I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg Mckeown. And when I finished the last page, I started at the beginning again and read it one more time. I let that sink in for a month. And then read it again. More highlighting. More notes. I wrote things down on note cards and stuck them on an inside of a cupboard where I collect thoughts and ideas and true things people say to me. Like when Mrs. Groovy said, “Your ‘too much’ is exactly enough.” I wrote that on a note card too and carefully taped inside my cupboard.
So I just want you all to read it.
I’m not even sure I can explain it to you in a way that would be helpful at all. So just read it. And then we can talk about it together.
“Wait” You might say, “What’s it even about?”
I don’t know. The way we approach everything important, perhaps? It’s about money, relationships, meetings, our time, our stuff, our work, business, purpose. When we look back over our live and get to say THIS is what I did with my life. And we know what THIS is and it fills our heart with joy because there could have never been a better THIS than the thing we chased down. We found the essential things, and held tight to them, fought for them, cherished them and let everything else fade into the background.
Over the next few years, I’ll read it another 4 or 5 times, and maybe be able to write a better, coherent review. Of all the amazing and good things in the book, I’ve absorbed and put into practice about 10%.
But here a few of the things that stopped me in my tracks in each of the sections. Things I underlined and took notes on. The ideas that rolled around in my head while I lift weights. The things I keep coming back to because I haven’t fully figured out the answers yet.
The Essence of Essentialism
One of my favorite quotes- apply it to your work, money, life.
“It takes courage, insight and foresight to see which activities and efforts will add up to your single highest point of contribution. It takes asking tough questions, making real trade-offs, and exercising serious discipline to cut out the competing priorities that distract us from our true intention. Yet it is worth the effort because only with real clarity of purpose can people, teams, and organizations fully mobilize and achieve something truly excellent.”
1. Explore and Evaluate
One of my favorite chapters was Chapter 5: Escape. It’s about holding space so we have the room to think, read, create, and dig out what is essential. A few sentences I underlined from this gold mine.
“People can figure out what is essential if they’re constantly on call.”
“If people are too busy to think, they are too busy, period.”
“Focus is something we have, but it’s also something we do.”
“I mean creating space to explore one hundred questions and possibilities.”
I know for me, all my best work starts in reflection, study, and questions. It was here I read about the “think weeks” Bill Gates makes space for. And committed to 4 a year. Not because it’s easy to block off a week when my life has about 20 spinning plates and 5 little kids. It comes with a cost and trade offs at first. But just like our investments compound and grow, so does the investment of digging out the essential.
“If I didn’t already own it, how much would I spend on it?” And the idea flows into other priorities like, if I wasn’t part of this meeting, how hard would I work to be part of it. If I didn’t have this responsibility, how much would I fight to take it on? Or I wondered, if I wasn’t already friends with this person, how much effort would I put in to have them part of my life? Hum… I have my people I would cross oceans for with no notice. People I love deeply and fiercely. There are also people in the middle that I’m glad they are around and the relationship add value to us both. But that 3rd group. If I wasn’t already friends with them, would I give up 8 hours to become friends at this point?
For the first question I found a practical answer. $5 is my threshold. The line between minimalism and frugality. If I wouldn’t pay $5 for an item again, it has no place in my home. Holding this new personal rule, I was able to let go a number of “useful” items. If I were to see these item in a yard sale for $5 and walk right by it, it’s time for that item to be re-homed.
“I have a vision of all these people courageously doing what the came here to do.” And a quote by Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
I read this words on a flight to a weekend mentoring retreat I took in February. I set the book down. “Wait, let me think for a moment.” During that mentoring retreat these two questions were the ones I held in the front of my mind while I considered all the other questions that needed answers. I asked them for myself. And I asked them to help understand my contribution to others.
I’m not sure how you would answer the questions for yourself. BUT. But here is a deeply held truth for me...if I can help you figure out this money stuff, you will be able to answer these other two questions.
If I can help clear a path to more financial freedom, where money isn’t the obstacle any more, I believe the answers to those two questions become clear. So you can run courageously towards what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.
My apologies to Greg McKeown, for the most messy, incoherent review of your amazing book. Every line was essential. 938 words can’t capture what you created.
Find your copy quick, and we will do a Facebook live book chat at the end of June and carry on with our Summer reading party!
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