Sunday, April 30, 2017

Part(1) - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Major Highlights from Greg McKeown's book, "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less".

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It took courage, as it always does, to eliminate the nonessential.

The way of the Essentialist isn’t about setting New Year’s resolutions to say “no” more, or about pruning your in-box, or about mastering some new strategy in time management. It is about pausing constantly to ask, “Am I investing in the right activities?” There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in. And although many of them may be good, or even very good, the fact is that most are trivial and few are vital. The way of the Essentialist involves learning to tell the difference—learning to filter through all those options and selecting only those that are truly essential.

Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.

Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.

ESSENCE: What Is the Core Logic of an Essentialist?

Essentialism is not a way to do one more thing; it is a different way of doing everything. It is a way of thinking.

There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters.

To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.” These simple truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor.



CHOOSE: The Invincible Power of Choice

“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”

We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice—a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do.

The ability to choose cannot be taken away or even given away—it can only be forgotten.


DISCERN: The Unimportance of Practically Everything

Working hard is important. But more effort does not necessarily yield more results. “Less but better” does. It’s true that the idea of a direct correlation between results and effort is appealing. It seems fair. Yet research across many fields paints a very different picture.

The overwhelming reality is: we live in a world where almost everything is worthless and a very few things are exceptionally valuable.


TRADE-OFF: Which Problem Do I Want? 
Trade-offs are real, in both our personal and our professional lives, and until we accept that reality we’ll be doomed —stuck in a “straddled strategy” that forces us to make sacrifices on the margins by default that we might not have made by design.

In the simplest terms, straddling means keeping your existing strategy intact while simultaneously also trying to adopt the strategy of a competitor.

It is easy to see why it’s so tempting to deny the reality of trade-offs. After all, by definition, a trade-off involves two things we want. Obviously, when faced with the choice between two things we want, the preferred answer is yes to both. But as much as we’d like to, we simply cannot have it all. 

A Nonessentialist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “Which problem do I want?” An Essentialist makes trade-offs deliberately. 

As painful as they can sometimes be, trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.

Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.
“You have to look at every opportunity and say, ‘Well, no … I’m sorry. We’re not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.” 

Ignoring the reality of trade-offs is a terrible strategy for organizations. It turns out to be a terrible strategy for people as well. 

Trade-offs are not something to be ignored or decried. They are something to be embraced and made deliberately, strategically, and thoughtfully.

EXPLORE: Discern the Vital Few from the Trivial Many

One paradox of Essentialism is that Essentialists actually explore more options than their Nonessentialist counterparts. Nonessentialists get excited by virtually everything and thus react to everything. But because they are so busy pursuing every opportunity and idea they actually explore less. The way of the Essentialist, on the other hand, is to explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because Essentialists will commit and “go big” on only the vital few ideas or activities, they explore more options at first to ensure they pick the right one later.

To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.

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