You're probably wondering why am I blogging about this book called Essentialism by author, Greg McKeown. I first discovered the book Essentialism from a social media post from Shawn Anchor, who I call the subject matter expert on Happiness. Whom of course introduced me to Shawn Anchor is Oprah Winfrey. I, like so many others probably out there, who try to take on too much in my personal life, I try to make a better version of myself. We strive and hope we make the right decisions in our work life and our personal life. At least I do. The book has taught me so much about being able to explore and evaluate my options and my right to act to choose. The book also speaks about elimination and how trade-offs are essential to live simply. And lastly being able to execute your decision or choice.
How I perceive it is that Essentialism has the ability to change my whole entire life, if I continuously make it a lifestyle practice. Essentialism can be used in such a way that it can better my life from having more time with my loved ones to being able to highly contribute at your work by ruling out the nonessentials. I questioned immediately, what is considered nonessential? For example, nonessentialists would prefer to do it all or choose to do both options. But an essentialist would explore, evaluate, think, ponder, eliminate, and execute in such a way that he or she would ask, "how can I do it bigger?" I never asked myself this question, I would just perform or act accordingly as instructed especially in my own personal life.
As I read the first chapter, I was instantly hooked and adding post its to each and every page that I thought was a key point for me to learn and make it stick. This is a life-changer. I intend to make it essential to learn and practice Essentialism. You've probably learned and heard from Essentialists such as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and Stephen R. Covey as mentioned in a story format in Greg's intriguing book. Also explained in the book, Essentialism is "the pursuit of less but BETTER and it doesn't mean occasionally giving a nod to the principle. It means pursuing Essentialism in a DISCIPLINED way. Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it's about how to get the right things done. It doesn't mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our HIGHEST point of contribution by doing only what is ESSENTIAL."
My goal with this blog post is for me to be able to look back on the key points that created a new personal transformation within my inner most self. You can also view the rest of the blog series here. Below are the key points I would like to learn, practice and execute in my own personal and professional life.
page 7: "The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless."
page 10: "If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will."
page 12: "Four predictable phases on the paradox of success ~ 1) When we really have a clarity of purpose, it enables us to succeed at our endeavor. 2) When we have success, we gain a reputation as a "go to" person and we are then presented with increased options and opportunities. 3) When we have increased options and opportunities, which is actually code for demands upon our time and energies, it leads to diffused efforts. We get spread thinner and thinner. 4) We become distracted from what would otherwise be our highest level of contribution. The effect of our success has been to undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place."
page 13: "The pursuit of success can be a catalyst for failure. Or, success can distract us from focusing on the essential things that produce success in the first place."
page 15: "Decision Fatigue ~ the more choices we are forced to make, the more the quality of our decisions deteriorates."
Are you ever faced with one or more opportunities in life whether socially or professionally? Do you tend to overly commit and try to do it all and make everyone happy? Do you think before you choose? Do you evaluate and ponder at your options whether big or small? Page 17 of the book made me read on to find out how I can eliminate the nonessentials. What if you're faced with too many options? This book can be a great tool to guide you with having a stricter criteria before important decisions are to be made with the opportunities you're faced with in life. Not everything is considered "good".
page 17: "In the same way that our closets get cluttered as clothes we never wear accumulate, so do our lives get cluttered. Our lives get cluttered as well-intended commitments and activities we've said yes to pile up. Most of these efforts didn't come with an expiration date. Unless we have a system for purging them, once adopted, they live on in perpetuity. An Essentialist would approach that closet by exploring and evaluating, eliminating, and then execute."
The passage from the book below also explains the core mind-set of an Essentialist.
ESSENCE: What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?
" To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace the false assumptions with three core truths: " I choose to," "Only a few things really matter," and "I can do anything but not everything." These simple truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor. They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution. As we rid ourselves of the nonsense of Nonessentialism and replace it with the core logic of Essentialism, the way of the Essentialist becomes natural and instinctive."
page 19: "Essentialism is about creating a system for handling the closet of our lives. It is a discipline you apply each and every time you are faced with a decision about whether to say yes or whether to politely decline. It's a method for making the tough trade-off between lots of good things and a few really great things. It's about learning to do less but better so you can achieve the highest possible return on every precious moment of your life."
I've always viewed choices in my life as things. I learned from the author of this book that choices should be viewed as an action that can make a positive impact in your life. As the author pointed out in the book, "we may not always have control over our options, we always have control over how we choose among them."
page 39: "The Essentialist doesn't just recognize the power of choice, he celebrates it. The Essentialist knows that when we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us."
On page 43, the books explains that "working hard is important. But more effort doesn't necessarily yield more results. LESS BUT BETTER does." A profound example in the book speaks of the organization, Southwest Airlines. It's Essentialist leader led the airlines to be the most profitable year after year because of his business strategy: instead of high prices "rather than fly to every destination, they choose to offer only point-to-point flights. Instead of covering the cost of meals, they offered none, instead of assigning seats in advance, people can choose their seat as they got on the plane and lastly, they offered only coach." A great example of trade-offs made by design and not by default in which the strategy is to keep costs down.
Page 55: "As painful as trade-offs can be, they represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want. Like Southwest, we can enjoy the success that results from making a consistent set of choices."
Page 56: Esssentialists asks themselves the question, "What do I want to go big on?"
"We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many."
An Essentialist creates space to escape and explore life when on the other hand a Nonessentialist would be too busy doing to think about life.
"The faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we truly focus."
Look for the "lead" of your story. Journalism is not just about providing the facts but about distinguishing the point, understanding what it meant , and why it matters. As Nora Ephron states, journalism teaches you something that works well in life just as well.
"Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyperfocusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture. You can apply the skills of a journalist no matter what field you are in- you can even apply them in your personal life. By training yourself to look for the "Lead", you will suddenly find yourself able to see what you have missed."
"Look for the lead in your day, your week, in your life. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect."
"Play, according to Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, says that it leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity. Nothing fires up the brain like play."
"Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged."
This is an important key point for me: selecting the best option with a more systematic process by applying stricter criteria to opportunities that come my way. "First, write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three "minimum criteria" the options would need to "pass" in order to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or "extreme criteria" the options would need to "pass" in order to be considered. If the opportunity doesn't pass the first set of criteria, then the answer is obviously no. BUT if it also doesn't pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no."
"How can we cut out the trivial many?"
"So once you have sufficiently EXPLORED your options, the question you should be asking yourself is not: What, of my list of competing priorities, should I say yes to? Instead, ask the essential question: "What will I say no to? This is the question that will uncover your true priorities."
"Sunk-cost bias is the tendency to continue to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped. The more we invest into something, the harder it is to let go."
An Essentialist would ask, "if I weren't already invested in this project, how much would I invest in it now? An Essentialist thinks, what else could I do with this time or money if I pulled the plug now? And lastly, an Essentialist is very comfortable with cutting losses, as opposed to a nonessentialist, they hate admitting to mistakes."
A "buffer" is defined as "literally as something that prevents two things from coming into contact and harming each other." I learned from a previous job to never assume things. A Nonessentialist would assume the best-case scenario will occur while the Essentialist builds in a buffer for unexpected events by practicing extreme and early preparation.
"Essentialists accept the reality that we can never fully anticipate or prepare for every scenario or eventuality; the future is simply unpredictable. Instead, they build in buffers to reduce the friction caused by the unexpected."
Produce more, brings forth more, by removing more instead of doing more, is the way of an Essentialist to progress in life or work. "Instead of focusing on the efforts and resources we need to add, the Essentialist focuses on the constraints or obstacles we need to remove. Be clear about the essential intent or the desired outcome by identifying the obstacles that slow down progress and removing those obstacles."
My ultimate favorite, celebrates small acts of progress! "Celebrate simple wins in areas that are essential."
"The way of the Essentialist is different. The Essentialist designs a routine that makes achieving what you have identified as essential the default position. Yes, in some instances an Essentialist still has to work hard, but with the right routine in place each EFFORT yields exponentially greater results."
"Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
As I came across a traumatic event last year and have moved forward from that, not to minimize what had occurred to me personally, but I truly believe to this day that I made the best decision possible for myself and my family. When faced with adversity, life will test your resilience. If I ever come to a crossroads ever again, I will definitely reread this blog post and grab my book on Essentialism by Greg McKeown to help me decide or choose. This is going into my toolbox for my lifetime. Now to commit to the way of an Essentialist, that's my personal transformation. My soul feed. What books have fed your soul lately? Please share them in the comments below so I can add them to my books to read list!
Thank you so much for reading!