. Every month, I would write out how I wanted to treat my body with exercise and food, my mind with meditation, reading and writing, and my life with goals and values for both personal and work life.
Whenever I felt off-centred, I’d open up the journal and check-in. What did I say I wanted to bring into my life? How can I refocus to make them happen? Then at the end of each month, I would reflect and write how each part had gone and what I wanted to bring into my life over the next month.
The process was amazing.
It was kind of like this seedling here that’s bending its stem toward the sunlight. Somehow, the little guy learns where the dim bit of light is shining through. And then, with the help of a hormone called Auxin, it grows toward the light.
Nature. (Deep breath.) Beautiful.
The process gave me direction. It held me accountable. And it gave me perspective. After a few months, I was able to look back and see how much I’d grown.
Over my first few months, I began reconnecting with my parents as an adult rather than as a kid. I started doing fun hikes, cycles, and surfs with old and new friends. And I started stashing away 60%+ of every paycheck.
But as with all things alive and well, I tripped.
About four months in, I began to want to take off on more weekend micro-adventures. I wanted a car. I needed a car.
As is the right thing to do, I asked for advice from my parents, family, friends, Mr. Money Mustache and Google on how to purchase a long-lasting used car. The tip I heard over and over again was to get the car checked by a family/friend/co-worker-recommended mechanic before buying.
Then, I threw all of their advice out the window and bought one for $5,400 — a 2001 Volvo XC70 to be exact.
Over the next seven months, I spent over $4,000 on mechanic costs and found myself sitting on the side of the road waiting for a pick-up more than five times. By the eighth month, I sold it as a “mechanic special” on Craigslist for $900.
All in all, I lost almost $10,000 on that car in under a year. I felt I had wrecked my journey to make money easy and de-stress my life.
Hmph… Look at how funny this tree grew. It literally looped over on itself near the stump, but still grew into a beautiful tree. I actually think the loop makes it more beautiful.
Maybe we all should look at life a bit more like how we look at trees. Well, at least I might start looking at life that way.
Around the same time, I made the move out of my parents place and into a place with co-workers in the city. I happily took the smallest room in the apartment. It’s amazing looking back: in the two-and-a-half years I lived there, that simple decision added an extra $10,000+ to my values and goals rather than to my landlord’s wallet.
With the new apartment came a new social scene. And quickly, I became well-aware of how different I viewed things and luxuries than my peers. Bars, brunches and lunches out were the norm. New kicks, brand name clothes and expensive shades were commonplace. And complaining about not having enough money was a part of the daily conversation.
I wanted to speak up. I wanted to share how I’d been able to deeply enjoy my everyday life by consciously consuming less stuff and luxuries and also consistently growing my net worth. I wanted to help!
But each time I tried in person, I didn’t seem to get anywhere. My best attempts fell short over and over and over. I felt like I had the answer, but for some reason, I couldn’t help.
I began to consider writing and sharing my thoughts online. But every time the idea came up, thoughts like, There’s so many people out there doing this already who are better than me, and What if the whole thing failed? stopped me in my tracks.
One evening, I was catching up with an old friend on the phone. And somewhere along the conversation she asked, “Do you have any new things you want to be doing?”
I pondered whether or not I should tell her about wanting to start writing and sharing my views on living a fulfilling life and making money easy. And since we were so comfortable with each other, I sheepishly decided to tell her about it. I told her how my thoughts kept holding me back, and she asked if I wanted to share a few posts of what I was thinking just with her.
A huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I couldn’t believe she offered that! I immediately said, “Yes.” And over the next two weeks wrote five different emails.
The shadows on the path over there look like a bunch of forest critters on the path. Don’t they? I know they’re just shadows but they almost made me stop to ask if we could turn around. Hah! Just my mind playing tricks on me. Silly me. Let’s keep walking — one step at a time.
I continued writing more, and started sharing the emails with my close friends and family. And soon enough I set up a small blog. I didn’t get much of a response for almost two years. But getting a response was never the point. The act of writing out my thoughts was pleasure enough.
Somewhere around this point, I started to get a few questions from friends about how they could make some of the changes themselves. It was small, but it was what I had wanted to help with at the start!
So, I helped. And I didn’t just Facebook message them a tip here or there. I actively engaged with their problems (most which were around money) week after week, and helped them get to a solution (most of which circumnavigated a bit of minimalism).
By listening, I began to learn the common problem areas experienced by my outdoor loving friends — things like: how to approach student loans/debt and saving, how to budget better and how to make more money. And by guiding them to their solution, I began recognizing the approaches that worked and didn’t for different people and different problems.
Also by sticking with them till they achieved their solution, the word spread a bit. And today I have a few coaching clients, and have put together a course with the aim of helping students save +20% of every paycheck, every month, forever.
We’ve had a few small groups run through the course, and each of them are writing articles about their experience and transformation that are slowly popping up on the site.
Whew! We’ve been walking for a while now. I think I’m going to break here at this tree. It looks just big enough to provide us some shade, if you’d like to join.
You know what’s really funny as we sit here? I’m still nervous to put my stuff out. Those silly thoughts of “Will I fail?” still come up.
The only difference now is I know that when they come up, it’s always been when I’m on the brink of doing something I’ve always wanted. So when I feel that fear creep in, I say things like:
“Oh! Fear. Is that you? Oh, whew. It’s just you. Great. I’m glad you’re here because you always come around at times like these. So look. Don’t go anywhere. I’m going to need you. We’re going to do this together just like we always have.”
Sounds funny. But yeah, I actually say that out loud sometimes. I even said it before our walk together. Seriously. This walk we just took together is my first guest post in years, and it had me nervous before we started.
Well I think I’m going to stay here for a while… Water this tree, help it grow, say, “Hello” to the other passersby.
Thank you for coming with me. I’ve had a great time. And thank you to Cait for helping put this whole thing together. (I’ve been a big fan since the days of Blonde on a Budget, and her sharing her journey has definitely helped shape mine. So, thank you, Cait!)
If you want to see what I’m up to next time you’re walking the path, come say, “Hello!” at The Hidden Green.
I’ll be over there helping outdoor lovers increase their net worth each and every month. :)
Ryland King is a writer, outdoorsman and surfer. His goal is to make money easy for outdoor loving people so they can stay focused on life’s adventures. If that interests you, check out his FREE 9 lesson course aimed at giving adventurous people peace of mind with their personal finances.