Author: Kaleb Johnson | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2022-23
Estimated reading time: 4 min.
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In his forum presentation, Mr. West admonished the students to lead simple lives.
Mr. West showed the Living Education students how to avoid stress, complication, and chaos. The answer is to simplify your life. He explained the power of simplification with a story, and he gave three steps we can all take.
Thor Heyerdahl and the 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition
Thor Heyerdahl was a Norwegian explorer who studied Polynesian culture and history. He postulated that the natives of Polynesia were not from Asia but rather South America. This hypothesis was doubted because no one believed the primitive South American rafts could survive the 5,000 mile trip from Peru to French Polynesia. To prove it was possible, Thor Heyerdahl constructed an authentic balsa wood raft with primitive technology and set sail with a small crew from Peru in 1947, with no modern equipment. For 101 days, Thor and his crew survived on evaporated water and fish, using only the wind for power and the sun, moon and stars to navigate. For 101 days, Thor Heyerdahl knew how little a man needs to survive. This led him to say, “Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”
Three mandates of Ambassador College
Our world today is hectic, overwhelming, and often too complicated for us to handle. Mr. West recalled the three mandates he received at Ambassador college: learn to teach, simplify your life, and come out of this world. Today, that second mandate is as critical as ever. How can we simplify our lives?
Put first things first
Christ gave his followers their priority: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). God must be our first priority! Christ set the perfect example for us. Never once do we see Christ get distracted by food, clothes, homes, or money. Instead, He leads a simple life, traveling, teaching, and always doing God’s will.
So many distractions will try to take our attention. We should spend more time outdoors, more time engaging with others, more time expanding ourselves, and less time on technology. We must bring structure to our days, making sure the first things are put first.
Reduce possessions and clutter
Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” We should regularly go through our possessions and remove whatever is unnecessary for our focus. The Apostle Paul told Christians to do all things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). Christ further clarified that we should not “lay up treasures on earth” but rather “lay up treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). We must not hoard physical possessions in an unorganized, unprofitable way that distracts us from our ultimate goal.
Redeeming the time
In the book of Ephesians, we find this admonition. “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). This phrase, redeeming the time, means to buy back time, making the most of every minute. We must recognize our time, energy, and stamina are finite resources. Here are five practical methods to redeem the time.
- Set goals. Use the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
- Make lists by urgency and priority.
- Avoid distractions. Be honest about what distracts us and take steps to avoid them.
- Develop skills for speed and quality. Read manuals, watch videos, and take classes on tools you use frequently.
- Remember to take care of yourself. “Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous” (R. Emmerson). Good health is the ultimate productivity hack.
Our only duty
Thor Heyerdahl lived the simple life for 101 days, but he achieved a great deal in those days. We are called to achieve much, much more, and we must live simply to maintain that laser focus that we need. Our life is not complex. As Solomon said, mankind only has two duties: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Kaleb Johnson is a student in the Living Education-Charlotte Program. He graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in the spring of 2022. In addition, Kaleb enjoys writing, video-making, trying new activities (anything and everything), playing chess, and debating (it’s not arguing!) with people. He currently works in the Living Education department producing written content, videos, and helping with a variety of other projects.