By Brad Beckstrom
You still hear it occasionally. “That guy’s a lightweight.” When I was a kid, it may have meant you couldn’t hold your own on the playground. In college, this term was often used to describe someone who was a sloppy drunk or couldn’t hold their liquor. In business or politics, lightweight may be used to describe someone who can’t take a little heat, or bails out when the going gets tough. Today the word lightweight implies something very different. If you’re a lightweight who can compete or dominate above your weight class, then you have something. If you’re talking about a boxer like Roberto Duran, a legend like Bruce Lee, or the UFC fighter Conor McGregor then lightweight can take on a whole new meeting.
Look at any sport in the racing world, “lightweight” is the hottest thing going. Carbon fiber tubing is used to make incredibly fast racing boats to compete in the America’s Cup, and superlight racing bikes that weigh as little as 13 pounds. In a competitive world, lightweight can have great advantages.
If you’re not a professional athlete, or in the market for a $9,000 bicycle, you can still live like a lightweight. Let’s apply this term in three areas: Health, Life, and Work.
Health, Physical and Mental.
There’s a memorable scene from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. The movie is about Joe Cross who lost 100 pounds juicing. You hear stories all the time about people losing tremendous amounts of weight. What Joe did differently is he that he visually demonstrated how much weight he’d lost by carrying around six professional bowling balls to represent the weight. This really clicked with people and helped him kick start the green juice trend. Most of us could not imagine carrying around even one or two bowling balls all the time.
The bowling balls Joe carried around are a great metaphor. Think of all the excess stuff we carry around, garages and closets full of stuff we don’t use, those extra pounds, guilt and regret about things that happened in the past, huge SUVs to haul all this around, while sitting in traffic. It’s time to start looking at the benefits of becoming a lightweight.
I can tell you from personal experience that it’s not something that happens quickly. I’ve been working on ridding my life of unnecessary stuff and complexity for over five years. Often it seems like we get one part of our life simplified and more complexities crop up to replace it, so it’s an ongoing process.
Begin with a goal in mind.
Jeremy and Winnie wanted to retire and travel the world. They had a plan to become financially independent in their 30s, give away all of their possessions and just take along whatever they could fit in 2 suitcases. To help them achieve and keep track of their goal they wrote about their experience on their blog including when their son Julian will was born. They’ve been traveling since 2012. Modern investment tools and lean investing principles allow them to create a steady flow of income and manage their cash flow from anywhere. The keyword here is “financial independence”. It’s important to understand early on the amount of money it will take to reach financial independence. How much money will you need to save so you can live off of the returns and not dip into your principal. I would avoid most of the calculators that brokerage firms put up on the web. If you want some really good tools on calculating financial independence you can find a nice summary here.
Hack away at the unessential.
It will be very hard for most people to reach financial independence without making some changes in their life. Last year my wife and I played the minimalist game. The game basically requires that each player get rid of one thing on the first day of the month, on the second day two things, three items on the third and so on. By the end of the month we’d given away 992 things, but we hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface. The average American household has over 300,000 things in it so if you want to minimize your possessions and the stuff in your home you really need to keep at it hacking away at the unessential everyday. This isn’t just about stuff. We track all of our expenses and at the end of the month look for things that we can get rid of. This could be as simple as changing your cable TV plan, or canceling a subscription. You won’t find something every month, but over time if you stay at it you’ll be amazed at your progress.
Think like a lightweight. Test big ideas.
Not everyone needs to drop their keys off at the realtor and head out the door with two suitcases. Your journey may be very different. That does not mean you can’t test big ideas. What would it be like to live in a foreign country for six months? Would it be possible for me to skip the commute and run my company from home? How much time do I save by not having to commute to an office or drive to the gym or the mall?
Workout like a lightweight
People with complex lives often create complex workout plans. In the time it used to take me to get to the gym, park, and change, my new workout is over. I designed a workout that I could finish in 20 minutes flat. It’s a high-intensity workout built around Tabata training principles. Because it’s short and I do it from home, I can do it five days a week. I was lucky to get to the gym three times a week in the past. In the time I save driving, parking, changing, etc. I have an extra hour to go for a walk.
Start a lightweight company
Financial independence and living a simple lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a beach all day. A lightweight company that runs lean with minimal overhead may be your answer. It’s amazing how much things changed since I started my lightweight business in 2005,. Smartphones, tablets, broadband Internet, tools like Dropbox and Evernote truly allow us to work from anywhere. A lightweight company can simply mean that you have a very realistic target of where you’d like your revenue to be, understanding that it’s just a part of your larger plan of financial independence. Tim Ferriss touched on this in his book “The Four Hour Work Week.” At first I was just shooting for a 40 hour work week. 10+ years later I’m working on a four-hour workday. The key is to be moving in the right direction.
Think like a lightweight
Fewer possessions, less work, no commute, and a lifestyle focused on health can quickly compound into an important benefit: freeing up your mind from all of the stress and worry often associated with these things. When you start thinking like a lightweight, you’re freeing up some brainpower for creative pursuits and helping others.
A Real Lightweight.