John Robbins tells it like it is

John Robbins, a speaker in the Conscious Money Speakers Series recently wrote The New Good Life. One Chapter is in fact his recapitulation of Your Money or Your Life. Read the following interview in the U.S. News and World Report and get inspired all over agains:

U.S. News & World Reports interviewed me recently about my latest book, The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less.  They have so far run two short pieces, one on intergenerational childcare and one on recovering from financial loss.

I am sharing here the full interview, not all of which has been used by the magazine so far.  As well, my latest blog on the Huffington Post, titled, What Kind of Creature Are We?, is now live.
Yours in the creation of thriving, just and sustainable ways of life for all,

John Robbins

US News & World Report Interview with John Robbins

U.S. News and World Report:
If someone is currently living the “typical” American life with lots of waste, how can they begin to think about making a change?

John Robbins:

By asking what really makes your life worth living, what really adds to the richness and quality of your life.  The new good life isn’t about deprivation.  It’s about achieving an overflowing life, a generous life, an exciting life, a joyful life, while spending less.  The point isn’t to become a miser (the word “miser” comes from the same root as the word “miserable”).  The goal is to live better for less.  The new good life means having less stress in your life and more true wealth.

U.S. News and World Report:
If someone has their savings wiped out (as you did), how do you recommend they begin to rebuild on a mental/psychological level? What about on a financial level?

John Robbins:

You have to cope, not mope.  You’ve got to turn the vulnerability you feel into a strength.  And that means throwing shame and guilt out the window.  You may feel weak or helpless for a time, but remember those are just feelings, and no feelings are final.  They will pass if you take effective action.  When you eliminate wasteful spending in every area of your life, you can focus your spending and your attention on what truly adds value to your life.  The way you spend money and the way you spend your time can both become more intelligent and more productive.

U.S. News and World Report:
You describe how multi-generational housing works well for your family.  Can this concept make people happier/live richer lives? It seems that it could also help them waste less space / live with less / pay less for child care?

John Robbins:

Living in a multi-generational household can work if there’s an alignment of values, and if you respect the differences between you.  It’s actually how many people have traditionally lived.  I live with my wife, Deo (we’ve been married 44 years), our 36-year-old son, Ocean, his wife of 16 years, Michele, and their twin 9-year-old sons, River and Bodhi.  Deo and I don’t think of Michele as our daughter-in-law, but as our daughter-in-love.

I’m sure that raising twins is a handful and a half in the first place, but River and Bodhi were born two and a half months premature and have had many special needs.  We’ve all heard the expression that it takes a village to raise a child.  In this kind of situation, I sometimes think we need two villages.

But with four “parents” involved, we seek to provide the little guys with as much undivided attention and unconditional love as we can.  Deo and I both love playing with the twins, and Deo, in particular, puts in a terrific number of hours, for which Michele and Ocean are tremendously grateful.

One day, Michele was reflecting on how thankful she felt to Deo and me, and how glad she is that we are here.  Thinking about the huge number of hours that Deo devotes to the twins, Michele told her, “I can’t believe how much money you’re saving us in child care.”

Deo shot me a quick smile that spoke volumes about how she didn’t want Michele to feel indebted, and how greatly she enjoys taking care of the little fellows.  Then she turned to Michele and said, “That’s one way to look at it.  But do you have any idea how much it would cost if we had to go out and rent grandchildren?”

U.S. News and World Report:

Why do people often think they need or want to live in a bigger house than they do?

John Robbins:

Social status is important to us human beings.  There are healthy ways of attaining it, and there are not-so-healthy ways.  One of the defining features of the old good life was that many of us sought to enhance our social standing and gain feelings of self-worth by consuming more lavishly and conspicuously than others.  We made excesss into a symbol of success.  It is our homes, more than any other category of expense, where we so often fell prey to the unexamined assumption that bigger is better.  My feeling is that wherever you live is your temple — if you treat it like one.

U.S. News and World Report:

Traditionally people have demonstrated their status by buying big houses, nice cars, etc.  What can replace that? How can people demonstrate their status in a “good life” way? Or do we need to let go of the concept of status?

John Robbins:

Status will always be important to people, but we need to outgrow defining it only in material terms.  Currently, when we say someone is a “success,” what do we usually mean?  Do we mean that she is an emotionally balanced, loving human being? Do we mean that he is creative and artistic and adds beauty to the world? Not usually.  Instead we reserve the word “success” for people who have made a lot of money.

This is how we impoverish ourselves.  This is why we need a new vision of the good life.

Defining success only in monetary terms has created a culture of greed that has separated us from each other and become a threat to the global environment.  We need to acknowledge that “quality of life” and “standard of living” are not the same thing, and we need to fully grasp which of the two is more important.  Can you imagine how different it would feel to live in a world where we recognized and honored the many courageous people who work day-in and day-out, not just to make the biggest buck, but to make the world a better place?

U.S. News and World Report:
Simply avoiding use of a car seems to be one of your strong suggestions, how can people make that possible? By choosing to live in a walkable area?

John Robbins:

Studies show that 98% of Americans consistently underestimate the true cost of owning a car.  And as petroleum products become more expensive, those costs are only going to increase.  Anything you can do to lessen your reliance on driving will save you money and make your life less oil-dependent.  Steps to accomplish this include car-pooling, car-sharing, riding a bicycle or an electric bike, living in a walkable neighborhood, working from home, living close to good public transportation, etc.  When you drive less, you save money and get more exercise.  You restore vital connections with people, nature and community.  And you participate in something much bigger.  You help reduce our dependence on imported oil, cut down on air pollution, and slow global warming.  Besides, life is too short for traffic.

U.S. News and World Report:
Any other key piece of advice you would like to highlight?

John Robbins:

We’ve all seen bumper stickers that say “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That’s the old game; that’s the old good life.  In the new good life, the point isn’t to have the most toys, but the most joys.

This isn’t about denying your pleasures.  It’s about plugging the money leaks that you may have been only dimly aware of, but which have been draining you.  Some of us buy rich and expensive foods and then pay for costly health care to deal with the problems that come from overeating.  Some of us buy things we don’t need and then pay for larger residences or storage space to house the things we have accumulated.

The New Good Life is about the joy of living with a purpose larger than consumption.  It’s about living less from image and more from creativity.  It’s about expanding the love and laughter in your home rather than increasing the square footage of your home.


For more information about John Robbins and his work, and for access to dozens of his articles and posts, click here.  To read the introduction to The New Good Life,
click here. And to get it now, click here.


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