Ben Durham

2019 is the year of “Less Stuff”

Ben flying his DJI Mavic Pro drone in on Vancouver Island, BC.

Listen along to an audio recording of me reading this blog here:

For convenience, this is an audio file of Ben reading this blog aloud.

I bet you think that by “Less Stuff” I mean “minimalizing” the number of items I own. If you guessed that, you’re partially right… but that’s not the main “stuff” that I’m talking about. Here’s the gist:

Goal 1: “DO LESS stuff”

Still a bit confused as to why that’s my objective? Don’t most people want to do MORE stuff so they can live their life to its fullest?! What’s your point, Ben? I just don’t understand!

I was a Yes Man. Not that that was bad, at first. By saying yes to so many things in my early years, a lot of good things happened. I got to try so many things and had so many opportunities and experiences. Being a Yes Man made me who I am today and I’m happy with where it got me… but now it’s time for change.

By being a Yes Man, I was doing what other people were asking me to do all the time. That meant that I wasn’t prioritizing things that I, myself had set out to do.

No one in this world has time to do everything there is to do in a single lifetime. Everyone must pick and choose what to do with their years. Instead, many people don’t pick and choose but rather let life happen.

In 2018, I was trying to do everything but in doing this, I actually accomplished less than I ever have before… and anything I did do, I didn’t do well. That ruined the momentum I had and so all my personal projects halted, leading to a year of stagnation.

So, instead of trying to do everything, I’m going to do fewer things and make them count. I’ll start things AND finish them. This is going to mean BIG things for me and I’m wildly excited!

Putting business to the side

Defiant Sheep Inc. is a Video Production company that my dad and I created in October 2016. It was formed because we wanted to continue telling stories in a more official way. Soon after creating it, we realized that what we were doing before “making it official” was an enjoyable hobby. Once we’d dived in, we realized that we had little control over the types of projects that came our way.

It wasn’t that we hated the work, it’s that we realized we never really wanted to make it a job in the first place. As a for-profit business, we couldn’t say no to clients who didn’t align with our values. We needed money rolling in. We rolled with it for the last 800 days, but in 2018, we realized this just wasn’t how we wanted to operate.

We love to put time and love into our videos and be happy with the quality that we put out. Because of this, we would rather not be paid anything than be expected to work on projects whose clients expect us to not put the time in that it takes. Art takes time and we expect to be paid for the full value of it, willingly and without hesitation. Until then, I will turn video creation back into my hobby and potentially fall back in love with it.

Put simply, the reason we are putting our Defiant Sheep to sleep for 2019 is so that we can focus on ourselves and be selfish for once (see Goal No. 2 below).

Real productivity

Throughout my teenage years and my early 20’s, my dad showed me what being productive could be like. And I liked it. He would come home from his 12-hour long shifts as a Registered Nurse and proceed to do as many things as he could before crashing into bed. He seemed to utilize every moment of the day for something before shutting down once it was time to sleep.

But after further inspection, I realized there was something wrong with this routine. Even though he was doing so much “stuff”, he never seemed to stop, step back, and ask himself what he wanted to do. All this “stuff” was just that, stuff. He was stuffing his time with stuff and things to do to the point that he didn’t ask himself “why?” Why was he even doing the stuff he was doing in the first place? Well, most of the time it was because other people asked him to do that stuff.

And in the last few years, I found myself doing the same thing. In 2018 it was most obvious. I found myself filling my time with stuff and things, not asking myself “what do I want to do?” I realized that this “fake productivity” needed an overhaul with a little help from mindfulness.

So, in the latter half of 2018, I stopped saying “yes” willy nilly to people asking stuff of me. Instead, I started completing many of my incomplete projects (which was rewarding) and saying no to the majority of stuff others ask me to do. See, even writing that makes me seem unkind to others… But 2019 is the year that I have to be selfish.

Goal 2: “be MORE SELFISH”

When was the last time you heard someone say those words? Not very often, I’m assuming! It’s just not something that people say as it typically has negative connotations associated with it.

Some people are pretty selfish from the get-go, but the majority of us find ourselves tangled up in other people’s lives without even noticing it. Friends, family, significant others, children, or others people’s lives – these are other people’s lives. Is it a bad thing to help people out or to socialize? NO! Humans are social beings – a fact to be cherished. But if you aren’t aware of it, your life can be easily consumed by other people’s to-do lists, whether you realize it or not.

The idea with this goal of selfishness is to DO MORE of what I want to do and actively DO LESS of what I used to say “yes” to. One might say “Say Yes To Less” is what I’m getting at. I don’t know if that’s a thing on the interwebs, but if it isn’t I want a shirt with that on it.

I recommend watching the video below (from CGPGrey2 on YouTube) on digital distractions which is somewhat related to what I’m talking about here. It’s a different, longer, slower pace than you might be used to so just sit back and relax.

Thinking About Attention — Walk with Me by CGPGrey2 on YouTube.
His main channel is very, very interesting too. I’d check it out if I were you.

Goal 3: “have Less Stuff”

This one is actually pretty simple: I want fewer possessions in my already minimalistic life. My quick rationale for minimalism is: I have much more freedom when not weighed down by so many material things! Mental clarity, financial freedom, and geographic freedom – all things I greatly value.

The video below (George Carlin Talks About “Stuff”) is an ABSOLUTELY AMAZING comedic explanation of how I feel about stuff. This is something that I think everyone should watch, if only for the laughs you’ll have.

George Carlin Talks About “Stuff” more on him here.

Why minimalize?

Minimalism is a constant struggle to NOT HAVE THINGS, especially in today’s modern day civilization with its convenient one-use plastics. We have an unlimited number of things we could buy if we wanted to… and many of us want to. I did too. I don’t want to now though.

I honestly find that with every single thing I acquire, I feel more trapped and locked down. It’s not to do with if stuff is free, costly, or cheap, it’s about the stuff cluttering my life. It’s about stuff weighing me down mentally and physically. See, the more stuff I own, the more difficult it is for me to make big decisions. This isn’t only about moving, it has to do with having more responsibilities because of the stuff I own. Even when making the smallest of decisions, the stuff I own has to be considered and thus, it clutters up my mind.

My final point about minimalism is the environmental impact. The one positive thing which happened in 2018 is I got a lot more environmentally conscious and active. Part of this is making the conscious decision of thinking “how am I going to get rid of this?” before buying anything at all. By asking myself that, I often talk myself right out of buying something that would have just been tossed in the landfill a year later.

I’ll have to do a separate blog post on this because I find it to be such an interesting topic!

Times have changed

It’s actually pretty ridiculous to think that 100 years ago (the year 1919), the average person had ONE PAIR of clothes for work and ONE NICE PAIR of clothes for Sunday happenings. In contrast, nowadays it’s a real challenge and actually quite difficult to not acquire stuff! I’m going to dub this Redonkuladorus (word creation credit to the Natalia Danczak).

I’m not saying “everything back then was far better than it is now”; it really wasn’t in so many ways (lack of hygiene, medicine, research, and social assistance for example) but there just wasn’t the problem of consumerism back then because that didn’t even exist yet. Actually, speaking of…

100 YEARS since the first Car Loan / Credit Plan

The first instance of “buy now, pay laterhappened in 1919.

General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) was established in 1919 and started providing loans to those who purchased new cars. Americans began to use these new credit plans to “buy” pretty much everything.

To me, this is the beginning of consumerism, though it wasn’t until 1925 that GM started releasing new cars yearly. For those who aren’t into cars, the modern equivalent version of this is new phone models being released every year.

It’s fitting to mark the 100th anniversary of “Buy Now, Pay Later”, by not even Buying Now or Paying Later. As a matter of fact, I’m doing the opposite. Attempting to resist the onslaught of societal expectations that would have me buy, own, or better yet, finance more and more stuff.


I want to go back to feeling like I did in this photo:

Ben flying his DJI Mavic Pro drone on Vancouver Island, BC.
Taken by Darin Brown on June 27, 2017

I was happy because I was doing stuff that I wanted to do. I didn’t “need” to do this stuff, but I wanted to do it – travelling because “why not?” That’s something that rarely happened in 2018.

I’m aware that almost all New Year’s resolutions fail, so this post isn’t that. This post is something that explains why I CAN’T STAND continuing to do what I have been doing. It’s explained why, in my mind, I don’t have a choice but to fix these things going forward. I’m unhappy with the lack of progress I’ve made towards progressing my life forward in a meaningful way in 2018. If I were to label what 2018 meant to me, I would label it “The Year Of Realization”.

So, a final summary of my Goals for 2019 are as follows:

  • Consciously DO MORE meaningful stuff by DOING LESS less-meaningful stuff.
  • Be SELFISH so that I can help others later, once I have more control over my own life.
  • Own even fewer possessions and focus more on experiences and self-development.

Do you think this was a reasonable breakdown of my goals? Do you have any specific thoughts or general comments? If so, let me know in the comments below!


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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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