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