My TEDx Talk: Sell Your Crap, Pay Off Your Debt, Do What You Love…


Note: This is a post from Adam Baker, founder of Man Vs. Debt.

I’m extremely excited to share with you a talk I gave as part of TEDx here in Asheville a little over a month ago. Some of my favorite online sources of inspiration are TEDx Talks, so I was honored to be invited to give one myself!

I spent a lot of time planning and preparing what I believed to be the most powerful and concise version of our message here at Man Vs. Debt. I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out!

It revolves around finding your own answer to one powerful, life-changing question.

It’s less than 20 minutes long. I think you’ll love it!

If you’d like to read more about the three-part mission I describe, check out these compilations of key posts and resources to help you…

What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below!

137 thoughts on “My TEDx Talk: Sell Your Crap, Pay Off Your Debt, Do What You Love…”

    1. Just finished watching – Funny how I see this as I am talking with my twin sister about our younger sister who is obsessed with her stuff. Has to have it all and the gadgets that go with. Shared this on her wall, though I dont know if it will make an impression – still any crack in her buy buy demeanor is a start.

      Thanks for saying the things that are hard to put in words. Thanks for sharing your gifts and teaching the world.

  1. Great talk Adam! “I work hard, I deserve this.” Boy, how many times have those same words been uttered by my wife and I? It is an ongoing battle we have in our heads. Love the perspective you’ve offered here, collecting experiences rather than crap. Thank you.

  2. WOW! Thank You for sharing……..a very simple, but most powerful presentation!
    Keep spreading your message! Blessings of good health and happiness to you
    and your family!

  3. Great talk Baker, thanks for sharing! A simple concept with profound implications, the solution not only to personal happiness but also, on a grander scale, to many of the problems the world is experiencing today. Less crap, less debt brings more freedom and happiness!

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  5. TOMORROW we begin our new life! In 2007 we started selling our stuff, in 2010 we paid off the last of our debt and tomorrow we begin the process of moving to China with four children to learn Chinese! We have enough saved to spend two years in China and just enough to start over after that. It has been a long time in coming and A LOT of hard work, but everything he said in this video is TRUE! Our entire lives fit into 14 bags (two years worth of clothes for growing kids and homeschool items take up most of the space) and the freedom that we feel is ASTOUNDING! Follow our journey if you’d like!

  6. Really enjoyed your talk, Baker! You do a great job of showing that it’s really very simple once you know what freedom means to you. I often hear people say “you’re lucky, I wish I could do that” and they just don’t believe that they can. I’ll definitely be pointing them toward your talk for confirmation. Very inspiring!

  7. Wonderful execution, Baker!

    I’ve been following you since sometime around May or June 2009, after I was laid off from my two jobs within a week, so I’m familiar with your message. Since then you inspired me to pay off my 5th and last credit card last month ($10,000 total credit card debt), and my last student loan will be paid off in January 2012. Your message is still refreshing to hear, especially since I’ve been listening to it for so long and I’m on the verge of conquering my own debt! So thanks again!

    My question for you: Have you thought about how you’ll connect with your readers after you’ve helped them eliminate their debt?

  8. Dude, that was such an awesome talk! My wife and I have had many of the same thoughts. It’s like, we grow up wanting freedom, then as adults we actually work towards keeping ourselves far from freedom, what with our jobs, our homes, and our spending.

    I love how far you and your site have come. Truly inspiring.

  9. Congratulations on being chosen for TEDx Talk and deliverying a very impactful, thought provoking conversation to your audience. This tells you three things:

    1) You are on to a society changing idea.
    2) You are making enough impact for TEDx Talk to take notice.
    3) You are demonstrating there is another way to live in the US.

    I commend your bravery and leadership.

  10. Great job Adam! Keep preaching this message and hopefully more people will begin to evaluate their priorities and what freedom really means to them. Thank you!

  11. Adam,
    Great talk! You are very right. We don’t need more debt… and we definitely don’t need to BUY and collect more stuff… we can still have access to what we need buy renting, borrowing or buying cheap from a peer and then sell them again in case we can’t find what we need to have by renting or borrowing. So we just need a great communication platform around physical items. That’s why we built a social network for it. Please check it out at we go live on Jan 11,2012 .Don’t forget to check it out 🙂
    for it.
    You can see my blogs on Clouditems regarding our stuff.

  12. Great talk Baker. If more people would wake up this idea of living with less, I think the world would be a happier place for sure.

    On the flip side, if a huge amount of people partook, many jobs in hard goods manufacturing would be lost, thus we’d be forced to create other industries to benefit ourselves and the environment, all while being employed and of value – not a bad thing!

  13. Nice talk. The best part is explaining that we keep working harder and harder (longer and longer hours) for absolutely nothing. I am looking forward to my debt free day. Your experience keeps me going. My wife and I should pull it off by end of 2012. Freedom for me will be paying off the houses ( a have two rentals), having no debt and working on average a 3-4 hour workday, with approximately 12 weeks of vacation/year. There is too much fun to have out in the world to be tied down to 8-5:30 and 4 weeks of vacation/year. I so bought into the system, and now can’t wait to get out.

  14. Hi Adam,

    Great talk. I would point out that the solution might not be so simplistic for everybody, but I’m sure you know that.
    For example, my wife and I are currently in about $70,000 of school debt, living with our friend’s parents, owning nearly nothing of our own, and still, it will be about 10 years before we’re out of debt with my sole salary of $36,000 a year, and my wife home with the kids (that’s one dream we’re not willing to give up on).
    Anyhow, just another perspective.

    Thanks – really inspirational talk.

  15. My husband and I are buying some new furniture to the house… that´s the moment we´re in… but we decided to buy only when we have the money and then to give the previous stuff to someone in need. So we are always and always giving stuff and there´s always space… Thankfully we don´t need to sell.
    We payed our debt a few years ago at the same time as I quit my job at IBM…yey… working from home now…

    The other moment is to repair the old stuff that we like… since he´s an artist that´s an easy thing to do.

    I loved the talk!!! You´re always an inspiration. Tks!

  16. That’s awesome you got to do a TEDx Talk, Adam! You did a great job.

    I agree with you on the lie we buy into as “reality” with the work, buy, debt cycle. I’m not sure the answer is to just collect experiences instead of stuff though. Our culture has done an equally good job of telling us that collecting certain experiences will be fulfilling or bring us happiness. But the truth is that can be an empty life as well.

  17. Love the talk and the fact that this had lead you to a life of adventure due to no debt. Best of luck for 2012 not that you will need it. I have seen too many people that have no dream or destination. You have mapped out your future and take action. A lot of people have dreams but miss that part of taking action. My favorite quote is ( Actions speak louder than words) and you seem to be doing just that . Have a great Christmas and looking forward to posts in 2012.

  18. You are a very good speaker. I really enjoyed your Ted talk.
    I am in my 50’s and debt free. I gave up crap accumulation years ago.
    Also gave up slaving for the “Man”.
    It came with struggle for sure, but all worthwhile things do.

  19. Hey Baker, you definitely rocked on this talk. Outstanding information and presentation. I really enjoyed the message. Hope everything keeps going great for you.

  20. Pingback: How do you define your freedom | Path To Simple Life

  21. Thanks Adam – great talk and wake-up call.
    I’m trapped in the consumer bubble by my three teenagers but am fighting my corner!!
    Really want to give it all up but not sure how and where to live. I have a large equity in my home but not sure how to use it wisely.

  22. Awesome, Baker! What an amazing opportunity! And your presentation was spot-on!

    I wish I had more to say, but I guess I’m just proud of where you’ve come from talking about freedom with your wife while your little girl slept in the other room.

  23. This was awesome. I loved the expression of minimalism in practical terms, as well as the whole push for experiences, rather than getting more stuff. We’ve been pushing ourselves toward that idea for a while, but haven’t yet been able to ditch the house and live out of a couple of backpacks. 🙂 Thank you – I don’t watch much stuff, and this was very worth it.

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  25. When asked what surprises him:
    “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
    – The Dalai Lama

  26. You are a good speaker! You inspire me, even at 70, to ‘free-up’ some areas of my life. What do you do about family and friends? Some are just clutter, others are crap. I don’t
    quite know how to divest myself of these.

  27. No doubt that is the best 20 minutes I will spend today (until I go home to my 18 month old daughter and wife!). Thanks for doing this – the message is spot-on.

  28. Kudos to you! I very much valued all that you had to share and your presentation. I have been reading your blog periodically and being on own own plan to debt reduction it really brought front and center what the next step is and what freedom am I aiming for. Thank you, I am happily sharing this with many that I know.

  29. Everyone who knows me thinks I have very little “stuff”. Last year my husband and I sold half our possessions and fulfilled our dream – we moved to southern Arizona. We’re facing another move next week and to get ready for it, we again sold off half of what we had left. It feels SO good to be rid of things. I have gotten rid of things I’ve regretted but nothing major. I wish I had kept my rake – I didn’t know my house in the desert would have 6 big trees that shed leaves all year long! 🙂

  30. Extremely impressive, Baker! I course I agree with you as always, but what also struck me was how great your presentation skills are. It’s not easy to make an audience laugh like that, and even harder to make your point resonate through that laughter. Bravo!

  31. Wow, what a great talk. I have watched it three times already. There are definitely some really great, quotable moments in here!

    I have to admit, I have soooooo many questions for you and your wife regarding some of the details about how you accomplished your dream from debt to backpacking Australia. I guess I should search your blog more thoroughly and see if I can’t find the answers!

    You are a wonderful public speaker and your talk definitely carried a powerful message that resonates with a lot of people. Thanks!

  32. Pretty inspiring. Talking from the heart. Even brought tears to my eyes (come on, Brad…you big sissie!).

    My wife and I talked about some of the content on our 4-hour trip to visit family last night.

    We are kinda following in your footsteps with the selling your crap part. It’s been fun.

    I haven’t followed you for long, but my wife asked how ya’ll managed financially during the Australian dream trip. I can check archives if I don’t hear of anything.

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  35. Hi Baker,

    Brilliant presentation, you were right on!
    What does Freedom mean to you?
    Great question for everyone as we kick off 2012′

    PS: Love the part about if you’re not willing to ask this question,
    someone else will for you

  36. Hi Adam,
    Great presentation and well executed, I was very impressed and have been following you for at least a year. I have been using a journal to record my debits/credits as best I can, still getting better at it. Most recently, I am trying to get an ESL job in Asia starting this winter. I also gave up my two jobs and my car and apartment, moved back East to spend some quality time with my Dad before I go. If it works, I’ll be on my way in a month or so, if not I’ll think of something else and maybe move to the Portland area. My future has never been so wide open and I’m 40. I still want to continue with my art career, as I believe I could teach art workshops and perfect my craft while I teach English in Asia. I feel like I can do better out there as an artist as it’s such an untapped market and can only enrich my life and experiences. Taking chances are the only way to improve the quality of your life, and as for the freedom question, Freedom is being the CEO of your own destiny. You are the chairman of your own life. Use time and money wisely, to create your own life. If you have the desire to do all this, then your chances of success are good. I’m currently in student loan debt, but I will have it under control, and not let it be the master of me. Create your art, master your life, and with a little luck and good fortune, things may just turn out all right.

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  38. I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while and was really looking forward to your upcoming episodes….just finished listening to the first one…TOTALLY AWESOME 🙂

  39. New to your blog (via NerdFitness guy) and loved this video. I look forward to learning more from you as I further explore your site.

  40. This talk reveals so many ideas that my husband and I couldn’t quite find the words to utter. You’re blog has inspired me! Thanks for sharing your insight!

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  42. Adam,
    This is an excellent speech along with a great question for us to ponder. I’m really impressed how far you have come in the last few years. Keep up the awesome work!

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  44. Hi Baker,
    Just love this…your style, the message. It’s very well done and trully inspiring.
    I will be following your blog. Greetings from Paris, France

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  46. this totally explains my life “there is no better equation for stress than spending the majority of your waking hours at a job you hate in order to pay debt from a buying decision you made years ago
    this so hit home, thank you for waking me up!

  47. Wow! I’ve been “saving” this video in my email and finally got around to watching it. Way to go Adam! Awesome talk. You had a lot of great nuggets in there. Will definitely be watching it again!

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  49. Hi Adam! What an inspiring talk! Congratulations! I was wondering if you had a written transcript of this talk, because i wanted to watch it with my wife, but english is not our native language (she doesn´t understand it as well as i do) and i was thinking about translating it to spanish. I think your message is simple, important, effective and universal. It is certainly worth spreading. If you happen to have a transcript it would make it easier for me to translate it. Regards!

  50. Hey Adam, this was great man! It rung true on so many levels and made me further realize that the path I am on is truly mine. That quote towards the end is a true eye opener too! Buying stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.

    Life is about collecting experiences, not things! Too many things, and the things begin to own you.

    Less is more. Keep up the awesomeness !!

  51. Great talk. I can’t wait to watch it again with my husband and talk with him about where we are and what we really want to be doing. I have been struggling with this for so long. We own a home, have no debt (besides our mortgage) have four children and have money saved away for a rainy day. The hard part for me is deciding what I want to do and then doing it. I feel a bit adhd in the fact that I get so many ideas and want to do so much with my life. Keep up the great work and can’t wait to hear more.

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  53. I’m so thrilled to hear a young person who is so wise about this matter. I agree with everything you’ve said. At a point where I had to reserve my resources, I felt the lack at first. Then, I realized what a great gift living a simple life was. I have no desire for more things, but my life is full of riches – the friendship and experience kind. I’m now devoted to doing what I love most, writing and teaching, and the spiritual gifts I receive just keep coming. You’re an inspiration!

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  55. Hey Baker,
    Wow…I am living proof of what you talk about is the way to be. I love the 2 backpacks and Australia adventure with the baby! I know there is more to that story but what a great way to get in touch with what matters. Doing things different, may not always be the easy way, I must say that after 15 years of living the corporate America life successfully and walking away almost one year ago (4/29/11) – it’s liberating. When people ask… Why? What? are you kidding? I say we have FREEDOM! No debt, No mortgage, a great apartment, all we own is paid for, we have businesses (that don’t feel like jobs) that we are passionate about and dreaming is a daily activity!
    Keep up the good vibes and sharing…

  56. WOW! I’ve seen a lot of TED Talks and this is one of the best, if not the best, in terms of personal application to my life. Saying thanks seems very meager, but I whole heartedly appreciate your message and hope that it inspires me enough to get on your path by answering what freedom means for me. Thanks so much Baker!!!

  57. That was great! Glad I followed the link from because I need to start chucking stuff in my messy cluttered life of too much.
    Keep on keeping on, and I will be signing up as a subscriber!



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  59. You nailed it. You are doing at a young age what most Americans only dream of doing when they are old and grumpy. You are a true inspiration.

    The best,

    Alex Mendoza

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  61. Great!

    This is a seemingly simple message, yet it can change our lives profoundly. I believe most of us have heard a message among these lines. It makes sense to us. Maybe we make a resolution to spend less and repay our debt. But then, life happens. Our jobs get busy, and our lives hectic. We forget what we wanted to do. Back to the good ol’ ways.

    How can we stop this cycle?

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  64. A very insightful and thought-provoking speech, Adam. We all need these reminders to help us adjust our perspective and see a clearer picture. Freedom, whatever that means to the individual, has got to be the most invigorating state one could truly experience.

    Thanks for sharing!

  65. I have just come across this video and I just wanted to say JOB WELL DONE. I am very much interested in anything that lift up the human spirit, personal development is my thing. I have listened to and watched many speakers in this field, but I have to say that you have a unique gift and style. The way you present your ideas is cool, calm, collected and inspiring.
    I like the pauses that you make when speaking, they help render your message powerfully.
    I will be following your work as I love to learn from the best and you are, in my opinion one of them.
    Thanks a million

  66. Neil Greenhorn

    Very inspiring. Cant wait for the film – I donated a little to your kick starter.

    All the best.

  67. Outstanding speech. I live in a nice home and my wife and I aren’t terribly materialistic, but if I had known how much I would dislike my job today I wouldn’t have put the money down on our house.

  68. Pingback: Stuff: Good or Bad? | Ego! Ego! Ego!

  69. Bravo! This was the most inspirational 20 minutes. Your concept is so freeing in and of itself. Just asking how we want to – literally – spend our lives, gives immediate control to our futures. Experiences over possessions. It’s always been my mantra, but yet, not always my action. Thank you for your important, simple but eloquent reminders.

  70. Thank you for a thought provocing talk!

    My frist question that arouse during your talk was whether or not being the determenant of ones own story is the best thing for a human being?

    Second thought was what has become my answe to your question: “Freedom is the capacity to know what is good and be able to choose it.” – Dallas Willard

    What this leads to is the following: what script will I live by as a human being in order to know what the good worth choosing is (when it isn’t consumerism)?

  71. That was an awesome talk Adam.

    You hit the nail on the head when you said we need to get rid of the junk and start collecting experiences. I see people all day long, family, friends, and coworkers always talking about the next thing they want to buy.They end up buying these frivolous items and it never makes them any happier.

    I’ve even experienced this in my own life as well. My wife and I were down to living paycheck to paycheck and I started realizing that even with all the stuff I had accumulated I wasn’t any better off.

    So I sold my 2 snowmobiles, old CD’s, and music equipment and you know what, I still don’t miss those things to this day.

    However after listening to your talk I’m going to take things a step further, and get rid of more junk. I may not get everything down to 2 backpacks but I know their is a lot of stuff I could get rid of, and once it’s gone it would make my life even more stress free.

    Chris H.

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  73. Just joined your site and watched this video. Amazing. It’s so overwhelming – and a bit scary – to try to figure out what exactly you want out of life when you have no idea. I’ve been slowly getting rid of things (haven’t found anything worth selling yet!) and it’s nice to have more space in the apartment. My next steps are to go through my credit card statements and see what I’ve used them for that I do not need … and get my husband to finally give up his storage space. 😀

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  75. Very nice talk. I also listened to the Nigel Marsh talk you mentioned, which was funny and insightful. You make many good points. Thankfully I realized the truth about consumerism and debt a number of years ago now (the hard way), so I’ve been through that particular trial by fire. I’m now making the final leap over the wall into living my dream as a writer. Thanks, and see you on the other side…

  76. Thank you for the inspiring speech. Everyday I edit a little bit more out of my life. Releasing the clutter is liberating.

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  79. Hi Baker, I’ve just listened to this. Really inspiring talk. I remember Magnetic Island… I went there in ’92. And freedom for me has to be able to go to places like Australia and the barrier reef islands without cranking up a credit card!
    Right, I’m going to get rid of my crap and go back to Oz!
    Thanks for the inspiration you’ve given me.

  80. Pingback: Collect Beautiful Experiences, Not Stuff! | Carlos Samaniego

  81. This made my stomach hurt. So true and sooo sad.

    You made me question, what am I doing with my life???

    I know what freedom looks like for me, and I’m not free.

    Excellent talk! one of the best I’ve seen 🙂

  82. Pingback: Thankful vs. stuff | Sunday's Child

  83. Wow…you’ve vocalized what I’ve known to be true for a number of years. Well, you know what they say about insanity — doing the same thing and expecting a different result — ’bout time for me to do something different. Thanks for the inspiration!

  84. Great message and very worthy of a ted talk and personal consideration. I just enjoyed it better the first time I heard it, in the 80’s by a fellow named George Carlin.

    I think its alot easier now days to live with less stuff because if you have a decently geared kitchen, TV, Internet, computer, car and a smartphone, then you are set for stuff that fits generously into 600 sqft apartment. I have gone on to full on replacement mode where I only buy things when they break. Very freeing to look at the Black Friday ads and have no desire for the larger tv.

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  87. This is a really powerful talk; the truth of it actually made me cry. I know the answer to that very simple yet incredibly complex question and now it is time to put it into action. Thank you for the impetus.

    As an aside, would you mind if I linked to your talk on my personal blog? I really want to share your message and my own feelings on the subject – in sharing your video I can just say “watch this, this is how I feel!”

  88. I’m going into my mid-twenties and had naturally started coming to this realization a few months ago. Knowing my age and learning more and more about travel hacking, this video has fundamentally changed the next 3 years of my life.

    I had been so focused and adamant about setting things up to get into a top business school, but this video realigned me with what I find most important in life right now. I alteady mantain a minimal mantra,but after watching this I’ve sacked up and made a mental blueprint (and taken action as well) so I can travel hack in 1-1.5 yrs from now.

    Truly inspiring man.

    Will follow up in a year or so.


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  91. Pingback: "Sell your crap. Pay off your debt. Do what you love."

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  93. At some point you got down to some stuff you couldn’t sell, right? You just had to donate or throw away?

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  97. Hello!

    I just wanted to let you know that I first watched this video in 2014 & I’ve watched it every year since.

    It changed my life in the sense that it inspired me to reconsider my values & what I want in life.

    Thank you so much.

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