Hi. This is Morty Lefkoe with another edition of the weekly podcast, Conversations with Top Personal Development Bloggers. Every week, we have a conversation with a blogger who has a slightly different take on personal development.
There’s so much valuable material being offered by personal development bloggers. This is the best place to find out which ones might provide you with just what you’re looking for, what’s unique about each blogger, why they started writing their blog, how their personal experiences informed their writing, why you ought to be reading their blog and lots more.
Today, I have the pleasure to talk to Courtney Carver, who writes a wonderful blog every week, Be More with Less.
Morty Lefkoe: Welcome, Courtney. Good to see you.
Courtney Carver: Hi, Morty. Thanks for having me.
Morty Lefkoe: Let’s start. Where do you live? Where am I talking to you from?
Courtney Carver: I live in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Very nice. What was the impetus to have you start writing your blog to begin with? How did it start? Why did you do it?
Courtney Carver: The reason that I started writing was because of my incredible experience with simplicity and how it impacted my health and my life. In 2006, I was diagnosed with MS. It was a shocking diagnosis to say the least and very scary and unexpected as these things often are.
What I discovered in my research with MS and other autoimmune conditions and, really, illness in general is that stress is a huge contributor to MS exacerbation and other issues, and so I really went on a quest to eliminate stress from my life, which I know sounds impossible.
Morty Lefkoe: No, not at all.
Courtney Carver: It really made sense to me, and so I started to look at all the things that cause stress in my life, starting with the food that I was eating and looking at things like debts and how I was spending money, to my work and then to clutter and stuff and relationship issues and emotional hang-ups. You name it, I had it. One by one, I stared to eliminate most of those things. Now, eight years later, I haven’t had a relapse since seven years. I am very healthy, much healthier than I was pre-diagnosis.
As a byproduct or a bonus, I’m actually so much happier as well, and so I really wanted to share what I discovered and what I’m discovering along the way. Blogging was just a such great opportunity to connect with like-minded people and to inspire and be inspired.
Morty Lefkoe: Wonderful idea. Congratulations on handling your health so well. That’s great.
Courtney Carver: Thank you.
Morty Lefkoe: When did you actually start the blog itself?
Courtney Carver: I started the blog in 2010, so about four years after I was diagnosed.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. Okay. Did you have any background in personal development before that or is it basically when you started working on getting rid of stress?
Courtney Carver: It was really in that moment that I started to get very interested in personal development on my journey. I don’t even think I called it that or was aware that that’s what was happening. Prior to that, my career specialty was sales and marketing. I have a creative background as well, but I never really considered myself in personal development.
Morty Lefkoe: Interesting. An awful lot of the bloggers I’ve talked to came from a business background and found not exclusively, as you said, to reduce the stress in their life, but it just wasn’t what they wanted and they transitioned down from that into something else. That seems to be a common shift.
What are some of the specific personal experiences you’ve had that have been useful in writing your blog? You sort of hinted at some things you learned to reduce your stress. Can you tell us about a couple of those?
Courtney Carver: Sure. Everything I write comes either from my personal experience or something that I’ve discovered or from someone that might be reading the blog that emails a question or a life experience of their own that I can gain inspiration from. In terms of things that I’ve experienced sort of along the way, I became debt-free, which is something that I never thought would be possible. I always thought that I would have car payment, credit card payments, student loans. Everybody else did, so I thought that that’s just the way it is.
By working with my husband and eliminating that debt over a period of a couple of years, we discovered this incredible freedom that, finally, we didn’t have to make decisions based on money.
Many of the things that I write about sort of lend itself towards that, how can you be debt-free and really sharing with people that I didn’t do anything extraordinary. There wasn’t anything extremely special about my circumstance that made these things possible, so I think it’s important to share how those things happened so people will realize, “Ah, this might work for me as well.” That, for me, was really important as I read about people that were living well with MS or becoming debt-free or simplifying their lives. For me to see that it was possible in other situations was really instrumental in my journey.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Very good. What would say is the essence of your message, your blog message?
Courtney Carver: The essence of my message or really what I do is to help people simplify their lives and do the work that they love. I think it really all boils down to that, that simplicity is in every message. Whether we’re talking about health, work, clutter, obligations, relationships, it all comes down to simplifying and boiling down to what matters the most. I think, sometimes, it’s hard to really see what the distractions are, so, if we turn our focus to what really matters the most, those distractions seem less important.
Morty Lefkoe: I guess that’s what you mean by the title of your blog, Be More with Less, how to achieve what you want with less, less clutter or less distractions.
Courtney Carver: Yeah, and really focusing on that “be more” part as well. It is the external actions of getting rid of stuff, getting ridding of debt, getting rid of commitments that aren’t meaningful in your life, getting rid of the clutter and getting rid of even emotional baggage that doesn’t serve you, whether it be worry or guilt or regrets, and then turning that into more of an internal journey in terms of “being more” and discovering what fuels you and what lifts you and having the time and space for those things instead of being run down by all the things we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
I think those things a lot of us consider normal. They felt very normal to me, until I was on the other side and then I realized how, gosh, burdened I was with the excess.
Morty Lefkoe: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’ve been struck by. I’ve actually written several blog posts myself on things that we consider to be human nature because they’re so common and, yet, they’re not. They’re just things that are very common, but that we don’t actually have to live with the fear of rejection or concern with what other people think. I think that you’re on right on track there that, just because it’s very common, it doesn’t mean that it has to be that way and that there is…
Courtney Carver: Exactly.
Morty Lefkoe: Yeah. Great. How often do you post?
Courtney Carver: I write for Be More with Less twice a week generally. Then I have a couple of other places that I write as well. I generally post two to five articles a week.
Morty Lefkoe: You said other places. Other than your blog?
Courtney Carver: Yeah. I actually have a couple of other blogs, which you may find common with bloggers. We have other interests that may not be completely suited to one site. That’s the same case for me.
Morty Lefkoe: Do you mind telling us a little bit about the other ones, what are the other ones?
Courtney Carver: Yeah. I’m about to share that. One of them is based on a minimalist fashion challenge that I created when I first started blogging called Project 333. What’s behind that is that you dress with the only 33 items for 3 months. That includes clothing, shoes, accessories and jewelry.
I started the challenge for myself because clutter was abundant in my closet. It was the one place that I felt like I never had enough, but there was always too much, and so I took the challenge on myself to see what I might learn from that. Hundreds of other people joined me right off the bat. Now, several years later, that fashion challenge is around the world, happening around the world and has been featured on The Today Show website and Oprah magazine.
It really spoke to people when they realized how stressful it was to get ready in the morning with the excess in their closet. I write for project333.com specifically about that clothing challenge and helping people with the struggles that they may encounter featuring their stories and because it such a popular topic that it needed its own site.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. You have another one?
Courtney Carver: Then I also write for courtneycarver.com, which is really more of a behind-the-scenes look at my micro business and how I work and the things that I do to make my work more enjoyable, more creative and inspiring other people to really do work that they care about and they believe in and that it’s helpful to other people.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, so you’re busy with three different blogs.
Courtney Carver: I am, and, again, I don’t blog every week for each blog, but, generally, with the three, two to five times a week.
Morty Lefkoe: Just a question, do you accept comments on your blog?
Morty Lefkoe: Do you generally respond to your comments?
Courtney Carver: I used to respond to almost every comment. Now, I really watch for questions. Because I’ve built or we’ve built this great community on both of those sites, it’s really more of a conversation. I’ll chime in if it warrants, but, otherwise, I really kind of let it roll and don’t respond to every comment. I read every comment and I’m truly inspired by them.
Morty Lefkoe: I do the same. I read them all. If it’s a specific question or something somebody wants to know that I can help them with, I answer, but it gets to the point that that would be a full-time job just responding even “thanks for writing” if I did that to every comment on every blog, I’d never get anything done.
Courtney Carver: Exactly. It’s something that I enjoy doing, but I found that, when I was watching for every comment, it got to be a little distracting, and so, now, I try maybe once a day I moderate comments because of the not … just the spammy, yucky comments that were getting through even with great spam filters. Now, I might check it once a day and let the comments go and then respond at the end of the week to anything that requires that.
Morty Lefkoe: To the extent you’re familiar with any of the other personal development bloggers, what would you say is unique about your blog, the specific one, the Be More with Less? How is that unique or different than the others or is it?
Courtney Carver: I mean, I’m sure there are some commonalities between them. It’s interesting, I never really considered myself a personal development blogger. I always considered myself a simplicity blogger. Simplicity just lends itself to personal development because, all of a sudden, you have time to thoughtfully respond, instead of being in this reactionary lifestyle. Instead of just sort of going through the motions, because simplicity asks you to remove things that don’t matter in your life, you have time to really focus on the things that do.
Writing about simplicity, about my journey, about how to, why to, I think that, again, while it lends itself to personal development, what’s unique about it is that it really is focused on simplicity and calm and deciding what you want and going after it regardless of what you think is supposed to happen.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good. Thank you. The Be More with Less and the simplicity from all of the people I’ve talked to actually is very unique. A lot of the aspects, other aspects of it are similar, but that is unique. Do you have a long-term goal for your blogs, something you’d like it achieve at some point?
Courtney Carver: I don’t. Here is why. Because blogging is such an interesting animal. When I started blogging, I had no idea that my business would look like it does now or my life, and so I know that, while I can think and plan and research and hope, things have a way of unfolding as they will. I just am not really sure what that looks like for me in a few years.
I do plan out within maybe six months to a year, maybe even 18 months. I’ll plan specific projects, but I don’t have any specific, “I hope that, in five years, my blog looks like this,” because who even knows what blogging is going to look like in five years. I don’t have any long-term goals for the blog, only that it continues to drive and flourish in its own way and attract the kind of people that it does because they are awesome.
Morty Lefkoe: Yes. Do you have any courses or books or anything you sell on your blog?
Courtney Carver: I do. The courses and e-books have sort been a pretty large part of my core business. I’ve done some micro-courses, I call them micro-courses, on my own. One is how to develop a meaningful morning routine because, starting each day with purpose and intention has really changed every day for me, I think it’s important to figure out how to do it and do things that mean something to you in the morning before you start serving the world. If you can serve yourself, you can better serve everyone else throughout the day.
Then I have also written a couple of courses on micro-business and simple blogging. There’s so much information out there about how to blog. I think, if we focus on researching it so much that we never get started, and so I wanted to create something super simple to help people launch their own blogs and tell their own stories.
I’ve also collaborated with some great simplicity bloggers to write other courses. That has been a phenomenal experience.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh, wonderful. Thank you. Do you have an overarching or an overall mission in life that your blog contributes to in some way, your vision for your own life which your blog then is part of?
Courtney Carver: That’s a big question. It feels a little bit like there are a few, but I’m going to answer anyway. I think that my big mission is to remember to always get small in thinking about what means the most to me and keeping those things close. Instead of wanting it all, having it all, doing it all, that means paying attention to my best relationships and giving them exactly what they deserve and to treat the things in my life with great gratitude and appreciation, but also not to hold on too tight because most of it doesn’t really matter that much in the big picture. I guess I couldn’t call it a “big mission,” but to just always stay open to the small things.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. Okay. Thank you. Finally, is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your blog, why they might be interested in reading about you or hearing your message? Anything about you or your blog that we haven’t covered so far, and there may not be?
Courtney Carver: The only thing that I would add is that simplicity is really available to everyone in every situation. Whether you’re dealing with a chronic illness or you have a huge family or you work 80 hours a week, there’s always room to simplify, and the best place to start is with just that first step. Whether that be in your closet or reading a blog post on Be More with Less or another simplicity blog, it’s just about taking that first small step. I would love to connect with you.
Morty Lefkoe: Great. Actually, there’s one other thing I wanted to ask. What was the single most important thing you’ve told people, they’ve learned from you, that’s made a difference in their lives? It’s probably implicit in what you’ve said, but if you could just answer that one explicitly.
Courtney Carver: Probably, that message is to start small because we always, or at least I did, I was always jumping in with everything that I had to any change that I wanted to make, and it had to be all or nothing, and that usually ended in dismal failure, and then I felt sort of depleted. When I go to make another change, I’d feel maybe I wasn’t good enough because I had failed the last time, and so my new approach is always starting small and approaching things really in bits and pieces and not tying the success of whatever that is to the end results because that’s never what it’s about. I think that’s probably the most important message.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. Thank you. Where can people find your blog? Is it bemorewithless.com?
Courtney Carver: It is. Yes.
Morty Lefkoe: Bemorewithless. No spaces or underscores, bemorewithless.com. Thank you so much, Courtney. I really appreciate your time and your message, and I look forward to getting your interview up on the site so that thousands, hundreds of thousands or more people can find out about you. I think you’ve got a fascinating message that seems to be very unique. It’s consistent with a lot of other things, but you’ve got your own unique voice and take. I think there’d be a lot of people who will resonate with it and want to find out about it.
Courtney Carver: I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
Morty Lefkoe: Have a great day. I look forward to talking to you again.
Courtney Carver: Okay.