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Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit ofLess by Greg McKeown

“The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start discussing priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that changing the word could bend reality. Somehow, we could now have multiple "first" things. People and companies routinely try to do just that. We often hear leaders in the business world talking of "Pri-1, Pri-2, Pri-3, Pri-4, and Pri-5." Many things are the priority, and none is.” (extract from the book).


Welcome to Essentialism. When we look back on our careers and lives, would we rather see a long to do lists that don't matter or just a few significant accomplishments that have real meaning and significance? If you think this makes sense and the concept sings to your heart check out to 10 lessons from the book.


These are my book insights into Greg McKeown's "Essentialism." My notes are informal and contain quotes from the book. Each book summary has a short description, top lessons from the book, a beyond-the-book section, and favorite quotes. Enjoy!


Top 10 Lessons from the Book


1.    Saying No with Grace: Saying no is a crucial skill for essentialists. Practice setting boundaries and declining nonessential requests politely but firmly. Remember that every time you say no to something insignificant, you say yes to what truly matters.


2.    Creating Space for Creativity: Eliminating distractions and focusing on the essentials allows creativity to flourish. Dedicate time for quiet reflection, brainstorming, and exploring new ideas without the burden of unnecessary clutter and noise.


3.    Leave 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 removes obstacles so the essential things have a clear, smooth passage.


4.    Essentialism is a disciplined - systematic approach to determining our highest point of contribution and then making executing those things almost effortless.


5.    Choose wisely - While we may not always have control over our options, we always control how we choose among them. The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away —it can only be forgotten.


6.    Embracing Imperfection: Perfectionism can hinder essentialist progress by causing undue stress and delaying action. Embrace the concept of " done is better than perfect" and focus on making meaningful progress rather than striving for perfection.


7.    Essentialists are potent observers and listeners. Knowing that the reality of trade-offs means they can't possibly pay attention to everything, they listen deliberately for what is not being explicitly stated. They read between the lines.


8.    Cultivating Mindfulness: Essentialism encourages being present and fully engaged. Practice mindfulness in your daily activities, whether savoring a meal, spending time with loved ones, or tackling a work project. You can derive greater satisfaction and fulfillment from life's experiences by fostering awareness and intentionality.


9.    Start small and celebrate progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don't really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in essential areas.


10.  Continued Reflection and Adjustment: Essentialism is not a one-time fix but an ongoing journey of growth and refinement. Regularly reflect on your priorities, habits, and progress towards a more essential life. Be open to adjusting your approach as needed to stay aligned with your evolving goals and aspirations.


Favorite quotes from the book:


EVERY DAY DO SOMETHING THAT WILL INCH YOU CLOSER TO A BETTER TOMORROW.

—Doug Firebaugh


THE WISDOM OF LIFE CONSISTS IN THE ELIMINATION OF NON-ESSENTIALS.

—Lin Yutang


Victor Hugo, the French dramatist and novelist, puts it, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” “Less but better” is a principle whose time has come.
Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”

IT IS THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE WHICH MAKES US HUMAN.

—Madeleine L’Engle


William James once wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”

MOST OF WHAT EXISTS IN THE UNIVERSE—OUR ACTIONS, AND ALL OTHER FORCES, RESOURCES, AND IDEAS—HAS LITTLE VALUE AND YIELDS LITTLE RESULT; ON THE OTHER HAND, A FEW THINGS WORK FANTASTICALLY WELL AND HAVE TREMENDOUS IMPACT.

—Richard Koch


WITHOUT GREAT SOLITUDE NO SERIOUS WORK IS POSSIBLE.

—Pablo Picasso


WHERE IS THE KNOWLEDGE WE HAVE LOST IN INFORMATION?

—T. S. Eliot


EACH NIGHT, WHEN I GO TO SLEEP, I DIE. AND THE NEXT MORNING, WHEN I WAKE UP, I AM REBORN.

—Mahatma Gandhi


Beyond the book


In addition to his book "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less," Greg McKeown is actively engaged in various platforms. His podcast has more than 300 episodes and features experts from the industry and well-known leaders. Check the official website: https://gregmckeown.com.

 

There is a dedicated website to Essentialism with a 21-day challenge at https://essentialism.com.

 

You can also check out Greg's talk on Google at



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