I love more. I want to do more things and do more of the things I do. My popcorn popper of a brain constantly bombards me with ideas for more things I can do. I think that’s why two of my coaches suggested I read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.  

The title tells you a lot. This is a book about “essentialism,” what’s important, not minimalism. It’s about “disciplined pursuit,” not magical attainment. The book has a pithy, non-conformist, life stretching message which can bring freedom, clarity, and creativity.  I recommend it. 

This is not a book review. Instead, I offer you some reflections, inspired by reading Essentialism.

What is the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now? Be selective. The question brings mental space and the focus to accomplish the right things. Avoid doing much and focus on doing only the best.

Less but better. Essentialism is about getting the right things done. Wisdom seeks the highest contribution, by doing only the essential.

Essentialism requires tough choices about tradeoffs. Picking the best path provides joy in the journey, not just at the destination. Outrageous success can result from consistent, disciplined choices for the best.

Essentialists extensively explore, listen, debate, question, and think. Discern the vital few from trivial many. Peter Drucker said that saying “No” enabled people to become effective.

When you select the right project, create a system to remove obstacles and simplify execution. Develop a system that tips the scales toward the essential few.

Great journalists make the connections, relationships, and the key point explicit. Tom Friedman listens for what is not being said. Seek anomalies. Mariam Semaan role plays all main actors to understand them. Clarify the question(s) you need answered.

Nothing fires up the brain like play. It broadens options, promotes flexibility, is an antidote to stress, and enhances the brain’s executive function. You think better and are more creative when you’re playful.

Bill Clinton reported that lack of sleep contributed to each of his worst blunders. More sleep enables champions to outperform. Sleep improves ability to prioritize.

Extreme criteria force deliberate choices about tradeoffs. Reject 90% of the opportunities that come your way.

If we could only excel at one thing, what would it be? Courage and conviction are needed to decline options. Separate the decision from the relationship.

Cutting losses frees resources for better uses. I’m frequently amazed how often my millionaire clients are distracted by sunk cost or the “endowment effect”. Editing eliminates the extraneous, so effort is focused on the essential. McKeown advocates continuous editing for your best life.

Setting boundaries empowers. Without boundaries, work demands will exceed your capacity. People grow when they solve their own problems.

Buffers reduce friction. Essentialists prepare extremely and early. Jim Collins Great Companies prepared better because they could not predict the unexpected. Essentialism has ten risk assessment questions which would help most organizations prepare better.

Identify the few constraints which slow the whole operation. Eliminate obstacles which block the essential. In some cultures. “Done is better than perfect” is more effective than “This work must be perfect.”

Essentialists pursue small and simple wins that are essential. Progress is the most effective motivation. People respond to progress and recognition. Begin small and build momentum. Disney does not finish films; they release them.

Routines make the essential the default position. Routines can make the difficult easy. Do the most difficult thing first and make the rest of the day easy. 

Win = what is important now? It is always a wise question. It focuses people on what they are doing and minimizes the distraction of what others might be doing.

Essentialism is a lifestyle. The benefits of your changes accumulate. It is not about success. Essentialism is about living with meaning and purpose. Aim for a few meaningful accomplishments. 

Given the limited time remaining to each of us, let’s be extremely selective about how we use our limited, precious time. The essentialist aims to live a life with minimal regret and maximum meaning.

Have you read Essentialism? What did you think?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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