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)