Summer Ready Party! Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

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.

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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.

2. Eliminate

“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.

3. Execute

“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!

Hopefully your library has a copy, but if you want to grab your own off Amazon. Or if you want a chance to win a copy, get on my email list!

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13 thoughts on “Summer Ready Party! Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

  1. I really enjoy your messy review of the book. I am on the waiting list for this book at my library… I think I’m up to number 5 on the list now… So I don’t think I’ll get it read before the end of the month, but it’s on my summer reading list. Once I do read it, I think I want to come back and re-read your review. It’ll probably help me digest the content a bit to read someone else’s review after I’ve read it… Does that make sense?

    • Darn it for those long wait lists! And in some ways the book in enormous….there is just so much good stuff. These are the things that left me pondering and working through, but there are a 1000 other good ideas to ponder. It makes it a great one to re-read, because you will find something you need to hear, right then, each time. Jump into the fb live video anyways and see what ever one else is thinking. Or come back and add your two cents when you finally get your hands on the book. =)

    • Oh, so good! Have fun this weekend. This book took me longer to read, just because it stopped me in my tracks and made me ponder for a few minutes every page or two. I hope you can jump into the fb live chat! Would love to hear your thoughts. =)

  2. Another one to add to my list…..sigh….
    I gotta be careful about all this reading. Sometimes it keeps me from doing. I’m too smart at being smart sometimes. Do you ever feel that way?

    But this one sounds very helpful so it’s going on the list!

  3. I just finished this one last night and am going to get through as much as I can (again) before it’s due back at the library. Each chapter I was like YES YES YES! But I have a similar problem explaining it…my brother in law was asking questions and I totally fumbled the explanation because I just couldn’t get my thoughts together.

    I’m also so sad I missed the Happy Money convo last night! Shame on me for not putting it in my planner. I won’t make the same mistake for Essentialism!

    • The videos will stay up, so you can always add your thoughts after the fact. =) And yes, this is a BIG book in terms on weight and awesomeness. There are just so many good thoughts and take-aways. I’ve added it to my “read once a year” list. Like a how I sweep under my sofa twice a year. Glad you liked it!

  4. My best time to think without interruption is when I go walk in the park alone. While Mr. Dragonfly is my constant walking partner, I enjoy very much doing so on my own time. You see, this time is when I do my brain dump, resort all the things that are stored in my head, what I read, see, hear for the last god-knows-how-long-ago stuff. Kind of like when we try to make some meaningful discovery by dumping out everything in our big purse (bag, stuff). I then sort quickly on what’s important for me to recapture and make them permenant memories and things that are still important and need further action. It’s a very healthy exercise for me. I cannot think while sitting still – Mr. Dragonfly dubbed me a shark who needs to constant movements so once I actually sit down, my eyes will close and you can kiss my awakeness good-bye.

    The upside of all this is the exercise gaining from having plentiful of oxgen infuses my brain and make me more effectively sort things out. The ones I cannot find solutions for are refiled – and somehow, they look so much less intimitating.

    I love your passion for reading – I have switched from regular books to Kindle and sometimes I do miss flipping the paper pages that promises more to come anticipation. Kindle gives me a courtesey practice while Mr. Dragonfly rests at night.

    Thanks for sharing:-)

    • I love thinking on long, quite walks. My home is so full, and crazy, and busy. I love being outside. Since we have been camping on the beach, I’ve taken to long walks along the water and through the forest. SO amazing. This might be might favorite campsite. Miles of walking trails. =)