Greg McKeown: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Greg McKeown: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less


I’ve spent the last 15 years pretty
obsessed by a single question. Which is, what is it that holds capable driven people from breaking through to the
next level. And the answer to that question to my
great surprise is success. I first observed this working with
executive teams in Silicon Valley where I noticed that when they were focused on a
few things it led to success but success breaded so many
opportunities and options that that diffused the very focus that led to
success in the first place. And so exaggerating the point in order to
make it I found that success becomes a catalyst for failure because it leads to
what Jim Collins called the undisciplined
pursuit of more. The antidote to that problem is the
disciplined pursuit of less, but better. That means exploring the very critical
things you want to pursue and being willing to then, number two,
eliminate the rest, and number three build a platform for
effortless execution, so that doing what is essential becomes the default position,
not just the rare occasion. [MUSIC]. My position is that when people really get
a chance to think and have the space. That they can quite easily discern between
the things that are essential to them, important to them, and
those things that are not. The problem is not our ability to discern,
it’s that we don’t have the space to take the time
to discern. Once we have that perspective, we can
think through it. So my position is that we need to develop
a routine. That enables that space to think. In a world where we have so much
information, we need more time to think and process it not
less. And so, yeah, one CEO I interviewed for the book has 2 hours on his calendar
everyday. Broken up into half hour segments so that
he has this spaced stop, to turn everything off, to think, to
see the bigger picture. I think we can all do something similar to
that. [MUSIC] The idea for many people of saying no to a
senior, leader, to even family members and so on
is so unthinkable. They just don’t even experiment with it. So they end up being a novice with no. They just want to avoid this like the
plague. But what I’ve found is that essentialists
practice and learn and develop this skill. Kay Krill is the CEO of Loft and the Ann
Taylor brand. And she said that years ago she was really
bad at saying no. And somebody came to her mentor and said
look, you’ve got to learn to, to get rid of all of these people and commitments
that don’t mean anything to you. Because they’ll rob you of the things that
really do and she said that because she got that feedback she did learn over the years how
to say no, how to push back gracefully,
sensibly, but unapologetically. And now she says she’s very good at it,
and it saved her so many you know, wasted hours, wasted days, wasted
commitments because she actually learned to develop a repertoire
for saying no. [MUSIC] One of the executives that I interviewed
for the book, because he was trying to be a good citizen to his new company,
ended up saying yes to almost everything. And his stress was going up and the
quality of work was going down and so he started to, you know, with an experiment, saying no more often, being
more selective. And what he found was that the meaning of
his work was going up, the value of his work to the company
was going up, his stress was going down and he ended up with
one of the best performance evaluations of his career and
one of the largest bonuses of his career. In that little story there is the argument
for essentialism. That by focusing on the few things that
are really essential, we’re actually able to make a
more valuable contribution. I think becoming an essentialist is not an
easy thing. I certainly think it’s a revolutionary
thing. You find yourself saying no when other
people are saying yes. You’re gonna be saying yes, when other
people are saying no. But in the end, in the final analysis,
anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential, will lead to the undisciplined pursuit of the
non-essential. And that’s a price I don’t think many of
us would deliberately choose. [MUSIC]

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