On Minimalism: Why I Disagree with Nina Yau

“One size does not fit all” – Nina Yau

Nina Yau owns the website Castles in the Air. She is the author of Radical Minimalism. It means to go above and beyond the norms of a regular minimalist. (Example: She currently follows 0 people on her Twitter.)

It’s not a comparison and there’s no evil intent behind why I disagree. I disagree because our visions contrast one another.

Here’s why I disagree with her type of minimalism:

1. My core passion is connecting with others. It’s a lifestyle where I risk rejection and ignored requests to hear people’s stories, passions, and tastes. Instead of traveling to places, I travel within each person. If that’s my ultimate purpose (connecting with others) and she’s doing the opposite (letting go) then they can’t co-exist. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong.

There’s only your ultimate purpose. Sometimes the vision of two people contrast.

Some may say: Isn’t that being dependent on others?

When you take the time to learn how rejection isn’t that big of a deal and how to let go of all social outcomes, then it’s not so dependent anymore. Let people decide to connect or disconnect based on their own preferences. However, give them the opportunity to connect.

My vision is like the telephone pole above. Its sole purpose is to receive the electric flow of the other telephone poles. Through these lines, that pole serves a purpose. (To connect with others).
If some cords break or snap, the telephone pole survives. New cords replace the old ones. (Sometimes people leave but new people will come by too and that’s what keeps me going.)

2. If I quit social media outlets, I’ll miss out on meeting new people with all their different tastes, flavors, and backgrounds. I’m about to start a series where I want to meet many strangers one by one. It’s just another way to make my vision a reality.
-If I put myself out there and keep myself on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Reddit, and Skype, then that spreads the opportunity for me to meet those people. If I have that many social media outlets, then that’s more “telephone poles” set up.

Some people don’t want any set up. Some people only want one set up where the quality of content is optimal. However, I want to be set up all over the place for the reason above.

3. The image of past failure is my ultimate motivation. If I let go of everything that I ever felt and experienced from the past, then I wouldn’t be here blogging. I wouldn’t have motivation to make a difference in the world.
-I’ve always felt that negative and positive energy isn’t really negative or positive. It all depends on how you look at it. Therefore, that failure is a positive energy that fuels what I do. My life energy was woken up by that idea. It’s a reminder.

It reminds me of that quote: “Look back but don’t stare.”

4. Network. In job security 2.0, networking is king. I don’t mind a Facebook or Linkedin account for that in order to help me find a job that I’d like to have. If I don’t like that job, then I’d use my network as a resource to find a new one that I potentially like.

5. The internet helps me meet people with the same wavelength. Those people are the ones you can talk to about anything and everything because there’s so much commonality in taste, humor, and personality. If you cut yourself off from social media, you reduce the opportunities for this to happen.

Many of them do not live close to me. I trust that the magical wavelength can close the distance gap. Does that feeling of authenticity have to be in the physical world exclusively?

Why not try to find that same wavelength in real life? I do try to find and talk to people in real life. However, none of them seem to be compatible. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Maybe I haven’t mastered how to get through the small talk yet. I’ll try more opportunities, venues, and areas.

6. I do experiments to help people see more than superficiality. I give out you are beautiful notes to people. I cold approach people in hopes of accelerating the conversation to a deeper level. I offer people a moment to break the routine to see if they’ll take a step back and ask, “What was that about?” So the time I have with strangers, I try to break through the small talk right away and get to conversation that has more depth.

7. I have a collection of 500 stamps and I’ll always hold onto it. It reminds me of who gave it to me. It reminds me of all the world’s variation in currency, important people (on the stamps), and gives me another way to feel the connectivity. It’s the smallest symbol for what I’m working towards. I could remember it in my own mind as an idea but to physically hold the idea is a great way for me to envision the idea. It helps reinforce the idea.

8. The great variation within one’s own life. I can’t uphold a label. I’m Matt and that’s about the only label I want to be known for.

*Here’s the whole reason why I wrote this post:
-I hold onto experiences, passions, ideas, and a few items that are important to me.
-Instead of letting go, I hold on. I hold on to the fact that I can never fully describe what I am. I can’t say I’m a minimalist and trend to the world. I can’t say that I’m an avid traveler because I haven’t traveled yet.
-But me? I’m like an Amoeba. I hold onto connecting with others, experiencing things, and obtaining ideas (even negative connections, experiences, and ideas!) because that’s what makes me fall in love with living.

If there are an infinite ways to make meaning, then there will be an infinite number of ways to make your truth. Everyone wants that truth, that meaningful life. It just so happens that in my case, there’s no trendy topic for you to get hooked by.

But the median doesn’t matter; it’s what you do with the median and where you’ll take it.

Ask yourself: What do you want to do to create a meaningful life? Find your ONE ultimate vision and build steps to make it a reality and eventually live it out. Any labels attached to it shouldn’t matter. The word(s) associated shouldn’t matter. The action is what matters. Find it.

I know why people need to label their vision, purpose, and goals. There’s no other way to describe it. Words are powerful. They sell and create ideals for you to live by. That’s a good thing. I love getting inspiration from the things I read.

But there doesn’t need to be any particular path you ever follow. There doesn’t need to be a label you follow. There doesn’t even need to be anything you follow.

First of all, find your vision. Then walk your own path to that vision. You might not even have the words for it. Walk towards it anyways.

You’re the leader to your life.

Nina’s path is her path. My path is my path. Your path is your path.
If all of them create our full potential, then that’s the right choice for each individual.


Hi Matt! I value the validity in both your lifestyles. I'm with you on making mindful connections. I've been inspired to take the journey through 1000 hands. I'm grateful to take the journey with you. I think Nina has been "pushing" through the net and has made the connections. And there comes a time, where you have to let it unroll. I've untethered a lot of relationships offline, and I self-impose myself in hermitude, so the energy of other people won't disrupt my creative zone. Sometimes, you have to disconnect to reconnect and vice versa. I think that's the beauty of connections.


umm. not so sure this needed to be written. it's equivelant to this: 1. i like _ this way. x likes _ that way. i disagree with what x _ likes, therefore i should write about it. not sure i'm clear on the value.


What is your favorite virtual medium to connect on?

Andrew Nalepa
Andrew Nalepa

Don't let yourself be 'pigeon-holed' into a description. Be yourself. All words like "minimalist" or "radical" are just ways to describe you. But they are NOT you. You are Matt. I'm glad that you get that. More people need to hear that message. Keep it up, brother.

Lynn Fang
Lynn Fang

Hi Matt, your post really resonates with me. I've been feeling more and more alienated by the blogosphere due to the significance placed on labels. I thought we were all human beings trying to do a little bit of good, that we would embrace each other for following our hearts in rejecting corporate control in favor of personal freedom. I was excited by minimalism due to its potential for cultural paradigm shift, not in minimalism itself. There is never one right way to live. If you wanted to survive in the wild, you would need a host of certain specific tools to survive. In this case minimalism as a concept can be incorporated, but it doesn't seem to fit the "mainstream" view of "minimalism" as a lifestyle. I also don't believe in fear-mongering. Ev Bogue often tauts about how little he owns, and says you can't succeed unless you have such few items. Serious bullying there. I don't follow him anymore, though he is intelligent and I have learned from him. I will give people credit where it is due, but blogging for me is about forming deeper, long-lasting relationships. And if I don't think you are loving, respectful, and considerate, then we probably won't get too close. I believe in what you say - find your vision and follow it. No one should have the same vision as me or you. In fact we should embrace a diversity of visions and dreams. Diversity creates resilience, offers new tools for defense and success, and simply creates a richer, more interesting world to live in. The idea of writing posts that "help" others is also a double-edged sword. Maybe you know a handful of things that can really help others, and you write about them. But each of us is limited in true wisdom, we only have a small part of that total wisdom. I feel like I've reached that wisdom, and preaching more would make me a false prophet. So I question those who seem like "gurus". Are you really there? Or do you just want to make it seem that way? To me the most honest way of teaching is expressing your ideas from the heart, from your personal experience. I feel we are each in the gray, on the path to true wisdom. But if we're not really there, then we should be honest about where we actually are. Thank you for writing this post.


I agree. While there are aspects of minimalism that I embrace, and I certainly strive to make sure what remains in my life provides value, I also sometimes wonder about extreme minimalism. Sometimes it seems that it goes a bit too far. There is a sort of ironic aspect about it, wherein if everyone adhered to the same principles of minimalism there would be no one to follow or take the message and inspiration from the minimalists. Everyone would be in a bubble of the present moment and a lot of the messages of minimalism and the articles and guides would be left with no readership. I do follow Nina and I enjoy her writing, but I do find myself sometimes questioning the extremity of it.