Essentialism: Book Review 3/4
The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less
Essentialism: written by Greg Mckowen. This is one of the most important books I’ve read. It serves to remind us to distill the few vital things and take action on our unique purpose in life. It assists us in identifying what all the trivial distractions are and encourages us to eliminate them. It’s brought a lot of value to my life and I believe it will do the same for you.
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0:00 - Prologue
3:02 - Important Announcements: Listener Support
7:00 - Claim your FREE audiobook
10:52 - How Can We Cut Out the Trivial Many?
12:40 - One Decision That Makes a Thousand
13:30 - From “Pretty Clear” to “Really Clear”
15:00 - Essential Intent
16:42 - Stop Wordsmithing And Start Deciding
17:30 - How Will We Know When We’re Done?
22:37 - Living with Intent
24:00 - The Power of a Graceful “No”
28:05 - Essentially Awkward
30:07 - Learn To Say No Gracefully
37:53 - Win Big by Cutting Your Losses
40:05 - Avoiding Commitment Traps
45:40 - Editing: The Invisible Art
52:12 - Editing Your Life
57:40 - The Freedom Of Setting Boundaries
1:00:15 - Their Problem Is Not Your Problem
1:01:15 - Don’t Rob People Of Their Problems
1:02:45 - My summary reflections
1:05:00 - Epilogue
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How Can We Cut Out the Trivial Many?
It’s not enough to simply determine which activities and efforts don’t make the best possible contribution; you still have to actively eliminate those that do not.
Part Three of this book will show you how to eliminate the nonessentials so you can make a higher level of contribution toward the things that are actually vital. And not only that, but you’ll learn to do it in a way that actually garners you more respect from colleagues, bosses, clients, and peers.
In life, the killer question when deciding what activities to eliminate is: “If I didn’t have this opportunity, what would I be willing to do to acquire it?”
Anytime you fail to say “no” to a nonessential, you are really saying yes by default. 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. It is that question that can deliver the rare and precious clarity necessary to achieve game-changing breakthroughs in your career, and in your life.
One Decision That Makes a Thousand
The first type of nonessential you’re going to learn how to eliminate is simply any activity that is misaligned with what you are intending to achieve. It sounds straightforward enough, but to be able to do that you need to be really clear about what your purpose is in the first place.
From “Pretty Clear” to “Really Clear”
When I ask people, “What do you really want out of your career over the next five years?” I am still taken aback by how few people can answer the question. This would matter less if it were not for the fact that clarity of purpose so consistently predicts how people do their jobs.
When there is a serious lack of clarity about what the team stands for and what their goals and roles are, people experience confusion, stress, and frustration. When there is a high level of clarity, people thrive.
When there is a lack of clarity, people waste time and energy on the trivial many. When they have sufficient levels of clarity, they are capable of greater breakthroughs and innovations in those areas that are truly vital.
So how do we achieve clarity of purpose in our teams and even our personal endeavors? One way is to decide on an essential intent.
To understand what an essential intent is, we may be best served by first establishing what it is not.
Some vision and mission statements sound inspirational, but are so general they are almost entirely ignored.
Some stated values are so vague—like “innovation,” “leadership,” and “teamwork”—and so are typically too generic to inspire any passion.
Then there are some quarterly objectives we pay attention to, and these short-term tactics may be concrete enough to get our attention, but they often lack inspiration.
An essential intent, on the other hand, is both inspirational and concrete, both meaningful and measurable. Done right, an essential intent is one strategic choice that eliminates a universe of other options and maps a course for the next five, ten, or even twenty years of your life.
The Power of a Graceful “No”
The right “no” spoken at the right time can change the course of history.
Have you ever felt a tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressuring you to do?
Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and an external action?
Have you ever said yes when you meant no simply to avoid conflict or friction?
Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or request from a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, or family member for fear of disappointing them?
If you have, you’re not alone. Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master in becoming an Essentialist—and one of the hardest.
Without courage, the disciplined pursuit of less is just lip service. It is just the stuff of one more dinner party conversation. It is skin deep. Anyone can talk about the importance of focusing on the things that matter most—and many people do—but to see people who dare to live it is rare.
One reason why it’s hard to choose what is essential in the moment is because of an innate fear of social awkwardness. Humans are wired to want to get along with others.
Due to what psychologists call “normative conformity”, the very thought of saying no can bring us physical discomfort. We feel guilty. We don’t want to let someone down. We are worried about damaging the relationship.
But these emotions muddle our clarity. They distract us from the reality that either we can say no and regret it for a few minutes, or we can say yes and regret it for days, weeks, months, or even years.
The only way out of this trap is to learn to say no firmly, resolutely, and yet gracefully. Because once we do, we find, not only that our fears of disappointing or angering others were exaggerated, but that people actually respect us more.
Nonessentialists say yes automatically, without thinking, often in pursuit of the rush one gets from having pleased someone. But Essentialists know that after the rush comes the pang of regret, and they’ll feel bullied and resentful—at the other person and at themselves.
The point is to say no to the nonessentials so we can say yes to the things that really matter. It is to say no—frequently and gracefully—to everything but what is truly vital.
Saying no is its own leadership capability. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no.” Then we learn a couple of basic techniques. We develop more skills. We keep practicing. After a while we have gained mastery of a type of social art form. We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity.