ESSENTIALISM: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown (2014)

0804137382_bIn the late 80’s I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  That was a profound experience as Covey revealed areas of weakness that needed to be excavated in my life.  A similar thing happened as I poured over the pages of Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

McKeown sets forth his basic proposal at the beginning of the book.  It’s what he calls the basic value proposition of Essentialism: “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

The author essentially argues that business leaders who attempt to fit more and more into their lives have a tendency to decrease their effectiveness.  Many leaders run from one meeting to the next and never really get anything accomplished that matters.  The ladder to the top is time-consuming and requires a ton of sacrifice.  The problem is that most people sacrifice the wrong things and consequently place the truly important things – like family, friends, and faith on the wrong altar.  The end result of a life of frustration and regret.

The path of Essentialism is a totally different paradigm.  The Essentialist asks, “Am I participating in the right activities?”  The Essentialist learns to tell the difference between activities that make a lasting impact from the ones that merely steal time.  “Essentialism,” argues the author, “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.”

At the heart of McKeown’s book is a refreshing strategy for daily living: “Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”  As such, the book militates against much of what most leaders consider to be conventional wisdom.  Much of the book, then, is counterintuitive as it jettisons the typical workaholic approach to effectiveness in the marketplace – especially in America.

The book is comprised of four parts.  Part one, Essence, describes the core mind-set of an essentialist.  Part two, Explore, helps readers determine which activities are trivial and which ones are considered a part of the “vital few.”  Part three, Eliminate, discusses how we can cut out the trivial from our lives.  And part four, Execute, provides practical help for engaging in the necessary activities.

Essentialism is not a “how to” book.  It merely provides the philosophical framework that helps ensure effectiveness without sacrifices the things that really matter in life.  But this framework is worth embracing and building into the fabric of one’s life.  I found the book stimulating, encouraging, mind-bending, and even convicting at times.

Essentialism stand among the best reads of 2014.  I heartily recommend it!

I received this book free from the publisher through the I was not required to write a positive review.

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