How To Start A Movement: Inspired By Dave Bruno and The 100 Thing Challenge

movement (‘muːvm(ə)nt)
-a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas

Imagine you’ve just spent five years building a business from a simple idea written on a Starbucks napkin (literally) to being a leading publisher and online source for audiobooks – then you sell your shares.  It’s the perfect entrepreneur’s fairy tale ending.  What would you do?  Would you travel the world?  Buy a big house?  Start checking off your bucket list?  Dave Bruno started a movement.

After selling his shares in ChristianAudio in late 2008, Dave Bruno became troubled with what he viewed as excessive consumerism in America and the effect it had on his own life.  To address that concern, Dave began a personal project called The 100 Thing Challenge.  For at least one year, Dave committed to living with only 100 items in his possession.  Dave published his list of 100 possessions online and invited others to join him.  He described the project as “a way to personalize my efforts to fight American-style consumerism and live a life of simplicity.”

It didn’t take long for word of Dave’s project to spread on Facebook and among the blogging community.  Soon, others began their own challenges.  Some chose to limit their possessions to a specific number of items, others used his challenge as inspiration rather than a model, and minimalists championed Dave as a voice and spokesperson for simple living.  While The 100 Thing Challenge began as a personal project, it quickly became a movement.

Dave’s message put simply…

The goal of the 100 Thing Challenge is to break free from the confining habits of American-style consumerism. A lot of people around the world feel ‘stuck in stuff.’ They feel like their closets and garages are too full of things that don’t really make their lives much better. But how to get unstuck?

Reduce (get rid of some of your stuff)

Refuse (to get more new stuff)

Rejigger (your priorities)

Dave believes that living without an abundance of personal possessions for an extended period of time is the first step we ought to take in order to realize that we don’t need ever-more stuff.  Instead of wasting your money and time on stuff, spend the rest of your life creating a more valuable life.  As an Accidental Minimalist, I couldn’t agree more.

Dave Bruno didn’t set out to start a movement, but it happened.  Why?  That’s difficult to say, but I think there are some fundamental ingredients you’ll need to start your own movement.

Be passionate – Dave was passionate in his beliefs and concerns regarding out-of-control consumerism and the effects it had on his life.

Take action – Dave didn’t sit back and complain.  He took action.

Make it personal – Dave could have attacked the media, ad agencies and the corporate machine that perpetuates our consumer driven society, but how much of an effect would he have had?  Instead, Dave made it personal and the effects, even if they had only been in his own life, were immediate and profound.

Encourage followers as equals – Dave spread the word about his challenge and encouraged others to take action, but he was very clear that they should make it personal and not simply follow him.  As Derek Sivers explains in his humorous TED talk, accepting followers as equals is a key step in creating a movement.

Will these steps guarantee a movement?  Of course not.  But, if your actions speak to others and ignite the same passion in them to take action, you may very well succeed.  If not, at the very least you’ll have made meaningful changes in your own life that you’re passionate about.  Sounds like a no-lose proposition to me.

Learn more at The 100 Thing Challenge website and follow Dave Bruno on Facebook and Twitter.

Inspired By: is a recurring series at Stop & Breathe that profiles inspiring individuals or groups.  Most are not household names, but instead are everyday people doing extraordinary things.

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  1. I love Dave’s 100 Thing Challenge. It really sparked a lot of people to change, and that’s what all good movements are about! I’d already minimized by the time I ran into his challenge, but it pushed me to go a little further. Dave is definitely an inspiration!

    • Jason Billows |

      He did connect with a lot of people. I’m amazed at how many people from various walks of life tell me they know about him.

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