Minimalism: How to Focus on What’s Really Important with Matt D’Avella

We are are here today to discuss the concept of minimalism defined as:

Minimalism is all about living with less. This includes less financial burdens such as debt and unnecessary expenses. … For many minimalists, the philosophy is about getting rid of excess stuff and living life based on experiences rather than worldly possessions. – Christopher Murray

Today on the show we have minimalist Matt D’Avella. Matt directed an amazing documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. He has also built a massive fanbase of over 3 million followers interested in minimalism on YouTube.

The film examines the many flavors of minimalism by taking the audience inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life—families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists, scientists, and even a former Wall Street broker—all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less.

In so many ways we are binging on all the wrong things and dying of hunger for the things that really matter. We as a society need to stop looking outward for happiness and being to look inward. Material things won’t make you happy. Did chasing and sacrificing your precious time and energy trying to obtain “stuff” make you truly happy while you were here? If you die tomorrow does ANY of the material stuff you have matter at all?

Matt also directed the new Netflix series The Minimalists: Less Is Now. The series is about how minimalism movement founders and longtime friends Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus share how people’s lives can be better with less stuff.

Matt and I discuss the power of decluttering your life, using minimalism to help you focus on the important stuff and how material things become owners of us and not the other way around.

Beware, this conversation might change the way you look at your life. Enjoy!

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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 003

Alex Ferrari 0:10
I'd like to welcome to the show, Matt D'Avella. Thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Matt D'Avella 0:16
Alex. Thanks for having me. Dude excited to connect with you again, man. It's been a little while.

Alex Ferrari 0:20
Yeah, man, it has been. It's been a minute. I mean, when you when I first when you had me on your podcast in 2016 17 16?

Matt D'Avella 0:31
Probably. Ohhh probably 2017 very early on a year.

Alex Ferrari 0:34
Right! Exactly. I came to your, to your to your house. And we, we recorded, by the way, still one of the best interviews I've had, and I've abused that video everywhere. As you've noticed. I love that. It was it was great. It was a great interview. And, and you had just literally gotten off the boat from New York like you'd like fresh off the boat.

Matt D'Avella 0:56
Yeah, that was a fresh start for my now wife and I we, you know, it was mostly a personal decision. It wasn't let's move out to LA to be closer to the film industry. I had an established freelance career at that time, and I was moving into doing more original content. For us, it was more so my wife's from Sydney, Australia. So to be able to visit family you know, a 23 hour flight from New York is kind of rough. So we got to direct flight from LA and it's a lot easier now to see family but that said it's certainly been great just to be in LA there's so many creative people that I've gotten the chance to connect with. So definitely rivals New York in terms of the creative energy for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:40
Yeah, with up I just literally got back from New York. I was visiting there on vacation and it is such a different energy man. Oh my Yeah, it is. So I was right in the middle of midtown. Oh, guys staying in town for like for like four or five days. I was just like,

Matt D'Avella 1:54
It would get to you after a little while for sure.

Alex Ferrari 1:56
It just like like you you walk out at like 7am to go to Gregory's to pick up some coffee. And all of a sudden you just like boom, like is it noon is like what is going on? There's so much action going on. Like yeah, the city does not sleep well. LA is just chilled much.

Matt D'Avella 2:13
Right! Well, we lived in West Hollywood. So it's a little bit busier, but definitely not close to New York. And then recently, three months ago, we moved to closer to the beach. So now we're really LA Live. And it's very chill. I mean, it's it there's not as much chaos. So for us, we're finding some some stillness and quiet here, which has been great.

Alex Ferrari 2:33
And I'm in the valley. So you know, we're nice and quiet over here as well.

Matt D'Avella 2:36
For sure. I love it. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 2:40
Tell me about minimalism. How did it come about? And and first of all, what is the definition of minimalism by itself, and then we'll get into the movie.

Matt D'Avella 2:48
So minimalism is a lifestyle that helps us figure out what's most important in life, it often starts with the things the stuff that you know, of course, most American homes have a lot of clutter. We've got attics, and basements and sheds filled with stuff, I certainly know

Alex Ferrari 3:05
Storage companies like that.

Matt D'Avella 3:08
It's a multi billion dollar industry, right? Our houses are what, like 30 50 times bigger than they were in the 40s. And now we have stored so much stuff that we need to throw them in storage lockers. So I think minimalism, addressed that problem in a big way for a lot of people. And it started with decluttering. And like, let's just clear out the stuff that we don't value don't care about don't look at don't notice anymore. And just curate a set of things that we really love. And we really value and we want to take care of and focus on. But then of course, by getting rid of this stuff, it also allows us much more time to focus on the important things, what we want to get out of life, asking some deeper questions about where we want to take our lives, what do we want to do? Who are the people that we want to spend our time with? So I think that was probably the biggest thing for me when it came to minimalism. And I probably it was just after I graduated college that I found out about it for myself. Of course, it's not a new idea. But there's this resurgence of the idea, many more people talking about it now. And minimalism helped me to redefine what my idea of success was about as a filmmaker, as a creative. You know, monetarily, I just thought I had to get to a certain place in order to be happy, I needed to have all the stuff to have a nice car, I need to have a really nice house. And all these things that tech gadgets that God I needed to be successful and to feel successful. And then I just realized that after discovering that I had enough to be content. I had enough to be happy with where my life was at. Sure. I was still ambitious and I still wanted to make films and I wanted to be driven creatively. And I you know, I still had these things that I wanted to accomplish in my life, but I wasn't letting that get in the way of my happiness. I was able to take a step back and actually enjoy the journey in the process. And not to say that it was a lightbulb flash incident, everything was perfect. And I was content from that moment on because life gets in the way, we certainly have our struggles, and that's part of life. But it's given me greater awareness and acceptance. For the life I'm living and a much more appreciation for what I have in what I had. Greg McEwen who wrote the book essentialism, talks about the myth of success, how you get to the point where you work your whole life to be successful, you finally get it. And then also, you get all these amazing opportunities, all these other opportunities to say yes to things. So people start taking it. And like startups and tech companies fall into this trap, they start trying to do everything they possibly can, because now they have the resources and the team to try to go after it. But then they lose sight of what got them success in the first place. So you have to develop that muscle the ability to say no, especially if you're looking for happiness and contentment, if all you're looking for is financial reward and game, you'll say yes to a bunch of other things. And then you know, it could all in your face, and it could end up not working out well for you if you say yes to too much.

Alex Ferrari 6:11
When I started taking that cold. So technical showers, I realized that one every single thing that my mind was telling me to why should not get into the cold shower, is the same excuses. It told me about not making a feature film, or not doing this because it was such a huge, it was such an outside the box thing, your brains there. And I've said this a bunch of times on my podcast, your brain is there, it doesn't care about your happiness, it doesn't give a crap about view getting to your dream or not, it only cares about survival. It only cares about itself, and a cold showers that in that equation at first, where you have to kind of break through that, that mental block. And trust me do that first month. And you know, it was I started the same way I start off warm and then slowly cool it off. And now like I literally this morning, I went to the shower. And I put on like a little like it's just a drop of hot water, just a drop, just a snack, absolute freezing. But then as I'm watching like, it's too hot, and I took it off, I'll go all the way

Matt D'Avella 7:20
You adapt to it to anything like you adapt both physically and mentally in terms of how you are prepared to take it. And there's a great book that does talk about this. The The Flinch by Julian Smith. And it's about basically, you know, when if you're boxing and you're in a fight, and somebody snaps their their hand at you and snaps a jab at you, if you flinch, you're not going to win that fight. So boxers over time develop this no flinch mentality. So if somebody can't take a swing at them, they have to always be there locked in, if they close their eyes, then they're going to get clobbered. And that's what we do in life all the time. We're flinching at these big opportunities, these things that scare us. And instead we're deciding not to go on that date not to make that film not to take that cold shower. And a cold shower is one of those things that it there's no harm in it. Unless you have like problems with your heart, you're not going to have any the negative repercussions because of it. It's strictly a personal thing your you feel a little bit uncomfortable. And the more we can embrace those uncomfortable situations, the better we're going to be able to do that throughout the rest of our life.

Alex Ferrari 8:30
What's that thing that you had to overcome to get where you are?

Matt D'Avella 8:35
Am I like worthy? Like, am I the one that should be telling this story? Am I smart enough? Am I talented enough, clever enough and we have something to offer a lot of self doubt.

Alex Ferrari 8:48
Because imposter, imposter syndrome

Matt D'Avella 8:51
Completely. And it really doesn't go away. Like I'm confident in my filmmaking skills. But in terms of like whether am I going to be able to deliver a really compelling story or whether this film is going to be what I set out to make is a whole nother story. And no matter what, like I talked about that, from the very beginning is overcoming self doubt. It's one of the number one questions I asked my guests on my podcast, especially early on because it was something that I dealt with firsthand. And the more you do it, the more you settle into it, the more you get comfortable and in just the more you embrace uncertainty, because you can let self doubt kill you and prevent you from doing anything where you can overcome it. And it's something that you need to do every day if you want to make great work.

Alex Ferrari 9:38
Now where can people find you your work and your personal home address? No, I'm joking.

Matt D'Avella 9:44
You can go to, And like if you social, it's all on there. You'll be able to find my YouTube channel and everything else from that website.

Alex Ferrari 9:57
Dude, man, thank you again so much for taking the time. Jim, I know you're a very busy man these days so I thank you so much for coming on and sharing your experience with the tribe brother. So thanks again man.

Matt D'Avella 10:07
Thanks for having me. Dude. This is a whole lot of fun

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