Filmmaker, Video Editor, Motion Graphics Designer, and Photographer in Cairo, Egypt.
Keeping notes to remember.. You may consider it some sort of Documentation.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Part(4) - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less


*****
Part (1): here.
Part (2): here.
Part (3): here.
*****
 
EXECUTE: How to Make Execution Effortless

There are two ways of thinking about execution. While Nonessentialists tend to force execution, Essentialists invest the time they have saved by eliminating the nonessentials into designing a system to make execution almost effortless.

Once you’ve figured out which activities and efforts to keep in your life, you have to have a system for executing them. You can’t wait until that closet is bursting at the seams and then take superhuman efforts to purge it. You have to have a system in place so that keeping it neat becomes routine and effortless.


BUFFER: The Unfair Advantage

GIVE ME SIX HOURS TO CHOP DOWN A TREE AND I WILL SPEND THE FIRST FOUR SHARPENING THE AXE.  —Attributed to Abraham Lincoln

The reality is that we live in an unpredictable world. Even apart from extreme events such as famines, we face the unexpected constantly. We do not know whether the traffic will be clear or congested. We do not know if our flight will be delayed or canceled. We do not know if we’ll slip on a slick road tomorrow and break our wrist. Similarly, in the workplace we do not know if a supplier will be late, or a colleague will drop the ball, or a client will change his or her directions at the eleventh hour, and so on. The only thing we can expect (with any great certainty) is the unexpected. Therefore, we can either wait for the moment and react to it or we can prepare. We can create a buffer.

The Nonessentialist tends to always assume a best-case scenario. We all know those people (and many of us, myself included, have been that person) who chronically underestimate how long something will really take: “This will just take five minutes,” or “I’ll be finished with that project by Friday,” or “It will only take me a year to write my magnum opus.” Yet inevitably these things take longer; something unexpected comes up, or the task ends up being more involved than anticipated, or the estimate was simply too optimistic in the first place. When this happens, they are left reacting to the problem, and results inevitably suffer. Perhaps they pull an all-nighter to make it happen. Perhaps they cut corners, hand in an incomplete project, or worse, fail to get it done at all. Or perhaps they leave someone else on the team to pick up the slack. Either way, they fail to execute at their highest level.

The way of the Essentialist is different. The Essentialist looks ahead. She plans. She prepares for different contingencies. She expects the unexpected. She creates a buffer to prepare for the unforeseen, thus giving herself some wiggle room when things come up, as they inevitably do.

Essentialists accept the reality that we can never fully anticipate or prepare for every scenario or eventuality; the future is simply too unpredictable. Instead, they build in buffers to reduce the friction caused by the unexpected.
SUBTRACT: Bring Forth More by Removing Obstacles

TO ATTAIN KNOWLEDGE ADD THINGS EVERY DAY. TO ATTAIN WISDOM SUBTRACT THINGS EVERY DAY. —Lao-tzu

A Nonessentialist approaches execution in a reactive, haphazard manner. Because the Nonessentialist is always reacting to crises rather than anticipating them, he is forced to apply quick-fix solutions: the equivalent to plugging his finger into the hole of a leaking dam and hoping the whole thing doesn’t burst. Being good with a hammer, the Nonessentialist thinks everything is a nail. Thus he applies more and more pressure, but this ends up only adding more friction and frustration. Indeed, in some situations the harder you push on someone the harder he or she will push back.

Essentialists don’t default to Band-Aid solutions. Instead of looking for the most obvious or immediate obstacles, they look for the ones slowing down progress. They ask, “What is getting in the way of achieving what is essential?” While the Nonessentialist is busy applying more and more pressure and piling on more and more solutions, the Essentialist simply makes a one-time investment in removing obstacles. This approach goes beyond just solving problems; it’s a method of reducing your efforts to maximize your results.

Produce More by Removing More
Aristotle talked about three kinds of work, whereas in our modern world we tend to emphasize only two. The first is theoretical work, for which the end goal is truth. The second is practical work, where the objective is action. But there is a third: it is poietical work. The philosopher Martin Heidegger described poiesis as a “bringing-forth.” This third type of work is the Essentialist way of approaching execution:
An Essentialist produces more—brings forth more—by removing more instead of doing more.
  

PROGRESS: The Power of Small Wins

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

The way of the Nonessentialist is to go big on everything: to try to do it all, have it all, fit it all in. The Nonessentialist operates under the false logic that the more he strives, the more he will achieve, but the reality is, the more we reach for the stars, the harder it is to get ourselves off the ground.

The way of the Essentialist is different. Instead of trying to accomplish it all—and all at once—and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don’t really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in areas that are essential.

FLOW: The Genius of Routine

ROUTINE, IN AN INTELLIGENT MAN, IS A SIGN OF AMBITION.  —W. H. Auden

The way of the Nonessentialist is to think the essentials only get done when they are forced. That execution is a matter of raw effort alone. You labor to make it happen. You push through.

The way of the Essentialist is different. The Essentialist designs a routine that makes achieving what you have identified as essential the default position. Yes, in some instances an Essentialist still has to work hard, but with the right routine in place each effort yields exponentially greater results.
  
 
FOCUS: What’s Important Now?

LIFE IS AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. IF YOU ABANDON THE PRESENT MOMENT YOU CANNOT LIVE THE MOMENTS OF YOUR DAILY LIFE DEEPLY.  —Thich Nhat Hanh

Nonessentialists tend to be so preoccupied with past successes and failures, as well as future challenges and opportunities, that they miss the present moment. They become distracted. Unfocused. They aren’t really there.

The way of the Essentialist is to tune into the present. To experience life in kairos, not just chronos. To focus on the things that are truly important—not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now.

Essentialists live their whole lives in this manner. And because they do, they can apply their full energy to the job at hand. They don’t diffuse their efforts with distractions. They know that execution is easy if you work hard at it and hard if you work easy at it.

At this point you might expect me to start talking about the evils of multitasking—about how a true Essentialist never attempts to do more than one thing at a time. But in fact we can easily do two things at the same time: wash the dishes and listen to the radio, eat and talk, clear the clutter on our desk while thinking about where to go for lunch, text message while watching television, and so on.
What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. When I talk about being present, I’m not talking about doing only one thing at a time. I’m talking about being focused on one thing at a time. Multitasking itself is not the enemy of Essentialism; pretending we can “multifocus” is.

How to Be in the Now
What can we do to be fully present on what is in front of us? Below are some simple techniques to consider.

1- FIGURE OUT WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW
When faced with so many tasks and obligations that you can’t figure out which to tackle first, stop. Take a deep breath. Get present in the moment and ask yourself what is most important this very second—not what’s most important tomorrow or even an hour from now. If you’re not sure, make a list of everything vying for your attention and cross off anything that is not important right now.

2- GET THE FUTURE OUT OF YOUR HEAD
Getting the future out of your head enables you to more fully focus on “what is important now.” In this case, my next step was to sit down and list those things that might have been essential—just not right now. So I opened to another page in my journal. This time, I asked myself, “What might you want to do someday as a result of today?” This was not a list of firm commitments, just a way to get all of the ideas out of my head and on paper. This had two purposes. First, it ensured I wouldn’t forget about those ideas, which might prove useful later. Second, it alleviated that stressful and distracting feeling that I needed to act upon them right this second.

3- PRIORITIZE
After this I prioritized each list. Then I worked on each item on the “what is essential now” list one at a time. I just calmly worked through the list and erased each item when it was complete. By the time I went to sleep I had not only done all the things that needed to be executed at that moment, but I had executed them better and faster, because I was focused.
  

BE: The Essentialist Life

BEWARE THE BARRENNESS OF A BUSY LIFE.  —Socrates

There are two ways of thinking about Essentialism. The first is to think of it as something you do occasionally. The second is to think of it as something you are. In the former, Essentialism is one more thing to add to your already overstuffed life. In the latter, it is a different way—a simpler way—of doing everything. It becomes a lifestyle. It becomes an all-encompassing approach to living and leading. It becomes the essence of who we are.
 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Part(3) - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less


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


*****
Part (1): here.
Part (2): here.
*****
 
CLARIFY: One Decision That Makes a Thousand

For one, there is a heavy price just in terms of human dynamics. The fact is, motivation and cooperation deteriorate when there is a lack of purpose. You can train leaders on communication and teamwork and conduct 360 feedback reports until you are blue in the face, but if a team does not have clarity of goals and roles, problems will fester and multiply.

When there is a lack of clarity, people waste time and energy on the trivial many. When they have sufficient levels of clarity, they are capable of greater breakthroughs and innovations—greater than people even realize they ought to have—in those areas that are truly vital.

We do a similar thing in our personal lives as well. When we are unclear about our real purpose in life—in other words, when we don’t have a clear sense of our goals, our aspirations, and our values—we make up our own social games. We waste time and energies on trying to look good in comparison to other people. We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health.

when it comes to achieving clarity of purpose, inspiration does matter. When we think of inspiration, we often think of lofty rhetoric. But while rhetoric can certainly inspire, we need to remember that concrete objectives have the power to elevate and inspire as well. A powerful essential intent inspires people partially because it is concrete enough to answer the question, “How will we know when we have succeeded?”

Essential intent applies to so much more than your job description or your company’s mission statement; a true essential intent is one that guides your greater sense of purpose, and helps you chart your life’s path.

Creating an essential intent is hard. 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.
 
DARE: The Power of a Graceful “No”

The right “no” spoken at the right time can change the course of history.

MAKE YOUR PEACE WITH THE FACT THAT SAYING “NO” OFTEN REQUIRES TRADING POPULARITY FOR RESPECT. REMEMBER THAT A CLEAR “NO” CAN BE MORE GRACEFUL THAN A VAGUE OR NONCOMMITTAL “YES”.

Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no.” Then we learn a couple of basic techniques. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We develop more skills. We keep practicing. After a while we have a whole repertoire available at our disposal, and in time we have gained mastery of a type of social art form. We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity. Tom Friel, the former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, once said to me, “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.’ ”

UNCOMMIT: Win Big by Cutting Your Losses

Nonessentialist:
- Asks, “Why stop now when I’ve already invested so much in this project?”
- Thinks, “If I just keep trying, I can make this work.”
- Hates admitting to mistakes

Essentialist:
- Asks, “If I weren’t already invested in this project, how much would I invest in it now?”
- Thinks, “What else could I do with this time or money if I pulled the plug now?”
- Comfortable with cutting losses

EDIT: The Invisible Art

Jack Dorsey is best known as the creator of Twitter and as the founder and CEO of Square, a mobile payments company. His Essentialist approach to management is a relatively rare one. At a dinner I attended recently where he spoke, he said he thinks of the role of CEO as being the chief editor of the company. At another event at Stanford he explained further: “By editorial I mean there are a thousand things we could be doing. But there [are] only one or two that are important. And all of these ideas … and inputs from engineers, support people, designers are going to constantly flood what we should be doing.… As an editor I am constantly taking these inputs and deciding the one, or intersection of a few, that make sense for what we are doing.”

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About Film Editor:
An editor is not merely someone who says no to things. A three-year-old can do that. Nor does an editor simply eliminate; in fact, in a way, an editor actually adds. What I mean is that a good editor is someone who uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life to the ideas, setting, plot, and characters.
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Editing aids the effortless execution of the Essentialist by removing anything distracting or unnecessary or awkward. Or, as one book editor put it: “My job is to make life as effortless as possible for the reader. The goal is to help the reader have the clearest possible understanding of the most important message or takeaway.”

Nonessentialist:
- Thinks that making things better means adding something
- Attached to every word, image, or details.

Essentialist:
- Thinks that making things better means subtracting something
- Eliminates the distracting words, images, and details

When making decisions, deciding to cut options can be terrifying—but the truth is, it is the very essence of decision making. In fact:
The Latin root of the word decision—cis or cid—literally means “to cut” or “to kill.”

A Nonessentialist views editing as a discrete task to be performed only when things become overwhelming. But waiting too long to edit will force us to make major cuts not always of our choosing. Editing our time and activities continuously allows us to make more minor but deliberate adjustments along the way. Becoming an Essentialist means making cutting, condensing, and correcting a natural part of our daily routine—making editing a natural cadence in our lives.

#Their Problem Is Not Your Problem:
We all have some people in our lives who tend to be higher maintenance for us than others. These are the people who make their problem our problem. They distract us from our purpose. They care only about their own agendas, and if we let them they prevent us from making our highest level of contribution by siphoning our time and energy off to activities that are essential to them, rather than those that are essential to us.

#DON’T ROB PEOPLE OF THEIR PROBLEMS
We should serve, and love, and make a difference in the lives of others, of course. But when people make their problem our problem, we aren’t helping them; we’re enabling them. Once we take their problem for them, all we’re doing is taking away their ability to solve it.

Whoever it is that’s trying to siphon off your time and energies for their own purpose, the only solution is to put up fences. And not at the moment the request is made—you need to put up your fences well in advance, clearly demarcating what’s off limits so you can head off time wasters and boundary pushers at the pass. Remember, forcing these people to solve their own problems is equally beneficial for you and for them.

#BOUNDARIES ARE A SOURCE OF LIBERATION:
When we don’t set clear boundaries in our lives we can end up imprisoned by the limits others have set for us. When we have clear boundaries, on the other hand, we are free to select from the whole area—or the whole range of options—that we have deliberately chosen to explore.

#FIND YOUR DEALBREAKERS
Make a list of your dealbreakers—the types of requests or activities from that person that you simply refuse to say yes to unless they somehow overlap with your own priorities or agenda.

Another quick test for finding your dealbreakers is to write down any time you feel violated or put upon by someone’s request. It doesn’t have to be in some extreme way for you to notice it. Even a small “pinch” (to use a description I think is helpful for describing a minor violation of your boundaries) that makes you feel even a twinge of resentment—whether it’s an unwanted invitation, an unsolicited “opportunity,” or a request for a small favor—is a clue for discovering your own hidden boundaries.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Part(2) - Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less


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

*****
Part (1): here.
*****

ESCAPE: The Perks of Being Unavailable

WITHOUT GREAT SOLITUDE NO SERIOUS WORK IS POSSIBLE.  —Pablo Picasso

Before you can evaluate what is and isn’t essential, you first need to explore your options. While Nonessentialists automatically react to the latest idea, jump on the latest opportunity, or respond to the latest e-mail, Essentialists choose to create the space to explore and ponder.
An Essentialist focuses the way our eyes focus; not by fixating on something but by constantly adjusting and adapting to the field of vision.

LOOK: See What Really Matters

WHERE IS THE KNOWLEDGE WE HAVE LOST IN INFORMATION?  —T. S. Eliot

In every set of facts, something essential is hidden. And a good journalist knows that finding it involves exploring those pieces of information and figuring out the relationships between them (and my undergraduate degree was in journalism, so I take this seriously). It means making those relationships and connections explicit. It means constructing the whole from the sum of its parts and understanding how these different pieces come together to matter to anyone. The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people.

Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture. You can apply the skills of a journalist no matter what field you are in—you can even apply them to your personal life. By training yourself to look for “the lead,” you will suddenly find yourself able to see what you have missed. You’ll be able to do more than simply see the dots of each day: you’ll also connect them to see the trends. Instead of just reacting to the facts, you’ll be able to focus on the larger issues that really matter.

Essentialists are powerful 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. Or as Hermione Granger, of Harry Potter fame (an unlikely Essentialist, I’ll grant you, but an Essentialist in this regard all the same), puts it, “Actually I’m highly logical, which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook.”

Nonessentialists listen too. But they listen while preparing to say something. They get distracted by extraneous noise. They hyperfocus on inconsequential details. They hear the loudest voice but they get the wrong message. In their eagerness to react they miss the point. As a result they may, using a metaphor from C. S. Lewis, run around with fire extinguishers in times of flood.4 They miss the lead.

In the chaos of the modern workplace, with so many loud voices all around us pulling us in many directions, it is more important now than ever that we learn to resist the siren song of distraction and keep our eyes and ears peeled for the headlines. Here are a few ways to tap into your inner journalist.

PLAY: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child

A LITTLE NONSENSE NOW AND THEN, IS CHERISHED BY THE WISEST MEN.—Roald Dahl

Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end—whether it’s flying a kite or listening to music or throwing around a baseball—might seem like a nonessential activity. Often it is treated that way. But in fact play is essential in many ways. Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied what are called the play histories of some six thousand individuals and has concluded that play has the power to significantly improve everything from personal health to relationships to education to organizations’ ability to innovate. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.”

Play expands our minds in ways that allow us to explore: to germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. It makes us more inquisitive, more attuned to novelty, more engaged. Play is fundamental to living the way of the Essentialist because it fuels exploration in at least three specific ways.

Play doesn’t just help us to explore what is essential. It is essential in and of itself.

SELECT: The Power of Extreme Criteria

AN INNER PROCESS STANDS IN NEED OF OUTWARD CRITERIA.  —Ludwig Wittgenstein

In a piece called “No More Yes. It’s Either HELL YEAH! Or No,” the popular TED speaker Derek Sivers describes a simple technique for becoming more selective in the choices we make. The key is to put the decision to an extreme test: if we feel total and utter conviction to do something, then we say yes, Derek-style. Anything less gets a thumbs down. Or as a leader at Twitter once put it to me, If the answer isn’t a definite yes then it should be a no.” It is a succinct summary of a core Essentialist principle, and one that is critical to the process of exploration.

You can think of this as the 90 Percent Rule, and it’s one you can apply to just about every decision or dilemma. As you evaluate an option, think about the single most important criterion for that decision, and then simply give the option a score between 0 and 100. If you rate it any lower than 90 percent, then automatically change the rating to 0 and simply reject it. This way you avoid getting caught up in indecision, or worse, getting stuck with the 60s or 70s. Think about how you’d feel if you scored a 65 on some test. Why would you deliberately choose to feel that way about an important choice in your life?

Making our criteria both selective and explicit affords us a systematic tool for discerning what is essential and filtering out the things that are not.

If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.

Applying tougher criteria to life’s big decisions allows us to better tap into our brain’s sophisticated search engine. Think of it as the difference between conducting a Google search for “good restaurant in New York City” and “best slice of pizza in downtown Brooklyn.” If we search for “a good career opportunity,” our brain will serve up scores of pages to explore and work through. Instead, why not conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?” Naturally there won’t be as many pages to view, but that is the point of the exercise. We aren’t looking for a plethora of good things to do. We are looking for the one where we can make our absolutely highest point of contribution.