The Simple Pleasures Project: What almost dying taught me about really living

To keep myself motivated after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, I made a list of all the things that made life so worth fighting for. Nowhere on it were things like a fancy house, fast car, fat bank account or any other of the typical material measures of success our society puts so much emphasis on. Instead, it included things like:

  • #22: Tobogganing
  • #35: Building a fire
  • #77:  Sunsets
  • #79: Skinny-dipping
  • #46: Slow-dancing
  • #40: Gin and tonics
  • #107: My friends
  • #58: A good fart

In short, my list overflowed with simple pleasures, amazing everyday experiences and the awesome people in my life. Continue reading

Congratulations to the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest Winner

Congrats goes out to Allison Tilly of Ottawa, Ontario, whose “Snow Tunnel” photo received the most votes in the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest!

Snow Tunnel, by Allison Tilly

Allison’s photo will be used as Badge of Awesome’s Facebook cover image for the month of October (even though I agree it’s too early to be thinking about snow!). She’s also won the $100 cash prize, signed copies of my books and the coveted Photography Badge of Awesome.

Big thanks to EVERYBODY who entered and voted. You’re awesome. And even though the contest is officially over, I say let’s keep the photos coming! Post your awesome pics on our Facebook page and let’s get more people saying “Yup. That’s awesome.”

Fred Penner, Dawson City Music Festival

[Blog] Hanging with Fred Penner photo: That’s awesome

Voting is now open for the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest. Check out the entries and vote for your favourite!

Fred Penner, Dawson City Music Festival

I don’t typically “geek out” and I’ve never really been into following/stalking celebrities. But let me tell you: when I saw Fred Penner–my favourite and cherished childhood musician and TV personality–perform at the Dawson City Music Festival a few years back, I became a giddy school boy. And then, I got to MEET Fred Penner in the beer tent later that night! Well, let’s just say it was all I could do to not vomit from excitement. You can keep your Justin Biebers and Johnny Depps. For me, celebrity awesomeness doesn’t get much better than Fred “the-mutha-effin’-cat-came-back” Penner. (And yes, he’s as cool and nice as you would think he is).

What strange, beautiful or outrageous photos have you snapped? Add your “That’s awesome!” photos on the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page and vote for who you think should win the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest.


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Badge of AwesomeBadge of Awesome is a collection of cool things to do close to home, around the world and to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.

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[Blog] Jellyfish Photo: That’s Awesome

Got a photo that makes you say “that’s awesome”? Enter it in the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest to win great prizes. The deadline is TODAY, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012 to enter!

There are few things simpler and more awesome than a jellyfish. Over 95% water, with a dash of salt and protein thrown in, and voila! You’ve got a funky sea creature. AND, if someone you know gets stung by one, it’s one of the few times you’re permitted to urinate on your friend.

Jelly Fish

My friend Janele got this shot at the Newport Aquarium on a recent vacation we took to Kentucky. I could watch jellyfish for days. It’s amazing the spectrum of life out there—from simple life forms like jellyfish to the complexities of the human body and brain—and to marvel at the process of evolution from the simple to the complex.

You gotta love jellyfish.

What strange, beautiful or outrageous photos have you snapped? Enter your “That’s awesome!” photos into the photo contest for your chance to win prizes and be the new cover image for the Badge of Awesome Facebook page.

Badge of AwesomeBadge of Awesome is a collection of cool things to do close to home, around the world and to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.

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Virgin Mary vs. Squid

[Blog] The Virgin Mary vs. Giant Squid: That’s Awesome

Got a photo that makes you say “that’s awesome”? Enter it in the “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest to win great prizes.

When I first saw this mural, in a tiny restaurant in Banos, Ecuador, my first reaction was “guh?” However, upon closer inspection I realized what I was looking at: The Virgin Mary wrestling a giant squid. My reaction immediately changed to “that’s awesome!”

Virgin Mary vs. Squid

I kept picturing a Godzilla-like confrontation between Mary and the Super Squid. Looks like Mary’s got the upper hand in this photo.

What strange, beautiful or outrageous photos have you snapped? Enter your “That’s awesome!” photos into the photo contest for your chance to win prizes and be the new cover image for the Badge of Awesome Facebook page.

Badge of AwesomeBadge of Awesome is a collection of cool things to do close to home, around the world and to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.
The "That's Awesome" Photo Contest

The “That’s Awesome” Photo Contest

The "That's Awesome" Photo Contest

The Badge of Awesome Facebook Page needs a new cover image. That’s where you come in. Enter your photos into the That’s Awesome Photo Contest to be the “face” of our Facebook page and win other great prizes. It’s free to enter and a great way to showcase your stuff. Be sure to share this contest with your friends that are into photography!

What we’re looking for

The criterion for this contest is pretty broad. Basically, we want photos that make people say “That’s awesome!” when they see it.*

How to enter, how to win.

  1. Until Friday, September 14th, post your photo(s) to the Badge of Awesome Facebook wall (or email me your entry). All photos must belong to you.
  2. Be sure to include “That’s Awesome Photo Contest” in your caption/description of the photo to flag it as an official entry. (Feel free to include links back to your website/blog as well so you can show off more of your stuff.)
  3. On September 17th, shortlisted candidates will be announced and voting will open for the best photo.
  4. Voting closes on September 27th and the winner will be announced on September 28th.

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What you’ll win

The winner will receive the following prizes:

  1. $100 cash prize (CAD)
  2. Their photo will be used as the Badge of Awesome Facebook cover image (with credit given to the winner) throughout the month of October.
  3. The Photography Badge of Awesome
  4. Signed copies of my books.
  5. A 5-in-1 card reader/writer

The best photos will also be added to the Badge of Awesome Photo Gallery with credits and links given back to the owner.

So get those cameras out and let’s get as many people saying “that’s awesome” as we can. Good luck!

Click here to add your photos to Badge of Awesome on Facebook!

*Note: what’s awesome to you may not be awesome to us. As such, Badge of Awesome reserves the right to remove any content it deems inappropriate or offensive.

simple activities

[Blog] 20 awesome activities involving 1 item or less

simple activities

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on my Josh Martin Ink blog.

In an age of iPads, Xboxes and $200 shoes, our sources of entertainment and activity require increasingly sophisticated technology, equipment and infrastructure.

But there’s something to be said for the simpler activities. Activities that nurture creativity, ingenuity and imagination.

In 2005 the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester, New York. The stick made the cut in 2008. “[T]here aren’t any rules or instructions for its use,” said Christopher Bensch, the museum’s curator of collections. “It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight’s sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band.”

In a time when it seems that every toy requires 17 triple-A batteries and every activity requires mountains of gear, it’s nice to see the simple stick and cardboard box be recognized for the limitless entertainment potential that can be unlocked through imagination.

Here are twenty activity ideas for children and adults alike that require one item or less. Feel free to whip out this list if you ever hear a kid whining that they’re bored.

  1. Tag. I don’t mean tagging your friend puking on a cop on Facebook. I can’t count how many hours I’ve spent chasing friends around the schoolyard yelling “You’re it!”
  2. Soccer. It’s no surprise soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Whether you’re from Richmond Hill or Rwanda, all you need is a soccer ball and some open space.
  3. Ultimate Frisbee. Like soccer, but for hippies, the only thing you need for Ultimate is a disc (and perhaps granola).
  4. Cards. There are hundreds of games you can squeeze out of a single deck of playing cards. Perfect for games night or a rainy day. I come from a huge card-playing family. Euchre, Bugger your Neighbour, Hearts, Pork Chop—we grew up playing them all.
  5. Hopscotch. Any sidewalk or blacktop can be transformed into a playground with a bit of chalk and imagination.
  6. Yoga. Although many people go to yoga studios and gyms for this activity, all you really need is a yoga mat and a familiarity with the bizarrely-named poses.
  7. Red Rover. Oh man. No other game has been responsible for more clotheslines, bruised wrists and sprained fingers than Red Rover. “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call the paramedic over!” A personal favourite.
  8. Hide and Seek. Another favourite. All you need is a group of people and a good place to hide. Just don’t hide next to a bee hive like I did as a kid. That hurts.
  9. Charades. Great party game that doesn’t require anything fancy. Giving an easily embarrassed guest something x-rated to act out is always hilarious.
  10. Arm wrestling/thumb wrestling. Requires nothing but your own bodies. Think this is a lame activity? Watch Sylvester Stallone’s “Over the Top” and think again, buddy.
  11. Duck Duck Goose. Thrilling suspense. High speed chases. Patting people on the head. This classic has got it all.
  12. Bloody Knuckles. Taking turns rapping each other’s knuckles until they bleed is admittedly a bit violent and juvenile. But I wanted to mention this because it was a pretty common activity with my schoolmates.
  13. Touch football. If you remove the contact element from football you remove the need for all the pads, helmets and mouth guards. And the need for medical attention (in most cases).
  14. What time is it Mr. Wolf? I’m not sure how familiar people are with this game. It involves players calling out “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” to the “wolf” who has her back turned to them. The wolf calls out a time, like “7 o’clock!” and the players take seven steps toward her. This continues until the wolf thinks the players are close enough to catch and the next time they ask “what time is it Mr. Wolf?” she replies “LUNCH TIME!” and chases the squealing players around the playground.
  15. P.I.G. All you need is any sort of projectile – a ball, Frisbee, hard-boiled egg – that gets tossed back and forth between players. Drop the item and get a letter. When you spell P-I-G, you’re out.
  16. Rock Paper Scissors. I’m pretty sure more decisions have been made amongst my friends using Rock, Paper, Scissors than by thoughtful discussion.
  17. Tai Chi. A great activity I’ve wanted to try since my days in Taiwan. All you need is some instruction (and a cool paper fan if you want to look extra awesome).
  18. Tabletop football. Two players on opposite ends of a table. Object is to move a coin across the table in 4 or less pushes/flicks (downs) and have the coin partially hanging over the edge of the opponent’s end of the table (end zone) without it falling over. Harder than it sounds.
  19. I went on a camping trip/other car games. Before the days of DVD players in cars, iPods and PSPs, families going on a road trip had to occupy the long hours with driving games like “I went on a camping trip”, “eye spy” and “would you rather”.
  20. Debating. Probably the easiest way to pass the time of all these ideas is to open a controversial topic up for discussion.

These are just some of the ideas that came to my mind. What are your favourite simple activities?

Badge of AwesomeBadge of Awesome is a collection of cool things to do close to home, around the world and to help others. Share your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section. Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive email updates of new posts. You’ll also get a free ebook as a thank you for subscribing.
Old Bucket

Announcing the Bucket List Contest Winners!

Man, oh man. You guys added a lot of amazing bucket list items to the contest. Everything from beating the big balls on Wipeout, eating a meal prepared by an Iron Chef, experiencing the Aurora Borealis in Northern Canada, playing the world’s longest golf course in Australia and having coffee with Paulo Coelho.

Brilliant stuff! I’m going to leave the page up so people can continue to add to it.

Congratulations to Tony Wilford!

It the end it was a heated battle between Tony and Kyla, as they raced neck-and-neck to the finish line. In the end though, Tony squeaked out a victory with 130 votes (followed closely by Kyla’s 108). So congratulations to the winner of the Bucket List Contest, Tony Wilford, for this winning entry:

“To see my two girls grow old and see them enjoy their life as much as I have enjoyed mine!”

Congrats Tony! You’ve won the $100 cash prize, signed copies of my books and the coveted Bucket List Badge of Awesome. Your prize pack is on its way!

Runner ups like prizes too!

The next 10 most-liked Bucket List entries have also won signed copies of my books. If you’re on this list, check your emails for details on claiming your prizes. Congratulations!

Kyla says:

“In no particular order:

  • Build my own sustainable, eco-friendly home.
  • Have coffee with Paulo Coelho.
  • Write a children’s book.
  • Rescue an animal from a shelter.
  • Become completely free of student loan debt.
  • Sing the National Anthem at a Red Sox game!”

Janele says:

  • “Take my parents to Vegas and watch them party like it’s 1971
  • Take my daughter to Poland to see where her Dziadek grew up
  • Adopt a dog from a rescue organization
  • Go sky diving
  • Live on a boat
  • Build a kick a$$ tree fort
  • Sew a quilt”

Jared says:

  • “Spelunk great caves around the world
  • Visit Iceland, throw something into an active volcano
  • Own a Dodge Viper (I’d settle on a Shelby Mustang)
  • Visit Newfoundland
  • Live in a cabin in the woods next to a lake”

Kendra says:

  • “Go swimming with sea otters in Vancouver, BC”

Marianne says:

  • “Qualify and run in the Boston Marathon”

Nicole says:

  • “on my bucket list…to get Josh Martin to do the 2013 Childcan Polar Bear Dip in Kingsville 😉 Oh and beat the number one fundraising team while we’re there. ;)” (Note from Josh Martin: you’re on!)

Shaun says:

  • “Experience the beauty of the Aurora Borealis from northern Canada.”

Tina says:

  • “eat a meal prepared by one of the Iron Chefs to see what all the fuss is about. Preference would be Mario Batali, Michael Symon or Geoffrey Zacharian – but really any one of them would do…especially if it was free
  • Either that or be cool enough to be one of Chuck Hugh’s friends that he invites over for dinner on his show ‘Chucks Day Off’ – but I will settle for paying in one of his restaurants in Montreal
  • Man I’m hungry all of a sudden…”

Kim says:

“I have just been thinking about this!

  • I want to go to the desert (someplace dark and cloudless) to see the perseid meteor shower.
  • Be a contestant on The Price Is Right (shallow, I know, but it looks like so much fun!)
  • Build a straw bale house and live in it. (or at least participate in building it)
  • Sell some artwork so I can make some more! (I’m running out of space.)”

Shaun says:

  • “Travel into space and see the Earth from a whole new perspective.”

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Thanks to everybody who participated. Of course, the next step is to change your bucket list into a to-do list. So put on your awesome pants and get out there.

Click here to see all the entries and to add more of your own.

Badge of AwesomeShare your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section (you’ll get a free ebook as a thank you for your submission). Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted.
beach walk

[Blog] A Christmas to remember

christmas treeI remember getting a little toy guitar for Christmas when I was a little boy. A great gift to be sure, but I wanted a drum set. Obviously the mature reaction was to scream “I WANT A DRUM!” and smash the guitar into a million pieces on our back porch. I didn’t get the drum. And now I had no guitar either. Smooth, Josh. Real smooth.

I like to think that I’ve changed over the years. Maybe “matured” isn’t the right word, but I’ve come to understand that the material trappings of Christmas doesn’t matter as much as the experiential stuff.

Take for instance, a recent Christmas. Each year my extended family gathers on Boxing Day at my Uncle Ed and Aunt Rene’s place in Port Albert, Ontario. It’s a rowdy affair that usually involves too many boxes of red wine, cutthroat games of Euchre and other card games and violent games of road hockey.

After a fun night of festive frivolity, my cousins, brother and I decided to call it a night. There was one small problem, however. We were staying at my Aunt Buggy’s place, located some 5 kilometres or so North of Port Albert.

The simplest solution would have been to ask one of our sober relatives to drive us home. (Actually, now that I think of it, that may not have been that simple after all). However, we opted for the simpleton’s solution rather than the simplest one and decided the best way to get home was to hike North along the frozen shores of Lake Huron.

And so, after bundling up in warmer clothes, our party of idiots headed out in the cold winter night. Our band of merry men consisted of seven cousins – John and Mike Dalton (brothers), Jonathan Chilton (Rene and Ed’s son, who had a warm bed a few feet away but wanted to come along for the adventure), Luke and Shawn Van Osch (brothers), my younger brother Nick, and me.

beach walk

The gang of idiots, minus me taking the photo, on the frozen shores of Lake Huron, Ontario.

For a midnight hike along the ice-covered, treacherous beach, you want to make sure you only bring the essentials. Obviously, these included:

  • a box of red wine;
  • bottle of Baileys; and
  • a few beers shoved into our snow pants.

Always be prepared.

After a short hike from my Aunt and Uncle’s place, we arrived at the high bank that overlooked the lake, and prepared to wind our way down the path to the beach below. Unfortunately, I misjudged the location of the path and ended up taking a giant step over the edge and into thin air. I tumbled down the snowy bank, cursing myself for bringing the bottles of beer as they jabbed painfully into my ribs.

A moment later Jonathan Chilton tumbled down after me, apparently deciding that falling down the hill was in fact the best approach.

Dusting the snow off ourselves, we bent our heads to the cold blasting winds and hiked—okay, okay, stumbled—north.

The journey took us 5 times longer than it should have for a few reasons.

  • we kept tripping over frozen bits of ice, beach logs and each other;
  • we had to keep Jonathan from running off onto the frozen lake where he would surely have found a way to fall into open water; and
  • we kept stopping every two minutes or so to make a toast and have a drink of Baileys, boxed wine or beer. “A toast! To family!” “A toast! To the lake!” “A toast! To the genius of Miley Cyrus!” “A toast! To pineapple!”

Most of the gullies and rivers that spilled into Lake Huron along our journey had completely frozen over so traversing them posed no problem. That is, except for one particularly large stream, about half way through our trek, that was still running. Nick made a heroic attempt to leap the river and ended up with one of his legs submerged in icy water.

A moment later I watched in cringing fear as Jonathan attempted the same. I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering how he had followed me down the side of the cliff earlier.

Shockingly, he managed to clear the water completely. Landing on the far side of the river, he lay on his back catching his breath. Jonathan then decided to roll over, presumably in a drunken attempt to get to his feet. Unfortunately he lay precariously close to the bank of the river and the direction in which he chose to roll was toward the edge.

My eyes grew wide in horror as half his body dangled a few feet above the icy water below “Nick! Get Jonathan!” I yelled out in panic to my brother. Fortunately Nick grabbed him and hauled him a safe distance away before he fell in.

The rest of us walked inland a bit to a bridge and crossed safely that way. One of the few smart decisions made that night.

Eventually we made it back to Aunt Buggy’s place. We pretty much carried Jonathan the last kilometer. Shawn broke away from the group at one point to cut across a farmer’s field and somewhere along the way lost what remained of our box of wine. Nick rushed off to take care of his hypothermic leg, his pant leg now frozen stiff.

What I’ll remember

And as Mike and I sat in the hot tub, begging Jonathan to put his trunks back on; and as John Dalton drove around the backyard on a snowmobile, with Shawn riding on the back in nothing but his gotchies, hooting and hollering into the night sky, I thought to myself, “Man, we’re idiots.”

But man, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I look back at that Christmas, I’m not going to remember the stuff I got as gifts or what gifts I got for other people. I’m going to remember the great time I had walking along the beach with my cousins, laughing myself siBadge of Awesomeck and making ridiculous toasts along the way. It’s memories over materialism. Friends over stuff.

For more stories like this one, check out my book: Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in Balance from Life’s Absurd Moments.

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[Blog] Finding balance in our busy world

By Josh Martin

Badge of Awesome is all about doing cool things and being more active. But how do you live a more “active” life when every hour of your day already overflows with activity? How do we “suck the marrow out of life” as Thoreau describes in our go-go-go world?

Good question.

We’ve all got full plates. But it’s not about squeezing more things into your already jam-packed schedule. It’s about making changes that allow you to spend your time in more meaningful ways. It means assessing how you spend your time and figuring out ways to adjust your lifestyle to make room for the things that matter most to you.

In fact, a lot of times, “sucking the marrow” may actually mean cutting back on activities in order to make room for more meaningful experiences. The old “less is more” approach.

I discuss this idea in my book, “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance: How to make room for what matters most in life” (get your free copy when you subscribe to the Badge of Awesome newsletter). Here’s an excerpt:

The Suitcase Scenario

Suitcase Scenario - Badge of Awesome

Picture yourself getting ready for a big trip. It’s time to pack. On your bed rests your trusty suitcase. Next to your bed stands a mountain of items you are trying to bring with you. As you stand there, tapping your foot, hands on your hips, you consider your options.

Many of us face this same dilemma when it comes to things like work-life balance. We have a seemingly impossible pile of stuff for which we need to make room. And our capacity to do so (our suitcase) is limited by the number of hours in a day, the amount of money in our bank accounts and how much energy we can expend before collapsing.

In the case of the suitcase, as in the case of life, there are three options to make it work:

a) Squeeze. Cram the items into the suitcase.
b) Stretch. Get a bigger suitcase.
c) Simplify. Unpack some of the stuff to make more room.

The suitcase scenario is a metaphor for the challenge of life balance. We often find ourselves neglecting priority areas of our lives (exercise, eating right, spending quality time with family and friends, time to ourselves, etc). We then set goals and look for ways to fit these areas into our already full lives.

All three of the above-mentioned options can appear to be reasonable solutions. Options A and B seem to be the most common approaches these days and they can be useful from time to time. However, I believe that Option C—a simple living approach—offers the best and only sustainable solution to this problem.

Here’s how the three different packing options typically play out:

Option A – Squeeze them in.

What it is: Rather than change anything (like Options B and C), Option A finds ways to creatively cram these neglected areas of our life into the nooks and crannies of our suitcase.

What it looks like:

  • Not getting enough exercise? Take the stairs at work.
  • Not spending enough quality time with a friend? Meet them at the grocery store and chat while you shop.
  • Need to get more work done? Work on the bus or carpool and work during the ride.
  • No time for breakfast? Eat on the road or go to the drive thru

Why it’s not a great solution: Option A doesn’t get to the core of the problem. It simply adds more stuff to an already overstuffed suitcase. Trying to squeeze family time, time for yourself or your hobbies into a few spare minutes here or there is not a quality investment of your time. In regards to friendships for example, Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely said, “Friendship should be surrounded with ceremonies and respects, and not crushed into corners. Friendship requires more time than poor busy men can usually command.”

Option B – Get a bigger suitcase.

What it is: The dimensions of our suitcases are represented by Time, Energy and Money. Option B attempts to stretch these dimensions in a few different ways. It’s about increasing capacity.

What it looks like:

  • Increase the amount of time you have in the day by going to bed later.
  • Increase your energy levels via caffeine and energy drinks.
  • Increase the amount of money available to you by getting another credit card or getting a higher-paying (and potentially higher-stress) job.
  • Retrain (expand your capacity) and get better and more efficient at what you do through professional development.

Why it’s not a great solution: With the exception of the Retrain example, Option B is unsustainable. Losing sleep, taking on more debt and using false energy supports like drugs and caffeine will eventually catch up with you. It’s bad for your health, can lead to burnout, energy crashes, bankruptcy and high levels of stress. This approach still doesn’t get at the core of the issue of there simply being too much in your suitcase.

Option C – Pack less in the first place.

What it is: Balance via simplicity. It’s about unpacking some of the stuff (hours at the office, hours in commute, how much we buy, time spent in front of the TV, etc.) in order to make room for other things you’ve been neglecting.

What it looks like:

Work

  • Take a job with lower stress/shorter hours (even if it means less pay – this will mean a change in your spending habits too)
  • Set boundaries
  • Live closer to your job and commute less/telecommute

Stuff

  • Value experiential over the material
  • Buy a smaller home
  • Fill your home with less stuff

Time

  • Watch less TV/spend less time online
  • Cut back on the extracurricular calendar (kids and personal)/learn to say no
  • Embrace a “no rush” attitude

Why it works: This solution has the best chance of being sustainable. It addresses the root of the problem of there simply being too much in your suitcase. It’s the option least likely to have your suitcase burst because you packed it too tightly. Or fail to fit in your overhead compartment because you got one that’s too big.

Balance is not about squeezing additional things into an already crammed suitcase—it’s about unpacking some of the stuff in order to make room for other things you’ve been neglecting.

In other words, simple living is an approach that reduces and replaces, rather than adds, as a way of achieving balance. It’s balance via simplicity.

In the following section of the book I go on to provide some concrete examples of implementing Option 3. Check out the book for the full scoop!

Is life balance a challenge for you? What techniques do you use? Add your ideas in the comment section below.

Badge of AwesomeShare your own awesome experiences by visiting the Submissions Section (you’ll get a free ebook as a thank you for your submission). Or add your stories, photos and videos to the Badge of Awesome Facebook Page.

Add some awesomeness to your inbox. Subscribe for free to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted.

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[Blog] Fish Heads in the Far East: Remembering what’s important

By Josh Martin

Chiayi, Taiwan—My 90 cc scooter (which I fondly nicknamed, “Scoot Scoot Riot”) howled in protest as we made the steep ascent along the winding mountain roads in Taiwan. By noon Marty, Yanik (my two fellow ESL teachers) and I had reached our campsite for the weekend.

That evening, as the sun set over the mountains, and without an agenda to occupy our time, we strolled through the campgrounds. We passed a group of six Taiwanese men who invited us to join them for dinner and some Tsingtao Beer. Though strangers, in no time at all we were laughing and joking around the campfire like old friends (even if neither side spoke the other’s language well).

The parade of food was simple and delicious. They generously treated us to every type of local cuisine imaginable. At the end of the meal one of our new friends offered me a plate with a massive fish head on it, its beady eye staring up at me.

I have never been a fan of seafood to start with (especially the kind that can look you in the eye), so I politely declined. Upon doing so I was informed that to be offered a fish head was a show of great respect and friendship within Taiwanese culture.

The honour outweighed my distaste.

Reluctantly, I accepted and proceeded to eat the vile thing. To this day, however, I’m not entirely sure if it really was a gesture of friendship or if they just wanted to see if I would actually eat it.

Finally, when the food had all been eaten, the guitar came out and the singing began. In a country obsessed with Karaoke, our hosts showed no inhibitions. Before long, we were singing and dancing around the fire, the fish head sloshing around my belly full of cheap beer.

The simple, spontaneous, informal

Our mountaintop dance party taught me an important lesson in the value of simple gatherings. The simple, the spontaneous, the informal—these are the key ingredients to the best get-togethers. I’d much rather share a six-pack of cheap beer with friends around a campfire than attend a stuffy dinner party with hors d’oeuvres and fine china any day of the week.

Weddings are a good example. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent on these events. And so much work goes into the superficial elements of the gathering—the food, the décor, the ambiance—that the real reasons for celebrating are at risk of getting crushed into a corner.

When I think of the best weddings I’ve been to, I couldn’t tell you what the flowers were like, if the cake was any good or if I liked the bride’s dress. What I remember is laughing and dancing like an idiot with my friends.

Likewise, looking back at our mountaintop party, I don’t remember what I was wearing or if the food they served us was overcooked. I remember the good company and the experience of being guilted into eating a fish head.

In the end, experiences have a longer shelf life in our minds than material stuff.

For the full-length version of this story and more than fifty others, check out my book: Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in Balance from Life’s Absurd Moments.

[Blog] I am a Hobo Torpedo: Friends over stuff

By Josh Martin

“My friends are my estate.” – Emily Dickinson

Waterloo, Ontario—It’s ten-thirty at night and I’m hurtling down a deserted street inside a shopping cart, like some hobo torpedo. As my mobile, metal coffin rattles down the road at mach five I suddenly realize something—I’m an idiot.

It had all started two minutes earlier when my “friend” Royce offered to push me to the local bar in a shopping cart. Royce and I lived together in university with four other buddies in a dump of a student house on Marshall Street, a few blocks from the bar we were headed to. Never one to pass up a free ride, I accepted the shopping cart offer without a second thought.

I sat in the shopping cart facing forward and cheered Royce on as he pushed me faster and faster down the darkened street. Before long, my courage faltered.

“OK, Royce!” I yelled over the clatter of the rattling shopping cart. “Slow down!… Slow down, Royce!… ROYCE!?”

The cart showed no signs of slowing down. I risked a glance over my shoulder to sternly insist that my good and trusted friend stop the cart immediately. Unfortunately, my good and trusted friend was now twenty yards behind me with a stupid grin on his face. He had let go of the cart and sent me hurtling into the night.

Turning forward once again I realized that I was drifting to the right. To my horror I found myself heading straight for a fire hydrant. I vainly attempted to extricate myself from my impending doom. But leaping from a speeding shopping cart is more difficult then you might imagine.

I crashed squarely into the hydrant and was launched from the cart as if from a catapult. I flipped head over heels, cleared the fire hydrant and landed on my back in the grass on the other side with a dull thud.

Yup, I thought to myself. I’m an idiot.

A good reminder for myself

My life on Marshall Street was far from luxurious. We lived in a house that was near collapse. Our diets would make any nutritionist weep. All our furniture was second-hand and exuded a wide range of odours. None of us owned a car. And if our bank accounts were towns from the Wild West, there’d be tumbleweeds rolling through them.

And yet, despite the squalor in which we willingly spent our days and nights, I’ve never laughed so hard or had so much fun. Some of my greatest memories, like being launched from a shopping cart, are from those days in university and I think it says a lot about what’s really important in life.

Principle #2 of the Badge of Awesome Ethos: experiential riches trump material wealth.

Our culture places a lot of emphasis on high-paying jobs, big houses, cars, and other material benchmarks of success. In pursuit of these acquisitions however, we often sacrifice time and relationships with the people that make life so memorable.

Before making a decision, consider the social implications. Maybe buying that new big screen TV will mean you can’t afford to go on that camping weekend with the old gang. And maybe that house in the ‘burbs is big and awesome. But will it mean being far away from the people you enjoy hanging out with?

Cherish your friendships don’t let the material stuff in life get in the way of them. If that means riding a shopping cart to the bar instead of a Ferrari, then I say giddy’up—as long as Royce isn’t driving, of course.

The above story is actually adapted from my book, Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments. Check out the Store to find out how you can get your own copy.