16 Lives that Started with Nothing

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What You Don’t Have, You Don’t Need It to Have the Life You Want

Okay, that may not have been as inspiring as you have thought it would have been. However, it alone tells the truth about how you are going to get from here to wherever the hell you want to be a lot faster.

Your Life Begins with Nothing

The minute I plopped out of my mom, I had nothing. No clothes. No TV. No job. No worries. I literally had no physical things and only one thing to do: breathe.

Then, people started giving me shit. It started with a blankie moved on to a toy truck followed by video games and eventually it was a tall Blue Moon with an orange slice. Okay, maybe not all of these things I have been given have been to me are bad (you guess which one wasn’t), but, for the most part, I grew up being given things that I was supposed to have based on societal standards.

Honestly, I wish I was given nothing from the start except a roof over my head, a few clothes to stay warm and some food to fill my belly. I have watched Cast Away 10 times hoping that one day I will be so lucky to be stranded on a beautiful deserted island. I have the choice to choose this life, but there are drawbacks as well.

Our lives as babies was simple. Somewhere down the line, we got in the way of the simplicity. Today, I live a simple life by societal standards, but what fun is basing my life on societal standards. That is the point. Why have we chosen to let society fill our lives with stuff we don’t want (i.e. TV, video games, closets)? We can mold our lives into so much more if we have a blank canvas.

Societal complexity has led to society thinking there is something that will fulfill our lives dreams, goals, and passions.

Screw Comfort

As someone who left comfort to travel the world and now has returned to comfort, trust me when I say that the uncomfortable life is the better of the two. I am trying to regain it day by day. Being the sole supporter of a young couple means I may need to sacrifice now for later, but that doesn’t mean I stop pursuing my dream of supporting the life I want to be living just because I can’t completely live that life at this moment. That just means I must work 10 times harder than those I don’t want to be like in 20 years. Scratch that…Those I don’t want to be like today.

How often does comfort get you where you want to be? Sitting in front of the TV may sound comfortable, but being fat and out of shape doesn’t seem to be the ideal comfort lifestyle. The 9-5 may support us now, but is it where you and I are our most creative selves? I’d argue that work doesn’t happen at work. I could go on and on about more boring lifestyles, but you already know what lifestyles suck. The sad part is you might be doing nothing to head the other direction.

What’s the Point of What You are Doing

Mankind wanders aimlessly. Society goes through their iCal, blackberry, email, etc. looking for what needs to be done next. Does society actually acknowledge a meaningful, life altering purpose in whatever it is they are doing at that moment?

I am not perfect. I know there are things that I do today, that I don’t want to be doing tomorrow. There are multiple reasons I am sacrificing some now for everything in the near future. However, I do acknowledge what is bringing purpose to my existence today and what needs to be ridden from my life as soon as possible. I feel that the simple act of acknowledging an action’s purpose will prevent society from continuing the horrible path wandering aimlessly takes us.

Starting with Nothing

Reflecting on the aspect of having nothing, our lives do need a few things. We need basic survival things (i.e. food, shelter), another person or things (see Cast Away) attention and compassion, opportunity, and desire. The reason the word ‘nothing’ is mentioned is because most of what society has placed as being ‘something’ that we need is not true.

Okay, so we realize that most of which we have, we don’t really need. As for the things we need to survive, I believe using the tools society provides can allow you to live a life of freedom from the stuff itself. Obviously, we all need to support ourselves in some way. How we use those earned support funds should be addressed, but getting them in the first place is much more important at this stage.

Before I go into examples of those who have started with nothing to build the lives they wanted, I want to detail how nothing doesn’t mean nothing.

Everyone has skills and abilities. One persons ability may be to play basketball well enough to be a professional player. Another person may know how to sell records and themselves better than others. Or one may know how to program computers and change the technological landscape. Whatever it may be, each and everyone uses some skill or ability (i.e. basketball, records, computers) to sustain an existence in a world where there aren’t enough deserted islands for everyone to fend for the absolute necessities. I understand we need to “make a living”. However, how we make that living, the approach we take towards attaining that living, and the way we set up our lives through that which provides us to live are each optional.

Those Who Built a Lifestyle Starting with Nothing

In the following, you will find some of the people I admire and strive to be like. At all different times in their lives, they found that by taking away everything they are supposed to have and starting from the metaphorical nothing, they were able to live the lives of their choice. They may not all have started from a dollar value of nothing, but the life they built came from eliminating that in their life which prevented them from succeeding.





Everett Bogue ··· Far Beyond the Stars




Started with Nothing: Everett left everything behind with $3,000 in the bank and headed to Portland.


Built It to Something: Now Everett runs a highly successful minimalist business that provides everything he needs while allowing him to have the freedom to practice all, including yoga, of that which brings purpose to his existence.





Raam Dev ··· Self Titled Site




Started with Nothing: Raam left a decade long career and flew to India with $1500 and one bag.


Built It to Something: Raam compiled an eBook that has been downloaded over 25k times within 6 months and remains a free bird traveling the world as he pleases.





Karol Gajda ··· Ridiculously Extraordinary




Started with Nothing: Karol found that a shiny BMW was not satisfying and rid himself of most of the “prized” possessions he had accumulated from his earlier success.


Built It to Something: Gajda runs Ridiculously Extraordinary where he teaches others how to live anywhere. Karol ventures to all corners of the world now living life on his calendar. He has established a business that helps others while generating profits — a rarity in this world of greed.





Corbett Barr ··· Self Titled Site




Started with Nothing: Corbett may not have threw his hands in the air in discuss with a forced lifestyle. However, he did decide to remove himself from the structure of his success and follow a path that would, hopefully, allow lifestyle independence.


Built It to Something: Barr has soared to heights that have allowed him to run two profitable & helpful sites (CorbettBarr.com & ThinkTraffic.net) & develop a course for affiliate marketing beginners. Now, he spends some time in San Francisco and Mexico depending on when he wants to do whatever the hell he wants.





Courtney Carver ··· Be More with Less




Started with Nothing: She found out in 2006 she had Multiple Sclerosis. Since, she started her site from scratch to spread her voice and her effort to donate $1,000,000 towards the efforts of a resolution to MS.


Built It to Something: Courtney found simplicity as a way to find a center. She was able to rid herself of “extra’s” to start her journey. I believe Courtney dislikes being refereed to as a minimalist. However, she is. Her words are clean in her writing. Carver has found stability in less while being able to implement new lifestyle approaches.





Pat Flynn ··· Smart Passive Income




Started with Nothing: Pat Flynn got laid off from his 9-5 and had no idea what he was going to do next. He was living at his parents and engaged. He could have got another 9-5 or steady paycheck and lived a boring life. He didn’t though.


Built It to Something: Flynn developed an eBook that went on to do $150k in sales in the first year after being laid off. Since, he has continued to be an honest informer and assister to those who aspire to be like him and secondly, a successful entrepreneur.





Cody McKibben ··· Thrilling Heroics




Started with Nothing: Cody and I sat in the same college classes wondering what the hell everyone was thinking not seeing the potential in the world. McKibben took the mammoth leap of ridding his life stateside and moved to Thailand.


Built It to Something: Today, Cody continues to build strong relationships world wide. He advocates complete lifestyle design. He continues to build upon the incredible projects he has had a hand in creating already.





Jenny Leonard ··· Where is Jenny




Started with Nothing: Jenny decided long ago not to conform. She recently downsized to having, practically, nothing so that she can travel the world to find herself even more.


Built It to Something: Though just finding her feet in the blogging world, Jenny is making big noise in becoming a voice for those who want to ACTUALLY LIVE LIFE and not just sit back and enjoy just two weeks of vacation per year. Needless to say her pending world tour is anything but conforming.





Sean Ogle··· Location 180




Started with Nothing: After being told he wasn’t-going-in-the-same-direction as the company he worked for, he made the drastic decision to move to Bangkok after selling his car and most of the stuff he owned.


Built It to Something: It has been less than a year since Sean established a life that allows him to work from anywhere and sustain a lifestyle that makes him happy. Yes, it can be done and, as Sean proved, in way less than a year. All from just taking the leap.





Mark Wiens ··· Migrationology




Started with Nothing: Mark has lived a simple, minimalist life forever. His journey began at birth. He has never had any tie to any thing which led to his capability to move to Thailand.


Built It to Something: Wiens taught in Thailand for a year which has allowed him to continue his journey to explore every inch of the globe.





Leo Babauta··· Zen Habits




Started with Nothing: Going from an overweight, stressed, smoker to an at peace, healthy, happy person took just a few years. He decided to bring a simple lifestyle and zen-mindset to everything to hopefully find his calling.


Built It to Something: Leo now runs one of the most popular blogs in the world – ZenHabits. He is able to be free of mind, body and spirit through simplistic living. Babauta has been a major influencer in my lifestyle change and I am only one of the hundreds of thousands to say that.





Colin Wright ··· Exile Lifestyle




Started with Nothing: I don’t know when it clicked for Colin. Wherever it did, I am positive he, as a minimalist, rid everything unnecessary.


Built It to Something: Colin has explored the world as he allows his readers to choose where he moves. That kind of freedom can only come from having no attachment to anything other than freedom itself.





Tammy Strobel ··· Rowdy Kittens




Started with Nothing: Tammy decided that creating a life that gave her freedom to experience life on her terms was more important than the comfort of a job in Davis, CA.


Built It to Something: Tammy and her partner found peace in serenity in Portland where Tammy just strives to shine and share her wonderful smile with others. Through focusing on on Smalltopia, Tammy has built a small, yet providing business that allows her to be her.





Joshua Becker ··· Becoming Minimalist




Started with Nothing: Having peace and happiness in the lifestyle you choose does not mean you have to travel the world. Joshua doesn’t as he has a career and a family. He found that simplicity was opening doors so he took it to another level.


Built It to Something: Now, Joshua runs a popular minimalist site and is able to share his thoughts, live a balanced “normal” life, and be happy. In Inside-Out Simplicity, Becker identifies with the idea that developing a mindset that reduces clutter (not just in the physical world), one may find peace and happiness. All while providing a little extra for the family through his side business.





You··· ???




Starting with Nothing: Where are you starting right now? Would starting with a blank slate guide you down the path you want to live? You can find your way with nothing. It is capable.


Build It Into Something: Build your life and lifestyle into that which you will covet. Don’t take the opportunity to paint a blank canvas lightly. You can become a successful entrepreneur. You can do great things. All you have to do is choose so.


Special Thanks to Jacob Sokol for his inspiring post 48 Online Authorities Reveal Their Most “Unrealistic” Accomplishments of which I “stole” the source code for the design of today’s post.

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